It it smarter to learn both (all) kanji meanings and the rules at once,or to do it the intended with with mnemonics for the vocabulary words

Hi, This post isn’t another “hey whats the difference between uhhhh” ok maybe it will be,but ill try not to.

What i wanna know (hopefully from people smarter then me) is if its a better idea to learn the kun’yomi and then the on’yomi plus the rules and memorize it right out the gate,or is it smarter to wait until vocabulary and learn the words there.It kind of seems like the former would be smarter but I’ll give an example for each

Something like 1-10 are what i’d rather just memorize instead of having a mnemonic for (number day),(number month)(number things) I get that theres exceptions (one day,second day,third day) but id rather just memorize 20-ish meanings out the gate then pair them with the kanji for whatever the second half is. It seems smarter just to memorize the “vocabulary” meaning out the gate even if its not how the sight is inteded to do? is this a good idea to do those 2 things it kind of seems like it would be.

Something like above/below is probably against it. I’d rather learn several mneumonics overtime for each vocabulary word (and then break it down to what the kanjis meaning alone is and then any future ones later on,which is what it kinda is how its intended)

Anyways i hope this isnt confusing it mightve been. Also hope this isnt a duplicate topic but i searched for like 20 minutes and still felt iffy about what i did find. Thats all,thanks!

  1. Some convoluted theory.
  2. Just do WK lol.

The latter is smoother.

Just learn kanji, you will fix mistakes along the way anyway. There is alot of meta-learning that could be time spent on actual learning, lots of where that comes from on here.

Just do it.


It depends on how you remember things. I would say that for me personally, it is better to memorize the most common reading and pronunciation. Sure, you could learn all of the readings for one kanji, but many of them are particularly obscure and rarely used. If your goal is to learn kanji, then I would say your time is better spent learning the most common readings first and supplement with rarer readings as time goes on.

You’re also in a very early stage yet, trust me it gets harder. You don”t want to waste time memorizing an obscure meaning for a kanji that is used for only one word when you can just go with the most common one or two that apply to most circumstances.


My advice is to make a mneumonic for the information they give you on the kanji learning screen, then when you get it in vocab later “build” onto the mneumonic story. I also use the lesson reorder script so that I do 3-4 kanji a day plus 10 or so vocab (this changes but its usually around there). Irregular vocabs I usually come up with a whole other mneumonic, but most of the vocab is just a combo of what you’ve learned before and the meaning is pretty intuitive.

I always make a mneumonic, then the more times it comes up in review the faster the meaning/reading will come to you. I have older stuff I’m burning where I have no idea what mneumonic I used but the information just comes to mind. You’re not meant to have to think through the mneumonic every time, its just a boost in the beginning until its really cemented into your brain.


You can always learn important vocabulary on the side. WaniKani is for learning kanji, don’t let it get in the way of learning how you prefer.

If you can memorize things like numbers, day counters, minute counters, month counters, etc., go ahead. :slight_smile:

When it comes to on and kun’yomi, I’d follow the WaniKani path unless you learn a specific word somewhere else.


“Learning kanji” isn’t really a thing, at least it’s not what people usually mean when they say they are “Learning kanji”

Kanji by themselves are useless, learning them in the context of an actual word is how you will get it to stick. Sometimes those words are just single kanji, or single kanji with okurigana, or jukugo compound words, but just memorizing some random kanji and possible readings is kinda useless unless your dream is to become a human encyclopedia of arbitrary kanji knowledge.


I feel like it’s always better to take it in pieces, which is also how WaniKani does it, by first introducing the kanji with just one reading (90% of the time), and 1-3 meanings (often synonyms).

The only time this approach negatively impacted my progress is when the kanji came back for review for the 3rd or 4th time after I had also learned a number of vocab words using it and the meaning and/or reading given with the kanji when it was first introduced is contrary to the majority of the vocab words.

Sometimes, if it’s a situation of meaning and the meaning it takes in the vocab words is also valid I will add it as a user synonym and just move on. For example, I tend to remember (あん) with it’s meaning of “peaceful” or “calm” vs. it’s meaning of “relax” or “cheap” (WK defaults), and according to as well as other dictionaries that is a completely valid meaning for that kanji, so I just added those as user synonyms.

If it’s a situation of the reading being different, I try to think up a different vocab word with the primary kanji reading, or work on better memorizing the mnemonic (or making up my own mnemonic).

Yes, you will definitely encounter kanji where WaniKani introduces them with 1 meaning but it also has many other meanings, but you can expect to learn those over time as you see the kanji in more words (both in WK vocab lessons and outside of WaniKani if you practice Japanese from other sources).


What I thought is mostly learn Kun readings with Okurigana as vocabularies in isolation; but learn Kanji as On readings (if they exist). In addition, be aware of exceptions. Also, learn associated vocabularies by themselves along the way, and able recognize alternate Kanji / no Kanji. Indeed, sometimes Kanji are just replaced, or Furigana doesn’t follow Kanji.

Also, Kanji meanings are quite complex, but mostly just follow vocabularies; so meanings are grouped just like vocabularies too.

When reading texts with more difficult vocabularies, Kanji readings (usually On) themselves can be quite useful.

An entry from JJ dictionary, so On reading choice does matter.

Sometimes On readings just don't exist.


Nonetheless, figuring out a good method and flow does have costs, that just following along with Wanikani might be better.


I’d say to just follow WaniKani. You could make slight adjustments here and there to make your experience better, but ultimately with WaniKani you pay for the structure and SRS. Why worry about structure when you’re paying for it to be already done for you?
Also learning all that vocabulary and other readings / meanings at once is a lot of info to take in, especially when you get to a higher level where your workload is significantly higher.


The number kanji are a bit of a weird special case, so they don’t make a very good example to use as a base of a plan for studying kanji in general:

  • each kanji has an obvious well defined “meaning” of its own
  • a lot of the early words you learn with them (number kanji plus 月、日、人 etc) have obvious meanings and a few annoying special case pronunciations
  • they come in a set where you want to be able to count through them
  • they’re super frequent

These things are generally not true of your average kanji.

If you want to I think you could just say “I’m going to just memorise the counting numbers the same way I’d have to do with French un, deux, trois…”, as a special case.

Early kanji are often unrepresentative in other ways too:

  • they’re usually fewer strokes, and less likely to be made up by combining several standard smaller pieces
  • they can have a lot of readings (e.g. 上 has 3 on readings and a ton of kun readings)

Follow WK but ignore all radicals and mnemonics :sunglasses: (anti-mnemonics gang)


My position has changed a bit on this and is likely to change again, but currently I think just memorizing 2-3 of the common On readings and the basic meaning of the kanji is enough.

Some kanji have a hefty pile of Kun readings, and you’ll have to just memorize 1-2 words for each of them. If you don’t see okurigana attached to the kanji, then you know it’s more likely than not an On reading. Spending more time and effort on kanji in isolation than that is going to quickly have diminishing returns.

IMO there’s not much reason to memorize a bunch of useless factoids about kanji. Radical mnemonics and memorizing readings are helpful for a lot of people but encountering vocabulary hundreds of times is probably more helpful. Worry less about readings and DO more actual reading.