Getting a little frustrated and need some help starting to read


I bought Japanese graded readers, and I’m doing wanikani+bunpro.

I’m not super far on either, but I had hopes that I would be able to read lvl 0 by now. :frowning:

My specific frustration is that even on this first page, where the text is

あつ 、桜のつぼみ!

もうすぐ、 桜が咲きます。

At this level of wanikani, I don’t have 桜, but I can infer what that means, especially from my anime knowledge and the furigana right.

The atsu at the beginning, turns out, is japanese onomatopoeia for laughter?!?! I can’t find record of that being the case anywhere.In fact, when I type it out, I can’t even make the tsu small like it is on the page!

つぼみ、from what I can see, is never taught on wanikani

もうすぐ is the same scenario, though i suspect that’s because it’s not written with kanji?


咲きます is never taught on wanikani either :frowning:

this is level 00000000. shouldn’t these be common words? D:

I’m so much further than I was, but it still seems so far from being able to read even the lowest level text.

Is the answer just to start an anki deck of words I come across but don’t know from wanikani?

That’s the answer isn’t it.


“ltsu” or “xtsu” = っ.

あっ is kind of a chopped-off “ah”.

つぼみ does have a kanji (蕾), but it’s not one that’s in common usage.


More to the point, WaniKani teaches vocab solely as an aid to hammer home the kanji readings.

Yes it is - 咲く, level 48. I’m wondering if you perhaps need to focus on learning verb conjugations a bit.


I only just last week started bunpro, so I absolutely need to focus on verb conjugation.

That said, I’m not level 48 anyway! Ahhhh why does the lvl 0 reader have a lvl 48 kanji as the first thing.

I wish tofugu / wanikani people would publish a reader so that it could be leveled with their existing service

It has furigana, right? The difficulty of a word and the difficulty of a kanji are not quite the same thing.

ねこ is a word almost all beginners know, but 猫 isn’t taught in Japanese schools until junior high.


Mostly because WaniKani teaches the kanji in rough order of increasing complexity of writing, while native students learn them in increasing complexity of meaning (though, 咲 is taught in secondary school).

Does this book have furigana? Little kana written above the kanji to indicate the readings?

That’s the intent of EtoEto, which is due to come out SoonTM.


it does have furigana, but even if I can “read it” I can’t understand it right.

with so many gaps in my knowledge, is the answer to just use rikaichamp to define all the words I don’t know and throw them into an anki deck until I’ve done this for every word I’ll ever need to know? Or is there a better way I’m not seeing? The easiest possible text that will start me off with confidence?

Maybe yotsuba is better… let’s try opening that… OH GOD I DON’T KNOW ANY OF THESE WORDS YET EITHER…

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Yotsuba is fairly slangy. On the plus side, here on the forums we’ve got a Yotsuba reading club you can turn to for help. :slightly_smiling_face:


Is it…? I thought it was abandoned lol.

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actually thank you so much. I’m just gonna do the anki deck for the first volume and read through it when I finish it. This will give me a set end date on my inability to read at least SOMETHING.

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It’s going to be okay. Starting out reading like this will always be uncomfortable, even with beginner level material. It’s normal to have to look up words. And as you look up these words and begin to learn more, you tend to find that subsequent reading sessions get easier and easier because those words will be reused.


It’s just on pause. Hopefully coming off pause very soon.

Plus, there’s still people around to answer questions in the old threads.


Are the readers physical books or online?

I haven’t started yet but I’m definitely going to do with online sources. That way I can just copy the word into jisho (after de-conjugating if needed first) or a mono-lingual dictionary later on.

I remember when I first tried reading a comic book in Japanese. I struggled on the first two pages, and gave up. A couple years later, I tried with an easier manga, and failed again. Each time, I didn’t follow up by doing the things required to be able to read a manga.

Your basic requirements for reading a book or manga with furigana will be: 1) learn vocabulary, and 2) learn grammar. And if the book lacks furigana, then 3) learn kanji.


WaniKani teaches vocabulary to reinforce kanji. It isn’t going to give you all the common vocabulary, so you need to learn common words outside of WaniKani.

Anki has a “Core 2000” deck. Starting with this deck today will help gives you a foundation of the most common Japanese words. You don’t need to learn 2,000 words before you can read, but you want to be constantly learning and reviewing new words.

By the way, in learning common vocabulary, you will be learning words with kanji you don’t know yet. It’s simply the nature of the beast.


You mention that you’re using Bunpro, which will help you learn the basics that you’ll see often. By the time you complete the “N5” grammar in Bunpro, you should be able to recognize and understand the basic structure of many sentences, even if you have no idea what the sentence is saying.

