If 42 is the answer, I have found my question [Farewell]

The question being, “how far could I go with WaniKani before my personal optimizations had me move away from the platform.”

It’s been about a year or more since I’ve been active here. In times past, I have posted about my personal gripes with WaniKani as a tool, never as an OP (I think) but always in response to someone else who I found was making observations I sympathized with. I won’t link to the posts. In short, my message was always the same. Trouble with the way WaniKani works? First, use scripts to try to adapt WaniKani in ways you like. If that doesn’t do it for you, then for the sake of your own learning you’ve got to free yourself and use a different platform.

In March of this year, I took my own advice.

Thank You

Before I talk a bit about changes I’ve made to my own learning strategy, I’d first like to thank the WaniKani staff for putting together a great tool! I had dealt with RTK before WaniKani, but WaniKani showed me clearly how I could make RTK more engaging and also gamify learning kanji. It made a big, positive impact on my learning. Thanks also for sharing the database of WaniKani material via the API! Centralizing the content allowed me to quickly make the tools that better suited me. For these reasons and more, I speak highly of WaniKani to people asking me about learning kanji. (BTW I shilled for you guys, putting a couple more lifetime subscriptions in your pocket :p)

Also, thank you to the community here. I’ve had lots of great interactions with the people I’ve engaged with. It’s cool to see people helping each other learn. I love that! That’s why I’m writing this post. This is my way of giving back, to whom it may concern.


Now, about how I tailored tools to my own taste, I use Anki as the underlying platform now. I played with but no longer bother with MIA/Refold’s Low-Key Anki. I use vanilla Anki with the exception of the review heatmap addition. I wrote a Python tool to fetch and transform WaniKani content for Anki. This is not novel work, has been done before. But it’s important to me because it’s a way of investing in my own learning. Plus, the tool is written entirely by me, meaning that I understand all of it and can modify it easily to suit my needs.

Here are some mobile screenshots of what I now use.

Screen Captures of Styled Content in Anki




This new organization is more helpful to me because it:

  1. does not rely on text input
  2. features target-language context sentences presented with the quiz card for vocabulary
  3. is fully extensible
  4. does not lock new content behind levels
  5. consolidates tools I use for learning

Text Input

Regarding text input, I decided that it’s not important to me in the context of this tool, so I removed it. This was not because of but did alleviate annoying problems with spelling mistakes or subtle meaning differences that caused me to fail items in WaniKani. There are scripts for this or third-party apps for mobile, but I don’t even want to bother if I don’t have to.

I like it this way because I can efficiently learn Japanese on my phone with just one thumb. This is great for learning on the go, like in trains, where I may have to hold a handle or my own bag, umbrella, etc.

Context Sentences

Putting target-language context sentences alongside (the quiz portion of) vocabulary is useful to me. The more Japanese I read, the more I remember what learning my L1 was like as a kid. It’s something I didn’t think too hard about because I did it “naturally” back then. I’m talking about intuiting the meaning of things based on context. I’m a huge fan of context sentences, and I really dislike memorizing things in isolation. For words that are particularly difficult for me to memorize, context sentences are often the thing that helps the meaning stick.


I touched on this already with the lack of text input. I can easily remove what I don’t want and add what I do want. You can see I’ve also removed certain text styling, audio samples, etc., and I’ve added nanori which WaniKani provides but I don’t think showed during review (maybe I just didn’t notice it). I can make one-off changes to cards, like “fixing” a radical meaning (1)(2) if I so desire, I can make bulk changes through Anki templates, and I can apply changes via scripts acting on content outside of Anki.

Also, I can add cards, even entire custom “levels,” at any time, should I so choose. I am in the process of adding vocabulary dealing with software and hardware engineering and computer science to help me at work.

No Level Lock

With WaniKani, I wanted to be learning new content everyday. This isn’t possible with vanilla WaniKani. With my Anki setup, I set my own pace. I can see the last new cards from level n and start working on content from level n + 1 in the same day.


Not a gripe against WaniKani, as them having their own platform is part of the business model; personally, though, the fewer platforms for me, the easier life is. All my Japanese language learning ends up in Anki. It’s nice having one aggregated review session each day.


Some final words about my tailored process. I still learn content in the order WaniKani presents it. Updating my cards to pick up updates made in WaniKani is easy since I just re-run my script and make a few clicks in Anki. I learn 30 new cards per day, making my level progression about every 6 days. Review load is about 170 cards per day. I’ve been running with this new approach for some months now before posting this (I started on March 5th this year) and have had a more positive experience overall. I work with content on desktop, but nowadays I mostly use Anki on mobile (see screenshots above). Currently WaniKani cards far outnumber all other cards in my decks, the total of which comes to about 20 MB.



