Introduction / Level 60 / Everything Burned

Well how about that!
I’ve been putting off ever making an introduction or level 60 retrospective, but I guess I should finally post something!

It’s going to be pretty positive, because I enjoyed Wanikani a lot, I’ve enjoyed these forums a lot, and I’ve enjoyed learning to read Japanese a lot.

So I guess I’ll try talking about it!

Since I never made an introduction post, here’s a bit about how I got into what I usually call Learning to Read 2: The Sequel to Learning to Read.

It was pretty much just a whim. I was never the anime and manga kid growing up, I (almost) never had any connection to Japan as a place, and I never seriously contemplated learning Japanese, until… after I was already doing it?

I started in early January 2018 (almost exactly 5 years ago now), purely because I was bored at work. My job then had a lot of unavoidable downtime between tasks, and often I’d fill that time by just scrolling aimlessly through wikipedia. Frustrated with that, one day I thought “you know, I bet if I picked pages to read with just slightly more focus, I could learn something interesting,” and wound up at the page for Hiragana…

Earlier that day, or that week, I remember I saw a tweet from somebody that said essentially “someone should translate [cool old game]. I know I could just learn to read Japanese, but [valid reasons]” and I thought “huh, those reasons don’t apply to me.” I never specifically sought out anything because it was Japanese, but by this point I was pretty heavily invested in three forms of media (comics, video games, and professional wrestling) where if you wanted a broad general understanding of them, you absolutely had to engage with works from Japan. And so it got to a point where day-to-day I was reading manga in translation, playing translated video games set in Japan, watching Japanese professional wrestling with commentary I didn’t understand… and coincidentally, my daily commute at the time involved literally walking past a Kinokuniya. So I suddenly realized it was arguably taking active intellectual incuriosity to continue knowing absolutely nothing about the language.

… And it turned out to be extremely interesting! The only language I had learned prior to any level of depth was German in high school, and so the high water mark for me in terms of broadening my horizons of how languages can be structured was like, “did you know in Swedish the definite article is a suffix?” So learning about kana and the basics of Japanese grammar was new to me in an exciting way, and it filled the downtime just like I wanted.

Five years later… from one perspective I’ve put a ludicrous amount of time and effort into what started as a whim. But I also don’t feel like I ever… worked? Or studied? Even though I’ve done things that could only reasonably be construed as studying, ultimately I’ve just passed a lot of time in a way that I found fun and interesting, and the only specific goal I ever set and paid attention to was, from the start, “I’ll stop when it stops being interesting.” It just hasn’t.

Advantages I was lucky to have
Before going further, I wanted to acknowledge some material resources I was lucky to have access to that helped along the way.

I want to avoid as much as possible making this post sound like any kind of benchmark, or “you need to do it this way too!” prescription, especially since while I’m sure that lack of access to any or all of these things could be overcome, and that plenty of other methods or resources could make up for them and then some, these informed how things have gone for me and my takeaways from it all, and it would be incomplete not to mention them.

  • Time
    When I started, I had so much time on my hands I was specifically looking to kill it. Even now, I have a good portion of my time available to myself to do whatever I feel like.
  • Stability
    Although things have certainly changed, there hasn’t been any huge, earth-shattering disruptions to my day-to-day routine since I started. Which uh, seems lucky considering the window of time in question.
  • Money
    I grew up in and around libraries, and was not psychologically prepared for this new landscape where my simplest path to surrounding myself with piles and piles of tantalizing books would cost money. To say nothing of ebooks and blu-rays and games!
    I’m lucky to be able to indulge those kinds of temptations quite freely.
  • Access to materials
    I have been consistently surprised at how easy it is to get things from Japan to where I am at, whether through Kinokuniya, Amazon Japan, Mandarake, Bookwalker, etc.
  • Pre-existing interests
    Something I said a lot early on (and still believe) is “if all I get out of this is a reason to better appreciate the background detail in Yakuza series games, it’ll have been worth it.”
  • No particular reason for self-doubt
    I didn’t have the lifelong “I should learn Japanese some day…” aspirations a lot of folks do that can come with misgivings from prior attempts. And I guess after a certain point I just figured I was good at Learning to Read 1: The Original, so it made sense I could probably get something out of the sequel as well.

