I love the WaniKani mnemonics. But when they don’t stick in my brain, I make up my own. Here’s my growing list. Hope you find a few helpful. Enjoy
Click on a word to see the mnemonic…
Koichi is used everywhere for KOU (こう), but if you’re a foreigner like me, it may be hard to remember his name at first. Just remember that Koichi is CO(こう)-founder #1 (いち) of tofugu, emphasis on the CO (こう) because there are others (apparently).
Jourm (じょう) → Grandpa Joe (じょう)
If you can’t remember Jourm (because you’re American like me), just replace him with my great grandpa Joe. He’s a farmer and speaks really slowly (although he’s actually quite brilliant).
(southern drawl) Howdy partner. I’m Grandpa JOOOOE (じょう)
This is different than the dashing young damsel Jo, who you’ll be saving later. She’s young and speaks quickly.
(short and sweet) Hi! I’m Jo (じょ)
Tilt your head right 90 degrees, and you can see a child learning to write NUMBERS… 0, 1, 2 (written backwards)
That Greek (with the broken right hand) is STONE cold SEXY (せき)
If you TIE a KEY (たいき) around your neck, you’ll be more in tune with the BIG ENERGY of the ATMOSPHERE.
When the ATMOSPHERE tingles before a big storm, you’ll feel the TIE KEY (たいき) tingle as well.
先ず（まず）First of all
First of all, I look at the kanji and try to remember if it’s previous or past. For some reason, these two kanji were previously wired wrong in my brain, so I guess it means previous.
So, to start with, I think of my previous zoo（先ず） experiences. When I was a kid, every time we went to the zoo, there was a long maze（まず）of people waiting to get it.
I want to see the lions, tigers, and monkeys, but first of all, I need a ticket. So, I have to wait in the long maze（まず）of people to get in.
To make matters worse, I always needed to use the bathroom, but didn’t want to lose my place in line.
People in Roppongi (ろっぽんぎ) have a ONE TRACK MIND (いっぽんぎ)!
Why? There are a lot of foreigners in Roppongi (六本木), so Japanese people who are obsessed with foreigners tend to go there to pick up foreigners. SINGLE MINDED foreigners know this too, so tend to go there as well. It’s a weird meat market feeling, since everyone has a ONE-TRACK MIND.
I really hate drawing straight lines. We had to do it in school drawing class, and I always got dinged because my lines weren’t perfectly straight. (I prefer doodles)
Every time they told us to draw straight lines, I let out one big MOAN (ichi moan). Not just any MOAN, the biggest MOAN, the ICHI ban MOAN, or ICHI-MOAN for short.
Likewise, I really hate remembering this Kanji. Every time I get is wrong, I let out one huge ICHI MOAN.
I’ve slightly mistyped it so many times that I let out a huge MOAN every time I see this word. This truly is the #1 kanJI for moans, the ultimate ICHI-MOAN-JI
The KEY to writing a BOOK is to get SERIOUS with your writing, and just do it. When you can HONE this KEY (ほんき) skill, you know you’re getting SERIOUS.
Remember the Karate Kid? Mr. MIYOUJI always made Daniel call him by his SURNAME. (because his first name is “Mister” which is kind of funny)
One time Daniel said “Hey Mister, why am I washing your car so much? It’s not even dirty.”
Mr MIYOUJI got angry, but calmly said "Mr. MIYOUJI, Mr. MIYOUJI, MR. MIYOUJI! You can only use my SURNAME!’ Then Daniel had to paint the fence for 3 hours and wash the car again.
Poor Daniel. Why didn’t he use Mr MIYOUJI’s SURNAME?
(It’s true that Mr. Miyouji went by the alias Mr. Miyagi, but try to forget that. His real name was Mr. Miyouji)
This word looks like you’re making a check list with an old quill pen. You’re MAKING your list of TASKS. Once you MAKE a TASK, it’s time for ACTION! Without ACTION, there is no need to MAKE a TASK, for there would be no EFFECT.
