Is there any benefit to learning to write Kanji?

The ability to write is part of the definition of literacy. Also, helps with recall.


My quick two cents:

Yes, for the following reasons:

  1. Re-inforces the kanji in your memory
  2. Allows you to better recognize weird fonts and hand-written scripts, as well as ones that tend to be on the messier side.

Do you need to write kanji or learn to write each one? No. But if there are some you find particularly challenging to see the difference between kanji A and kanji B (it’s say, just one tiny stroke difference), or if there’s one you find particularly beautiful or interesting, why not learn to write it?


I hardly ever write in English. Actually, in the past year for example, I can’t really remember writing anything down. Maybe I signed some papers but I hardly ever actually write things. (I’m born/live in America)

Anyways, thanks everyone for the responses. It seems that mostly everyone suggests that it is something useful to learn, especially to help distinguish similar looking ones. It might be something I’d be interested to do in the future but right now I am not really worried about.

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Another vote for KanjiStudy, I went pro to support the dev, but it’s not vital, I’d say. I used to use it more before I got wrapped into WK, but it’s still a very impressive app. I’d note that it’s more designed to be full featured experience brimming with customization options as opposed to keeping a foolproof simple UI. That said I only find it a bit confusing as you drill deep into a particular example sentence or set of radicals.


You can write cool 四字熟語 on things and impress people with how much of a nerd you are.


You only have access up to grade 2 kanji if you don’t purchase, I believe.

Ohh I must be conflating it with one of the dictionaries that I like then. Thanks for the correction.

I’ll add:

  • Filling form (like your address) if you ever live in Japan
  • Search for unknown kanji. Writing it is way waster than searching by radical and these apps tend to be strike order sensitive (like Kanji draw)

Going to language school now where they make me learn to write it. I agree with WaniKani that it’s a waste of time to repeat over and over to try to learn to write it from memory. However, my kanji textbook that we’re using has EXCELLENT example sentences and sometimes different vocab than WaniKani presents or a better translation. It has been immensely helpful for me to go back through the beginning level kanji with a separate resource. As I study grammar, I try to always copy the kanji if it is present in the question I’m answering, and as a result the most frequently used ones the stroke order is naturally becoming memorized.

  1. Aiding memorization of the kanji. I don’t think there’s really an argument that you won’t be even more fluent at reading them if you know how to write them too, especially all the ones that vary by a single radical.

  2. Being an essential life skill for long-term residency in Japan.

That said, it might not be what you want to focus study on right now, and you might genuinely never need it if you aren’t planning on being in the country long-term. I personally don’t practice writing as much as I should. (I have bouts where I try to change that, but, at least until I pass N2, it always winds up going on back-burner for some other kind of study since I can at least read them.)

I think it’s the “most” optional part of learning for most people, but it still isn’t really optional long-term.

Also, thanks for the heads up on Kanji Study! I’ve been thinking about grabbing a Japanese 3DS just for one of the kanji-writing games on that too, but I’ll check this out first. Edit – @Jun-ko, I searched the apple app store just now and couldn’t find it. Is it not on iOS?

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  • Deciphering other people’s chicken-scratch handwriting. And many of those stylized printed characters with all the dragged brush marks. Stroke order is more handy than it seems like; if everyone’s doing it the same, you can kind of hand-trace what it looks like they drew and figure out what it was supposed to be. I do this in English all the time.

  • if you want to be fast at the handwriting IME. I know we’ve done the romaji vs. kana flick keyboard on mobile to death and I’ve never seen a Japanese person use handwriting input on mobile, but half of my Mandarin-speaking friends do. That shit will accept any old hasty scribble, it seems like, IF you scribble in the right order. (But they don’t have to deal with kana)

  1. You will absolutely 100% need to handwrite Japanese sometimes if you ever live in Japan and it will be embarrassing if you can’t—similarly if you learned it haphazardly and didn’t take the time to properly learn stroke order/balance, it will show and will probably be embarrassing. Japanese people will of course be understanding, but why not just take the extra time to learn it, especially when it’ll impress Japanese people and make it easier to communicate with them?
  2. Doing study sheets/essays on paper.
  3. Writing to Japanese friends/host family etc on paper.
  4. Probably helps reinforce your learning?

