Kanji readings apparently randomly onyomi/kunyomi

When we come across and have to learn the kanji we either get an onyomi or a kunyomi reading (presumably chosen for frequency?) without being told which. When I have to decipher/remember a remember the vocabulary reading, I sometimes don’t know which reading I know, so that I get very confused …
The only way I know which reading I know, is to go in and inspect the details of the character. Wouldn’t it be better to always learn the onyomi with the kanji first?
Actually my impression is that sometimes jisho does not 100% agree with wanikani on which readings are onyomi/kunyomi of a few characters. Sorry, I haven’t readily got an example, but if someone picks this up, I will try to find one.

Typically kanji where the kunyomi is taught first are ones where the onyomi is comparitively rarer. For instance, for the very basic kanji 川, the onyomi of せん is far less common than the kunyomi of かわ. It appears in some common words that you should know eventually, but they are more advanced than most other instances you’ll encounter of 川. Teaching せん to beginners early on is probably not the best ordering of things.

It’s always possible that there is an error in WK or in Jisho’s kanji data (the latter of which comes from the KANJIDIC2 database). If you do find a discrepancy, notifying whichever source is wrong would be helpful.


Wanikani will typically give you a warning message if you enter one of the readings it’s not looking for. So, if you pick the wrong one, it will let you try again without penalty. (This applies only to Kanji, of course, since vocab usually only has one correct reading).

Adding to what Leebo said…
The reading they choose for the kanji is often a higher-frequency reading, but sometimes they choose a less frequent reading that works better for creating mnemonics.


WK has added which reading you are learning. See screenshot below with my highlight.

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To make it even clearer which reading you’re answering with, you can use Katakana Madness Wanikani Katakana For Onyomi to make your pink kanji reviews display your on’yomi answers in カタカナ!

Despite there being thousands of kanji, there are only several hundred unique on’yomi readings, so there are tons of overlapping readings. But, if you have this script, it’s always super obvious which reading is which, and it even doubles as bonus exposure to katakana, which is something that I see many Japanese learners wish they had more of :upside_down_face:


Wow, that is very helpful. Thank you for your response. I am impressed :saluting_face:

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What an amazing facility to have available! I will think about whether to do this. It certainly will help if when the kanji is first taught, it is clear which reading is being offered, but this is a gold solution. The only issue for me at the moment is that I hate katakana - very ugly sometimes (just my hang up!)

Please do not use Katakana Madness. It’s got a bug which breaks basically everything, and the creator isn’t around any more to fix it.

Think WaniKani Katakana for Onyomi is intended to be the updated replacement.


Thanks for the warning - much obliged. Actually I was very tempted to try it

That’s interesting, I hadn’t noticed anything amiss. Thanks for the heads up though, I edited my post to reflect it

Oh - this is confusing! Are people now saying that Wanikan Katakana For Onyomi is safe? In which case I will use it.
(From these post I realise that I am clearly far from being the first to be confused by the kanji readings taught!)

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Katakana Madness isn’t even “dangerous” per se, it’s just out-of-date and incompatible with other userscripts (because the WaniKani devs keep updating the site, but the author of Katakana Madness hasn’t been around to make adjustments accordingly).

The userscript @Belthazar pointed us to serves the same purpose as Katakana Madness, but it is (as of now) up-to-date and fully functional/compatible :slight_smile:

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Thanks. Just being a little cautious before I go for it, it there turns out to be a problem, I don’t want to be stuck (up the creek without a paddle) having invested so much time and effort into Wanikani. So, it is easy to revert back to the standard if necessary?
Thanks for your help


All you have to do is open Tampermonkey’s dashboard (look for it somewhere near your URL bar), and you can toggle all of your userscripts on/off at will. All they do is change how your computer loads WaniKani pages, so if you disable them, WK goes back to its default behavior like nothing ever happened.


The only ways I’ve heard of people “messing up” their WK experience with userscripts are:

  1. For some reason reordering their lessons so that they level up repeatedly while skipping all vocab… I guess they see this as “faster,” but it ultimately leaves them effectively illiterate
  2. Abusing an “undo/redo” script to force correct answers too much, cheating themselves out of genuine learning


Since you seem new to userscripts, here’s this, just in case:
A Visual Guide on How To Install A Userscript

Basically, you install a script handler (I use Tampermonkey), and then you can add almost any script you want just by pressing the big “Install” button on the script’s webpage. But like I said earlier, scripts are super easy to deactivate (or even delete!) whenever you want to :slight_smile:

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Yes, you are right: I have not been using Wanikani long and had never heard of userscripts …
I have now - thanks for the info

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Reading The Kanji Code will give you a deeper understanding of the impact of phonetic components and other factors on the reading of kanji. The whole book is focussed on readings - though more on on-yomi than kun-yomi.

Familiarising yourself with phonetic components means you can more easily guess what the readings are, and she has a good explanation of where the readings come from in one of the early chapters. The ebook is pretty cheap.

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