Once you MAKE a TASK, it’s time for ACTION. Put down that check list, say SAYO(u)nara, and go take ACTION. Have an EFFECT on the world.
行う（おこなう）to Carry out, to perform
Your boss says you (う) have to GO (行) do something, TO PERFORM some task, TO CARRY OUT his orders.
He says “Pick up those OLD CONES NOW!!!"
He’s a little angry, because he’s been telling you for weeks to pick up all the orange cones which are littering the construction sidte. You keep saying “ok boss” but then don’t do it.
“If you can’t CARRY OUT my orders, you’re fired!”
I’m traveling and really missing Japanese food. I’m craving good RICE, because RICE in America is terrible – hard and dry like something you’d feed to a horse (hear the horse bay-y-y-y).
On the way back to Tokyo, I stop in San Francisco. I’m at Fisherman’s Warf, at a restaurant overlooking San Francisco BAY. It’s a theme restaurant, so everything is “BAY” this 'n that. Bay shrimp, Bay cocktails, Bay Rice.
I smell the rice, look at the bay, taste it. It’s delicious, just like the rice in Tokyo Bay! I love BAY rice!
The KEY to GOING somewhere in Tokyo, is checking the TRAIN DIRECTION before you board. It’s really easy to get on the right train but going the wrong direction. Then you have to stop, get off, walk up the stairs, over the tracks, down the stairs and get back on the other TRAIN DIRECTION. It’s hugely time consuming, and really cold in the winter too!
Imagine yourself getting off the train that’s going the wrong direction. It’s winter, snowing (ゆき) and cold. Climb up those snowy stairs thinking ゆき, ゆき, ゆき. It’s so cold you’re shivering violently! Where is the right ゆき? Try not to slip in the dirty snow on the stairs! That snow looks really icky, いき, いき. I hope I get the right TRAIN DIRECTION this time!
青年（せいねん）Young men, youth
YOUNG MEN like to SAY their YEARS (せいねん), “Oh yeah, I’m 8!” “Oh yeah, I’m 9!”
Which YEARS are the CLOSEST to your heart? The RECENT YEARS, because they were so awesome and full of emotion! (And you’ve forgotten everything else…)
A woman found a HEART in a FIELD, and SHE (し) THOUGHT “I THINK this is a SHEep’s (し) heart.
You’re taking a COURSE on making eco-fuel from GRAIN. It’s quite the SCIENCE. You’re learning how to turn GRAIN into liquid fuel, so you can LADLE it into your CAR, and stop using fossil fuels. You’re a newbie, so your fuel is a bit unstable, which is why you have to use a LADLE instead of a gas pump.
See yourself LADLING that GRAIN into your CAR (か). Now your exhaust smells like popcorn! Aren’t you glad you took this COURSE at the SCIENCE DEPARTMENT.
I’m early to the airport, because I have a long NONSTOP flight back to Japan. I GO DIRECTLY to the gate, but the agent says I need a return ticket or I can’t get on the flight. I explain that I live in Japan, and show her my Japanese id card. She points at the screen, smiles, and says “I can’t let you on this flight.” I’m so angry I put her in a CHOKE HOLD（ちょっこう）Of course, security comes, and by the time we get it sorted out, the NONSTOP flight has left and they have to route me through China.
Nothing wakes you up like a dozen CATS (かつ) licking your face. It’s like a TSUNAMI of TOUNGUEs, whipping in and out of their furry little mouths. Those little CATS are so LIVELY, licking and purring and slobbering on you. In fact, it’s so disgusting that you really want to get up and get going. Suddenly, you feel LIVELY too!
This kanji is a side view of a beautiful young Japanese maiden running down the street. Look at her beautiful LONG hair flowing in the breeze. Her hair is so LONG, she is kicking the ends as she runs. Isn’t that LONG flowing hair beautiful?
She has amazing form and endurance too. She can run for a really LONG time.
You can’t stop staring at this maiden in amazement! You can’t believe how LONG her hair is! It’s super ultra long. Say “Wow! Her hair is CHOU long! (超,ちょう)” It must have taken a super LONG time to grow it.