It’s really not very difficult to learn to write kanji properly when you’ve got resources like that give stroke order info on every kanji, plus addons like Yomichan where you can get stroke order diagrams instantly from highlighting a kanji in your browser. I also agree that the Tofugu article @s1212z linked is fine.

I actually take great pleasure in writing kanji. First because I studied brush calligraphy in China and think it’s legitimately enjoyable, but second because it impresses the pants off of Japanese people when they see me do it. I’m sure 20% of it is still the obligatory 上手 required when a foreigner does something competently, but somewhere in the other 80% is genuine marvel.

Also, it’s really not as hard as people think it is, what with stroke order and all. Writing a kanji from memory IS challenging, but looking at a kanji and knowing how to copy it doesn’t take much time at all.


My opinion has always been, everything is electronic now and I literally cannot think of any time where I would actually write the Kanji, so I have no reason to learn the strokes.

Be very careful with this. This was exactly my mindset before I moved to Japan. You’re making the mistake of equating Japanese culture with Western culture.

Yes, in the west we use computers for everything now. This is not the case in Japan! There is so much paperwork in Japan that it boggles the mind. Fax machines are common place in nearly all types of business!

Be prepared to write kanji when you:

  • Open a bank account
  • Apply for a job
  • (Job depending) file paperwork! Apply for transportation reimbursement, use paid holidays, etc.
  • Complete a money transfer
  • Do any sort of banking beyond basic deposit and withdrawal
  • Sign a lease for a rental apartment
  • Get any kind of loyalty card for コンビニ / electronics stores / etc.
  • Mail any sort of parcel

This is a non-exhaustive list!
There are many more occasions when you’ll have to write by hand. You’d think we could just type this stuff out… nope. For some reason it all has to be done tediously by hand on paper.

Now, if you never plan to move to Japan that’s one thing… but if you do be prepared to write (or have someone else do all the writing for you).


Most of those situations involve writing the same kanji… namely the ones that comprise your address. Even someone who hasn’t studied Japanese can memorize the kanji for their prefecture and town. You don’t need a full scale kanji regimen to do it.

When kanji is required in other cases, looking at your phone for reference or having a Japanese person write it for you is going to be more worthwhile for the average person than laboring for hours to be able to write things from memory.

And if it’s your job… presumably you are already at a pretty darn high level of Japanese to begin with (or it’s mindlessly repetitive kanji of a different variety, instead of addresses, memorizing 出張 or 年休 is not a huge ask)


I agree, and to be honest this is how I get by the majority of the time, I’ve got no interest in going back and memorizing stroke order 1000 kanji in.

But, this is a far cry from “I’ll never write because when is the last time I’ve written something by hand in English?” If OP is comfortable having someone else look after him and take care of the real life stuff for him that’s fine, but some people aren’t.

Basically the only reason I said anything is because one of my major regrets with Japanese was not learning stroke order as I went. Purely anecdotally, my katakana reading speed increased dramatically when I finally got around to learning to write it a year or more after I started studying Japanese.

i feel the importance of the writing skill is vastly overstated in this thread.
like i said, i’m learning it myself, because it’s nice to have, but by no means is writing kanji by hand ever a required thing. pull out your alien card and copy the characters, that’s more than enough, and even a monkey can do that.

of course i’d recommend learning it, but handwriting would also be the first thing i’d drop if my time ever ran short and i had to decide how to make room to not sacrifice my wk activities.


I feel like the importance of the writing skill is vastly overstated in this thread.

Is it? Imagine if you couldn’t write the Latin alphabet. Maybe writing by hand is less important now than 200 years ago, and maybe I’m old-fashioned, but surely it’s nice to be able to write by hand. Grocery lists, hasty memos on post-its, recipes, diary entries are all things I write by hand - in Japanese - because I learn more by producing the language than just copying it when necessary. It’s probably not like that for everyone, but I don’t think writing by hand is useless in any way.


Importance is not overstated, it’s barely mentioned if not at all. OP asked for benefits, and people answered. It’s up to you to decide if these benefits are important/relevant/worth for you.


There’s a difference between “benefits exist for learning how to write kanji” and “it is important to learn how to write kanji.”

I think everyone agrees with the first statement, and OmukaiAndi was saying the second is not true.