Is it advisable to write Kanji down while learning them?

Yeah. To clarify, I tend to synonymize “learning to write kanji” to mean “know how to write this kanji from memory”, because once you have the basics (common stroke orders, radicals, conventions) down, you don’t (usually) really have to explicitly learn how to write a given kanji (unless we start to talk about shodo and the quality of handwriting). Not to say there aren’t exceptions.

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Repetitive writing workbooks are ok but I’ve had limited success; usually I start to space out and get bored though so it’s not time well spent. I’ve had more success writing letters or practicing sentences, just got sick of looking up the strokes every time and it eventually clicks in. However I don’t have much practical use except for like new year cards or letters. But there are so many visually similar kanji to distinguish that I’d like to practice writing more just for that.

you have to do what is best for you, BUT i’ll tell you what works for me:

I write down the kanji and the story (including the part for the reading of the Kanji) 3 times. This does two things for me - one, it helps draw my attention during the whole. It helps me repeat the story so that it is more likely to stick. I don’t retain what I read in enough detail to not have some practice. Lastly, I try and do a rewrite from memory. Sometimes I can see when a story isn’t going to work for me, or if I see a story that works for me better. For example - I have a different story for 要(よう). My story is about Fiona from Burn notice because I was watching burn notice at the time and it has stuck a lot better than the Wanikani.

Then - when I do my reviews, I recall the story. If I can’t recall it, then I do another round of writing down the kanji and the story 3 times.

Another person mentioned that you can use e-paper apps (like on an ipad) to be more sustainable. I personally use old notebooks that I have. I’m a notebook collector from all my travels. It’s fun to think about what memories I have from there. I mark my level down when I start and end a notebook. I also will take pictures on instagram of completed notebooks. This uses a lot of old notebooks first. Eventually I’ll probably get to the iPad.

I would not recommend just writing the Kanji down a 100 times or whatever like we did in our Japanese classes for school. This always was a waste of time to me.

No, no, you’re completely right. You start to realise there are patterns, after a while. They aren’t always followed though (e.g. the official Japanese stroke orders for 飛 and 升 don’t really match up, from what I know), but exceptions are fairly rare.

From personal experience, repetitive, mindless writing is pretty unproductive unless all you want is to drill stroke order. It definitely does get boring: we were assigned handwriting practice in primary school, and I never saw the point because I just couldn’t reproduce the printed characters. That’s why I think the ideal way to learn kanji writing is to combine it with a bit of calligraphy (specifically with some basis in real calligraphic principles): focusing on getting the angles and proportions right can give you a sense of fulfilment since you’ll get to watch your handwriting improve. Still, this goes beyond the scope of just learning kanji, even if I do feel that beautiful characters stick in my head better, so I guess this might not be something everyone would want to do.

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I believe I would really benefit from kanji writing for retention, though possibly limiting my self to first 100-200 at first, as suggested. Are there templates, showing proper stroke order, etc. that follow the kanji levels of Wanikani? I know there are many basic guides out there, but one that is an exact match to the program I’m already pursuing would significantly reduce my mental barrier to getting started.

Thank you

I hope someone else responds and proves me wrong, but it’s not likely, for the simple fact that it would probably be a publication under WaniKani as a company. There are some customisable kanji templates out there though, even if I think they wouldn’t really help to lower the ‘effort’ barrier since you’d have to make them yourself. What I can suggest is this thread:

That’s a link to the calligraphy tips I mentioned on that thread, but actually, a whole bunch of writing practice books were suggested in that discussion.

If you want a really low-entry-barrier thing to start with, you can follow calligraphers on Instagram and Twitter, and maybe try to imitate them from time to time. Here’s one:
Kayo-sensei does quite a lot of random posts (in English!) about common Japanese expressions and kanji origins, along with fun riddles. She writes everything herself, and a lot of it is done with a pen, which gives you a realistic idea of what can be achieved with fairly liquid, flowing ink. (Think ‘Pilot G2’ or fountain pen.) I don’t always agree with what she says on kanji origins or what makes for ‘good’ calligraphy, but my knowledge and handwriting are based on Chinese sources and a particular Chinese calligrapher writing in a particular calligraphic form, so there are bound to be stylistic differences. (I tend to feel like Japanese and Chinese calligraphers each follow certain general trends, like Japanese strokes usually being finer, but that’s probably just due to a lack of experience on my part.) In any case, she’s definitely a professional, and her posts are clear, fun, and easy to read. :smiley:

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well the thing is, most people who are learning japanese (especially those not living in japan or planning to) just want to be able to read japanese as their priority. the necessity/opportunities for them to physically write kanji are just so tiny relative to the massive amount of time it takes to learn.

also i truly believe that the reading/recognition benefits of writing kanji have been overblown. it can help a little (esp if you just write the first few hundred like i said, so you get an idea of how kanji are put together/the shapes that make them up), but reading, in itself, seems to be the most important factor to being able to reliably read words that are written in kanji. especially since writing a kanji doesn’t necessarily tell you how it’s read. the more you read the easier you can recognize words. 流石 is a word i’ve read perhaps hundreds of times now and i have no problem doing so despite having never written it. same with words with “harder” kanji like 薔薇 、醍醐味、or 躊躇. you just get used to them from reading.

someone who prioritises recognition over production may also have a tendency to avoid the kanji forms of certain phrases so long as they don’t come up in the first suggestions

what exactly do you mean by this? i’ve seen さすが written both ways. but either way if i was reading something i’d have to know what it meant? i couldn’t “avoid it”? unless i’m misunderstanding you.

if you’re referring to production/typing messages in japanese, japanese people have actually called it cringe when foreigners over-use kanji in phrases that natives don’t actually use kanji in during normal conversation. for example, saying 御早う御座います in a casual conversation might make a native cringe or think you’re trying too hard, because it’s usually just written in kana, unless it’s a formal document or something.

