Learning kanji - No similar Kanji shown - Why?


Ok so we all know those “super easy” Kanji that are so distinct and, even better, may also have a distinct, narrow meaning. I love them and the instant gratification they provide since they are often very easy to learn and almost impossible to mess up. It feels like you could learn 20, 30 of these in one sitting and remember them all quite easily; if you have a lot of them at once, to me it makes WaniKani feel to slow.*

However, most of my kanji-related mistakes are where only one radical changes and is otherwise identical, and/or has a very broad, abstract meaning that may or may not be shared with other Kanji. Which are many many Kanji.

When learning new Kanji, there is no comparison with previously learned Kanji, like a section “Similar to these kanji you learned before:”

For example: hot water (湯, ゆ) and sunshine (陽, よう). Just one radical changed. Many others like those exist, and sometimes multiple that distinguish themselves by comparatively small changes.

Currently, I make mistakes and after a while, after making enough mistakes they sort themselves out but it’s basically rote memorization (I think) and simply enough exposure. Some end up in Guru for quite a while. This is a bit frustrating and probably not that effective.

I wonder: Is it a conscious decision of WK, to not show similar kanji you learned before because it may mess up the learning process? It could very well be, I don’t know. I think personally, by being able to consciously compare and discern the differences in the learning process, taking a bit of that extra time, many of these mistakes may be avoided. For the few quite nasty leeches I do that, but manually.

  • Quite funny how I rushed through the early lessons and now around level 13-15 got overwhelmed by an avalanche of reviews and lessons, even had a 17 day level lmao where at once got like 500 reviews and piling up at lightning speed. Gave me anxiety. Lol, I love this website. Gotta slow down a bit now to prevent burning out. I mean who cares if you average 6, 7 or 9 days or even more as long as it doesn’t take years because you had to reset twice.

What do you guys think? Do you have the same bottlenecks? Do you anything about it?


You can go to a kanji’s page by searching for the kanji, and if you scroll down there’s a section for “visually similar kanji”

For example, I searched 湯 (hot water) in the search bar on the homepage, and if I click on the kanji and go to its page, I scroll down and see this:


Granted, this doesn’t display in lessons/reviews, but if you ever want to do some self-studying to help distinguish these kanji and have them all in one place, you could always utilize this function of the search

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That’s what I do.
I do my lessons and try to put the radicals and the kanji together. If I ever have a situation in a review where I was like “Yeah, that is that” being 100% sure only to get it wrong because of similarities, then I go and look them up and memorize once again the different mnemonics, as they are directly tied to the radicals.


I can totally relate to the whole mixing-up of Kanji thing because they’re similar, and there are a bunch that I get confused with because of them being one radical different - this is why I think people get tripped up after having learned Kanji for a few months, because you get so used to recognising certain ones without having to think about it, that you can think you’ve got the hang of it until you find one that’s similar, then you start getting confused.

However, in one of the more recent Tofugu podcasts, Kristen was warning against the idea of sorting this out via learning the ‘differences’ between similar Kanji. She recommended instead focussing on each individual Kanji and what makes that one unique - it’s a subtle difference I think but it makes sense to me, because if you’re thinking too much about comparing them then you’re probably going to get into a muddle, whereas if you focus on the individual’s characteristics, then you’re strengthening your mnemonic for that character and it works much better.


What @MissMisc said. It was, and still is, a reoccurring problem for me, too. It’s not completely intuitive in that, the “visually similar kanji” isn’t built into the lessons/reviews themselves, but the feature exists, and has already been pointed out. It helps a lot to take a little time and go over the visually similar kanji, as to better differentiate the kanji and their different radicals.

(Pretty much I literally just repeated what @MissMisc said lol, so what, sue me! … or, actually, don’t sue me. Please.)

Edit: @liquidcow had a really good explanation. I like that better.


I just wish I didn’t have to manually navigate to each Kanji’s page here just to check the “visually similar” list. Would love to have that information displayed in reviews, and especially during lessons.

I actually missed a review just now because I confused 寄 for 奇…


The keisei script will show you similar kanji during lessons, at least by phonetic mark. I find it very helpful.

I half agree and half disagree. This feels like a bit of an advertisement for mnemonics to me, like saying “you better not stray from the one true crabigator-endorsed path!” But who here doesn’t forget the mnemonics sometimes? When kanji get into master/enlightened range for me I start to recognize them visually rather than by recalling the mnemonic, which is very prone to 陽・湯・揚・場 / 奇・綺・寄・埼 type mixups.

If for example I’m reviewing 陽 and I can remember that “sunlight/hot water/hoist/location” is the danger zone, even if I can’t remember the mnemonic about the butcher, I might rememeber the ones about tsunami, nailbat, or grave, and figure it out by elimination. This reinforces the strength of the mnemonic method rather than undermining it, IMO.

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Well perhaps, but I don’t personally think that WK is that prescriptive about mnemonics, as in I don’t think they’re saying that you have to memorise their mnemonics specifically - I certainly don’t - more that the method of using mnemonics is the best approach. Personally I use the radical and mnemonics as suggestions or aids to creating my own. Sometimes the WK ones are pretty lazily written to be honest. Things like Mrs Chou I find useful but other things not so much, and I’ll often draw on things that are totally personal to me.


You are looking for Niai:

Shows basically everywhere, you can add and remove similar kanji, and with my new DB I compared all kanji in Keisei based on the most used fonts, so it covers everything in jouyou.

For me the WK approach is best for the first 500–750 kanji, after that treating everything like a compound with a meaning in a story is inefficient. It throws 80% of the regularity in readings and meanings out of the window. (Also install Keisei mentioned above :wink: )


I feel called out lol

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What Kristen is saying isn’t really about the Mnemonics. But that learning a Kanji on its own and what makes it unique is better than going “Oh hey that’s different” because in real life, the chances of you seeing the sentence お湯の太陽である場所で揚げる is pretty rare.

It’s less a problem for me when the similar kanji appear together than when only one of them appears. I have no trouble reading that sentence and if you had written お陽の太湯である揚所で場げる I would still read it as おゆのたいようであるばしょであげる and perhaps not even notice anything was wrong.

On the other hand if I saw 湯気 or 陽気 alone, I’d be quite likely to think the wrong meaning if I couldn’t remember what the first kanji’s twin was.

Yes that’s the point. You are rarely ever going to see Kanji with their similar pairs, or any similar word next to each other.

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My point is that makes it all the more important to study them as similar-looking families, because I’m 100% going to forget the mnemonics after 4 months.

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But it’s not about mnemonics, that’s not what Kristen is saying at all. She’s saying that it is important to be able to recall a Kanji on its own merits, and not based on its difference from other Kanji. Doesn’t matter if it’s mnemonics or whatever you want to use. Nor are you supposed to remember the mnemonics forever, they’re just an aid to remembering.

Simply put, it’s that when looking at 揚 you want to know that it is 手偏 + 易 and 陽 is こざと偏 + 易. Not just that they look different. Mnemonics, writing, face painting, whatever method you want to use, the choice is irrelevant.

I agree that learning the similar ones together gave me a huge boost. It is not about seeing them together, it actually helps my recognition to group several together like ゆ for illness 癒, feeling 愉, transport 輸, …

I’m also better when I know the bounds, like “this kanji must be in those 5 options” instead of “do I know this one or not”?


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