Kanji reading vs vocab reading

Hello WK community! I’m fairly new to the site, as well as to learning Japanese, and enjoying the journey immensely so far. I have a couple of questions I hope someone can help clarifying.

  1. When will I ever read kanji with its kanji reading? Seems that it’s taking up memory but I don’t know when I will ever use kanji readings by itself. One example out of many, 上 :

    上 as a single kanji is read as じょう.
    上 as single word / vocabulary is read as うえ.

    I know kanji is not technically a word, so when will I ever use its reading in immersion, outside of the quizzes?

  2. I take notes while doing lessons. Is it ok that I’m not noting which is the on’yomi reading and which is kun’yomi? I just memorize the vocabulary as is, take it at face value, and not worry which reading type they used. It seems that WK puts a lot of thought into explaining which one to use when, so I hope I’m not skipping steps by doing it the way I’ve been.

Well that’s all, thanks for the insight!


Welcome to the site!

It’s better not to think of it as “the kanji reading” and more to think of it as “a kanji reading that happens to be taught in the lesson.” There’s nothing special about the reading chosen for the reading in the kanji lesson except that it is thought of, by the creators, as the most useful reading to learn.

You will of course use them. Sometimes when the kanji is alone as a word, often in compounds.

じょう for instance can be used as a reading in a suffix usage of 上.

インターネット上 (on the internet) would be インターネットじょう, not インターネットうえ


Good point, thank you! It confused me so because when I do quizzes it’s asked that way - kanji reading, vocabulary reading, etc. Will it accept any type of reading listed in the entry? For example if the quiz is asking me the kanji reading for 上, can I use うえ instead of じょう?

Generally, when it’s in a word with other kanji. For example, 以上 = いじょう, 上司 = じょうし et cetera.

(Not always, though. Proper nouns, in particular, tend to use kun’yomi. For example, 上野 = うえの, 村上 = むらかみ and so forth)

No, it’ll shake and say “please enter the on’yomi”.


I don’t have an answer for the OP. I just wanted to say how much community lurkers like me appreciate you WK veterans like Leebo and Belthazar, whose prompt responses are consistently concise, accurate, and almost never condescending. It’s folks like you who make these community boards worth coming back to again and again.


Yes, this is just to make sure you’re answering with something they know will be helpful to learn. In the case of 上, both categories of reading are common and useful, but that’s not always the case. They might be rare or obsolete.

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Thank you for the clarification!

Seconded! I’ve always been scared to ask questions on forums but reading the responses on other topics it set me at ease how beginner- and silly-question-friendly this community is. Thank you to all :blush:


Gotta have the “almost” to spice things up though. :slight_smile:


Hey, sometimes a little condescension (between friends) is necessary and appropriate.


Mostly depends on how many times the exact same question has been asked. lol


As for the On and Kun readings, as far as i know you’re not really skipping anything by not memorising it as “this reading is Onyomi which is used for when i see this kanji in this situation”. It definitely wouldn’t hurt to know which reading is roughly which, but you will also learn through the vocabulary and just exposure over time generally which reading will usually apply when.
I was originally confused when I first learnt the readings for 上, and I couldn’t tell you for the life of me which was the Onyomi and which was the kunyomi, but I know that 地上 (above ground) is not 地上(ちうえ) but is probably 地上(ちじょう). It’s also the difference between (やま) and ふじ (さん).
Ultimately, it’d depend on why you want to learn to read kanji, but my understanding is that it’s not critical in the sense that i’d call it skipping steps, but it is good to have some basic knowledge of the two. Tofugu has a really good article on it if you’re interested.

Also since it’s the first time you’ve posted:

\textcolor{MediumPurple}{\huge \textsf{Hi}} {\huge \textsf{@magsl}} \textcolor{MediumPurple}{\huge \textsf{!}}


It’s great to have you here!

If you haven’t already check out the Forum Guidelines and the Wanikani User Guide .
There’s also tonnes of things on the forums to help you on your way such as The guide, The Ultimate resource list, and API and Third Party Apps.

If you have any questions, check out this thread; but if this doesn’t answer your questions, feel free to create a thread like you’re done here, or email The Wanikani staff

Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you around!


Thank you for the detailed answer and the warm welcome! :blush:

I used to have heavy notes alongside my WK vocab about when use /this kind of reading for /this specific word or situation, etc., but I noticed that I never review those notes and just focused a lot on the vocab as is. I do hope I won’t regret it, but for my purposes right now I kinda like this approach :slight_smile:


Hrmph… Why does this sound familiar? … :rofl:

The good thing is, you don’t have to learn and memorize everything from the start. You can always come back and add to your knowledge, and discover more details and nuances along the way. After you’ve learned a few hundred kanji, you will probably start to discover patterns and to develop a “feeling” for which reading might be on’yomi and which might be kun’yomi, just judging from how they sound. Also, the vocab are there to help you with these discoveries. And with the exceptions :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Good luck!

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Haha that way lies madness. :laughing:

Personally, I’ll only focus on one meaning for the first few apprentice levels. Once I have that one meaning solidified, I’ll try to remember the others. But it’s much easier to focus at first.

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