Kana-Only Vocabulary Additions

Hello :wave:

Every Wednesday between May 17 and June 28, 2023, we’re adding small batches of Kana-Only Vocabulary to WaniKani. That is, words written 100% in hiragana or katakana. We’re adding it because, though kanji is an excellent method for learning a lot of vocabulary, there are still plenty of common, useful words that don’t contain any kanji. To reach Japanese fluency, you need to learn these words, too. And soon, you’ll be able to do that on WaniKani.

All you need is to do what you’ve always done: complete your Lessons and Reviews. They will be spread throughout the levels just like other vocabulary. As you progress through WaniKani, you will learn new kana-only vocabulary. Once you’ve completed your Lessons, they will start appearing in your Reviews and you can study and burn them as normal.

There are some differences between kana-only vocabulary and kanji-based vocabulary, though:

  1. Kana-only vocabulary only have an (English) “meaning” side to them. In that sense, they are similar to Radicals.

  2. Kana-only vocabulary use a different mnemonic method, the Keyword Mnemonic. Since kana-only vocabulary are not based off kanji you already know, we instead use the sound of the word to trigger a mnemonic. You just need to read the sounds (the kana), and use that to remember the image or story, which will guide you towards the word’s meaning. For some katakana words, it will be even easier, because they sound (more or less!) like the English word they come from, so they won’t even need a mnemonic. We’ll still give you a bit more context on the meaning if it differs from its English equivalent, though.

  3. Kana-only vocabulary unlock when you reach a new level. They don’t have any kanji prerequisites to unlock, because they don’t have any kanji. So if you meet the level requirements, they will unlock.

Publishing Schedule

This time around, we’re going to publish sixty kana-only words, spread out over seven weeks, to avoid overwhelming higher-level users. To be extra careful, we’ll only publish three words in the first week as a test, followed by seven in the second week, and then batches of ten for five weeks after that. Here’s what our tentative schedule looks like.

Wednesday, May 17 2023 - Published

Wednesday, May 24 2023 - Published

Wednesday, May 31 2023 - Published

Wednesday, June 7 2023 - Published

Wednesday, June 14 2023 - Published

Wednesday, June 21 2023 - Published

Wednesday, June 28 2023 - Published


Q. How do I start learning kana-only vocabulary?

A. Just do your Lessons as normal. Kana-only vocabulary will be included in there.

Q. What kind of kana-only vocab are included?

A. We’re including both hiragana and katakana-based kana-only vocabulary.

Q. How do I unlock kana-only vocabulary?

A. Once you get to a new level, you will unlock that level’s kana-only vocabulary. There is no kanji prerequisite, so they will just unlock once you’ve met level requirements.

Q. What are the “answer” fields for kana-only vocabulary?

A. You only need to answer the (English) meaning side of the card. We don’t think it’s as good a use of your time to type in the reading, when the answer is right in front of you (the reading answer would just be a copy of the kana that’s right there). That means kana-only vocabulary will be cleared more quickly, similar to Radicals.

Q. What happens if I accidentally enter the reading instead of the meaning?

A. You’ll get a shake and message if you enter the reading instead of the meaning — for example, if you accidentally answer “un” or “unn” for うん.

Q. What am I going to be able to do with kana-only vocabulary?

A. Learning more vocabulary will help with your entire Japanese language ability, whether it’s speaking, reading, listening, or writing. Vocabulary and fluency go hand in hand, and these vocabulary words will help you to get closer to that goal.

Q. Why only sixty words?

A. We’re starting with sixty words as a test, but the ultimate goal is to add all the words you need to be able to read Japanese comfortably.

Q. How are the levels decided for kana-only words?

A. We’ve set the levels primarily according to their frequency and their usefulness for reading. For that, we used corpus data combined with native speaker intuition. We also considered how easy the “concept” of the word is - which includes things like how close its range of use is to its English equivalent. (That’s one of the reasons リンゴ is a lower level than ふわふわ, for example.)

