On'yomi/ Kun'yomi confusion

Hi everyone! I’ve just started a few days ago and I’m a little confused about something.

I’ve learned the first few kanji, including the one for mouth. During one of the reviews it occurred to me that I had a written flash card at home for mouth that had a different pronunciation. The one I have learned so far through WaniKani is “koo”, but the flash card which represents a self instruction book I’m going through concurrently for Japanese, has “kuchi”.

I took a look at more information on the kanji symbol on the WaniKani site, and sure enough there are two ways to pronounce it. The On’yomi is “koo” while the Kun’yomi is “kuchi”.

I’m very new to Japanese, so don’t actually know what on’yomi and kun’yomi means, but on the site, the Konami is greyed out, and not part of the mnemonics in any way. Therefore, it seems like all I need to learn at this moment is the on’yomi pronunciation.

I’d be okay with this and wouldn’t need to question it right now except for the fact that when I scroll down a little bit farther underneath the mnemonics was a short list of vocabulary that uses this kanji. There are five listed in the Found Vocabulary section, and out of those 5 only 1 of them uses the actual On’yomi that I learned through the site with the mnemonics.

So I’m confused. Am I learning the pronunciation that is the most helpful? By the time I get to the vocabulary will I have learned the second pronunciation? I just want to make sure I’m doing this right and not making things harder for myself, but it is a little confusing for this beginner. Thanks everybody!

1 Like

I know the difference and this are 1st grade Kanji’s still there is NO REASON to make something wrong and make you loose ALL PROGRESS because sometimes Wanikani want’s San instead of Yama. This is ridiculous, if you’re doing 100 kanji in a row and WK suddenly feels like asking for Onyomi and you’re in a hurry, you’ll get it wrong. This ruins the whole thing for a lot of people and I find it insulting all you do is to link to Onyomi/Kunyomi definitions when this is not the problem at all.


@Zeriel The problem is not with WK, it is with you. So stop being an asshole and attacking this site. If you feel the need to act like a child, do as all a favor, and leave.


Don’t worry too much about it. Just learn the reading that WK presents to you at the beginning, and later they would introduce you the other one at a good time :slight_smile:

For the meaning of kun’yomi and on’yomi, just follow the article presented above by DaisukeJigen

I don’t think WK ever wants さん instead of やま… for kanji you can answer with either and for vocab only やま is right.

1 Like

You’re overreacting bro, if I remember correctly, regarding Kanjis, if you introduce the pronunciation that WK doesn’t want, WK will correct you and ask for the one that they want you to introduce


WK wants on’yomi for kanji and kun’yomi for vocab. The reason kun’yomi isn’t accepted for kanji is because you need to show that you understand the difference between the kanji and the vocab.


If this is the type of mindset you have at level 2…Good luck! Have fun when you start running into several exceptions for the same kanji! Amazing how language doesn’t work the way you want it to or the way that makes the most sense to you.

1 Like

Thanks for actually being helpful I’ll keep that in mind

1 Like

This is only a problem if you don’t actually know the word… And then you should learn it :slight_smile:

If it is Vocabulary 山 then you know that the word for mountain will always be やま (you can’t say “I want to climb a さん today”, right? Because that’s not the Japanese word for mountain.

On the other hand, if it’s Kanji 山 then WK is just asking for a reading for the kanji, in this case the one they’ve deemed most common/useful (さん). If you were to forget yourself and enter やま instead then it won’t punish you, just shake and ask for the on’yomi instead. Simple.


Oh shit son, this dude it way smarter than us. We should all bow down to his greatness.

(Although, I don’t think ‘asshole’ and ‘whiny child’ should be counted as languages)


A Kanji and a word with that Kanji in it (even if it’s just that Kanji) are not the same thing.

If you can’t recognize that you will struggle, a lot.


I wasn’t talking to you and I guess you don’t have much self esteem if you’re so easily threatened.
Anyway I didn’t come here to exchange insults. I’m showing my support to OP

I’ve had this confusion too before when about to start WK and I guess the more you progress (and see example) the more you’ll understand. These are the notes I took while learning from TextFugu, hope it helps:



おん reading is the original Chinese character reading that was imported to Japan through hunderds of hunderds of years can cause them to have multiple reading.

