Level 60 - a longer than average story

For all you maths nerds, here are my statistics

Levels completed: 60/60 (100%)

For anyone who enjoys history, romance, drama etc…

昔,昔 (むかし,むかし)

This story starts several million years ago, or at least it feels like it some days. I am 23 years old, studying Japanese in Tokyo. Kanji is the weakest of my language skills, but there’s a limit to the number of handwritten flashcards a girl can cope with. I have a crush on my Taiwanese classmate, and 6 weeks before our school year ends, he reveals similar feelings. He is married and I am in a serious long distance relationship, but we spend a lot of time together in those last weeks. We talk about visiting each other in the future. Later, we send each other letters in Japanese, but it gets harder and harder over time – first to write them, and secondly to read them. Eventually we lose contact.

Some time later

After many years of not knowing what has become of him, I receive a Facebook friend request from my Taiwanese crush. I am delighted, but have very little confidence in my Japanese ability, and we exchange only very brief messages.

6 years ago

I am on holidays in Sydney with my family, when I see on Facebook a picture of my Taiwanese friend – standing in front of the Sydney Opera House. My hands are shaking as I message him to say we are in the same city. The next day, we meet for the first time since we parted in Tokyo, half a lifetime earlier. It is magic, but while he uses Japanese almost daily for work and is thus completely fluent, I can barely string a sentence together. I resolve then and there to get my Japanese level back to where it used to be, as best I can.

Don't panic

In the weeks and months that follow, the two of us track down and reach out to more members of our Tokyo class. I start going to the local Japanese cultural centre, borrowing books and DVDs and haltingly practicing 会話かいわ. It seems I have forgotten most of the kanji I ever learned, and this is a barrier to my progress. The following year, I discover WK. I am 42+ and love all the Hitchhikers references.

An unexpected hiccup

It is 23 November, 2017, a Thursday. I have a swallowing anatomy exam in four hours time, but am excited because next Monday I am flying to Korea to catch up with one of my Tokyo classmates. I am expecting my GP to tell me the lump in my breast is a benign fibroid, as it is a family condition. Instead, she tells me I have cancer. I walk out in a daze, but can’t bear the thought of deferring the exam. Every so often, part of my brain screams something along the lines of, “Oh my God, I’m going to die!” and another part of my brain responds with thoughts to the effect of “Oh shut up, that’s not in the exam. Focus!!” I drive home, phone my parents, cling to my husband and cry myself to sleep.

What got me through

The following week I have surgery. Faced with chemotherapy and radiation therapy in the new year, I decide to take a semester off, but need something to occupy my mind. I tip-toe into the WK Community forum, and discover that someone has suggested a group read 魔女まじょ宅急便たっきゅうびん (Kiki’s Delivery Service) together. It is a turning point. The book turns out to be quite difficult for many who started it, but it’s the right level for me, and on my good weeks, I contribute words to the vocab sheet, grammar explanations and English summaries to the forum. The weeks I have chemo, I am too sick and rely on others to do the vocab. I share nothing of what I am going through at the time, and WK becomes my happy place where no-one worries about me and my health. I enjoy all the entertainment of the forums. I also learn (and re-learn) a bunch of kanji as a not-insignificant side benefit.

After my treatment finishes, I return to university and retreat from the hustle and bustle of the forums, but I keep reading with WK. As much as I want to be able to speak Japanese, I realise that being able to read it fluently is just as important, but I am not self-motivated enough to do it alone. One book club group after another keeps me going. I complete four long practicums and a research thesis, and start work as a speech-language pathologist after 8 years of part time study. It is not easy, and at times I struggle with depression and anxiety. One book club group after another keeps me going, and the read aloud sessions become one of the highlights of my week.

The cherry on the cake

Books take you places you can’t otherwise go. Websites give you knowledge and resources you can’t get locally. But nothing beats real human connection.

I would like to thank everyone who kept me entertained on the forums – there are too many of you to list and I’d be sure to forget someone important, but your humour and kindness and ridiculous polls and free flirts were greatly appreciated. May the Crabigator bless you all.

I would also like to thank everyone who shared their knowledge, tips, explanations and links to resources. I have learned so much more because of your generosity.