Last year, a year and a half after I started learning common vocabulary words, I decided to read a volume of a manga, and not give up. Every time I encountered grammar I didn’t know (which was a lot in the beginning!), I researched it thoroughly and learned from it. I completed a 100-page manga volume in about six to eight months, and from it I learned more Japanese grammar than I had in the prior 20(!) years.

This is where the book clubs here in the WaniKani Community shine. You can ask questions about grammar you don’t know, and you can read explanations given by others. It’s like a shortcut to learning grammar you encounter.

The first manga or book you read, a lot of common grammar will come up repeatedly, then the next manga or book you read, you’ll find that same common grammar showing up.


If you asked me on January 1st how many volumes I expected to read this year, I might have said, “Two would be nice, if I have the time, energy, and strength. So, probably just one. Maybe.”

But being so thorough with that manga I read last year gave me a strong foundation. Joining the WaniKani Community book clubs allowed me to build upon that. Thanks to those (and an always-growing base of vocabulary), I’ve read more manga volumes in 2019 than I can even believe.

I often encounter grammar I’ve learned and forgotten and have to learn again, and it sticks over time. But there’s always more grammar for me to learn. I’m always looking up vocabulary, even with over 3,000 words learned. It’s still a victory if I can go four dialogue balloons without having to look a word up.

Reading begets reading. The more you read, the more you get used to reading. The more you read, the easier reading becomes. The more you read, the more comfortable reading becomes. And you’ll be able to read even more.

I attempted to read manga and quit twice before. Each time, I didn’t follow up by doing the things required to be able to read a manga. Start learning common vocabulary and especially learn N5 and N4 grammar, and you’ll find level 0 readers to be easy to understand sooner than you expected.


What a great post! Thank you for that @ChristopherFritz! Really interesting - and useful!


Your posts definitely have some frustration in them, which I can fully empathize with. I’ve been studying Japanese for 10 years and I’m pretty sure that I struggle more playing pokemon in Japanese than I would playing it in Spanish, which I literally studied like 15 years ago and have only done minor Duolingo-ing since then.

It sounds like there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Wanikani teaches Kanji, it doesn’t teach vocabulary (as was mentioned above, the vocab is to reinforce the readings). Sure, it may sometimes feel like you’re learning vocab, but if you look at the JLPT vocab lists they are much, much more extensive.
  2. It’s always good to remember where you came from versus where you are now. So, I like going back to old genki books and being amazed at how much more easily I can read.
  3. Ask what your actual goal is. This is a bit tied to number 2 above, but tbh, even though playing pokemon feels more like studying than playing, it is a super fun challenge. Spend time thinking about what your goals are for Japanese study and prioritize achieving those. If your goal is to read the graded readers, then don’t beat yourself up if you use a dictionary or if you have to ask for help.
  4. This is probably most important but, unless you’re learning Japanese for work (which I’m guessing you probably aren’t), it’s supposed to be fun! enjoy the ride.

Seems like you have just started learning Japanese. Don’t worry about reading native material yet, get a textbook first and learn the grammar.


Tried to join the site, but it’s on invitation only.

What site?

The book club runs in forum threads here, and they’re most certainly not invitation only. Even if they are, consider this an invitation. :slightly_smiling_face:


I’ve had this happen to me, too, it’s likely you logged out of Wanikani and the forum didn’t catch up when you logged back in, if you click “log in” while in the forums it should clear out the “privacy notice.”

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I have the same frustration of not enough/not the right vocabulary. Something else you can try is FloFlo. There you can learn the common vocabulary for any specific book in their library. Then you know you’ll have what you need in terms of vocab before starting. I haven’t really done much with it so far, but it seems like a good way to start out.

Although, I think grammar is probably what you should look into first. That and maybe picking up the most common kana words. Many of the most common words in Japanese are written in kana much of the time. Since WK doesn’t cover any of that, it’ll be really difficult to work with even beginner material until you get some basics down.

There are advantages to WK though. I’ve found that sometimes more ‘advanced’ sentences in Japanese can be decoded in context from kanji even if you’re missing the vocab. Beginner material will often write in kana things that might be in kanji in more advanced texts, and then I get lost.

For me, at present, beginner texts with furigana seem to be ideal. For native speakers, they’re trying to teach the kanji from the pronunciation using simple language, but I can use them in reverse to learn vocabulary based upon knowing kanji.

Ok, reading over the above, it’s pretty rambling and all over the place. I hope you get something from it anyway.