On'yomi & Kun'yomi... Which is which!? ;-;

Hi, first off, I’m sorry… I’m sure this question has been asked before, but after reading some related questions, I still seem to be having issues with readings.

I’ve just started with WaniKani and things are going great! But not everything… I’m getting almost 100% of my radical mnemonic reviews correct, but I keep having issues with kanji and vocabulary readings: I’m always mixing up the on’yomi and kun’yomi readings! I’ve read some helpful hints such as “vocabulary that have okurigana use the kun’yomi readings” and “jukugo vocabulary(two or more kanji with no okurigana) use the on’yomi readings”.

Now, these concepts kind of make sense to me(even though some helpful hints like these aren’t always 100% true), but I have a bit of a hard time remembering which reading is the kun’yomi reading and which is the on’yomi. When you guys are studying kanji and vocabulary, are you also memorizing which readings are which? Is there something I’m missing?



You honestly get a feel for which is which after a while. There are sound combinations which only occur in on’yomi, and there are sound combinations which only occur in kun’yomi. For example, こう, しん, and やく are all on’yomi, while うえ, くち and かわ are all kun’yomi, and I can pretty much tell that at a glance.

In the end, though, I’m not entirely sure it’s helpful to remember “this is kun’yomi” and “this is on’yomi” and so forth - instead, remember that, say, 人口 is read as じんこう, and 川口 is read as かわぐち, and so forth. Native Japanese students aren’t even taught the difference at school until they’ve got several years of vocab under their belts.


I’ll take note when learning the words and I’m starting to see patterns that help when guessing a reading, but it’s not something I particularly focus on. Doesn’t seem nearly as important at this stage in my learning compared to the focus some people put on it.

I usually recommend that beginners don’t actively think about it. It’s one of those things that just eventually gets acquired by feel over time. If you are particularly interested in the details of kanji, then don’t feel like you have to stop yourself from checking though.

I would note that there are some readings that will always be impossible to tell without checking, if they are one kana, but you can deal with those as you come to them.


I see, that makes sense. So for now, I’ll just do my best to try to remember which readings vocabulary and kanji consisting of the same kanji use. Hopefully I can start catching on eventually!