When I think about how Learning to Read 2 has gone, It feels like it’s been three phases:

2018 to mid 2019
Here I would have agreed with the phrase:
“I’m learning to read a little bit of Japanese.”

I remember reading during this time feeling like piecing together a puzzle. I often had difficulty from misreading kana or from incorrectly parsing the boundaries between words in a sentence.
Reading more about the language was a curiosity to fill a lunchtime, or a commute.
The language barrier to media felt solid.

Resources I especially liked in this phase:

  • Wanikani
  • Graded Readers
  • Yotsuba
  • Reading the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar like a book
  • Tobira
  • The Wikipedia pages for hiragana and katakana and a lot of sticky notes to write them down over and over again on

Other Resources that I remember using and getting something out of:

  • Tae Kim
  • Bunpro (when it was a very new site)
  • Genki
  • Making Sense of Japanese
  • Duolingo

Milestones I associate with this phase:

  • Reaching level 60 of Wanikani.
  • Finishing a mid-series volume of Yotsuba and deciding not to wait til I’d reread it in English to consider it ‘read.’
  • Reading all the graded readers I had.

mid 2019 to mid 2021
Here I would have agreed with the phrase:
“if given a dictionary and enough time… I can read Japanese.”

I remember reading during this time feeling doable, but slow. I found that I no longer made kana mistakes and my eyes gravitated quickly towards the words I didn’t know and needed to look up. I always, always had my phone dictionary by my side and was always, always looking things up and adding to word lists.
I transitioned from Wanikani to Anki and reading started to become doable and habitual in an exciting way. Surprised to find I had learned something, I sought out questions to answer to prove it, and started posting on this forum.
The language barrier to media felt permeable.

Resources I especially liked in this phase:

  • Takoboto
  • Anki
  • Answering strangers’ questions
  • Reading material I or a friend was especially enthusiastic about
  • Book clubs

Other Resources that I remember using and getting something out of:

  • Shin Kanzen Master

Milestones I associate with this phase:

  • Reading the new volume of a manga series I loved before it was released in English.
  • Playing the new game in a series I loved before it was released in English over 100+ hours and I didn’t think I’d be ready for it but I managed it and it was great aaaaaaa
  • Finishing my first novel in Japanese
  • explaining a JP->EN translation misunderstanding to a Japanese comment section once
  • Finding out Bookwalker exists (and navigating Japanese websites more readily)

mid 2021 to now
Here I would agree with the phrase:
“I can read Japanese.”

Reading now feels most like reading a literary form of English: there’s sometimes words I don’t know or sentences I don’t quite understand, or outright misunderstand, and I wouldn’t be able to speak the same way the books do, but I generally feel grounded and absorbent of the information transmitted to me even with no dictionary present. I have a full range of speed options, including skimming if so inclined. I can readily access a gut instinct of what an author is conveying. Also, somehow, my listening comprehension is fairly passable.
Reading is just a habit.
The language barrier to media feels all but gone.

Resources I especially like in this phase:

  • Basically as much written and/or filmed material as possible
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Reading together
  • Wrestling commentary
  • Handwriting notes
  • Answering friends’ questions
  • Takoboto
  • Anki

Other Resources that I’m using and getting something out of:

  • Shin Kanzen Master

Milestones I associate with this phase:

  • Turning off subtitles when watching Japanese movies and shows.
  • Reading a new chapter of a manga series I loved in the monthly magazine it’s originally published in
  • Discovering a new favorite author via said magazine
  • Translating a manga myself just to share with a friend
  • Connecting much more strongly with a wrestling match because I understood the commentary and had extensive background information from magazines.

I suppose these three phases would probably map to “beginner,” “intermediate,” and “advanced.” And looking back, I’m most surprised how short the “beginner” and “intermediate” phases were in retrospect, as, unaware of where the ceiling is on all this, I was fully prepared to happily stay in either of them indefinitely.