You can’t believe how LONG she can run too. But it seems odd that she’s running in the street. Turns out, her success as a runner comes from her childhood. She lived across the street from Mrs. CHOU, who threatened to leave her dead in the street (丁, ちょう) if she didn’t run for her life.
POH is the sound of your steps. POH, poh, POH, poh, POH, poh… sounds like you have a limp. Might want to get that checked out.
My FEET (足) are cold, and I CAN’T (不) find any SOCKS (そく) . There must be a SOCK SHORTAGE. I only have a FEW SOCK (ふそく) in my drawer, and they’re all mismatched.
I go shopping to buy more socks, but the shelves are almost empty. There are only a FEW SOCK (ふそく) left in the stores too.
Only the bright orange and pink socks are left. It’s ok… my feet aren’t that cold.
MY (まい) LITTLE SISTER wanted to be a WOMAN JET fighter. It’s all she talks about, and she watches Top Gun every night.
My older sister always says “oh my (まい)! oh my (まい)! Why does my (まい) LITTLE SISTER want to be a WOMAN JET pilot? That sounds dangerous!!”
BLACK is so cool. Imagine a teenager at a club. He’s wearing a BLACK hoodie, BLACK pants, BLACK shoes. He’s cool. Only 1 thing isn’t cool. He’s drinking Coke (こく) because he’s only 16 (even though he looks 22 in his cool BLACK outfit). At least the Coke (こく）is in BLACK can. That’s cool.
You’re getting some blood drawn, so your BLEEDING into a tube. BLOOD is EXITING your body to help others in need.
The nurse forgets to release the tourniquet before puling out the needle in your arm. Blood shoots across the room in a spurt, and you almost faint. It looks like you’re SHOOting KETSup from your arm. Scary! Tasty? You be the judge.
You’re a bird lover, and canaries are CERTAINLY your favorite! It just breaks your heart to see them in captivity though. So, you decide to break into the zoo and free all the canaries. CERTAINLY it’s the right thing to do! Those poor little canaries!
Then, you have a heart stopping thought!
Are there CANARIES (かなら) in the ZOO (ず)? CERTAINLY!
必死（ひっし）Frantic, certain death, desperate
What does CERTAIN DEATH sound like to you? Your first date! You’re so DESPERATE and he/she like you, that waiting for the date is killing you. You’re FRANTIC about what to say, what to wear, when to go for the kiss, etc. You’re a wreck, but it’s exciting too!
As the date gets closer, you’re wonder if HE/SHE will like you, if HE/SHE will kiss you, if HE/SHE will …
Then you have a funny thought… HE/SHE, he, she, ひっし. You forgot to check if your date is a HE or SHE or non-binary. That’s the thing with online dating. You don’t really know.
Now, you’re even more DESPERATE. (Obviously you’re ok either way, because this is the 2020s. Imagine all outcomes in vivid detail.)
形（かたち）Shape, form, appearance
It’s obvious that this little lantern is farting. The APPEARANCE of lines behind him indicates that he CUT THE CHEese (かたち). Fortunately, it’s just a little poof, with no lasting FORM or SHAPE.
Imagine… what does a lantern fart smell like? Lantern oil perhaps, with a hint of CAke (けい) ?
(Sometimes pronounced かた or がた, like “I GOTTA fart”)
The TREE that SAT (さつ) down under the UMBRELLA, is also worried that it will be made into TAGS and LABELS. It’s eating some comfort FOOD (ふだ) to help forget it worries. Unfortunately, the FOOD (ふだ) also has LABELS, which are made from trees. What a mess!
通る（とおる）to Pass (through)
Your Mom is in such a hurry TO PASS THROUGH on her scooter, that she decides to take the toll (とおる) road. See her on her scooter, stopping to pay the toll, then PASSING THROUGH.
Too bad she doesn’t have an ETC card on her scooter. Could have saved some time and money!
A man in a BAMBOO SUIT is on a Hawaiian game show, and his ANSWER is often “BAMBOO!”
That’s why the kanji shows his mouth with an arrow and BAMBOO shooting out.
