How to vividly imagine the mnemonics?

what are the steps & how many minutes do you all spend per mnemonic? just did my first review of kanji in level 1 & got 60% cause i couldn’t recall the stories or i would associate the mnemonic with the wrong character. feelin dumb. i don’t get how to vividly think in my brain. so far i just read through the mnemonics once & move on.


I usually just take around a minute or two to think about the story I’ve read and imagine what happened and also look at the radicals in the kanji so I’ll recognize it and recall the story.

So the advice I can give you is take some time to imagine the story, but it doesn’t have to be too much in-depth or just read it multiple times and also look at the radicals making up the kanji so you can recall the story.

1 Like

I can’t imagine the mnemonics vividly, but I can remember kanji fairly easily with my own methods without spending excessive time on them.
Sometimes I do use the mnemonics. I like to keep it simple in my mind though. If the mnemonic is longer, I imagine it playing out or treat it simply as a story. From this I focus on the main information: radicals, reading and meaning. That’s the part I remember.
Basically, most of the story is the background in an image and those main information are the subjects your eyes are drawn to.

Example: じょう

If I find a toe above the ground, it’s Jourm’s(じょう)toe.

Note I slightly changed the mnemonic to my liking, as well as summarising the mnemonic in one short sentence.

You can also treat it as a puzzle, and ask yourself a 5w/1h question.

You found a toe above the ground. Whose toe is it? It’s Jourm’s toe!

Or use addition.

Toe + ground = above. Why does that equal above? Because the toe’s above the ground, not under, silly!

You don’t even have to use the given mnemonic. I make up my own mnemonics for a lot of kanji. It’s more effective too. : )

Experiment and see what helps you remember best. Good luck!


Shameless plug: I’ve come up with some mnemonics of my own that I think are very vivid. Maybe you’ll find them helpful as examples:

In any case, I often handle them almost non-verbally in my mind, which I find much faster than thinking using words; the only reason there are so many words on that thread is that I’m trying to explain what I see in the hope that I’ll be able to ‘transmit’ the same image to whoever reads the posts. If you’re looking for beginner-friendly words, scroll down to the latest posts, which contain simpler kanji and vocabulary.

However, there’s another possibility: are you able to visualise at all? Because there genuinely are people who aren’t able to form mental images or sensations of any kind (it’s called ‘aphantasia’), and you might be one of them. In that case, you might have to focus on making mnemonic stories more interesting for you, because what you’re likely to remember is words and concepts instead of vivid images and sensations.

If you are able to visualise, I’d suggest visualising the character a few times before trying to learn the mnemonic, and then trying to keep the character in mind as you read the mnemonic, seeking connections between the mnemonic and the parts of the character. If you can’t visualise, then keep an actual image of the character in front of you and do the same thing, but this time taking note of the characteristics that link the mnemonic and the character, instead of relying on associating a visual image with each part of the mnemonic. Either way, the objective is to associate the kanji with the mnemonic as well as you can so you won’t mix things up. If the mnemonic isn’t clearly linked to the kanji, you might want to discard it and use your own.


I usually also make them shorter, pretty much like you did. For me it works pretty well, there’s always a couple of readings that somehow are harder to stick, but overall it is going well. Maybe it also helps that I do few lessons a day (5-10), if I did more I would probable find it harder.

1 Like

I usually interpret it as ‘tying to existing memories’, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be the exact scene of the mnemonic. Free association on either the meaning, the reading or the mnemonic can link the information with all kinds of other stuff in your brain. The more links, the easier it becomes to remember. Takes some time during the lesson though. Surprisingly the sensation feels the same as drifting off during class, which I never imagined as a good thing.


I prefer to write my own mnemonics. I usually tie them to pop culture references that I’m more likely to recognise. I watch a lot of anime, so this comes in handy with certain character names!

For example, when I was learning the kanji for white (白)the Onyomi reading is はく.
So my mnemonic is…

In Spirited Away, the character HAKU turns into a WHITE dragon!

If you’re not a very visual person, you just need to find a way of using mnemonics that fit your style of learning. Some people find using song lyrics or making up their own song or story helps them to remember information.