Personal takeaways

Self-study can be for fun.
I can’t speak Japanese. Because I haven’t spoken Japanese. Because reading is fun for me personally in a way that talking to strangers isn’t. And the biggest revelation for me in all this is that if you’re the one teaching yourself, you can just lean into the stuff you like to do.
If I felt like I had to learn to speak Japanese in order to learn to read it, I probably wouldn’t be able to do either right now, because I wouldn’t have bothered. And I can only assume/hope that knowing how to read it can only aid in learning to speak it if I ever do work to close that gap.

You can go a long way with a simple process you can use for any situation.
While reading anything, I look up words one way: on the app Takoboto on my phone, where I can add the word to word lists, which I occasionally (like… once or twice a year) export to a single voluminous Anki deck. I’ve avoided any medium-specific tools like automatic word extractors or annotators. And I’ve never made the jump to using JP-JP dictionaries while reading, or fancier anki strategies.
Because this one method gets the job done for literally any media I can come across (I can always have my phone next to me), and the muscle memory involved is in-grained to the point that I barely even think about it. I can immediately resolve a small uncertainty, and with a couple taps ensure I’ll see the word again in anki someday.
If a small key opens the door to something as large as “all media” it doesn’t really matter how plain the key is.

Enthusiasm matters more than level.
The biggest single milestones I can think of looking back are all cases where I stepped outside of my difficulty comfort zone out of sheer excitement for something, and it was slow and difficult but profoundly rewarding.
The biggest single disappointments I can think of looking back are all cases where I picked something because I thought it would suit my level and it was just kinda boring and I lost interest.

Language can and should be a window into new and deepened interests.
Learning to Read 2 ended up completely rewriting the landscape of virtually all my interests, because what was a passive “sure why not” interest to Japanese works in those areas, all got an across-the-board +1 boost, since hey – it’s exciting I know some Japanese! And If I read this thing in Japanese, it’s not just fun, it’s studying!
And so I’ve waded much much farther than I would have ever previously thought into Japanese literature, Japanese history, Japanese movies, etc. (while still barely scratching the surface), in a rewarding and positive-feeling way, just because it synergizes so well with learning the language. I thought starting out that reading English-language books I loved in Japanese translation would be a natural fit, but it was always much more rewarding to find new originally Japanese things to enjoy.
This is the #1 effect I’m going to be chasing if I ever pursue Learning to Read 3: The Third Time Around.

Don’t bother so much with self-consciousness.
I remember when I started Learning to Read 2, I said a number of times “okay, this is fun and exciting and I want to stick with it, but the main goal is to make sure I don’t become a weeb!”
Which seems like a really juvenile framing in retrospect.
It’s entirely possible, and not even particularly hard, to separate “loving learning a language” from “uncritically and ignorantly loving a nation state.” And I’m really glad I didn’t end up letting nebulous fear of being or looking like the latter dissuade me from the former.

Reading takes effort.
It’s easy to feel guilty for not having the wherewithal to read further in the novel you’re slowly picking through, sentence by sentence. But honestly, don’t worry about it! It’s hard, go to bed! It’s markedly easier and more fun when you have the effort to expend than when you don’t, so try to be receptive to your mood (and have options to suit any of them).
Also, people act like children are magic brain wizards built to be perfect language learning machines, but they still take like a buncha years before they’re reading books!! It takes a long time to learn to read, every time.

Whatever miscellaneous small tips I can think of right now

  • You can find a wikipedia article in English and switch the language to get a quick source on something.
  • Answering people’s questions and finding a source to back-up your answer is good practice.
  • “とは”, “語源”, and ”おすすめ” are some pretty handy google search keywords.
  • I’ve found Takoboto more forgiving than Jisho when it comes to unconjugating something you type into it.
  • You can put any old thing in anki. Adding people’s names, for example, is handy for internalizing name readings.
  • It pays to remember the years 1868, 1912, 1926, 1989, and 2019 and the formula X+元年-1
  • It’s easy to assume stuff is more inaccessible than it is. Both in terms of difficulty and in terms of getting your hands on it.
  • North America and Japan are in the same blu ray region. 字幕:日本語 will be listed in the description and on the back. If it isn’t there, it doesn’t have them.
  • For digital games, the storefront will list which languages will be available if you buy it; Steam lets you switch to them individually, consoles usually will default to whatever language the system is set to. If the language you want isn’t listed, importing a physical copy may be the way to go.