The only answer he misses is “What do you wear only in the winter?”
He shouts “BAMBOO Slippers!”, but the real answer is COAT (こと). He’s dumbfounded, and has to ask someone else what a COAT is. He’s a true Hawaiian!
You want to be cool (く), so you joined a stylish fashion GROUP, called the “Cool Me! TEAM”. In you GROUP, everyone wears cool THREADS and cool TOP HATS. Your secret greeting is “Cool me? (くみ)” to which your cool friends reply “Cool me! (くみ)”.
Practice it right now. Say “Cool me?”, put on your cool threads and top hat, look at yourself in the mirror, and and answer “Yeah, cool me!”
A group of women are at a restaurant talking about their husbands. One woman (dressed in farmer overalls) is super angry, because her HUSBAND keeps LOSING things, even really big things. She demonstrates loudly how she yells at him “YOU!! (う) It’s your FAULT!! YOU (う) can loose anything!!” (Notice the other restaurant customers surprise at this outburst.)
The woman goes home to her farm, and her HUSBAND is looking really guilty. She yells “YOU!! What did you LOSE now!?” He replies in Japanese “うし”. She starts laughing (a bit crazily) and says “USHI! NOW you lost a cow!?” They start laughing together, then run upstairs to jump in bed.
Turns out that the husband isn’t actually losing things. He just likes to see his wife get worked up. It’s just harmless foreplay. The cow and all the other things he lost are in the barn.
You’re getting worried about how pollution is TRANSFORMing the planet. So, you take your magic spoon and CHANGE your car (か) into a sheep. In addition to saving on gas, the sheep is much quieter than your car. It just makes a nice BAaaa (ば) sound.
Hear the beautiful BA of your sheep as you hug a nearby tree. Imagine all transportation TRANSFORMing to sheep.
間もなく（まもかく）Soon, before long
It’s morning and time to go to school BEFORE LONG. Since you’re running out of time, your MOM KNOCKs on your door to remind you. But you ignore her, because you know she’ll knock 1 MOre (も) time. When you hear the MOM MO KNOCK (まもなく) you know to leave SOON.
You’re an archeologist, and you uncover a COFFIN with a familiar symbol on the outside.
The symbol looks like SOME 1s arranged to look like the Chinese SUN kanji. Why would SOMEONE arrange SOME 1s like that in Egypt?
You chuckle and think to yourself “Maybe SOMEONEs SON is inside?” LOL
You open the coffin with SOME 1s on it, and find SOMEBODY inside. Sure enough, it’s the SHAman’s (しゃ) son. He’s SOMEONE, but not really SOMEBODY famous in history.
But the SHAman (しゃ) really loved him.
点ける（つける）to Switch On
You wake up sweating and shakily POINT to the light switch, because you had a SCARE (つける) in your dreams. With a dry mouth, you plead つけてください (please switch on the light)
You’re a tree, and your human friend breaks her leg. She really needs SUPPORT. So you SAW off 2 BRANCHES to make crutches for her. With a quick SAW SAW (ささ), she has all the SUPPORT she needs!
Good for remembering し too
君 (きみ) You, buddy
YOU BUDDY! YOU are the KEY to my heart. YOU are the KEY to ME (きみ)
人数（にんずう）Number of people
This word is great for counting the NUMBER OF PEOPLE (にんず) who are staying home during a pandemic.
It’s ずう instead of すう, because when people stay home, the wild animals can roam the streets in safety. It’s like the ZOO is turned inside out, with the animals looking in people’s windows and wondering about the NUMBER OF PEOPLE (にん) in the ZOO (ずう).
記事（きじ）Article, news report
The KEY (き) to JEsus’ (じ) popularity is good press. 2000 years ago, his fans wrote NEWS REPORTS and ARTICLES about everything he did.
欠かす（かかす）to Miss, to fail
Your co-worker SUE always MISSes the daily meeting at work. Not only does she FAIL TO ATTEND, she pretends it’s an accident, even though everyone knows it’s intentional.
