Not being able to read Kanji, even though you know Kanji?

When its stylized, dont focus on just how it looks and instead try and decipher the radicals used. Using that method, I knew all the ones you listed. 言 I just sort of got away with knowing that was the only option. But for…say 首, if you ignore all of the upward sloping lines between the horizontal ones it becomes pretty obvious. It will get easier over time because you will know, for some, “oh there is only one kanji that looks like that” even if you couldn’t instantly recognize it like normal.


Thanks, look like a neat tool, but imagine I’m completely useless when it comes to coding etc… is there a way to download and install this script easily, when I click on the link it gives me a page of code.



The font randomizer is great. I always install good Japanese fonts on my computer when I find them.

When the page of code comes up, the script should load automatically. There are step by step instructions around.

Writing practice helped me a lot. My own bad writing helps me recognize other roughly written Japanese.


I am far from knowing all the Kanji, but I experienced this with Katakana and Hiragana as well when I was in Japan and now with Kanji.

For the hiragana and katakana writings, I’ve been using Real Kana:

Just check all the fonts on the Extra tab, then go to the Hiragana/Katakana tabs to check all the characters you’ve learned, and click the Study tab to begin.

EDIT: I forgot to mention, this misses a lot of the combo katakana used for foreign words. I’ve been supplementing this shortcoming with the Real Kana iOS app

They have a Real Kanji app as well, but I haven’t tried it:


This is where learning the stroke order for the kanji rather than just recognition comes in handy. Despite having some of the strokes merged together, you can still understand the overall direction and it helps make out which strokes they would have been in a neater handwriting.

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This is also why those captcha things work so well. Humans learn to recognize similar patterns with enough exposure … computers are just getting there.

In reference to the photo you posted—this is cursive that directly takes its form from the stroke order of these specific kanji. While these forms might look crazy to the average online learner, if you understand the basic stroke order of these characters, you will probably be able to easily understand these (and others) by following along.

Anyway, I just noticed the poster above me said something similar, so here’s something to help you get started on understanding some stroke order if you haven’t touched it before:

It’s just a matter of familiarity.

Yes; I also struggle the first few times I encounter a kanji in a typeface dissimilar from Wanikani (or from a book I’ve learned a kanji from, etc.). When you’re learning to read kanji, a big part of what you’re doing is training yourself to recognize shapes, and when those shapes change, what do you think happens to your ability to quickly assess and categorize it?

Luckily, all it takes is a few encounters with those different typefaces to get your brain to register the similarities rather than the differences. As with anything else, you just have to train yourself, and there’s no way through that but doing.

Now, when they’re calligraphy-based? There are some shortcuts that can help, like learning how different strokes are rendered in calligraphy, but that’s something that will probably take a bit of dedicated study.

Ironically, most captchas you see these days are actually feeding a deep-learning algorithm somewhere. It’s quite a brilliant idea: get humans to tell you what’s in the picture, then compare the responses to other humans for the sake of confirming you’re human, and feed the aggregate responses from humans into a deep-learning algorithm so you can teach a computer what’s in a picture.

Think about that the next time it asks you two questions in a row, even though you’re sure you answered it right the first time. They can give you one image where the answer is well-established previously, and a second one where they need more data. So, they confirm you are human with one question, and get you to assist with machine training via a second question (not necessarily in that order).


I never considered that, but of course it makes sense, @rfindley.
As I was thinking about those captcha things when I posted that, lots of stuff went through my head, like how the ways of weeding out bots has changed in the last 15 years, and how long will it be until we run out of ways to distinguish between a machine and a human.
I have been thinking this in an amateur hobby kind of way ever since I first read GEB in maybe 1980. Self-driving cars and facial recognition that really works are big hurdles that I guess are already here.
So, if machines are learning mostly learning about human communication through social media, they have lots of opportunity to learn. I wonder how long until the big giant hurdle of a bot that can communicate in more than a twittery way with a human that is out to distinguish between machine and human?

Wow, I’d been using the font randomizer that was with the rest of the WK extensions I found, but taking this extra step to drill with wildly different fonts will go a long way towards genuine reading comprehension. Thanks!

The more you read, the easier it gets.
The ones you picture above are not difficult to read if you are familiar with the stroke order. (Do you understand what I mean by that?) When you write kanji with the correct stroke order, it embeds another layer of information about it in your brain, I guess.
Cursive becomes really hard when it gets “artistic” and they are using a brush.

Really, in my experience, if you yourself learn to write the characters by hand, the sroke patterns will become ingrained in your brain, and all forms of flowing script become easier to read. If you want the ultimate experience with this, don’t always pull your pen/pencil all the way off the page, so it leaves connecting strokes behind, which helps when trying to read those fonts you posted earlier.

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i’ve had this issue but… very rarely. if it’s something super important then it’s usually something i’m able to read. more calligraphy styled kanji tends to be on things that aren’t as important that i’d need to know within a few seconds, so i’d have time to look at it and usually after a bit of looking i can decipher what it is given i know the kanji in the first place.

also i honestly don’t think i’ve ever seen kanji written in the second way in the example you posted? maybe i’m wrong but those almost seem to completely forgo stroke order and i’ve seen some pretty hard to decipher kanji in the past but never ones that draw three strokes in one (like with the 言 there) :thinking:

I also second that you try the Jitai add-on, but be sure to add on some really sloppy fonts so that you get a chance to see really loose handwriting. Doing my reviews with different fonts really helped me get more used to the variety of styles out there. I can’t say that I’m now accustomed to reading handwriting, but some handwriting looks more readable than it did before.

I have this problem all the time! And not just with kanji! Kana can be pretty hard for me to decipher as well. I’ve been taking Japanese classes for the last year and a half, and so I get a lot of homework back with handwritten notes by teachers. And it’s always been a struggle to read what they’ve written, not because the language they use is terribly difficult or even that their handwriting is bad, but because not having grown up in Japan I have very little exposure to actual Japanese handwriting. My wife is Japanese, and of course if I show her any handwritten notes that I can’t figure out, she can read them instantly.

Handwritten Japanese varies quite a bit. Some people form their letters and characters very carefully, but in general there are many stylistic differences from printed text just as there are with roman letters. Conversely when I’ve been in Japan and written something down in English (such as my address) for people there, even though my handwriting is perfectly legible in North America, people sometimes asked me to rewrite with extremely careful printing.

Side note: there’s a big difference between North American handwriting and European handwriting as I discovered when trying to input my French Airbnb host’s 42+ character wifi passcode that was handwritten in a notebook. That was a challenge!

I would be very interested in taking a course or finding a site online where I could learn to read and write (but especially read) actual Japanese handwriting. If anyone has links to good “handwriting style” Japanese fonts, please share!

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