My Experience with Remembering the Kanji

Once I hit 31 I decided to shift my focus from Kanji to other parts of Japanese like Grammars and Vocabularies, but at the same time i didn’t want to encounter a kanji I know next to nothing about. That’s why i decided to start using Remembering The Kanji, since I already know most of the Frequently Used Kanji, all I need to know about the rest is just a simple hint, and what Remembering The Kanji promised to give me was enough for me

Sadly, I was wrong. I found the keywords the book gives me harder than the kanji themselves, moreover, most of these keywords are word i don’t know as a non native English speaker. I forced myself to go through it, i skipped all the kanji i already know but found A LOT that i didn’t know even early on the book, some of which I’ve never seen at all before.

Maybe it’s because i used to Wanikani, or maybe i demand more, but I found myself searching for words that has thoes kanji so i can better know thier meaning, and before I know it, I’m now spending time on Kanji even more than before.

So yeah, looks like I’m going to continue learning kanji on Wanikani


Can you give an example of a kanji from an early chapter of Heisig that you’d never seen before?


Ohh, such a nice post :slight_smile: Thanks for sharing.


The earliest would be these two, yeah they are visually easy but i don’t remember ever seeing them before. I would definitely remember given how unique they look


Hmm I agree with you that it’s odd to introduce these kanji at the beginning of your kanji journey. WK puts them in level 50+, and I can see why. I don’t even remember the last time when I said “convex” or “concave” in English (or any other language).

But it’s probably Heisig trying to lure kanji noobs to seeing that, hey, kanji can be quite visual. 人 looks like person! 木 looks like a tree! Concave looks concave and convex looks convex! ZOMG! :rofl:


I’m started doing Heisig in May and I’ve found it fairly simple (but tedious to do). As I am non native english speaker and do not really understand all the nuances between Heisig’s keywords, I have resulted to other resources like Kanji Portraits or OK辞典 to check the actual etymology (if it exists) and come up with a keyword in my own language. If the kanji’s meaning is tied to a Japanese word I’m actually familiar with, I might add that to the mnemonic. So yeah, I am doing a rather heavily modified version and adding new cards take quite a lot of research.

To my understanding he point of RTK 1 is to just get a rough understanding of what each kanji means and familiarize oneself with the structure. But it is good to be critical since some Heisigs keywords are quite nonsensical. (Not to say that all WKs keywords for radicals are correct either…, but it appears that WK is mostly better in this sense.)

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My recollection is that Heisig uses a unique keyword for every single kanji, right?

I think that’s where some of the confusing words might creep in. In reality, it’s quite common for kanji to share almost the exact same meaning with other kanji, and on a site like WK, there’s no issue with that. Just give them the same meaning. But putting the restriction on them that they all have to be a unique word means you can’t reuse a common word even it’s the easy-to-understand, most obvious meaning of the kanji.


I only know these kanji (meanings, not readings) because I saw them on a road sign on my way home from a ski/snowboard resort this past winter, and they were so jarring to see for the first time that I immediately googled them. The context was 凹凸, describing the road conditions. It basically meant bumpy/rough/uneven road, but I haven’t seen it since. Definitely not a super common pair either way.


Personally, I see those kanji very frequently when I’m driving around my area. I didn’t know they were level 50+ though - I’ve been waiting for them to appear in the earlier levels since they are visually quite simple.
Now I’m kinda disappointed that I’ll have to wait so long :upside_down_face:


I tried going through Heisig twice before I jumped into WaniKani - I actually enjoyed it, although it did nothing for helping me read anything. The first time I got to about 1,200 and the second time around 600; both times it was time consuming and ultimately fruitless.

I found exactly two applications of Heisig that were helpful in my life. First, I met a middle-aged, jobless pot-head who showed me his tattoo of 傑 that made me lol and he was like “Dude, what?” (WaniKani also helps with demystifying people’s awful tattoos.) And I wowed my former Japanese teacher one day when we met for lunch and I wrote a few kanji and she was all “JOOOUZU DESU NE”. Otherwise? Stick with WaniKani.

Related, good for lols - Hanzis Matter


I just remembered now that those two kanji (in either order) can mean “bumpy” or “bumpy road” :rofl:


The inaka life has many a bumpy road… both literally and figuratively.

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Hmm, since high school math and physics classes those came up all the time. Specifically when studying derivatives or lenses/mirrors.

I read this post in a very soft, childlike voice at first. Profile pic effect…

Thank you. Yes, high school was the last time I said “convex” or “concave” :rofl:


OH! That’s what the two puzzle pieces mean. That makes sense. BUT… how do you read them? (Which is why I won’t purchase RTK.)

Are you just making the point that lack of readings is a weakness of RTK vol 1? Or did you really want to know? 凸凹 is でこぼこ. 凹凸 is おうとつ.

The way I remember which is which is, if you turn them 90 degrees to the right and they look like DB, then it’s でこぼこ (DekoBoko). If it’s BD, then it’s not でこぼこ, so it must be おうとつ, the onyomi readings.


Is this indicative of an approach that splits up learning meaning and reading?

I agree that that makes learning more difficult than need be. I really appreciate Wanikani including both the meaning and a reading in the introduction of the kanji. The mnemonics help too. (I don’t always use them, but they sometimes prove invaluable for remembering the kanji’s meaning or reading early on.)

Really, the only thing that Wanikani’s missing is writing practice, which obviously it can’t enforce. (Or … it could, I guess, as some kind of dedicated tablet app. Which would be really cool but is also ridiculously out of scope.)


I have been doing both Heisig and WK simultaneously for the past month, but I began with Heisig. The difference is, and this is key, I’m not actually using the book (even though I own it and use it from time to time).

I’m using Anki with a deck that has both Heisig’s comments and Kanji Koohii’s top 2 stories for those kanji.

Heisig’s order is almost flipped from WK’s, some very basic kanji will be introduced in the last portion of Heisig’s book, but the point he tries to make is precisely that Kanji with basic meaning comes after kanji with basic form. The way he builds up introducing Kanji from simpler radicals or primitives has been invaluable to me and my study partner. I couldn’t thank him enough. It’s made nearly every Kanji I’ve been encountering seem visually simple and familiar, even when I do not know the meaning. It stopped being overwhelming, and I can build my own stories through those primitives in a much more intuitive way than with what WK offers as Radicals.

As with most things, they are truly complementary and so I wouldn’t put one above the other. It just takes a little bit of tweaking and knowledge to study it in a more efficient way.


I started using RTK earlier this year and finished 1 in about 3 months. I can understand your frustrations, especially as a non native English speaker, but the book is really great at learning to write kanji and it is only great at that one thing. If you try to use it for anything other than writing kanji I can understand why it would be a bad experience.

I think RTK is best after completing WaniKani when you have a very solid understanding of kanji. It has made a huge difference for me in using RTK. RTK’s method of having you create your own stories works much better in my opinion. I can remember almost all of them, but can only remember a few from WaniKani. The hardest part about RTK is sticking to it and forcing yourself to do it everyday, but I think it is a great method and very useful for learning to write kanji.