おん reading primarily use when there is a combo-kanji (Jukugo) with no ひらがな attached .


くん reading, on the other hand, is the originial Japanese reading. くん reading primarily use when a kanji is a vocab/ word on its own or combo-kanji attached with ひらがな (Okurigana).

Reading for 木 is もく(On’yomi) and き(Kun’yomi);
- Thurdsay・もくようび「木曜日」
- Apple Tree・りんごのき「りんごの木」

Reading for 食 is;
- Dinner・ゆうしょく「夕食」 (On’yomi)
- To Eat・たべます「食べます」 (Kun’yomi)


- For body parts, normally くん reading take priority.
- For person's family name with combo-kanji still use くん reading.
- All of the above will have some exception on some cases.

Yes it is confusing. But not totally unreasonable. When a kanji stands alone as a vocab it means one thing and usually has the kun-yomi reading. When a kanji is connected to another kanji it means something else and uses the on’yomi reading almost always, when a kanji is connected with hiragana it also means something else and usually uses the kun’yomi.

I find that the hardest ones to remember are vocab where the kanji stands alone because it looks the same as the kanji. When a kanji in a vocab is connected to other kanji or hiragana you have context to alert you to the right reading.

One thing that might help you is placing the vocab in a sentence. Like the yama example matilda gave. 山に上ります. I will climb the mountain. That way you can remember that if you see it alone in a sentence that is the reading you need. Then memorize the sentence like a mnemonic and wherever you see purple you know to think of that sentence. Wanikani gives you sample sentences when you learn the vocab but you can also find them by visiting the vocab page.

Hope that helps.


Simply, you have to pay attention to the word “Kanji” and “Vocabulary” in front of the word “Reading” in bold.

34 PM

Vocabulary is the real thing. Kanji is just a pictogram representation with too many exceptions.

If you ask what Kanji reading you have to remember, you have to remember not only Kun and On, but also exceptional readings.

The website just make sure you remember at least one reading, not zero reading when you started to remember the Kanji. The best way to drill is let’s not switch back and forth between multiple readings.

Remember one reading first, and let SRS do the magic.

Most kanji, especially in earlier levels, you have to remember both Kun and On, in the end, anyway.

For example,

Best remembered, こう
On reading: こう as in 旅行(りょこう)
Kun reading: い as in いく; おこな as in おこなう
Exceptional reading: 流行る (はやる)
In names: と

There is also things called Ateji and reading in names, which you might learn later.


Thank you everybody who helped to clear up my confusion as a total beginner of this language. I’m not gonna worry about it for now and just keep on learning! Thanks!


Most of the confusion of beginners comes from mistaking a kanji for a word. If you are an English speaker, then the idea that a symbol that is more or less the equivalent of a letter can have meaning to it seems strange, but that’s the way of many Asian languages. So, much like our letters, kanji have several ways they are often pronounced, and WaniKani doesn’t punish you for giving the wrong one when asked about the KANJI (ie: when the background is pink it’s asking about the kanji).

Words are only pronounced one way. There are very few English words with only one letter, so this is a bit new to native English speakers because there are a LOT of words in Japanese which are only one kanji. When WaniKani is asking you about a word, the background is purple/dark blue. There is only one way to pronounce a word, so giving an On’yomi reading when the word uses the Kun’yomi of the kanji is just plain wrong.

Eventually, WaniKani teaches you both readings of the kanji, but it doesn’t throw them both at you at once. It teaches one reading with the kanji, then shows you other readings by teaching you words that use those readings.

This has all been said before, but i had a few minutes so I said it again.


Dude, you need to calm the F down. If you don’t like the way WaniKani works, then no one is forcing you to use it. And if you don’t want to take the time to learn the way WaniKani works, then that is not our fault. People are getting frustrated at you because all you want to do is complain that WaniKani is so terrible and you are SOOOO smart. Also, I don’t think you are really trying to support the OP, you just want another place to shitpost.