Helpful Mnemonics

Hi everyone!

I do not post here often but there’s one thing about WaniKani and learning Kanji that I want to discuss (and I apologize if this has already been discussed!).

I’ve noticed that at my current level (17) that some of the WaniKani mnemonics work very well, and others do not. I’ve also become accustomed to speeding through the mnemonics page and relying more on my own mnemonics as well as straight-up repetition to help expediate my studies. For example, I first saw the verb「浴びる」in Genki I, and I made a little mnemonic about how you can have a beer「あびる」in the bath (or shower for「シャワーを浴びる」!).

So, what are all of your experiences with the WaniKani mnemonics? Have you used any supplementary materials (such as memorizing the kanji) to help you in your studies?


I mentioned this in another post a while back, but one thing that helps is to draw on your own life experiences. For instance, 富む means “to be rich.” As it happens, my first girlfriend dumped me for a rich guy named Tom!

Another important thing to remember is that, as you get some words in your muscle memory, the mnemonics will start to sort of fall away, and as long as you remember the word itself, it’s OK to let that happen. You’re going to see upwards of 10,000 items in WaniKani, and there aren’t many people alive who can remember 10,000 mnemonics!

Really, the most helpful thing for me has been to handwrite new kanji and any leeches. Handwriting forces me to meditate on the words a bit and focus where I need to focus.

Sometimes with jukugo words, it helps to “mnemonicize” the logic. I just learned 郊外 and 近郊 both mean suburbs/outskirts. I think of the kanji of 郊外 as like “suburbs outside the city” and 近郊 like “suburbs near each other.” There are still exceptions but that makes it much more manageable.

EDIT: Using supplemental materials is a really good idea. In fact, I don’t think you can get the full impact out of WaniKani unless you do. I use Bunpro,, and an Anki deck of anime cards. I also watch and read untranslated Japanese media when I have time. This article is biased, but it’s correct in saying that reading untranslated Japanese will make you tremendously better at remembering kanji and words.

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When the mnemonics here don’t do it for me, I use Kanji Koohii and see what other mnemonics users have come up with there - it’s completely free!

I also use Kodansha’s Kanji Learner’s Course. Though admittedly, it’s more for the pictogram side of things than getting the readings down along with it.


If there’s a WK mnemonic that doesn’t make sense to me, or I just can’t remember, I often check KanjiDamage and Jisho for additional mnemonics and meanings. I’m not bothered by the crude language there. In fact, I find much of it funny which makes me remember it MUCH better.
Having more context really helps me understand the kanji better too, as I find the context on WaniKani to be quite limited sometimes. The context sentences they give are often too difficult or just don’t make any sense. I think WK can improve on that.
Also I wish that when they teach you an un/konyomi reading, the example vocabulary words would ACTUALLY contain the reading. It would make remembering the reading MUCH easier.
Now they often give only onyomi reading examples when you are supposed to learn the kunyomi, and vice versa. WHY?

Thats why I look up and add those readings in a note myself.

I don’t mean to bash WK btw. I think the system is great. It helps me tremendously. Those were just some things I encountered that confused me a bit :slight_smile:

Also I also use the ankidroid Core 2000 decks in conjunction with wanikani, as I tend to remeber complete sentences much better than seperate words.

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I very rarely use them, because I often find them too winded or confusing (especially the phonetic mnemonics). It’s faster for me to just memorize the reading and later practice it through vocab (either on WaniKani or supplementary in Anki) or just eventually encounter it in reading materials. Anyhow one has to practice kanji outside of WaniKani, I think, otherwise the learned stuff won’t stick for long.

One of the reasons I ignore the mnemonics is because for each kanji there is a separate story and for kanji with overlapping on’yomi readings due to a shared dominant radical, it might be sufficient to just mention that or use the meaning of the radical, instead of introducing a third-party element or character.

Finally, many mnemonics rely on a single gloss translation, instead of the conceptual information behind a kanji, so one may end up remembering the 1:1 equivalent in English and not how the kanji can be used in different contexts. For kanji where the gloss is incorrect or covers a nuanced meaning, that may not be very helpful.

To the above, one of the funnier examples I encountered recently was: WaniKani / Kanji / 鑑

WaniKani settled on the translation of “model” for that kanji. Not only is it not what the kanji means, but it is also fairly clear from the vocab explanations and mnemonics that “model” just doesn’t work, because they are awkward :smiley: . The funny thing about the 鑑 kanji is that it’s very hard to express in a single word and the closest I’ve gotten based on the vocab it’s used in is “judgement” or some form of appraisal. That works for the WaniKani vocab items, too.


@FirstMate-san Exactly that is a problem too. I’m only at level 5 but because I’ve watched anime for a LONG time (15+ years) I know quite some vocabulary, just not the kanji.

But even though I’m not far with WK yet, I still already encountered several ‘wrong’ or ‘close but not quite’ meanings.

Thats why I check KanjiDamage. For example your “model” example has the meaning “expert opinion” on kanjidamage which makes much more sense.
Then I check too and it comes up with “model; pattern; paragon; exemplar”

So thats what I would add to the manual notes and synonyms in this case.


I use mainly wk mnemonics. If they have something weird as mnemonics using something I probably won’t remember, then I make my own. For example:

配る (くばる)
They have this as mnemonics:

You have to distribute some fliers to everyone. On the fliers it talks about a striptease show where kublai (くば) Khan does something naughty

I don’t care for kublai and so I came up with my own story. I need to get these fliers going very soon because I need to distribute them to Cuba. In Spanish, we pronounce it as くば; not きゅうば Lol. So that works for me.

Another one I used quite a while ago was the kunyomi for 年 (とし). They have as mnemonics:

This year you plan on tossing (とし) out all your old stuff as a New Year’s resolution. You pronounce it “toshing” though, because it has more vigor that way.

“Tossing” wasn’t working for me and so I created my own:

What lasts only a year? TOSHIba batteries because they are not as good as Duracell :smiley:



Ah, that’s a fantastic point! Thank you for mentioning KanjiDamage! Yes, theoretically the kanji as a standalone vocab can mean “model”, but I feel like that’s not the same way “model” is used in the WaniKani mnemonics and here “model” is a bit of an unfortunate choice of words. “expert opinion” makes way more sense!

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I was also going to break that up, that with many kanji I’ve already forgotten much of the mnemonic, but the kanji’s meaning and readings have stuck.

And thanks for the tip on playing with the logic of words! I try to do that with collocations, or with words in which the meanings are similar, but they might be syntactically opposite. For example, I just learned of「光栄」and「栄光」. I think of the first as “light which brings about prosperity,” which is most similar to “honor,” and the second as “prosperity was achieved by you, so you get the light” and thus “glory” is more suitable a meaning. However, I haven’t seen them in any readings so far, so I have not sense for the nuances between them, as a quick look on jisho reveals that「光栄」can also mean glory…

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I think there was another thread about WK’s shortcomings with the sample sentences, don’t know where that is though. I’ll have to take a look at the ankidroid decks though, as I (somewhat embarrassingly) haven’t started to work in contextual sentences into my SRS routine.