About Wanikani specifically

Would I recommend Wanikani?
Yes!! Of course!
It’s difficult to imagine a single purchase going better for me than Wanikani lifetime was for me, in the sense that I bought it as a lark assuming there was a good chance I’d fall off, and it roped me into the single most sustained fun thing that I’ve ever done in my life.
I could see how it wouldn’t be ideal for someone with a definite goal and time limit, or who already knew a lot of kanji, or who didn’t want to read things generally. But for me specifically, who had no goal, no time limit, no knowledge, and no inkling that an electronic flash card system would ever be the kind of thing I would click with, I’m sure happy with how it went, and I have no idea if I would have done any of this without it.

Is there a point to reaching level 60?

Is there a point to burning everything?
After reaching level 60, my self-mined anki deck slowly but surely 100% replaced Wanikani for me, I just kept doing reviews because… well, why not. Looking back, that means that for roughly 3 of the 5 years since I started, the reviews themselves were virtually pointless.
Also, I found the last 100 or so burn reviews this way got a weird, mounting pressure, and represented the only times I cheated by doublechecking answers first, since at this point they were all by definition leeches where I had no motivation to remember Wanikani’s specific wording since I wasn’t using the site for serious gain any more. I even had a genuine nightmare last night about getting the last review wrong somehow, knowing that I’d already written this whole post and worked myself up about it! :sweat_smile: The godhood and supernatural foresight though are of course a nice perk.
To be clear, this isn’t a major mark against Wanikani at all! Not being useful for three years after being ridiculously useful for two isn’t something I’d complain about.
It’s just to say that if you’re looking for a reasonable finish line, it’s definitely level 60, not this.

My specific Wanikani advice:

  • You’re going to see the word again. Reading is just looking at a gigantic amount of words. Making a mistake is just an excuse to look at one of them one more time. It’s fine.
  • Feel free to add synonyms. I remember exactly zero specific Wanikani meaning wordings at this stage except “to compose” for 詠う, my last review, which has the following synonyms added from me knowing the word itself but not remembering that specific phrase before today: “to compose poetry” “to write poetry” “to recite poetry”. SRS is not the place for nuance, that will click in with reading.
  • A personal mnemonic typed out by hand a couple of times in the Notes section will go farther than a pre-made mnemonic ever could.
  • SRS reviews are best for when you have time to kill or you’re watching a show or youtube video or something. They’re to be quick, and rapid fire, and mechanical, like pulling a zipper through your brain - it’ll do the neuron-connecting, you just gotta pull the zipper. Leave the more active attention as much as possible for books and grammar and whatnot.
  • The only scripts I ever used have since become irrelevant as the UI improved. I never took any answers back. And I always did all the lessons and reviews I had available. I also don’t remember ever waking up early to do reviews except today.
    Scripts and working out limited review schedules and all of that are great! And absolutely embrace them if you want to – I just think sometimes it sounds like you categorically need to interact with those things for Wanikani to work at all, and this bullet point is just me saying I did Wanikani as basically as possible and I feel like it worked as advertised.

Ultimately, Wanikani is a very small part of what can be an extremely fulfilling process, but I think it did a phenomenal job at getting me from “I mean, I’m probably not actually going to learn any meaningful amount of the language but this is interesting for now” to learning actually quite an awful lot and having the tools and enthusiasm to go off and learn more.
And it’s just fun to click buttons and learn new kanji!

I feel like after this I’ll still check for reviews?? It would be weird not to at this point.

Plans for future language learning
I’ll stop when it stops being interesting!


I’ve selfishly been a question answerer and not a question asker here, but I really have gotten a lot out of this forum. Even on just the simplest of levels, the shared language-learning context eliminating the need to explain it or translate every phrase while talking about something is awfully cathartic!

