Kanji makes no sense to me. Super noob question. Plz respond

I’ve been studying Japanese for 5 months, and am just now getting into Kanji because it seemed so overwhelming.

I am only level one and unlocked a few kanji, but the whole multiple readings, onyomi, kunyomi stuff is VERY confusing.

If a character has more than one reading, how do you know which it is? I’m looking at the kanji for ‘below’ right now. The two readings are か, げ

But then in the vocab section, it says it is found in 'kudasai?! There is no ka or ke in that at all.

Plz explain, I have been looking everywhere for a somewhat comprehensive answer and cannot find one.


That kanji has multiple onyomi readings. When you see multiple readings listed in a lesson, it means multiple for whichever category (onyomi or kunyomi). Then of course, it can also have readings of the other variety as well.

onyomi readings for 下

kunyomi readings for 下 (the part after the period is okurigana, not part of the reading of the kanji)
した、 しも、 もと、 さ.げる、 さ.がる、 くだ.る、 くだ.り、 くだ.す、 -くだ.す、 くだ.さる、 お.ろす、 お.りる

Don’t get too scared, this happens to be a kanji with one of the highest numbers of total readings.

My general advice when starting is to not worry too much about which category is which. It will come naturally with exposure and experience.


Thanks. So will wanikani eventually explain this in detail as I progress?

Well… WK won’t really explain the details per se. But you will be exposed to many of the words that can be written with 下 in such a way that you can get a good feel for it.

There’s a Tofugu article about the difference between on and kun, if you want to see how they’d explain it. (Tofugu is the company that makes WaniKani)


That article linked above should definitely clear up the confusion.
I too would recommend not worrying too much about it. As long as you know the difference between on’yomi and kun’yomi (read the article), you’ll get splendidly acquainted with the variety in no time.

Also, think of it like English! Kanji are a product of the history of Japan and the Japanese language - aka, they will often make very little sense! Languages develop and evolve with usage by millions of people of thousands of years…

Think of how these kanji get used similar to the way that people talk about the Greek or Latin (or German, or etc) roots of English words. Sometimes we spell the same sounding word 3 different way. Or spell something the same and it could sound like 4 different things, depending on meaning and where in the English-speaking world you’re saying it.

Definitely read that article from Tofugu, especially the parts about the history of the Japanese language (it’s really interesting). And most importantly, don’t let the fact it’s confusing get you down! It’s confusing to everyone :slight_smile:

I’d add that you also shouldn’t get too hung up on trying to remember all possible on/kun readings for each kanji. The most common ones will be used in the mnemonic and you’ll learn the others later, when seeing the kanji used in vocab words, like ください.

This won’t give you 100% coverage of every possible reading for every character, but it’ll get you far enough that you’ll begin to pick up the really obscure ones as you practice reading and writing and, most importantly, it’ll get you far enough to be able to read.

1 Like

I think the point to also remember is that there are ALWAYS exceptions when it comes to commonly used kanji (上、下、生 are just a few examples.) Try to learn the exceptions as they come, rather than learn everything when you are first familiarizing yourself with the kanji.

Also, at the end of the day, it doesn’t always matter how to read something if you can just get the basic meaning from the kanji. Japanese people aren’t gonna sit there listening to you reading something they’ve written to you aloud. Exceptional readings only get REALLY frustrating when you try to read given names in Japanese, but even Japanese people struggle with that so don’t worry about it.

Cross each bridge when you get to it and good luck!


This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.