How much kanji is sufficient?

If I were to read a fairly lengthy book, an example being the Lord of the rings (translated to japanese), how many kanji characters would I need to know?

I would enjoy not being frustrated by having to look up kanji characters continually.

If you want to read a novel without looking up kanji, you’re going to need at least the most common 2000 to start with. Even with that, you’ll probably encounter a few that you’ll need to look up. It really depends on the book, how many unique kanji it uses, and whether the kanji it uses lines up with the ones you know, but reading adult literature is definitely going to require some extensive kanji and vocab knowledge if you aren’t willing to look up stuff constantly. I would argue that it’s better to tackle reading even if you have to look up a lot of words, because practicing reading is the best way to get better at reading. I’d also suggest trying some Japanese literature rather than reading something that has been translated into Japanese, as that will give you a more accurate idea of what Japanese literature is like. Anyway that’s just my opinion.


This is a question that has a surprising amount of depth behind it.

LOTR is a specific case where it may have a lot of words specific to the fantasy genre. Just as one reading a mecha or sci-fi novel needs to learn a bevy of words towards that, LOTR would demand an additional lexicon of fantasy and Middle Earthy words that tack on to difficulty.

Other novels within the present setting can be suitable, but I’d say that the next hurdle that might be unintentionally overlooked would be understanding the grammar behind the novels. It adds to another level of trying to understand text that might be harder to look up. I recommend you also try to learn and look at JP and JLPT grammar resources. Tofugu has a bevy of articles for that.

The WK 10s-20s is a perfect platform to start immersing yourself in reading whatever you’d like. They could be young adult novels, manga, visual novels, easy NHK news articles, grader readers, the whole works. Beginning to just try applying the words you’ve learned and learning new vocabulary that WK doesn’t teach is already a leg up.

I think slice of life manga is a really easygoing way to enter into this realm, but if isn’t your cup of tea, you may find other reading materials of similar difficulty.


Thank you. This helps.

Yeah, fantasy novels are especially known for a wide use of vocabulary with many obscure words…

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