Heisig's Remembering the Kanji

has anyone ever used it?? how does it compare to the crabigators obviously superior methods?


I personally don’t understand why anyone would do that entire book without learning how to actually read any kanji. You have to use the second book before they teach you any actual Japanese.


I mean you can go faster with it but it doesn’t teach you a lot of stuff WK does. If you’re a good self-studier then it might be preferable. If you like being guided then WK is far superior.


i did the entire book. worked pretty well and would have been fine, had i followed up with volume 2.
i did use anki and kanji-koohii though, the whole ordeal took me 8 weeks.

but since i stopped there, i still couldn’t read and forgot a lot again.


The method is effectively the same, using mnemonics to help learn and remember things. Given that WK also has readings, vocabulary, and a built-in SRS system… if you’re already doing WK I wouldn’t see any reason to get RTK.


Yeah, it would be redundant. Unless you want to keep the book as a reference guide.
I like to own books, so that’s motivation enough to get it one day. I also have an actual Japanese dictionary, even though I can easily use google translate or a dictionary app, but there’s something different about consulting a dictionary, and you get to train how to look up things and see how the Japanese words are alphabetized.


Well there are two books

The first one introduces all the kanji, and some of its components (like the radicals here) but there’s no vocabulary, only kanji.

So what it does differently is that it gives to every single kanji a different word to associate it with, here on the other hand you’ll get like 5 kanji meaning Clear to give you an idea.

The purpose with Heisig is to learn to identify the kanji to its associated word.

Then comes the second book that introduces the readings of these kanji, still without the vocabulary

I think the way it’s presented is actually intuitive and easy to follow, but the fact that it is presented in blocks demands way more time and passion from the learner, and makes easier for learners to end up quitting because it’s harder to feel a complete sensation of progress until very very late on

WK gives you in about 10 levels a tangible sensation of progress


I like you :wink:


Volume 2 was way less helpful in my opinion, I remember it mostly being like “hey, this radical has this sound sometimes, now remember all these kanji that sound that way” rather than the useful meaning mnemonics that were in the first half of the first book. WK was way more useful to me from the very beginning, but I’m sure Heisig’s made WK a lot easier.


Everything works as long as you stick till the very end!


When I was studying Japanese years ago, I used Heisig and kanji.koohii. It was okay, but…

I like wanikani a lot more and wish it had been around back then. Learning a reading at the same adds more links, and then adding in vocabulary creates even MORE links, and that’s what memory is all about, so I think this works a lot better. Even if it’s slower. Because in the end, even though I could recognize and write 2000ish kanji, it didn’t help me read at all on it’s own. Not knowing any readings meant even if I knew the kanji I was seeing, I had no way to even look up a word without using stroke input.

I want to say that doing heisig back then is helping me now, but it is hard to say. Every once in awhile I’ll see a kanji (most recently 檻) and be like “hey, I kinda remember that one and my old mnemonic,” but mostly I think the kanji I do sort of remember are ones I remember from just reading in Japanese and seeing them in words, rather than from Heisig.

I’d say there’s no reason to do both. But the main thing that does help me is a lot of heisig’s radicals are more useful to me. Most recently, Wanikani wanted me to learn 忄 as fish stick. Like… why? It’s a squished 心. And the vast majority of kanji it appears in are so clearly linked to heart/mind.

But that’s not a specific benefit of Heisig. I think it’s useful to research radicals outside of wanikani in general, for this reason. Sometimes you want something wacky to help it stick (because knowing 殳 is some kind of polearm is only infrequently useful and Ikea is funnier), but sometimes you want to use what a radical really means, and when you want which I think varies a lot between people, so doing your research is helpful.

Oh, and knowing that 月 is used to represent the body (it can be either 月or a simplification of 肉 as a radical afaik) in TOO MANY KANJI TO COUNT is a lot more useful than trying to shoehorn a moon into every body-related mnemonic.


Honestly, I’m not 100% sold on Heisig or on WaniKani just yet.

I don’t like that Heisig doesn’t give any instruction on the readings of the kanji, but I meanwhile feel like WaniKani could be simplified into a book and ANKI deck, instead of this whole… thing. But I am largely an anti-tech curmudgeon.

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Books are tech too, at least according to Johannes Gutenberg.