Mostly, I would like to thank everyone I have interacted with through the book clubs, especially @Belerith @Naphthalene @NickNickovich @NicoleIsEnough @Radish8 and last but definitely not least, my bookclub BFF @seanblue who (among other things) filled out the Kiki vocab sheet those weeks I was too sick to contribute, introduced me to Aria, and even promised to study grammar with me one of these years (nudge, nudge).

In late 2018, I spent a few days in Tokyo, where I met the elusive Naphthalene – at a bookshop, of course!

In 2019, the lovely Nicole messaged me to say she would be in my city at the time of the JLPT, and would I like to sit an exam with her? Well sure, why not? :rofl: So I sat N2 (and passed), and we had a fun few days touristing together as well.

In 2020, I travelled with my family to Taiwan, for a very enjoyable two week holiday. It was well timed, not long before covid caused world travel chaos. We crossed paths with Nicole again, and best of all, we spent several days with my dear Taiwanese friend, and we talked a lot, and pretty much all of it was in Japanese. The feeling of 満足まんぞく was amazing.

What’s next?

I still need to finish recycling my leeches burning kanji and vocab. I want to return to grammar study at some point, and continue reading with the book clubs. I would dearly love to spend more time in Japan, and I’ve promised my family they can come with me next time. I would like to meet up with some more WK人々. And maybe one day in the future I can get my language skills up to the point where I could work with Japanese clients, who knows?


Slow and unsteady doesn’t win any races, but it can still get you where you want to go, especially if you have people who help you along the way. Now go join a book club. :wink:


Thank you for sharing your story! I loved reading it.

It’s always nice to read about the people who finished even if it took them a while to do so… because I am going to be one of those people, eheh. My level might make it look like I’m almost done, but due to various reasons, it’s still going to be awhile until I can finish.
I’m really impressed with what you’ve been able to accomplish!


Big congrats on getting to lv 60! :tada::tada:



So what happened to your Taiwanese friend. Did you marry him? Or did you go different paths?


Congratulations on level 60!
Also I think it’s pretty cool you got to meet people from WaniKani. Seems you’ve had a really good experience on the forums :slight_smile:


Congratulations! It’s amazing you could reunite with your crush and old classmates.

I don’t know what it is about books, but they are magical. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m going to start reading that Japanese book lying on my shelf I’ve been too scared to start now, I feel inspired :green_heart:


You got me.

What a story, though.

Also, all these years, and I just got your name…


No, he was already married (and still is), and it wasn’t something either of us considered. But sometimes there is a special connection that lasts and lasts, despite every barrier that you think might prevent it.


Thank you - the cake is perfect!!

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Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your story. I hope everything goes well…

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Aww, okay. Great story though. As long as you two are happy.

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Perseverance, something many people can learn from you! In good times and bad, continue forward. Through the ups and downs, sometimes even when we don’t break from study it can feel like our level regresses, but we should continue on.

I’m glad you did continue on. Happy to hear the book clubs helped you!


OMG, your level 60 post really takes the cake!


Random thoughts

I had a look and all the maths check out. :100:


Not going to lie, I really hoped you two got together in the end, but I feel kinda weird thinking like that about real people :sweat_smile:

It’s harder to keep a light tone about cancer, but I’m really glad you made it and that the community helped you through that time.

Your list of book clubs regular made me a bit sad, since I haven’t seen @Radish8 around here in ages… And they abruptly stopped posting, which was a bit worrying

I don’t feel like I am elusive… but I’ll take it. It makes me feel cool and mysterious :eyes:

Oh! Also, I saw a dragonfly two days ago and it made me think of the pin you were wearing at the time.

By the way, what are you reading these days?


This is a wonderful story. Much needed too with recent forum goings-on. Thank you for sharing all of this. I know from experience that putting out such intensely personal struggles for everyone to see can be just as difficult as going through them originally, but it can also be healing.

Above all, congrats!


Your story is so amazing and fantastic! Congratulations!! Best of luck to you with your future goals


I really enjoyed reading this, well done and best wishes


Hey Kyasurin! Thanks for sharing your story with us! It was a lovely read. I wish the best for you on your continued Japanese language learning journey! Feel free to reach out anytime and don’t be a stranger on the forum. :slightly_smiling_face:

-Nick at WK


Amazing story, good luck in the future.

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(Jk, that’s not me. Still appreciated.)

Thank you for sharing your journey! I’m glad you made it through everything okay, and that you’ve been such a big part of the book club community for me as well.