Different people learn things in different ways, and some people may genuinely get greater benefit from writing than just reading it endlessly.

Plus… some people may just enjoy the actual act of writing.

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Different people learn things in different ways

this has actually kind of been debunked. for the most part most people’s brains learn specific skills in similar ways. for example no one learns how to read by just writing characters, and no one learns how to ride a bike by just walking. you have to train the skill you’re trying to learn to get good at it.

if the skill you’re learning is reading, you have to practice reading. if you want to learn writing, then practice writing. some skills might slightly cross over, but 90% of your improvement in a specific area will come from practicing that specific thing.

and yeah i already said if you just enjoy writing for the sake of it then that’s fine. just don’t believe it’s necessary to be able to read.


Hi, my name is Lee, and I’m a kanjiholic. I wrote some kanji, and then I was trapped. And now I can’t stop. But admitting I have a problem is the first step to recovery.


I can only speak for my own experience, but for me, writing down the kanji has been VERY beneficial in my memorization. However, I already knew before I started doing that that I learn better this way.
(I also just like to write kanji in general. It feels very pleasing when I can make them look beautiful even on plain notebook paper…)

If you wanna try it out and see, I’d say go for it! If you don’t notice any difference, you probably don’t need to bother unless you just want to learn stroke order.

OMG I can read this one! But only because I live near a 醍醐駅. If I did not live here, I would have no idea.

I personally try to write Kanji, but not when I am on WK. When I am doing my separate Japanese study time, I use this Anki deck to learn to write them. It works well for me, I hope it works for you. Also, in regards to whether you should write or not, it’s really up to you and your personal goals. Like for me, I write because I don’t want to be behind when I take up Japanese at university.

nice. i’ve only seen those two kanji as 醍醐味 as in the 醍醐味 of some experience, the best part of something. i think i first saw it used while watching an episode of 妖怪ウォッチ haha.

what is a 醍醐駅? just the name of some 駅 in japan?

There’s two: one on the Tozai subway line in Kyoto, and one on the Ou main line in Yokote, Akita Prefecture.

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How do I speak words in Kanji :open_mouth:. Is this a superpower attained by reaching a certain level of Japanese proficiency?

Hehe, 大ゴミ.


I believe text-based conversation was being implied. :stuck_out_tongue:

Hey, let me take out of context quotes in peace! ^^

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Fair enough, and like I said, it’s not necessary if you only want to read. Your experience is proof enough, (and in all honesty, some of the kanji you posted are things I can’t read and have never seen, so yes, it clearly works). I also didn’t say anyone should spend hours on writing (unless calligraphy interests them).

Yes, I was referring to this.

I know this. As a kanji lover, I had to change the habits I had formed with Chinese, and so I did. But using kana only isn’t something native speakers do often either. I’m not saying, however, that it’s impossible to learn to ‘output’ kanji by just learning to read and using an IME: one can always use one’s reading skills to check that the right kanji are available. I just think that it will feel less natural for someone who isn’t used to ‘outputting’ kanji.

Anyway, call it native Chinese speaker pride or a product of the social pressures I’m used to, but I tend to think it’s a shame when people don’t learn to write kanji. To me, it would be like losing an arm, and I honestly don’t think it’s as time-consuming as you think unless a certain level of aesthetic beauty is desired, particularly because of the abundance of repeated patterns. I want to be able to communicate fluently in Japanese both when speaking and in writing, and I believe that kanji knowledge is a big part of that, even if it’s not essential with IMEs. Still though, why I said what I did about finding the right kanji is this: a lot of common Chinese errors occur precisely because people substitute characters with the same readings for one another. We have pinyin just like Japanese has kana, but IMEs can’t always protect us from mistakes. Also, as someone of Chinese descent (my grandparents migrated south from China), I would be judged very severely by my peers if I weren’t able to write at least the most common characters, so for me, kanji knowledge is very important. (My grandparents were illiterate, by the way, and my Chinese is better than my mother’s, so there’s no parental pressure at play. It’s just that my grandfather taught himself to read and write, and his calligraphy was beautiful.)

At the end of the day, I reiterate my stand on this: if you only want to be able to read, listen to and speak Japanese, by all means, skip writing practice. If you hate the idea of trying to memorise the order of strokes, give it a miss: it probably won’t hurt you. I know there are characters in Simplified Chinese that only differ by one or two strokes, but I haven’t seen many of those in Japanese, or at least I can’t think of any right now. I think knowing how to write is valuable, but it’s really a question of priorities and goals: my background is different from yours, so my perspective on the importance of writing kanji is surely different as well, and I want to be proficient enough to live, work and do research in Japan, and maybe even write essays, so I’m sure my goals are different too. Dropping kanji writing practice is a completely acceptable and justifiable personal decision, but I just don’t think learning to write should be written off as an inherent waste of time.

You mean you haven’t seen anime scenes in which a character throws a speech bubble? :stuck_out_tongue:

This is really funny. :laughing: I didn’t make the connection when I first read it.

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