Q. What about all the missing kanji-based vocabulary?

A. We’re working on those too! We add more every year, and we plan to keep doing that until we have all the words you need for Japanese reading fluency.

Q. Why isn’t kana-only vocabulary in a separate track?

A. Kana-only vocabulary is still vocabulary, so we think it makes most sense as part of WaniKani itself. It also allows for better interleaving (alternating the testing of unrelated items to improve retention). The idea here is to help as many people as possible get to Japanese fluency as quickly as possible.

Q. Will kana-only vocabulary be opt-in?

A. This initial round of sixty vocabulary is not opt-in. We’ll evaluate whether to make them opt-in later on, though.

Q. Is kana-only vocabulary available to everyone?

A. Yes. Kana-only vocabulary that we add to the first three levels will be available to everyone with a WaniKani account, and kana-only vocabulary from levels 4 and up will be available to everyone with a subscription.


Wonderful, thank you so much! This will make wanikani so much better, and it is a great addition to it.


I’ll admit that I’ve only heard サービス (to my recollection) in the context of a freebie. Like if you bought some food and they gave you a free drink as well because you were nice or something.


I’m not a big fan of this change - I am spending (a great deal of) time at WK to learn kanji (and learning vocabulary that incorporates kanji is an important part of that) - I’m not here to learn grammar or hiragana- or katakana-only vocabulary words - and so for me this change just dilutes the material rather than improving it, so at best it’s a diversion and a distraction and an annoyance.

But that ship has ‘already sailed’ so to speak…


I’m curious about the relevance of ワンピース, since I remember also seeing it being taught in Rosetta Stone, but have rarely seen it elsewhere.

Also, every word?


I’ve been a bit concerned about scope creep with this update, especially since this is a kanji learning website. But if you’re going to do it, this is a good choice of words, and I think it’s good that it’s mostly in the lower levels. The higher level ones are good choices too because the meanings aren’t necessarily intuitive

I know I’ve seen it a couple times when reading somewhat recently, but I can’t remember where…


I was just looking for other reasourses to learn kana only vocab. So excited for these updates to come. Every reasoning for your decisions in the FAQ seems absolutely solid and justified for me.

I’m curious on top of the 6000 kanji vocab how many kana words are you anticipating to add? I try to do 10-15 new lessons per day so i could see this significantly increasing the time it takes to “finish” Wanikani

Thank you for pushing to keep making Wanikani better!


Were you reading about a certain straw hat pirate?


lol no, it was specifically a girl wearing a dress and it was referred to as a ワンピース

edit: found it! it’s in the current IBC pick! (僕が愛したすべての君へ)


Thanks WK team for this! :slight_smile:

A question about this. Does this mean that they’ll appear as the first lessons you get to do on a level, even before the radicals, or will they appear after the vocab lessons? :thinking:


Wow, now I might start gaining proficiency in reading katakana…


I’m so excited that I can use wanikani to get my kanji and vocab all in one place!

definitely worth a lifetime sub if they the goal is to add all words to aid reading fluency


We have collected several thousand candidates, but we’ll only publish the ones that we evaluate to be really useful additions. Still, I think it will be a lot eventually, but it will take time to add them all.

They will appear among the vocabulary lessons at the beginning of a lesson, so after radicals and kanji. :slight_smile:


Awesome. It’s something I had forgotten about in the other discussion, but the number of “I hit 60 and can’t read Japanese at all” threads was too high. This should help bridge the gap. Good luck!


Thank you Jenny! :blush:


Great to know! ^>^


Same here. I’ve only ever seen サービス used when something is “on the house.”


Please, please, make this opt-in. I have no desire to learn non-kanji based vocabulary on WaniKani. In fact, I know all of this vocab all ready so they are just a waste of my time that would be spent on learning kanji and kanji based vocabulary. Unfortunately, I am a lifetime user so you’ve all ready got my money. Please, give us a way to opt out of this.


I’ve seen it in manga as a joke about fan service.


I think a really important question is missed here.

Will these be the same colour as regular vocabulary, or do we get a 4th colour for only these?