Just moved to Japan, I feel like my learning process doesn't work anymore

Hi everyone,

Having moved to Japan this week, I feel like my learning process doesn’t really work anymore. Up until now I’ve been mostly focussing on grammar and immersion (using almost exclusively reading materials with furigana), and I only recently shifted my focus again to kanji through wanikani, which was fine for me at the time.

The issue is that, now that I’m in Japan, I realize that my progress is heavily limited by the fact I know very few of the basic kanji when there’s no furigana to help (actually most of the one I can consistently recognize are the ones I learned through wanikani).

In this situation, knowing that some of the most basic and useful kanji I’d need right now are only taught in wanikani levels I’ll only reach more than a year from now certainly is frustrating… and at the same time being unable to skip the kanji I already picked up from outside wanikani is a bit of a bore.

I wish I could add kanjis I encounter in the wild to my current wanikani srs, or add custom lists related to the materials I read so that I don’t have to rely so heavily on furigana. I heard there were other more flexible srs out there but having to change my habits, loose all my wanikani progress, re-learn new radicals and mnemonic, and go through all the kanji I already know again really scares me.

How would you guys handle this situation ?


Well, there is a script that will let you add your own custom kanji to WK!

Otherwise, what I did when I first came to Japan (welcome, btw!) was just get really okay with constantly drawing kanji into a dictionary app and hoping for the best. By seeing them and looking them up as they come up, you kind of manually SRS yourself if they’re common enough that you run into them regularly.


Thank you for your fast answer !

Would this script work even though I’m a mobile user ?

Also I’m not sure I understand what it does: if using the script I add, for instance, the 婆 kanji that’s from level 47, would it still come up in wk once I reach level 47 ? Sound like I would end up with a lot of duplicates this way…

I don’t personally know how to go about using scripts on mobile, but I believe I’ve heard there’s a way to install them if you use the Firefox browser on your phone!

(I could just be making that up, though.)

As far as I know, the duplicate thing would be a downside, but if you’ve already learned the kanji, then them coming around a second time would realistically not really add more than a minute or two to your total review time. If they’re important enough to you to learn early, it might be worth doing anyway.


I’ll tell you how I’ve handled it for the last four or so years.

Keep studying kanji - either through WK or some other means. And keep your eyes open… Eventually you’ll start to recognize more and more of your surroundings. More of and more of what you encounter in your studies will start to appear in your real life. You’ll start recognizing more. Keep reading with furigana.

Give yourself more time to get adjusted. It’s only been (less than) a week? It’s normal to feel a transition… I remember when I moved here, it actually took me a few weeks just to get my WK schedule adjusted to Japan Standard Time and not Pacific Standard Time.

Find some new local routines. And adjust your learning process as you recognize new learning needs.


I of course use my dictionary often, and also an app called Kanji lookup, where I can draw the kanji and it gives me the kanji and several vocab words containing it. I study outside of wanikani by writing the kanji several times in those notebooks for gradeschoolers with the divided squares. I don’t use spaced repetition, but I read, so eventually they start to stick in my brain.

I hope you enjoy being in Japan!

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I would definitely recommend you continuing Wanikani and keep your tempo. It will take time to study all the needed Kanji and you should get more comfortable at around level 20-30. However, since you need urgend reviews of items you encounter, you can either use a script to shuffle in new Kanjis or another app in addition. I can highly recommend the App Torii SRS which you can install and sync on your phone and pc. This app “can” teach you the 10.000 most usefull words but I tend to use it only for words I encounter and wanna remember. You can add words from the 10.000 word dictionary or even write your own vocab lessons. If you struggle with the Kanji itself, then you can still look it up in Wanikani and copy the explanations in Torii.
I play japanese gameboy games and every word I dont know is going into Torii. Therefore, I have a good workload and basically every word feels rewarding.
As you encounter words every day, I’m sure it will feel similar.


I’d say you’re at that stage then where you let go of the idea of a linear learning path and start embracing variety.

What I would do is keep up with wk at your pace you can manage now. But add another kanji system to it that is easier to dip in and out of as needed.

That way you make systematic continuous progress in wk, which you know already works for you, but you have another tool to help with kanji you need immediately. Don’t worry about duplicates for now, either it will be a welcome low effort review later or you use a script to ignore them. Decide later.

Try to ramp up the other resource very gradually to see if it is helpful without getting overwhelmed. For example Chase Colburn’s Kanji Study app is very flexible and has 1 click integration with anki. If you want mnemonics, pair it with KKLC which is cross referenced in the app. If you’re not going all the way through, just doing target entries, don’t worry about mnemonics interfering. Especially if you’re using it for commonly encountered kanji, you’ll forget the mnemonic quickly anyway after encountering the kanji frequently in real life. I use kklc in my own order, not the book’s and it’s fine.


I was yesterday on Bunpro’s community just commenting about how i wanted the Wanikani team to listen to the community like the Bunpro team does.

And your thread is a perfect example, wanikani could let people add whatever kanji they encouter in the wild, and let people do lessons at any rate they want, but they force you into a limited pace to get more money out of you in the long run, and its also a more expensive app than bunpro and the dev team never deliver any of the requests the community makes.

