How do you think of the Kanji when reviewing?

How do you comprehend the reading and meanings of the kanji in your reviews?
My question is 2 parts:

  1. How do you think of the kanji once you finish the radicals? Do you look at it and it immediately comes to you or do you continuously break it down into the radicals until you master or burn it?

  2. To the higher level WK users: how do you separate kanji that is similar to the early level ones? Like if you looked at two similar looking kanji or a kanji which contains an older kanji, how often would you get it mixed up? Does the difference jump out at you?

Currently Im on Level 18 and for a lot of older kanji that Ive seen many times before, I immediately know what to write and sometimes I just have an idea on what it could be, despite not being able to remember the mnemonic for it. Some kanji have their distinctive characteristics which are unique (so far up till level 18) so I immediately know which ones they are. Im just wondering how others comprehend the kanji and what it feels like when the kanji start getting crowded and even more complex.
Thank you in advance!

P.S: I think there is a post titled something like Should I know kanji reading immediately just by looking at it. I can’t find the topic but my question is similar to that


I think it’s natural to learn kanji originally by breaking it down, but for that to be replaced by an association with the kanji as a whole as you learn it and see it more and more.

For me, I never really practiced writing kanji, so I’ve actually got a pretty terrible memory at recalling exactly what a kanji looks like, but my recognition is far far better because when reading I’m not using the schematic blueprint of each kanji, but the general shape and context and built up associations over time.

Like as an example, I would be very unlikely to mistake 類 for 頻 or vice versa while reading. One just really strongly “looks like” るい and one like ひん to me now, but I would only barely have been able to verbalize at all what was actually forming those different impressions without looking at them.
When answering questions on the forum, I often use phrases like “looks like,” “feels like,” “sounds like,” to describe how it feels when relying on that built-up latent recognition power from a lot of reading and not much producing - kanji and words just… look like what they are and sound like what they mean.

Like how “Knight” looks and feels like a knight more than “night” or “nite” or “fight” does, if that makes any sense. Even if 100% there must have been a time where that spelling looking like the word knight made no sense to me at all. Sort of similarly, once there was certainly a time 末 and 未 looked very similar, and now somehow to me they don’t. The difference “jumps out.”

Some things take longer than others to in-grain (I’m still not perfect with 仮 vs. 反 or 申/甲 without having to doublecheck myself, for example), sometimes new things I encounter still make me have to rebuild new contrastive associations from scratch (I encountered 裹 recently for example, which is not 裏 it turns out) and practicing writing would probably go a long way to help (and make it easier to explain and talk about…), but I think the subconscious’ ability to absorb complicated characters (and the combinations thereof) as single blobs of meaning is really shockingly powerful and critical for reading.

But it doesn’t come fresh out of the box, it takes time to build up! So if you’re ever worried about it feeling like it’s not forming, I think the ticket is mainly just practicing and reading more.


I was gonna ask a similar question to your title lol

When I see a Kanji like 力 I think “Power” not “Chikara”.

So I’m a little concerned I might be not actually learning properly. Since if I am in my own mind thinking “I want to say power in Japanese” I won’t actually remember that it’s Chikara right away, I need to see the kanji first or visualize what it looks like which is very slow, and sometimes I forget!

Although I can recognise a lot of kanji, I can’t remember them outside of visually seeing them for example: てーぶろの上 (I think this is tabletop?) or べっどの下 (under the bed) I don’t remember these properly D: and many other vocab.

So I was also wondering how people remember / learn using WK. I’ve been struggling recently I even reset from level 5 to 4 aha…


I don’t think that’s necessarily cause for too much concern!

The way I kind of think about SRS is it’s like a band-aid - it’s there just to keep things together and associated while the uh, scab of memory forms. Like, it’s getting you to the fully literate grasp of the word eventually, by way of simply associating 力 with “power” and “ちから” for you in the meantime, and making it easier for time and practice to do its thing.

So (to continue with the tortured metaphor…), I think what you’re describing is a bit like frequently pulling up the band-aid to check , seeing only minor improvement, and worrying.
Level 4 or 5 is still very early! And being able to associate 力 with “power” isn’t nothing - it’s showing that SRS is doing it’s thing!

Also, about:

This is one case where practice in different areas definitely is (unfortunately) restricted to those areas. So I think what you’re describing is perfectly normal, since Wanikani only practices visual recognition.

You can look into separate tools (like Kaniwani), for recall practice, or audiotory recognition, or writing.
But for what it’s worth, I focused pretty much exclusively just on visual recognition (because I like to read more than I like talking to strangers), and strong, permanent visual recognition abilities were able to form without the other parts of the puzzle - they really are separate skills, although getting stronger in one certainly helps train the others.

So I guess what I mean is, “visually seeing Kanji” is… reading them, so naturally a site that drills reading like Wanikani will almost exclusively help you in that one situation! So it’s not necessarily a sign of using Wanikani incorrectly if that’s the only place you see progress on Wanikani kanji.