And lastly, a word on methodology. The best methodology for you is the one that meets your needs. If it’s WaniKani, more power to you! If not, I encourage you to research and experiment until you find or build the tools that empower you.


I won’t be visiting WaniKani much anymore, but I’ll maintain my account here. I may drop into some book clubs in the future. Thank you staff, and thank you community. It’s great to work alongside each other with shared goals. Onward!

While I share tools I build, I have not and will not release content that effectively provides WaniKani to others for free, as that violates the Terms of Service. This means I also won’t upload any Anki decks to share.


So long and thanks for all the fish!


You’re free to dictate your pacing. I’m envious.

Also, in a good way, I’m happy to see you leave since this seems to be what you want! :tada::tada:


So this is scraping the content of a paid-for platform and dumping it out for a free platform? Even if it’s been done before, I feel like that’s kinda shady. Or am I somehow misinterpreting this?


I don’t think this is a problem. It’s for personal use and unavailable to the public.

Cheers! :clinking_glasses: :fish:

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Thank you! Best wishes on your learning adventure!


As @VegasVed clarifies, it’s a misunderstanding; I don’t distribute any content.


Even without distributing, could you use this to pay the bare minimum for WaniKani (i.e. one month) and then scrape the entire site worth of contents?


I’m confused in the same way as @jerseytom. I don’t see a difference in distributing the very tool that rips the content from distributing the content directly. Unless, as jerseytom said, we are misunderstanding what you have posted.


Perhaps, but they would have to have the same knowledge as the Op, as well as the shady will to do it. The Op himself has paid for a lifetime subscription, so I would say that gives him the right to do that for his own personal use — which is exactly what he’s done.

Edit: OK, I actually missed that there was a link for the tool :sweat_smile:. I’m going to have to agree now; I don’t understand the difference either…


I think the question is less OP’s use of the tool he created himself, and more about the fact that he has shared the tool for use by anyone, whether they’ve also paid lifetime or not.


Yeah, I’ve actually just seen the link. I’m confused as well now. :sweat_smile:

It’s kind of like saying, “well, I’m not going to steal that thing for you, but here’s a crowbar so you can break in and get it yourself”.

Unless I’m misunderstanding again.


It doesn’t look like a misunderstanding…

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@jerseytom , @Houndstooth , @Maulrus , @Slooshy ,

The tool requires you to use your own API key. It essentially wraps an API call and converts the JSON to CSV. The process to do the same thing, less the CSV conversion, is documented publicly by WaniKani.


I’m just glad to see someone going to such lengths to customize their learning experience. It’s a really impressive thing to see and I wish you the best of luck in your studies.

I think the discussion on the morally not cool thing is not really worth continuing with. There have been multiple tools that do similar enough things already and the staff chose to make the api calls for this open (which probably beats similarly skilled people scraping the data with worse methods). Honestly, there’s probably something worse floating around the net already anyway.

Edit: What I’m trying to say is don’t advertise ways to abuse the system by discussing it further.

Yayyyy! :smiley: Thank you for taking time to reply! <3 But … doesn’t this still mean that a person can pay for one month and effectively have a lifetime subscription to take in the content at one’s own pace? Lifetime for the price of a month?

(that said, they’d say this was not allowed in their EULA if they were wanting to protect their content, right? :grimacing: )


Yea so my concern is what @Slooshy said. Unless there’s a distinction between lifetime and monthly APIs (which I don’t believe there is), what’s to stop someone from buying a single month of subscription, using this tool to rip all 60 levels into an Anki deck, and then distributing it themselves?

Except that there’s a shiny blue link in the OP that advertises it just fine on its own.


Ultimately I’m sure all of this all falls under the Terms of Service. From Section F regarding intellectual property:

The look and feel of the Website and Service is copyright © Tofugu, LLC. All rights reserved. You may not duplicate, copy, or reuse any portion of the HTML/CSS, Javascript, or visual design elements or concepts without express written permission from Tofugu.

Given that the screenshots provided above make it look like a stylized exact copy even down to the colors for radicals, kanji, and vocabulary… I’d wonder if that’s infringement. I’m actually surprised that Section G covering the API doesn’t get more into content extraction; that does indeed appear to be fair game.

Even if something is allowed “to the letter of the law” there’s still the question of whether it’s the right thing to do. And hey, I get it, I’m a developer and I like open source software, tools, and utilities. But if it’s me, if I made a utility like this I’d just keep it to myself.

Anyway, it’s all Tofugu / WaniKani’s call to make rather than ours.


Can we just take a minute to appreciate how vague “look and feel” is? :laughing:

I’m certain that they’ll be cordial about the whole thing. Let us not forget that this is the same company that reduced their subscription plan prices for no other reason than they didn’t need the extra money. :wink:

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