Heisig's Remembering the Kanji


I can’t say anything about that community now, but I was active in the koohii community years ago, and I can say that one of the main reasons I was so started by how nice prople here are is because of my experience over there. People were very, very interested in measuring their Japanese dicks against each other, instead of being, like, actually helpful.


I believe we all acknowledge that Heisig is an incredible work and that WK and many many other works are based on it.

Heisig was the first book ever I found to learn Kanji and I immediately fell in love with it, but in my opinion theres little information on how to use it properly as you mention. (I saw too many people failing to learn kanji using this book) For me it was a matter of “to every one their each” and WK does a wonderful job presenting at the same time, kanji, readings and some vocab to reinforce.

But, I actually plan opening my copy of this book (along with some others) when I finish WK because I believe it would cement everything.

If you happen to have information regarding how to properly use Heisig I’ll be more than glad to hear you out.


WK has made it kind of redundant now but back in the day it was invaluable for the way it introduced radicals and memonics.


well it does still have it’s place - it teaches hand writing skills, and since i own it already, i’ll give it a try. after wk


Isn’t WaniKani pretty much Heisig’s method turned into a student-friendly product? I always though of Wanikani as an attempt to turn Heisig into a more useful tool, while trying to balance the method with real world language learning.

I mean, Heisig is clearly an academic, and that is well reflected on his book. He pays a lot of attention to explaining mnemonics and making the reader able to create their owns. What is great, of course. The thing is the final goal of the majority of the readers is not becoming a mnemonic master, but learning Japanese. And for that of course you need a study order that prioritizes basic words, you need readings, you need vocabulary… All needs Heisig simply ignores, because he is more worried with teaching mnemonics. Heisig is teaching a concept, not Japanese.

Wanikani uses the exact same logic of Heisig, giving names to all kanji parts and making mnemonics for them (and while pre-made mnemonics are given by the system, nothing stops users from making their own ones). However, it gives kanji with readings from the very beginning, uses vocabulary to cement the different readings and has a well-thought order, that does its best to balance basic radicals with actually useful kanji, what makes it A LOT more student-friendly than Heisig. Wanikani is trying to teach Japanese, not mnemonics.

However, WaniKani clearly also has its flaws, such as the already mentioned 心 and 人 radicals, and quite often could use some real explanations instead of going crazy on the mnemonics. I mean, it’s fine if they want to use the fish stick (wtf) stories, but why not telling the user the radical comes from 心? It surely helps a lot.

Since Heisig is an academic, of course his book is filled with real explanations, which can be very useful sometimes, but also utterly useless depending on the kanji or the radical.


And as a side note…

“every single person I have met who (…) is generally acknowledged to be fluent at a high level has studied using the Heisig method”

Wow dude, in thirty years here how many people from how many countries did you meet? I mean, there are so many foreigners fluent in Japanese and so many different methods of studying Japanese (and Kanji). Of course Heisig is a benchmark on Kanji learning and it wouldn’t be so famous if it wasn’t good in the first place…
But saying every one who can speak high level Japanese does so because of Heisig?



So literally no one from this site is going to end up fluent, I guess.

Sorry everyone, pack it up.

I don’t see what Heisig has to do with fluency in any case. You don’t even have to be literate to be fluent.

Also, I do own the first Heisig book. People complain about the start of WK… yeesh.


Personally, I did find the mnemonics in RTK much better than Wanikani’s, as well as the radicals. WK has some questionable choice in radicals (for example, why stick with 月 's meaning of moon, when “flesh” works so much better for all the body parts kanji 肺 臓 腕 腰 etc?) and often uses too many of them instead of consolidating smaller radicals into bigger ones at the pace RTK does.

I should be less lazy and study both at the same time to get the better mnemos out of the two. Anyway, I hope the next update will improve things.


the reason heisig teaches you the meaning first, is that he believed these kanji will get into your head more easily (because memorizing ONE fact per kanji is already a big deal), and will act as anchor for the second pass (readings, that’s what volume 2 is about) more easily.

i believe that to be true. however, i decided to go with WK, because it’s all-in-one and has SRS.


