Learning more than one reading of a kanji while learning the kanji

Wanikani is a great website for learning kanji. It was a godsend for me because I had a huge block before I came across this website. Despite this, I do have some quarrels with the system that wanikani uses.

My biggest issue (and the topic of this post) is that you learn one reading of a kanji when you learn that kanji, but then days later, it gives you vocabulary using a different reading. This is throwing me off so much because I didn’t get the same chance to learn the kanji reading in the vocabulary as I did the kanji reading that I did with the kanji section.

My suggestion: In order to improve this, I wish the website would give you both the most common kun’yomi and on’yomi readings while learning the kanji. This would make it easier to recall the possibilities while learning the vocabulary.

This may just be me who is having trouble with this though. Thoughts on this idea or your opinions?

1 Like

The reason they don’t teach more than one per lesson is because you have to draw the line, so why not draw it at “less than overwhelming”

Some kanji have dozens of readings. You can’t really get away from that, so they just say “we’ll do one reading and let it sort itself out later.”


They’ll generally give you the most common or useful reading for the kanji, and feed you the others through vocab.

1 Like

I do understand that, but I am currently at level 2. My issue is that for the kanji: 上 and 下, I learned the on’yomi reading while learning in the kanji section, but now that I am learning the vocab, I haven’t come across a single vocab that uses the on’yomi. Instead, the website has only showed me vocab that use the kun’yomi, and this is making it more difficult because I didn’t spend the same amount of time learning the kun’yomi as I did the on’yomi. Can I ask how you guys got passed this obstacle? I am currently struggling to learn the vocab in section 1 because of exactly this issue.

The very early levels just kind of suck in that regard. There’s a lot of vocab that have different readings and such. Furthermore the associated vocab for the early kanji tends to be spread out over the entirety of WK.

If you pull open the page for each kanji there’s a section at the bottom that shows all of the vocab terms. It’s pretty nifty if you’re looking to figure out patterns for terms (eg. がつ vs げつ) or why a certain reading is preferred by WK.

上: WaniKani / Kanji / 上

In this case じょう is actually more common than the other readings by far, it just doesn’t look that way with only the first few terms.

I don’t really think there’s much merit to learning multiple readings with a kanji. Kanji themselves are mostly just components to actual words, so there’s almost no need to even associate a reading to a specific kanji by itself. It’s better to stick with learning readings during vocabulary, as they add context to a term and tend to make more sense that way (see 月: がつ vs げつ). The preferred reading is just kind of useful as an sort of fallback if you have to guess or lookup an unknown term.

1 Like

It’s a lame answer, but also an honest one: “you get used to it”.

Sometimes I sort of find myself wishing we were given at least one more reading when learning a kanji, but honestly learning just one kanji reading (alongside meaning and recognizing it visually) is difficult enough that I think getting more readings would make new kanji lessons too daunting.

Even though I say you get used to it, there will always be that brief moment of fist-shaking when you hit a new vocab and read the accursed words “you didn’t learn that reading when you learned the kanji, so here’s a mnemonic…”. Still, you either front-load the difficulty or back-load it, and I feel like shifting the burden onto the vocab phase is preferable, since there’s gotta be a trade-off either way. By the vocab phase you’ll have the kanji’s look and meaning down, so it’s slightly less of a struggle to add on another reading.


For 上, it’s a pretty even split. As you said… you’re level 2. You weren’t expecting all the 上 words yet, were you? For 下, the onyomi has the definitive edge. I didn’t include 下手 (へた) in either column, because that’s actually an exceptional reading.

When you first learn a kanji (especially at low levels) there is a bias toward kunyomi, because kunyomi usually doesn’t need other kanji. Onyomi usually appears in compounds, so it appears as you learn other kanji to pair it with.

上 kunyomi
上 うえ Up
上る のぼる To Climb
上唇 うわくちびる Upper Lip
上げる あげる To Raise
上がる あがる To Rise
召し上がる めしあがる To Humbly Eat
出来上がる できあがるTo Be Finished
差し上げる さしあげる To Give
盛り上げる もりあげる To Heap Up
盛り上がる もりあがる To Swell
売り上げ うりあげ Amount Sold
年上 としうえ Older

上 onyomi
上演 じょうえん Performance
上述 じょうじゅつ Above Mentioned
上司 じょうし Boss
上級 じょうきゅう Advanced Level
上手 じょうず Good At
上旬 じょうじゅん First Ten Days of The Month
上品 じょうひん Elegant
上巻 じょうかん First Volume
以上 いじょう More Than
至上 しじょう Supremacy
地上 ちじょう Above Ground
屋上 おくじょう Rooftop

下 kunyomi
下 した Down
下唇 したくちびる Lower Lip
下町 したまち Downtown
下げる さげる To Hang
下がる さがる To Hang Down
下書き したがき Rough Draft
下さい ください Please
靴下 くつした Socks
年下 としした Younger
下着 したぎ Underwear

下 onyomi
下痢 げり Diarrhea
下品 げひん Crude
下駄 げた Geta
下巻 げかん Last Volume
下旬 げじゅん Last Ten Days of The Month
地下鉄 ちかてつ Subway
地下街 ちかがい Underground Shopping Mall
以下 いか Less Than
陛下 へいか Your Majesty
地下 ちか Underground
却下 きゃっか Rejection
廊下 ろうか Corridor
零下 れいか Below Zero


For me, I find that the kun’yomi is the one I learn in Japanese study first (e.g. Learning 食 in たべる before 食 in しょくどう) so the kun vocab are easier. So wanikani helps me more with the on’yomi.

While I do find it confusing at times, I think this is better addressed by teaching On’yomi for everything and Kun’yomi in vocabulary, that way there are no surprises. I can’t stand the inconsistency of it all, it’s driving me nuts. As an alternative, most common On’yomi and most common Kun’yomi would work for me too.

1 Like

tbf, in level three you learn 上手, which uses on’yomi. But I get what your saying. What I would do is look at jisho.org to look at all available readings

Thanks for your response guys. I’ve been with this vocabulary for a couple of days now, so it’s actually get much easier each time despite the fact that there are a lot of new readings. I think it was just a bit overwhelming at the beginning, so I started complaining about it a bit overdramatically.

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