Love Wanikani! Should I stop using Basic Kanji Book/Handwriting?

Hey Guys! Would really appreciate someone’s advice on this:

I’ve been studying Japanese for over 8 years now, can speak conversationally at an intermediate level, and know about 400+ kanji.

I learned the kanji the “old school” way from the Basic Kanji book series by Bonjinsha Co./Kano Chieko and others in conjunction with the Kenneth G. Henshall book “A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters”. The Henshall book actually uses mnemonics and funny little blurbs, similar to WaniKani, to help you remember, but it’s no where near as effective as WaniKani’s system.

Anyway, my old method was basically learning kanji by stroke order and when I would think of new/“atarashii” I would mentally write out the stroke order in my head, then SEE the kanji and know it. Now, compared to the wanikani system that seems like a slow and long process to learn, also I would frequently forget readings of certian kanji if I didn’t use it in a while.

So, I’m asking if you guys think I should keep studying the Basic Kanji book series or if thinking this way in terms of stroke count will slow me down and confuse my brain against WaniKani’s simpler radical-construction based system???

I do agree with the FAQ that 90% of my Japanese “writing” is through my computer and iphone where it’s all typing and the kanji just pop up for you. Though I do want the ability to write by hand if needed later on and I love how the writing looks.

Any feedback greatly appreciated!


I would drop the handwriting for now, except maybe when you want to doodle or something. WaniKani is specifically designed to bypass the writing in order to speed up the comprehension process. (There’s a section in the FAQ about handwriting.) I think that looking up a stroke order guide would give you a good basis for knowing how to write any kanji you learn with this system.

As an aid, you could also use the Stroke Order Diagram script listed on the API masterpost. I don’t use it myself so I don’t know if it’s deprecated or not, but the Jisho stroke diagrams are very nice.


I’ve been looking up any I get wrong in books for better mnemonics, further insights and to practise writing them. How about that as a compromise?

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Yeah maybe a compromise would be good. I primarily use wanikani, but if I am feeling overwhelmed with too many, or feel like I am getting some continuously confused, I will take a day every now and then to practice writing and further looking at kanji.

Writing is fun and relaxing too.

I use the stroke order plugin mentioned, it works just fine, in case that interests you. Here is the page for it.


I dropped writing for ages but I must admit dropping it completely has hindered me especially with visually similar kanji.

I tried writing at the same pace as wanikani but it is too much to remember so now I have started with my kanji book but go through it slowly as I figure I don’t need to know how it write everything I can read straight away. I find the kanji that I can write, I get right more often on here though.

So I agree that a compromise would be good. Wanikani has made me able to read loads, writing just helps secure my knowledge, that is also just the type of learner I am so others may not need to do that to remember :slight_smile:


It has been proven that writing things by hand increases your memory of it. I use both the basic kanji book and wanikani simultaniously.
However I do think it is very individual… For me writing by hand makes things a lot easier to remember in general.


I think it probably depends upon you, as the individual, as to what method you should use. You should also take into account your goals for learning Japanese and how your method fits into that.

I agree with some others that writing the kanji would definitely help your retention but it will also slow down your overall process. Are you trying to learn more kanji faster? Are you able to recall most of the kanji and vocab using the WK SRS at its designed pace? Then drop the writing for now and pick it back up later. If you don’t care about speed and/or going through WK too fast is giving you trouble, then slow it down and incorporate some writing practice into your routine.

The bottom line is that you have to do what works best for you. For me, personally, I want to work my way through WK almost as fast as I can because: (a) I have the time and ability to do it, and (b) I find that as I learn to read and recognize characters faster, it opens up more and more material to me that will also accelerate all other aspects of my Japanese learning. I plan on learning writing and stroke order after I finish WK and I feel that will help reinforce all the kanji and vocab that I just went through on WK.

Good luck!

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Thanks to everyone for all of the great advice!

It seems the consensus is to focus on wanikani and then come back to writing practice, where it will be WAY faster since you know and can read all of the kanji already. Or a compromise where on a case-by-case basis I should practice writing if a particular character gives me trouble.

My goal is similar to yours, @bmore84 : I want to become fluent as soon as possible (over the next 2 years) and I agree with your logic: Use wanikani to get all of the kanji and vocab down, so that everything else in my Japanese study becomes easier and easier, and THEN, go back later and learn stroke order after my brain has each kanji etched in and memorized already. Seems like it’ll be much easier then, as opposed to slowing down the process now.

In addition to wanikani, I’m also using fluentU and the iKnow! app daily, and having 2-3 sessions on italki per week.

ガンバってよ!みなさん!〜〜本当にありがとうございました!〜:laughing: 全部の答えに!