Most of the users here have to rely on third-party scripts made by the community itself to use wanikani properly (We still don’t have a freaking retry button for when you accidentaly type your answer wrong).

We deserve a better app for learning kanji, if wanikani cannot deliver that, i’m sure someday another app will


I wouldn’t recommend adding custom kanji at your level, you’re still going through the basics and WaniKani’s own offering is more than adequate at this point. If you were level 40 it would be a different discussion, but you haven’t even covered the N5 kanji at this stage, no point in going off-course IMO.

Facing a wall of impenetrable moon runes is frustrating but there’s no rushing it. You can’t memorize thousands of symbols in two weeks. I don’t think your method stopped working per se, you’re just facing the magnitude of the task at hand and reeling a bit which is perfectly natural.

Don’t let that discourage you, keep pushing and soon enough you’ll recognize most of these symbols. By level 20 or so they should start looking a lot less daunting.


I use Kiwi browser on my phone which allows you to install Tampermonkey and run scripts pretty easily. There’s a guide here on the forum that walks you through how to set everything up, but I’m out for dinner at the moment and can’t find it. If you’re still interested and haven’t found it by tomorrow then I’ll send the link to the page.

Good luck with the immersion! Got to say I’m jealous you’re in Japan right now!


While I truly appreciate your reassuring answer, I still think it’s neither effecient nor motivating to have to wait for more than a year to learn some of the most basic and frequent kanji while I encounter them often and would need them now, just because wk decided to lock them behind higher levels.


The quick and dirty way I got around this was Anki. Just find the kanji, put it in Jisho if you don’t know the reading (using the radical finder) and make the flash cards you need. Don’t go overboard, as you should only really do this with kanji that come up frequently that you feel some pressure to know.


Thanks a lot for your input, I certainly think adding a new tool to my belt while continuing wanikani (perhaps at a slightly slower rate to make room for the other srs) is the way to go for now.
I’ll look into the available srs and try to find the one that fits my needs the best !

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I think you probably underestimate quite a bit the pace of Wanikani? If you are really motivated to learn kanji fast, you will go at max speed which is one level per week, so about 30 kanji per weeks. This is not slow by any mean! In just 3 months you could be level 20 which covers all the high frequency kanji. Add 2 or 3 months and you can reach level 40 which is okayish for daily life.

Personnaly doing WK at max speed while living in Japan was super rewarding. It was very intense, but every single week I could suddenly understood much more around me.

Edit: Also personally my strategy with unknown kanji found in the wild was to check if they are in WK first. If yes, don’t add them to any other SRS or bother to memorize them because you will learn them soon anyway.

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I do think at some point it makes sense to switch to “mining” real life Japanese instead of using pre made decks like WaniKani but IMO that comes significantly later. I just looked at level 10 for instance, I see kanji for things like: drink, open, carry, road, end, fast, begin, line, parent, most, head, face, side, sick, language…

Out of the 40 kanji there’s only one I would deem not really useful (頁) and maybe three or four that are useful and common but maybe a little more advanced (了, 鳴, 農, maybe 漢). The other 35 are kanji that I encounter on a daily basis in basically any type of content. You won’t be wasting your time learning those regardless of your lifestyle, you need to know that stuff.

But if you feel like this is not a good match for you you should absolutely look into the many alternatives to learn kanji, maybe you’ll find something that meshes better with your process.


Be generous with looking up, and no need to throw everything into the SRS. Maybe finger drawn.

If you really need to remember more Kanji, just get a more adaptive app with more and assorted vocabularies, and possibly better mnemonics.

But there might not always be much value in trying to remember every Kanji hard, when you eventually remember the vocabulary, but not the lone Kanji.

In the end, about SRS, there might be no need to hurry, nor to over-expect the amount and result.

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Only that currently the forum, WaniKani Community, doesn’t support Kiwi Browser (and Discourse in general); while Firefox is supported. Possibly, WaniKani app dropping support is a matter of time. (Also as not a major browser.)

Technically, Kiwi Browser development is suspended, and is using an old Chromium engine.

I recommend renshuu.org instead. Not only does it have kanji, but it also has grammar and vocab srs. Additionally it has a lot of output practice and even games that target things like counters. Most importantly though, you can make custom srs sets. Recently (like last week), there are even new settings so that you can generate a vocab set based on kanji you chose or a kanji set from vocab, if I understand it correctly.

Renshuu has user made mnemonics, so you can pick from ones others have made (like amongus for 月) or make your own. You can even tie the mnemonics to the radicals with a color coding system.

You can also make your lists public or private, so if you did something like “common road signs” other users could benefit off your work in the future. I’m working on lists of Japanese food, onomatopoeia, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure vocab.

There are also native undo, burn, and unburn buttons as well. You could make a text list of the kanji and vocab you’ve already learned in WK and readd them to Renshuu and mark your level on them too. Since I’m level 40, I didn’t bother doing that exactly, instead I marked N5-N3 as known and then take the previously learned kanji as easy items when I get them in N2 quizzes.

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Oh and Renshuu has an app so you wouldn’t need userscripts either. Community requests often become native updates