It’s also just a moon a lot too. WK isn’t set up to allow multiple names for the same shape, even when it’s something that has multiple names for the same shape.


Not really, they use radicals and mnemonics… and the similarities probably end there.

The logic behind RTK is to provide a foundation by using a radical and show you what kanjis are derived from that radical, so you can see nuances in meaning and similarities shared among kanjis sharing a particular radical.

The same way it uses these phonetic semantic compounds to provide readings on the 2nd book.

It’s easier (for me anyway) to relate kanjis to a family of similar ones when using this method, and above all it helps to get a solid foundation to practice writing in a logical order.

The drawback is that you might find a really common kanji belonging to the same “family” that a not so common kanji… so if you don’t have a basic knowledge beforehand it could mean that you’ll learn something like “dog” alongside with “inconsequential” in the same chapter… which could be thought as weird if you check the frecuency for the later …:sweat_smile: (just an example though)…

Then with the previous example you could think that you’ll be learning fairly complex kanjis alongside with basic ones, and wonder about how good that can be… On the other hand if you have a previous basis (like if you’ve done WK previously :wink:) you don’t care about it, because you know vocab already, so no words will take you by surprise. Then it can really solidify those kanjis, for example if you are aiming at writing, which I would say it’s not WK’s strongest suit.

I don’t think WK provides with this rock solid foundation in Kanji, nor do I think any method does … After going trough any method my impression is that you get with only a hazy view of most Kanjis (much well rounded for the common ones) and that’s possible to properly solidify by reading a lot and with some other method for example (some people choose to repeat WK :sweat_smile:).
RTK it’s fairly doable in a couple of months , specially if you’re not new to japanese … If you have a proper vocab knowledge you can use the Japanese meanings too… And avoid using another language altogether …
Anyway, I see a lot of value in it … Don’t think it’s at all an excluding decision even if you’ve done WK…

People that have gone all the way to level 60 can tell you how rock solid they feel Kanji wise, and probaly most can tell they are a work in progress still :yum:


Though WK has its roots in a similar method to Heisig, we should remember the most significant differences:

  1. WK is set up to begin using the content right from the beginning. Heisig is effectively useless until after you memorize all the characters. Only then can you start to work toward reading real content.

  2. WK’s leveling system provides measurable incremental goals. Heisig’s first goal is memorize 2000 characters - so far in the distance that most will not achieve it. Small achievable goals are the key to attaining monumental success.


Uhm, RTK has pages. You can pace yourself, or set yourself goals like “I wanna do 100 new kanji over the weekend”. The page number is a document of your progress.

Regarding your point 1: It doesn’t matter where or how you learn kanji, they’re always useless until you reach a critical mass to make content comprehensible. Some things become accessible earlier, some later. This is not a WK/RTK thing, it’s inherently kanji-related.


Because there were not that many other methods to learn kanji besides Heisig. Even if your statistics were not anecdotal, it’s outdated.


The 月 radical in body part kanji is actually a simplification of 肉.



Sure, no evidence, no reasoning as to why it might be outdated. No alternative qualitative evidence. Complete dismissal of anything ‘anecdotal’ without any awareness of the numbers or kind soft people involved.
Just the usual thoughtless knee jerk ‘oh that’s outdated.’


And you offered anything like that when you implied it’s necessary to become fluent?


i don’t believe RTK is outdated. that would imply an evolution in kanji meaning, which is not the case. it will still have the same effect it had 20 years ago.
however, there’s a bias towards a very narrow demographic, and you don’t account for all the alternatives available today.
you’re on the very forums of one of them.

i still believe RTK is worth it for other purposes, like writing, but there’s other resources for that, too. could train the characters on skritter after learning them anywhere, for example KKLC or RTK (they’re not mutually exclusive). this is actually one of the options i’m pondering. RTK is very barebones after the point at which heisig tells you to now do your own stories, while KKLC provides some background info on each kanji, and pulls through with light mnemonic devices.


RTK is not outdated. The statistics are.


yeah, i figured. just clarified that his numbers are skewed for several reasons. for once, it’s not proper data, it’s anecdotal. then his test sample isn’t representative, it’s a very specific group. there’s been nothing to compare with modern alternatives. in short, it’s very lacking.