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True @talverb and I feel because I wrote out those first 400+ kanji by hand a zillion times I know them better than my abc’s! But I do feel that focusing on wanikani right now to speed up my reading of everything will make it even easier to come back to writing later. (I’m going to try it for a month and see how I feel, If it feels like I miss writing or need it for better retention I’ll definitely add it! Basic Kanji book series is still awesome~~~)

Personally if I was already 400+ kanji and speak at an intermediate level I would use Anki as an SRS system of new Kanji you discover from native materials and keep using your other methods for learning to write. I feel overall you will learn the kanji faster in real situations than in isolation.

Seems like you have it all sorted! No harm in testing something new. And I do agree that the writing part may slow you down. I just found that I would rather take it a bit slower and be able to both write and read. But I see no harm in speeding it up by focusing on reading first and then coming back to writing later on. (⌒▽⌒) Good luck!!

Personally, I think you can throw away those books/methods, but shouldn’t completely drop writing from your practice. It’s a good way to understand better each character and also helps reinforcing what you’ve learned.

I just wouldn’t recommend to focus on stroke order that much. For the most part kanji have a very predictable writing pattern, and if you already know 400+ kanji, you probably have a pretty good sense on what to expect. Or at least you should…

Back when I started WK, I had a similar background as yours: 5+ years of Japanese, around 1000 studied kanji, but hadn’t actively studied for about 3 years. What I do now is focusing more on the stroke order of radicals rather than every kanji. I usually just check kanji/radical strokes when I’m unsure (which stroke comes first?), have no idea on how to write them, or want to check how they should properly look (for that I like to use the database on wwwjdic). To be honest, I don’t practice handwriting, I do it mentally while learning meaning and readings.

I draw all WaniKani kanji on AnkiDroid.

In addition to drawing Kanji, I also drew all 214 Kangxi radicals. I don’t draw any WaniKani radical at all.

Also, I have read RTK before at some point, although I didn’t finish it.

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It really depends on exposure though. WK is great for putting kanji in front of you, forcing you to learn meaning and different readings and offering some vocab and examples alongside. I think I was probably way over 400 and already spoke fairly well when I started a few months back, I’ve not seen too many as yet I don’t recognise, but just for the structure and discipline I think WK is worth it. Then hanging everything off that ie further vocab, listening, grammar, reading, text books etc has really helped me formalise and extend what I already had.

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Writing helps reinforce what you learn via WaniKani. And while it’s true that you can “write” with your computer, being able to write out the kanji by hand is a valuable skill to have; especially if you live in Japan.

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I think it all comes down to time constraints. If you have all the time in the world, why not write the kanji to reinforce your memory and have that skill. If you are more focused on achieving comprehension in a shorter time, I recommend dropping writing.

I studied Japanese in University for one year, learning ~200 kanji that I was able to write pretty consistently. In less than one year of Wanikani, I’m already up to 900 kanji.

I couldn’t imagine getting through my ~200 daily reviews writing out the kanji every time I came across them.

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After reading everyone’s insightful responses and ruminating on it for a few days, I’ve decided to do BOTH. I realize now that some of you guys thought I meant to practice writing out all of the WaniKani kanji as they came up, but what I meant was to keep the two practices completely separate.

Meaning: I’ll do all of my wanikani kanji, radicals, and vocab SOLELY on the computer and app (with no handwriting whatsoever) and then SEPARATELY I’ll use the basic/intermediate kanji books to learn and write those DIFFERENT kanji as THEY arise.

This way I get the best of both worlds, and I’m coming at it from two different sides. This will allow the full effectiveness of wanikani while also improving my writing skills and reinforcing and strengthening my overall kanji knowledge, memory and retention by using writing. In addition, I’ve already been using the Henshall book on remembering kanji and luckily enough, it just so happens that he uses the same mnemonic type system of making stories about the radicals to help you remember. So there’s no conflict or potential mental confusion going forward. In fact, each system will help the other.

Also, I know the power of writing to help aid retention, and I’m a big proponent in using all three learning styles!

And, to answer a few poster’s questions, I DO have the time to devote to both practices. But, by not writing any of the WaniKani kanji out by hand, I still get to go as fast as possible through the program.

In conclusion, thanks again for the replies; they helped tremendously!! :smiley:


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You sound like me, this was a post I can see starting and ending the way you did. :slight_smile:

I totally plan to be able to write kanji as well, with correct stroke order and all. Separately from WK.

Now that I’m level 10, I don’t write as much as I planned, but I still have a writing session maybe once a week. By far WaniKani takes the priority over writing.

When you do write, to make the most of the writing, don’t write a character more than 3 times in a row at once, give thought to each character and then move on to the next character. You can go back, but just make sure you’re not mindlessly writing the same thing over and over.

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This is exactly what I do Rooky

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