Or borrow someone else’s imagination! I was struggling to remember the vocabulary for 北, when my fiancé looked at my screen and said “That looks like a lockpicking kit!”
So now that’s what I use to remember 北 (きた)

There’s some really good threads where people post mnemonics they like to use.

Everyone’s brain works differently, you need to try different things to figure out what works best for your brain.


another way to help remember is to make the mnemonic crass or shocking.

(spoiler for gore) it’s Jourm’s toe, lying on the ground. you hacked it off with a hoe, it’s bleeding, there’s a bit of bone sticking out, and somewhere off in the distance Jourm is wailing. there’s blood-red skies and an apocalyptic soundtrack.

now every time there’s a toe in a mnemonic, you have a flashback to when you hacked off Jourm’s toe. and every time Jourm comes up in a mnemonic, you remember the poor dude whom you so viciously attacked.

the brain will remember things it’s shocked by rather better than things it finds bland. the trick though is that it’s got to be something which you find properly shocking. for some people gore is just kind of funny, for others the self-insert in the above example might be too much…


People’s ability to create and manipulate images in their mind vary from person to person. Some people have almost zero ability while others “see” things as vividly as what they see with their eyes and can instinctively manipulate the images according to their whims. The lack of this ability is sometimes called aphantasia:

I personally fall into the category of only being able to “see” very vague images that I can’t hold on to for more than a fraction of a second at a time, and I have almost no control over how it looks. My visual association with “rice paddy” is just a smudge of color, closer to blue than green. So I often have to rely on imagining other senses for the mnemonics, for “dirt” I can vividly imagine the feeling of sticking my hands into compost, and of getting dirt under my fingernails. I often come up with my own mnemonics based on what I can best imagine and on what existing associations I have. For example for ball “玉” I think “tamagotchi are kinda like Pokémon, and Pokémon are kept in balls, so ball = たま.” That is basically a verbal association, no visualization required, but it works for me.

So in conclusion, experiment to find out what kind of associations will best support your learning.

Edit: Also, like ChaosControl above, I find it easy to associate Japanese pop culture with kanji. For 白 - はくI remember that the character Haku in Naruto uses ice ninjutsu which is white. And for the “genius” mnemonic I think of Yagami Light trying catch L with barbs at the bottom of the slide, but Sai from Naruto uses the slide first instead. Sounds really dumb, but it’s easy for me to remember and both Light and L are supposed to be geniuses, while the character is pronounced さい. So again, don’t stick to the existing mnemonics if you can find ones that are easier for you to imagine and recall.


All good advice above… I do personalize or sometimes outright change the “story.”
Also, I used to blow through the Lesson groups fast, so to make myself slow down and embed the idea better, I rewrite or condense the info using the areas provided for MEANING NOTE and READING NOTE. What you write there travels with the word going forward so when it comes up again for other words/meanings/reviews, you can refresh your memory.

I copy, paste and alter a lot, but I’ve gotten into the habit of always including both the On’yomi and Kun’yomi readings because I invariably can remember the kanji but not the vocab, or vice•versa - if I get it wrong I can quickly refer to the correct use.

1 Like

video was very useful. never heard of aphantasia. strangely enough i’ve always hated audiobooks; found it the worst learning method for me so I always thought visual books was my thing so i always thought i was a primarily a visual learner…guess i liked books with visuals cause i cannot create my own easily in my mind.

1 Like

I read it then summarise with a random stock image from google. Bonus points if it’s kinda strange (like this for (じょう))

lol, I was gonna say “oh I do that too!” but you went with violence, mine are more pornographic!

I also used Death Note as a mnemonic for 文

Light is WRITING names in the Death Note, but instead of a potato chip and eating it…it’s a ぶん?

My fiancé isn’t a fan of audiobooks either. He tends to focus on the words and ends up picturing the words and letters, rather than the pictures the words are trying to create. Plus while reading things visually, he can go at a much slower pace because pictures don’t show up in his mind instantly like they do for me.

Which on the one hand, is slightly unusual for him. He’s dyslexic and most other dyslexic people we know prefer audiobooks, but he actively enjoys reading. (Now at least…he hated it as a kid!) It just takes him longer than most people, which is perfectly fine! :blush:

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.