Every morning she acts surprised and says loudly:
KAKA (かか) I MISSED it again!
She’s earned the nickname KAKA SUE (かかす).
Who’s ATTACHED to being NEARBY? Your FU＊KING (ふきん) parents of course!
You love your parents, but you really want a little distance. 18 years under their rule was plenty, and it’s time to live your own life.
But when you moved away, they bought a house in the same NEIGHBORHOOD. They can actually see in your bedroom window from their kitchen. It’s ridiculous!!
Imagine how angry you are. Go ahead, say it out loud!
FU＊KING (ふきん) parents! Why are they to ATTACHED to being NEARBY? Can’t they love me from a distance?
In Japan, all PITCHERs wear special TOE SHOEs (とうしゅ), where the big toe is separate. This helps them grip the ground better, and really TOSS (とうしゅ）the ball well.
You have allergies, so when FLOWERS get OLD and release their pollen you are really SUFFERING.
But, you try to pretend it’s nothing. You just wipe your eyes and say “It’s COOL (くる). I’m COOL (くる)". But inside, you’re feeling KOOKOO (く,く)
On’yomi (kanji) く
Kun’yomi (vocab) くる
You’re running around saying SHOO SHOO (しゅう, しゅう) to get the turkeys to GATHER by the tree.
In Tokyo an “OPEN DEPARTURE” is a euphemism for the death of one’s parents. The body OPENs and the spirit DEPARTS.
To avoid estate taxes, a parking lot is quickly erected on the site of the old family home, followed later by DEVELOPMENT of 2 or 3 tiny million dollar houses on the same site a year later.
That’s why OPEN DEPARTURE of parents usually leads to a new housing DEVELOPMENT.
化かす（ばかす）to Enchant, to bewitch
Everyone calls the local enchantress “ばか Sue”. Not only is it rude, but dangerous too, because she can CHANGE you into a frog!
It’s not the END, until the last SHOE (しゅう) drops. That’s the FINISH.
I’m trying to find my grandpa Joe, the farmer. So naturally, I look on the FARM. Hmm… “No Joe” (のうじょう). I guess he’s not here.
These IRON bars are so heavy (heavier than gold bars) that you can’t lift them with just one hand, TE one. It takes two hands, TE two (てつ). (It’s not your FAULT! This isn’t GOLD. It’s IRON).
At McDonalds, you noticed a DROP of WATER on the GROUND. Being a neat freak, you ask the teenager behind the counter to clean it up.
They look at you with vacant eyes, point to the REQUEST box, and say "Please put your REQUEST in the QUEUE (きゅう).
You own a small yoyo store, with a hand written blue sign out front which says “Fine YOYOs for sale”
But, for some reason, people keep SAYing “What do you sell here?”
You SAY “YO! I’m selling YO-YOs! Can’t you READ?”
(Maybe it’s time to put a picture on that sign, since no one can READ your handwriting. You could work on your customer service skills too. Yelling “YO, can’t you READ!” isn’t great for business.)
When I think about people CLOWNing around with their NECK, I can’t help but think of Puppetry of the Penis. Those guys are totally RADICAL. They even shaved their BUSH (ぶしゅ) for the show.
If you haven’t heard of it, carefully google it… then clear your browser history!
It’s not porn. It’s worse. LOL
LANGUAGE was invented by Australian aborigines, so they could TELL children how to CUT A kangeROO for dinner. It’s very complicated, so simple hand gestures and grunts weren’t sufficient. TO TELL how to CUT A kangeROO for dinner required the invention of new LANGUAGE.
The IDEA of more guacamole WAS (わず driving you crazy. You couldn’t afford it, but you ordered more.
Then you tried to get out of the bill, by claiming “OH! MO(re) WAZ UNINTENTIONAL”
I WAS (わず) THINKING about old times, and a quiet OM sound came out of my mouth.
The OM WAS (おもわず) UNINTENTIONAL, but everyone heard it and we all started laughing UNINTENTIONALLY.
Wow! I haven’t SEEN YOU (しんゆう) in so long, GOOD FRIEND!