The questions you ask are precisely the reason why I drill writing Kanji.

I realized that I dissociate the Kanji from the mnemonics fairly quickly for most Kanji and recognize the Kanji as a whole, but that as I level up, I will come across a bunch of similar looking Kanji and will have trouble telling them apart (because they will have the same general shape, which is what I rely on).

So writing practice ensures that I drill individual components so that visually similar Kanji will still look different because I will actually remember all the radicals in the Kanji I already know.

Strong recommendation for Kanji Study/Skritter, both of which can be set up easily for effective use alongside WK.

I think recognizing Kanji without breaking them down is very cool.


My goal is instant recognition, since that’s how I read in my native language. Usually early on I’ll have to stare at something for a second and jog my memory, but after a bit you just see it and know it.

It depends. For WaniKani’s sake, for similar kanji I get mixed up I’ll take a second to look at them and find some discernable difference that I can fall back on. E.g. 幸 and 辛 tripped me up for a long time. Now I look for the cross on top and I’m happy when I find it.

In the wild… I feel like you can read over something and there’s only a certain kanji that fits the bigger picture. Even in English you can read over something that’s spelled wrong and you don’t even notice it; your brain is just parsing the big picture.

Let’s say you’re talking to someone about how to get tickets for the shinkansen or something. And someone says:


And you’re thinking “Ohh right, yeah, go to the station’s ‘Green ticket window’ and the JR East staff get you sorted out.”

But little did you realize they didn’t write 駅の緑の窓口, they wrote 駅の縁の窓口.

…I’ll give everyone a minute to spot the difference…

In this case one of those kanji makes way more sense and is way more likely to be there than the other, and your brain just kind of assumes it to be so when reading quickly.


that’s basically exactly how i would describe it, like 失 just feels like fault, and 矢 just feels like arrow. but that’s because of the associations i’ve built up over time, i remember when these were the exact same thing in my eyes.

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Those were probably the first two kanji I had to create my own mnemonics to distinguish, because when learning them, their differences don’t stand out (a recurring issue for a lot of lookalikes). So I made up some stupid story about the arrow being William Tell’s in his infamous story about shooting the apple. If the arrow shoots true, it goes over the person’s head and everyone’s happy. If the archer makes a mistake (which I associate with fault)… well, someone’s getting pierced.

And that was pretty much it for me. Once I put them side by side and catalogue the differences + come up with my own way to distinguish them, it’s fine.

For those rare ones that I still get wrong when I glance at despite recognizing them when I actually look at them (and there are times when I could swear I saw a different radical in some corner), I found that doing some writing practice helped solve the issue.


When I do reviews, even if it’s asking for the English meaning, I intentionally try to think of (or say out loud) the Japanese pronunciation first. I feel like that’s a pretty decent way to reduce dependency on English. You can even see in my accuracy that I’m better at remembering readings, I don’t know if it’s because of that habit or from something else haha


Don’t worry about it too much though, really internalizing the meaning will come from seeing/hearing the word in context.


This is something that happens all throughout Wanikani so it’s good to have a method to deal with it.

Personally, I would reevaluate the previous ones in order to take into account the current one I’m learning.

For example, 曹 (official) at level 59

I altered my mnemonics for “encounter” and “tank” so that “official” would be the basis.

Yeah this is where I’m at now. And it’s hard to explain what it’s like unless you already have a certain critical mass of kanji knowledge built up. Like, I have at least a 70% chance of guessing the correct reading for a new Kanji I come across and probably an 80% or better chance of figuring out the meaning, at least for the Jouyou set and other common Kanji.

I think りょく, because I see that more than ちから. Although that may just be my reading material where 魔力 gets thrown around a lot. :wink:

This is also true for me. Extensive reading helped me get a better predictive sense of what would naturally follow and after a while my listening improved because in many cases I would already be expecting a certain thing to be said next.

But those complementary effects only occur after that critical mass I mentioned.


I’ve been trying to catch up on One Piece, on ep 867 out of like 970 or something and they say ちから a lot during fights lol, so that’s probably why.


Thank you all for the replies!

I think this is where Im at. Alot of the the things I look at with kanji have some mixture of kanji that I know and most that I don’t. And the ones that I know are difficult to remember on the spot. I think I need to practice reading a bit more to improve my recognition, especially in actual context. I also just need to trust the SRS i think.

I used to write all the kanji before. Now I only write the ones that give me the most trouble. Its a system thats working for me for now. Writing down the kanji and breaking down the differences in radicals definitely helps.

This is definitely what I want to work towards. It gets a little overwhelming at times

This is a great way to put it! Thank you!

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I do this while reviewing or doing lessons: I look for visually similar kanji. Not just the ones suggested by WK (because they are often not very similar), but any kanji using the same radicals. If I find another one that is similar, I compare the two until I get how they are different. If necessary, using the mnemonic. This time investment will pay off in the future because hopefully I will have less leeches.

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