I actually prefer this over a book and anki for two reasons:

  1. The way they schedule things out is actually a really good idea.

  2. More importantly, I’m also an anti-tech curmudgeon and putting in the work to make anki actually look and feel good is more than I can bare. This already does!


there seems to be an awful lot of misunderstandings about Heisigs work here mostly from people who have never used it or used it incorrectly.
First, there are -threeー books.
Second, Heisig stresses the need to supplement his books right from the beginning with any and all reading materials at an appropriate level for you.
Third, the fact that Heisig requires one to create individual stories rather than use someone else’s creates with all due respect, a greater level of processing than WK. If you work on a kanji according to Heisigs system it will be eteche din your mind. Incidentally , Heisigs advic eon memory is supported by the work of memory experts such as Buzan and research into memory that spawned NLP and the like.
Fourth, many people treat the -secondー book a little casually for some reason, but in many ways it is the central pillar of the work. If one completes the first book properly, which, with all due respect, has not been done in a matter of weeks, but will probably take close for a year, then one can take one look at a large group of kanji (you know exactly what they mean and how to write them). and realize that you know the on yomi of every single one of them. When one starts using the secon book the increase in reading as well as writing Japanes eabilty is exponential.
I often give seminars to large groups of foreigners about kanji study and 5 moment I mention Heisig many people in the audience smile and nod. Often they come up to m eafterwards and say they are so glad they could escape the horrors of brute memory learning.
Fifth, because I have learnt using the Heisig method, whenever I see a new kanji I can automatically break it down into its component parts and 5en reconstruct it the next day. I have lost count of the number of times I hav seen advanced level foreigners struggle to retain an image of that kanji an then desperately try to recreate it and check its meaning an hour later or when ever.
Incidentally, in the thirty years I have been in Japan , with one exception, every single person I have met who wrote their phd in Japanese, teacher sat a japanes euniversity and is generally acknowledged to be fluent at a high level has studied using the Heisig method.
The reality many people can’t seem to face is that whatever system you are using it’s a long hard road. Using Heisig -correctlyー will, from my observations of others na depersonalize experience bring a person to a state where they can read write around five thousand kanji within three years or so. This is three years of hard work as opposed to 8or so years of hard work.
So , to anyone who is reading this thread and been put off by the criticism which has not much basis on experience , I hope you will take the trouble to find out for your itself what Heisig really is. Of course WK is great, but it’s not the same thing by any means, although it’s existence does probably owe a lot to the groundbreaking and still revolutionary contribution Heisig has made to the field of Japanese language study.


Some of the words used were too obscure for me as a non-english native, and some of the keywords seem to be just plain wrong. 町 being “village” and 村 being “town”, for example. Like, why.


This does bother me a little. I’ve not done hesig but I studied Chinese and started my 汉子 learning by learning all the radical and it does help with meaning and sound in many cases. The WK system is the system and I’m fine with that but I’m glad I know what 心 /忄 and 人 /亻 etc. are.

Has anyone tried doing Hesig after (or in parallel with) WK and can comment on the benefits? I often feel like I am laying siege to Japanese, attacking it with multiple methods on multiple fronts.


I really like it!!!
I did RTK as far as chapter 14 of the book with 300+ kanjis, and as others have mention, you don’t get words or readings initially… besides the order in which Kanji are presented don’t go along with the kanji frecuency or school level in which they’re commonly introduced in other materials. Because of it I end up going the WK way.

Nevertheless I think the logic behind the method its quite solid; teaching kanjis using the actual radicals that they have in common really helps at finding a logic behind them.

I’m considering going back to RTK once I’m mostly done with WK; specially now that I have vocab for most kanjis, so I’ll be able to use japanse vocab as meaning :muscle: . …

I actually think that RTK’s value could be really superior when you have already a base in the language.


what you could do is, get both Remember the Kanji and the Kodansha’s Kanji learner’s course, then use them together.

for anyone who wondered what they even look like,

heisig’s “remember the kanji”:

“kodansha kanji learner’s course”

you can then do them together for the exact same effect WK has. since there’s ANKI and memrise sets that include the readings, there’s not even the need to make any flashcards for them - then you have WK with the brakes removed and absolute control over everything, from timers to leniency.

heisig worked really well for me, like i said, but if you like being led along a red thread, all-inclusive, with a nice forum and helpful community attached, then nothing beats WK.

there’s kanji-koohii as a sort of heisig community, but WKers do reading clubs and are a bit friendlier. currently no elitist pricks (we did have some in the past, but they reached 60 and quit), while kanji-koohii can be a rough place sometimes.

KKLC has better vocab than WK
Heisig set with readings here
Here’s some graded readers for KKLC

i don’t believe it takes a year. i finished book 1 in a bit under 2 months and it did indeed work for me - probably because a) i was living in japan already when i did it, so i saw familiar kanji all around me on a daily basis, and b) i had a decent level. these days, i’d probably rush through most of those lessons. back then, i made my own mnemonics for each of them before moving on.

what i didn’t try to achieve, and what WK won’t teach you either, is writing them. when i’m done with WK, i’ll probably do Skritter with RTK to develop proper handwriting skills.

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