I wanted to sincerely thank those who have asked questions, ran or participated in book clubs, posted about what you’re reading or watching, shared tips, or just generally made these forums a nicer place to be, including, but certainly not limited to:
@Aislin, @Belerith, @fallynleaf, @Naphthalene, @NicoleIsEnough, @valkow


Also – because there’s never going to be another self-indulgent context where it would make sense to post these:

One thing I’ve done for many years now, is I’ve tracked the media I consume for fun (books, movies, games, etc.), and at the start of each month I’ve picked stuff that stood out as being… “of the month” for me, either because they were my favorite, or it meant something to me from sharing it with someone, or it was just a good day I had, etc.

Recently, I started assembling those accumulated things of the months and years into these little collage-doohickeys, so they’re in a visual format I can nostalgically look over, and so that I can easily share them with low stakes. Not as a recommendation, or anything approaching a list of my best or favorite things, but just as a sort of personal timeline of a specific datapoint of mine if curious.

And anyway – I just think it’s kinda neat how Learning to Read 2 really makes its presence known over time in these. It really has opened the doors to a lot of things I’ve enjoyed very much.

visual representation of some stuff I've liked, 2014-2022










the years


Thanks for taking time to write all this down and share with us! :slight_smile:

Obligatory celebratory cake! ^>^ :tada:


Uh, erm, … :astonished: wow, thanks! :blush:

Also, thanks to you for always posting super-interesting reviews of the books and magazines you’re reading! I hardly ever respond but I enjoy them a lot :smiley:


What an awesome learning journey!
I love everything about your post, how you started, why you continued, how you defined the three stages. (I’m currently at the “if given a dictionary and enough time… I can read Japanese.” and I’m enjoying it so much that I’m sure I won’t even notice when I get to the “I can read Japanese” stage. And I also have no plans to speak Japanese, at least not any time soon). But most of all, I love your motto “I’ll stop when it stops being interesting!”. That’s the very best way to learn. :smiley:

I always find you forum contributions thoughtful and helpful, and I always read your book and movie reviews with interest. Looking forward to more of them in the future :blush:


Wow. Started on a lark and now here. Pretty amazing journey!

And I agree with others. Your reviews of Harta and other things you’ve read is entertaining and I keep adding interesting things to my want to read list. Totally worth it.

I was just thinking about how I need to get better at quitting things that aren’t entertaining enough. Your motto of “I’ll stop when it stops being interesting!” fits perfectly with that. Funny coincidence. :blush:

I loved your visual representation of the things you’ve enjoyed. It was fun to see things I recognized, and equally as interesting to see things I didn’t.


Welcome to the forums :wink:

These are pretty cool, I love stuff like this :+1:


Thanks for posting this!! So inspiring to see what the rest of the journey can look like :smiley:

What’s the game??



Great write up. I really like all your advice, with one small caveat:

While this is definitely true, it can be harmful memorizing a meaning that is flat-out wrong. I think it’s worth taking a moment during lessons (and before adding user synonyms) to at least look at all the WK-provided synonyms (and the context sentences if you have time), especially if you aren’t certain which sense of the provided primary English meaning is intended.

Slight differences in nuance aren’t a problem. Confusing “consolation” and “condolences”, for example, won’t be a major problem (you’ll eventually learn how 慰問(いもん) is used with your reading, as you say).

But adding “stage show” as a user synonym for 遊び (“play”) would be bad, for example. It’s best to learn which sense of an English word is intended as early as possible (so you don’t have to “unlearn” something later).


Congrats on the big burns, and thank you for this writeup. I wanted to read Kiki’s Delivery Service in Japanese so I got it for my birthday, but with my beginner level I was worried if I shouldn’t start with something else. But I love Kiki! I want to read about her! So seeing you say this is rather relieving.

Now I’m off to read two more sentences before bed. Good night! :blush:


Congratulations! :partying_face:

I’m really moved by that @.


龍が如く7 光と闇の行方 / Yakuza: Like a Dragon!

