Name mnemonics

This is another complaint. Reasonable or not, here it is.

Having names as mnemonics is exceedingly unhelpful. Case-in-point: horse. Uma. 馬. うま.

The mnemonic?

“Imagine someone riding a horse. Who is that person? It’s Uma (うま) Thurman, the famous actress.”

I’ve no idea who that is, but even if I did… how am I to remember which person it is? Same with all other mnemonics involving names. “Oh, I know this! It was… Ricky. No, John! No, Hanna! No, Sara! No, Jack! No, Jo! No, Anne! No, Bob! No, Goobagooba!”

You might as well have, with the horse example, “Imagine a horse. This horse is named Uma.” or “The sound a horse makes? It’s not uma.” The latter might actually be better, because it’s silly and stupid.

Complaint over.


Would this help then?
(I couldn’t come up with a convincing sound-based mnemonic. Sorry.)

1 Like

This is Uma Thurman:


No, sorry.

I don’t find then that unhelpful.
When it’s a famous person that you know, well it is definitely helpful. And if you don’t know the person, it can still be useful when you picture it in you mind. Like Mrs Chou is a fictious character but that’s still helpful to me to remember.

I don’t use all the mnemonics from wanikani, sometimes I prefer to make my own but I don’t think name mnemonics are less helpful than others.


Supossedly you should be picturing Uma Thurman riding the horse or whoever other person they’re using. I actually find them ok, I haven’t really had many leeches from that kind of mnemonics. I’m still at a low level, though.

If you’ve ever seen Kill Bill, this is Uma Thurman:

Or Pulp Fiction:

Or… Batman and Robin?

For good measure, here she is on a horse:

(Apparently she once broke a few bones in a horse riding accident, so maybe that mnemonic is not quite in good taste…)

Well, if you want an alternate mnemonic, maybe one option is the word “trauma” - pronounced in Japanese, that’s トラウマ, which sounds like とら (tiger) plus うま (horse)



I imagine that falling from a horse and breaking several bones was rather トラウマtic for 馬 Thurman


I’m not saying I need help with this kanji. I’m complaining about the use of names in mnemonics.

Ignore the mnemonic and come up with your own then? WK isn’t a personalised service. :wink:

Imagine if i complained about all the American pop culture references jammed into WK.


You can always make your own mnemonics for the ones that don’t work for you, that’s what the personal notes are for. The name ones I usually find easy to remember, though I sometimes change the person to someone else. Like Kouichi from JoJo instead of Kouchi from WK

1 Like

“A Horse Named Uma” would be a good title for a movie. Like the one with Wanda the fish.

I agree with OP somewhat. If it’s an actual person, not everyone might know them. But Mrs Chou… now that’s a persona. No one knows how she looks like, but just seeing (or imagining seeing!) Mrs Chou walking down the street should send shivers down your spine.

I think some of the name mnemonics in the grand scheme of things do make sense, because they act as an abstract key which can later be used to invoke specific phonemes.

@Risakisa it might be a good exercise to come up with your own abstract keys for the mnemonics and perhaps not only will they work more intuitively for you, but also better, because you yourself created them :slight_smile: .

1 Like

I think you could just make mnemonics for yourself. I do that a lot on Wanikani because I’m not a westerner and many mnemonics don’t help me memorize those Kanji. (Langauge barrier and cultural different I guess)

So I have my own mnemonics based on my knowledge and taste. Wanikani is just a tool to guide me to learn Kanji easier in a constructive way.

1 Like

Yeah, when you can already associate the mnemonic name with a specific person, the mnemonic is quick and easy to use. However, when it’s somebody you’re not familiar with, you need to form that connection so that you can use it in the future.

I didn’t have any particular connections to the names Jourm and Chou when I started, but they’ve settled in a lot since then.
That being said, I believe Uma is only used for this particular mnemonic, so it may not be worth spending too much time on this one.

Speaking of trauma, the word うま may actually be cognate with the English word “mare” (as in a female horse), thanks to those magnificent Proto-Indo-Europeans on their domesticated animals.
Now, that isn’t the same “mare” as is found in the word “nightmare”, but one can imagine that it is if it helps.

1 Like

i do kind of agree that using names of celebrities for the mnemonics is perhaps suboptimal. on the one hand there’s a lot of people for whom celebrities are quite irrelevant. and on the other hand a celebrity might be quite unknown outside of their field.

if one knows the celebrity, then of course that can help make the mnemonic sticky. but for those who don’t know the celebrity, it becomes just noise.

like, i am vaguely aware that Nic Cage is some kind of hollywood actor. besides that, he’s a memey answer to 国宝, and a raw sequence of syllables in 予め. i do know who The Bride is in Kill Bill, and now i know that she’s played by an Uma Thurman, but that’s all i know about her. there’s thankfully not many mnemonics which use celebrities to help them stick, but it’s a thing.

it’s not that big of a deal, i’m certain that we all sometimes have to make up our own mnemonics. but perhaps something to consider if/when the mnemonics are ever revised ^^


I often do write my own mnemonics, and even change what the right answer is for a translation (花見; “Cherry Blossom Viewing”. I changed it to “flower watching” because come on.)

My mnemonics tend to be rude and vulgar, because that’s the sort of thing I like (two guesses to what I use for “kunn”-like sounds, or “fuk-”) so I’m not keen on sharing them.

And, in fact, I did and do complain about american pop culture references.

But IMO I still have a valid complaint. I’m going to sound like a dick rude, but eh: I paid for this service, and I’d like it to function better (for me), without me needing to put in extra effort to make it so.

Bear in mind that I specifically call this a complaint, not a demand. I’m voicing my disapproval.

Hell, I’m just glad we don’t have Bill Cosby as a mnemonic


Because “cherry blossom viewing” is too wordy, or because you don’t think 花見 is that specific? Because in Japan, 花見 is almost always in reference to the viewing of sakura flowers.


I think it’s worth noting that in all the JP-JP dictionaries I’ve looked at they specifically refer to 花見 as a cherry blossom viewing as opposed to a flower viewing.

Even in Japanese poetry 花 seldom refers to anything other than a cherry blossom.

So I can only assume from that, that while 花見 is literally flower viewing, translating it as that is going to cause issues because it rarely, if ever, refers to anything other than cherry blossom viewings.

1 Like

I thought 大仏 (giant Buddha statue) seemed like an extremely obscure and specific term… until I heard Chris Broad use it literally the next day when he visited one in a YouTube video.

1 Like