Mnemonics, really?

I am not sure if it is a good idea to learn different mnemonics for all these Kanjis. This could be really confusing.


I can’t imagine the pain of just basing your learning through mnemonics alone. Based on what you said, you may have missed out on the “application” part of your learning if recalling meanings/readings take too much time, so doing other stuff instead of kanji alone may help (listening is fun). But that’s just my two cents.

I see brutally honest comments already, but I hope to hear more of your progress from you here!
:sweat_smile: WK has helped me read news articles already even as a slow learner!

Edit: Welcome to the community!


yh in terms of writing/recalling self made mnemonics are great. sadly my writing is so bad that in the last 8 years iv used a pen only once- not many opportunities to practice that skill. Even my teachers always asked me to bring printed pdf files of my homework.

1 Like

I thought my writing is bad for the last couple of years, but now I just decided to be able to write the Jouyou Kanjis and after only one month of training it is much better. No anxiety left. In the end it seems it is just necessary to decide to being able to write.


The real question is “How could you learn Kanji for two years but never actually use them?” :thinking:


A lot of replies mention reading (which I agree with 100%).

Many replies hint that spending two years learning kanji without getting into reading shows a lack of direction in learning Japanese.

Following these, I recommend reading through the Refold web site. (It’s for language learning in general, so it doesn’t go into anything Japanese-specific.)

Start by reading through their Simple Guide for Stage 0, Stage 1, and Stage 2A. You can go back and read the Detailed Guide for those stages later, and you can save reading 2B and beyond for when you’ve reached Stage 2A in learning Japanese.

How well you do in reading will be directly related to how much grammar you’ve learned. I think the Refold method is geared more to jumping into reading, and looking things up as you go. (This is essentially what I did for learning grammar, alongside watching Cure Dolly’s videos on youTube.)

To help ease yourself into reading, I highly recommend joining the Absolute Beginner Book Club here on the forums. We’re starting a new manga in a couple of weeks, which you can buy digital.

Once you get to know the basics of Japanese grammar, reading should become quite a bit easier. However, you’ll want to learn the readings for kanji rather than just knowing the meanings. You can subscribe to WaniKani to start learning them, and see whether than will work for you. Or, you can start putting together a vocabulary deck in Anki to start learning the readings.

If you’ve never watched anything in Japanese, you should start doing so, so you can get used to how the language sounds. If you’ve already watched shows in Japanese quite a bit, you’re good here.

If you start reading soon, learn grammar as you go, and keep at reading every day, you will see improvements including in kanji recognition. The brain is a pattern recognition machine, and you’ll start recognizing kanji that comes up again and again, and in what kind of contexts it appears.

Reading will be slow at first (could take an hour to get through a few manga panels, including time to learn the grammar used). But if you read daily, then after a year you will see substantial progress. (Many first-time readers see amazing progress by the end of their first book club manga volume read.)


The more things you can associate with the word, the more connections are made in the brain to help you get to that word faster. If you were only using RTK, you pretty much only have the mnemonics to get you to the word, which is why you were only getting that word to come up through them. In wanikani, you have the mnemonic, the word meaning, several readings, vocabulary that use the kanji, example sentences and the audio recordings that all get associated with that meaning in the brain giving you more material for your brain to trace back to that word meaning. Reading is also important as it gives your brain more material to associate with the kanji and vocabulary you learn.

If you use all tools wanikani offers you in lessons, I don’t think you will have the same issues you had with rtk.


Lots of comments on this thread so I’ll keep it short, but as someone who got into using mnemonics years ago for memory competitions… they’re used for short term memorization and potential long term recall. The idea when applied to actually learning things is to treat the mnemonics as a middle man, and nothing more. When you see the kanji 火 and the associated image is a car on fire, you shouldn’t keep this in your mind for the rest of your life.

At the start it’s “火 → car on fire → [fire]” (where [word] is meaning of “word”). When you see it enough, you want to habitually get rid of the mnemonic. They aren’t meant to be held on to, but as time goes on your memory will lose the meaning of things so they’re helpful to remember, but you won’t need to if you read and listen to material enough. As you expose yourself to more and more material, the common kanji will become “instantaneous” and the mnemonics secondary.


Wow so many replies in such a short time. Wanikani seems to have such a vibrant and helpful community ! Thank you for taking the time to write all this. I’ve been reading all the replies with great interest.

Just to clarify how I proceeded to learn the kanji. I used the website which is very much like Wanikani except that it’s based on Heisig and only teaches the meanings. It has a built-in SRS system which I used daily to train the kanji.

Perhaps the problem I have with SRS is, it presents you with a kanji just when you’re on the verge of forgetting it. That’s the basic idea of an SRS : to present you with as few reviews as possible so that an item stays in memory. But personally, when I’m on the verge of forgetting a kanji, I have to rely on the mnemonics because that’s what my brain uses as a last resort. So the SRS I used trained the mnemonics, never instantaneous recall of the most frequent kanji. Perhaps that’s where reading actual Japanese helps, as many replies pointed out.


This right here is why I think mnemonics are BS. Takes more time and effort to learn a stupid story in order to then remember the kanji/word/etc than just remembering the word simply by looking at it.

1 Like

TBH I am really pissed with this one 抜ける

This one is to be extracted. You’re not doing the extracting. Why? Because you really don’t care (ける).

oh, come on!

it breaks all the other menonics when there is a ける, usually it meant you care so you do the action, but not this one.

it will be my eternal leech I see.