I played it before the localization was given a release date, and I was so uncertain I would be able to do it at first (but so excited for the game) that at first I actually used a capture card to record my gameplay with the intent of watching it back to look things up! The timing in retrospect was 100% perfect though! Minigames involving language were like 5000x more rewarding than they would have been in English or if it had been just a year later. Passing the timed general knowledge quiz minigame for the first time was the most exhilarating sense of accomplishment, and it was fun to be able to say I could like, run a shareholder’s meeting in Japanese (albeit an immensely silly one in a video game). I ended up not really reviewing my recordings, turning off the proverbial targeting computer, and learning a ton over 100+ hours with the game. And I might not have done it if they’d announced the localization a little sooner!
I’d say it was the best time I’ve had with a video game bar none, but that specific window of time and specific language level definitely played a heavy role in that.


I more or less agree, but I’d say for me, SRS gives me a one-word gloss I vaguely associate with the word, and regardless of how good or bad that gloss is, encountering the word in actual media feels like the part that ‘locks in’ a meaning association and actually teaches me the word.

So there’s been a handful of times I’ve encountered that ‘unlearning’ process, and honestly I think it just amounts to “oh ha, it meant play like play! haha got it!”

So I think that while of course having a good gloss is better, if reading the word definitions in good faith, accidentally synonymizing a truly misleading gloss is probably unlikely, and getting through the system with that poor gloss isn’t the end of the world. Whereas on the other hand if I were holding back from adding quite a few synonyms, burning everything would likely have taken much much longer, especially not using any kind of takeback script. And sometimes people seem cautious to add any at all.

Addmittedly though, part of the context with that impression of mine is that I’m not producing the language at all! So there’s zero risk of genuine embarrassing mistakes due to something like this.

Anyhow, it’s not a big sticking point of course! :slight_smile:


It occurs to me that the slight difference of opinion may be because you appear to be almost entirely focused on input (reading/hearing) rather than output (writing/speaking). :smile:

1 Like


I read this post in the morning before I left for work, and when I saw that you’d listed me among the people you were thanking, it almost made me cry, haha (in a good way!). Sincerely, thank you! I don’t know if I can convey just how helpful you’ve been, and how much your constant support has kept me going not just with Japanese, but also with, like, life! I haven’t had a lot to look forward to this year, but I always look forward to your posts.

I’ve thought, over and over again over the past couple years (but especially this past year), “How am I so lucky to have found this place and met someone like this?” Most of the things that have happened to me over the past couple years have felt like the opposite of fortunate, but meeting you feels like it was truly a blessing, like the universe arranged for at least one good thing to counteract all of the bad.

Truly, if I ever do manage to reach fluency with Japanese, it’ll be largely thanks to you. So you’ve touched at least one stranger’s life here in a really big way. I’ll remember it and cherish it for the rest of my life.

You’re not selfish at all! Quite the opposite, honestly! You’re so incredibly generous with your time. I often feel like I’m the selfish one for always asking questions, haha :sweat_smile:! I guess that’s what makes us a good team with the TJPW translations.

A big part of my motivation to improve is so that I can one day pay it forward and do for someone else what you’ve done for me.

All of that said, congratulations on all of your progress so far! And thank you for sharing your journey with us! I’d been really hoping you’d eventually make a post like this. It was a delight to read! :blush:


Not at all!
Think of it this way: if no one was asking questions, there’d be no conversation in the first place, and it genuinely would never have occurred to me to start a thread myself, or certainly for that matter, to put my own time and energy into composing so many translations to share with friends and the general public.

They’re your translations, truly! I just like answering questions and happened to be in the right place and the right time to help (though I certainly do appreciate the added depth following along has provided me with respect to TJPW and backstage promos in general!)

I really appreciate the kind words, and am also really glad for the fortunate coincidence!
Having fun learning a language is one of those things that’s rewarding but sometimes frustratingly hard to share… So I’m extremely glad to have played any role in sharing that reward at least for one person (and more down the line I’m sure! Since I would be surprised if already you haven’t transmitted that enthusiasm forward with someone out there or two)!
So thanks again! :blush: And you’re welcome!


Wow, what an amazing recap/overall post. I’m not quite sure what to add other than it’s users like you that make WaniKani the amazing place that it is :smiling_face_with_tear:


@fallynleaf and @rodan I love how humble you are both being, that’s so japanese of you, and I mean it as a compliment :grin:


Congrats on getting to level 60 and leaving this detailed post for everyone else trying to get there!! Love seeing all the milestones too :heart_eyes::tada: