🍃 Shenmue Tree - a Study "Lounge!" 🍂

Hi to anyone who wants to brave another study log :smile: I have been asking lots of questions in various threads, so I thought it would be nice for me to create my own study log to hopefully do so in a more centralized place. It’s a bit lengthy but should you choose to proceed, you need only click the arrows below!

What got me interested in Japan & Japanese Culture?

When I was a young teenager around the year 2000 I rented (yes rented) a Sega Dreamcast game called Shenmue created by Yu Suzuki. I didn’t realize it at the time, but aside from the epic story plot, the regular everyday experiences of the protagonist set in 1986 captured me. Slowly throughout my life I began daydreaming about the simplicity of that lifestyle through the lens of Shenmue’s world. Whether or not it was totally realistic didn’t matter, the fantastic story and world that Yu Suzuki created became a part of me whether I liked it or not, and it sparked my interest in Japanese antiquity and modernity! As I grew into adulthood I began learning about and appreciating true aspects of Japanese culture. Everything from teas to sushi/cuisine and even Japanese antiques - my life is full of things that show my appreciation for Japanese culture, albeit from a distance. I would like to visit Japan someday, but I am perfectly content appreciating it from afar too.

Why do I want to learn Japanese?

In my head, I still ask myself this question! I have a very poor history with foreign languages, both French and Spanish, so Japanese is a rather lofty undertaking for me. My entire education (all the way through my Master’s Degree) I sat in a classroom far too anxious to ask questions. I know I can’t do that if I want to be successful in this journey that ultimately has no destination for me other than to keep learning. I have two goals that really drive my journey at this time:

  1. Learn about Manga and be able to read it in Japanese (because I’ve never read it even in English). I would LOVE for anyone reading this to tell me about their experiences with different Manga and why you like it.
  2. Be able to play Shenmue I and II someday in Japanese and understand a fair amount dialogue without complete reliance on the subtitles. It has so many possible conversations I feel like this will be a really cool learning tool as well.
What do I have for resources?

I will certainly add to this ongoing list as acquire more tools in my toolbox, but here’s my start: (updated 1/7/2022)

  • All your lovely suggestions :slightly_smiling_face:

  • Kanji / Vocabulary: WaniKani of course! I love the SRS methodology and I really feel like I’ve been learning a lot as a beginner in these two areas. I started off too fast and I’m slowing down to utilize other resources better.

  • Torii SRS is what I finally decided on, after much consideration of the following: Anki I have looked into multiple times for flashcards, but I continued to seek elsewhere for various reasons. Kitsun was also recommended which looks great but it requires a subscription. I also explored koohi.cafe, which I liked a lot but it still didn’t feel right.

  • Grammar: I did give up on Bunpro for now, but I did learn a few things and perhaps I will give it another go in the future. Cure Dolly (YouTube) has been amazing, and I also have Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese. This area is super intimidating to me, but so far I have a few basic grammar points down. I just added Minna no Nihongo to my library as well!

  • Search Engines:
    Jisho Japanese Dictionary
    ichi.moe (for parsing sentences)
    Yomichan for scanning Japanese text on web pages. Chrome extension download here.
    Shirabe Jisho (iOS) - My personal favorite! First of all, it’s FREE - and I think it should cost a 百万. Has so many features, flash cards, etc. Very easy to draw kanji to search and is very accurate (with little accuracy required on your part). Cannot recommend this enough for iPhone/iPad users.

  • Listening / Understanding: I am hoping to find more resources for this as I continue on, but as previously stated I would like to play Shenmue in the Japanese language and understand things without subtitles. Because of Shenmue’s simplicity of conversations, I imagine this will be a good learning tool as I get further along. Perhaps a certain Anime series in Japanese would help too?! (Shenmue the Animation: Coming 2022!) I have also been introduced to VTubers for listening! Completely new to me… Thank you Yamitenshi and TokeruKonkoyo! :laughing:

  • Speaking: At this time I am not terribly focused on speaking, but I do test myself by saying things out loud and when I hear Kyoko in my reviews :smile:

  • Books:
    Minna no Nihongo + Study Guide
    Essential Kanji - Neat for Kanji reference.
    All About Particles- In depth particle reference.
    The Handbook of Japanese Verbs - Awesome for verb reference / instruction, sample senteces, etc.
    Japanese Stories for Language Learners - Seems like cool stories - also came with an audio CD. Little high for my level at the moment.

  • Manga: As I said before I would really like to learn about Manga, and I hope some of you will tell me about it! I know this will help with vocabulary and forcing me to look up Kanji. I received a couple beginner series as gifts that I’ve seen recommended - よつばと!and しろくまカフェ。I have been trudging through よつばと! and I LOVE it. I’m getting a couple pages a day read, and I have a grammar guide for the first volume that I can reference if I get really stuck.

Where I am at as of January 2022

I just reached level 7 on WaniKani a couple days ago. I am staying on top of my reviews and lessons, and I STOPPED using the Self-Study script like a maniac. I am slowing down…. For grammar - Cure Dolly / Books / Manga. For vocab - Torii SRS 10k at the moment, and I don’t foresee a switch from here on out. It’s learning common vocab without much fuss, and it does allow adding custom vocab when mine sentences in よつばと!

What are my hopes for this journal / log?

I honestly want this to be a place where ANYONE can throw questions out there like a message in a bottle and hope a kind soul takes the time to provide some guidance! I’ve really appreciated so many of you for helping me when I’ve asked questions in various other threads, especially because I have such a hard time asking them to begin with (it’s easier over the internet vs. a classroom though :slight_smile:). Again, I hope to learn about Manga from your likes and preferences. I want to hear your experiences. I want this log to capture my journey, and perhaps help some others along the way too!

If you made it through this entire thing, I am simply grateful for your time! If you would like to reply in any aspect of this, I would like that as well :slight_smile:

January 1, 2022 New Year Update Post


Good luck! It’s a long road to go and the only way to ‘finish’ is tenacity. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take breaks. I recommend you get the lifetime WK subscription while it’s on sale now. Lifetime is the only reason I’m still here after starting 4 years ago.


Good luck!

One tip: try reading as much as you can, but don’t get discouraged if it’s too much of a hassle to be worth the effort for now. Build a bit of a foundation and try again. Just pick up some simple manga, read some NHK Easy news, try graded readers, whatever works for you, but don’t expect to learn the language just from learning the individual parts.

And I recommend having a source of vocabulary to start you off. WK teaches you vocab, but it doesn’t teach you the most common or useful vocab first, it teaches you whatever vocab is good for cementing the kanji readings/meanings - and it doesn’t teach kana-only vocab at all. That means that using WK as your primary source of vocab isn’t likely to give you good results. Something like Anki with a Core2k, Core5k or Core10k deck is good, or Torii if you want something you can type in WK-style.

Though I will say, learning all 10k most common words that way is probably a waste of time. By the time you’re a few hundred words in you’re probably good to start reading simpler manga like よつばと!, at 1000-1500 I’d say you’re probably better off just learning vocab from whatever you read and listen to than you are learning more of the most common words (though, side by side is an option, of course). But just that boost from the first ~1000 words can open up a whole world of possibilities.

For listening: anything works, really, as long as it’s not too advanced to be helpful. There’s a listening practice thread with a bunch of suggestions, and if you’re even halfway interested in VTubers all you have to do is tell me what kind of content you’re like to watch and I can recommend some :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Finding JP-subbed content can be very helpful as well, because the subtitles can add some context that wouldn’t have clicked from sound along (through kanji for instance) without resorting to translations.

Games and anime can work for sure, but do keep in mind they’re not the most natural source of dialogue. But that’s not limited to games and anime - other kinds of sources vary in that - some VTubers for instance have very prominent quirks in how they speak. Just something to keep in mind, if not something to be overly worried about early on.

For manga recommendations beyond the ones you already have, I recommend the reading clubs on here. And don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a bit - if you find you can read the absolute beginner stuff fairly well, go for the beginner book clubs. If those become even a little comfortable, try an intermediate book club. No shame in dropping out if you’re out of your depth, but give it a try, you might be surprised.

And write! Get your butt to the Japanese Sentence a Day thread and write stuff. Doesn’t have to be complicated, doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful, doesn’t even have to be correct. Just write stuff. Do your best to express what you want to express, ask questions about what you’re not sure on, and if you like there are some people regularly in there who’d be willing to give you some suggestions/corrections on grammar, word choice, etc. - myself included, but as always take what I say with a grain of salt, I’m still learning too, after all :slight_smile: And if you don’t want corrections, that’s fine too - but write all the same! You might even strike up a conversation from time to time.


Thank you!!! I actually have been strongly considering a lifetime subscription, but I’m waiting to see how my finances look after the holidays are over :smile: Great idea and it makes total sense!!


Oh yes! That’s why I asked for some beginner level manga for a Christmas gift. I plan on spending a good amount of today with Yotsubato vol. 1 and my Shirabe Jisho app / looking up grammar. I suspect my phone will die at some point :smile:

This was actually huge question I had! That makes sense with WK, what exactly is Anki and “pairing” WK with Anki? Does it take technical computer knowledge to do? I am not so great with web based stuff… especially on this Chromebook.

This is what I was hoping for!

I am brand new to VTubers as of being introduced to Cure Dolly, but any suggestion you may have to start would be helpful! I don’t know the true nature of what a VTuber does ha!

Yes, as basic as the conversation is in Shenmue, the dialogue can be a little funny at times. I’m not sure if that’s the English speaking versions only, because the Japanese sounds super fluid. However, I’m not sure how well it matches up with the subtitles when all is said and done.

I’ve already joined the よつばと!reading club and hoped it would be helpful! I think it will be a while before I’m too comfortable with it, but I will definitely start taking down lists of things people suggest!

Sounds great! I also have that thread bookmarked as I have used it a couple times to test the waters.

Thanks for this in-depth reply, @yamitenshi ! I hope you don’t mind if I pick your brain in this thread from time to time :smile:


It’s basically a flashcard app. You can either add your own flashcards or use a pre-made deck from the community. Making your own flashcards is great for “sentence mining” - basically reading stuff, looking up words you don’t know, and adding them as flash cards. The community decks are great for things like the Core 2k/5k/10k - being the most common 2k, 5k or 10k words in Japanese, ordered by usage.

One caveat: it works on a self-assessment basis, so after flipping over the card you select whether it was “easy” (I knew right away), “hard” (I knew but I had to think a bit)", you got it wrong, etc. and it adjusts the SRS timing accordingly, but there’s no built in answer checking. That means you don’t get the frustration of “I made a typo” or “I used a synonym that’s not listed” - but it also means it’s easier to cheat yourself. Just something to be aware of.

The two don’t connect with each other that I know of, so I guess this just refers to using both at the same time - WK for Kanji, Anki for vocabulary.

There’s also Torii which has a few wordlists (by default it uses the core 10k but it can also do them by JLPT level for instance) and can connect to WK - I believe it can exclude vocab you learn in WK, but I’m not sure if it excludes only the vocab you already learned or all vocab that occurs in WK. I personally don’t do that - I don’t mind seeing some vocab items twice and I’m not planning to ever finish the full 10k items on the wordlist anyway.

Not really. I’m not sure how it runs on a Chromebook though, I have no experience with those, but there are bound to be instructions. Setup was simple enough when I used Anki, but I switched to Torii because I like being able to type in an answer.

There’s also Kitsun which has a fancier interface and works from the browser, which does let you type in answers and has more flexibility than Torii, but that costs some money I think.

I’d say just check out the options available, see what works for you.

In short they’re just streamers with an anime avatar, that’s the gist of it. What kind of content do you like to watch? I can recommend you some stuff based on that. It’s also gonna be based on your level a little bit - but don’t worry about that too much, I started out catching a few words here and there but got noticeably much better as time passed and I learned more Japanese.

You can always check out the VTubers thread for an impression, it’s fairly active and there’s plenty to check out. I’m convinced there’s something for everyone who’s not put off by the anime aesthetic - anything from cutesy high-pitched anime girls to guys with a voice so deep you feel it more than hear it, from high level FPS gameplay to singing to cooking to chatting streams, from absolute mind-melting chaos to chill and relaxing. I could recommend my personal favourites but those aren’t necessarily based on how good they are for listening practice, and I wouldn’t know if your tastes in content line up with mine in any way :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Consider other English-spoken games - you can learn English from The Witcher or Skyrim, but as fluid as it sounds, it’d sound weird if someone spoke like that IRL. Just keep that in mind - it’s still good practice, but don’t assume it’s natural outside the context of a game :slight_smile:

Absolutely not! Pick my brain all you like, I enjoy sharing and explaining things - more often than not I end up learning something too so everybody wins :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention: set up Yomichan! Just use the suggested dictionaries and default settings to start with. It makes life a lot easier for anything you do in the browser, because you can check the meaning of a word (and sometimes details about inflections and set phrases and such as well) just by hovering over a word you don’t know while holding shift.

You can even connect it to Anki so you can easily add the words you look up to an Anki deck. I personally don’t use that feature but it works very well for a lot of people.

Over time you can add monolingual (JP→JP) dictionaries to it as well, which can help a lot with nuances and inherent confusion in English translations (such as things seeming like synonyms when they’re not). But don’t worry about that for now, that becomes useful once you get a bit more Japanese under your belt.


Oooh I definitely like this idea! It seems quite a bit more in-depth than just doing customized self-study quizzes on my WK material.

Ah I see. I am still getting used to terminology all around. I haven’t used too many forums in the past either so I have to google a fair amount of terms too!

Same here. There are still so many silly mistakes I make from lower levels that I NEED to see it again and again (curse you 一日 :sweat_smile:)

I will definitely be looking into both and getting a feel for each one, probably coming up with a preference at some point too!

Yes I have created an account on Kitsun but wasn’t really sure how to get going with it. I didn’t see that it had a price but I will check!

I have seen that thread has a lot of activity but I have never visited it. I will check it out!

Oh I think Anime is great - I just have very little background to go on. I remember watching a lot of Dragon Ball Z and maybe some Sailor Moon as a kid… naturally Pokemon, and also Trigun when I was a little older… All were addicting but of course in English!

HAHA! I actually might prefer the cutesy stuff I think… I think that’s why I got よつばと!and しろくまカフェ - they just looked cute. But I think I could get into anything because I remember Trigun being great and not so cutesy.

I’m not much of a gamer, just my Shenmue of course! I think cooking would be excellent for me! I’m always wanting to learn more Japanese recipes and cooking techniques - I’m already an avid sushi / yakisoba / gyoza from scratch addict!

Please do! I don’t mind if they aren’t the best for listening practice at this point - at list it will introduce me to the “VTuber medium” a bit more! And I’m pretty open to all things, as long as it’s not super vulgar or raunchy :grimacing:

Yes I totally see what you’re saying! I actually just found this Shenmue intro comparison video between Japanese and English to show you - the first half is Japanese and the second is English, so feel free to skim it briefly to assess what you think!

Awesome thank you! I can tell you really enjoy giving back to the community :slight_smile: I may tag you in my journal posts that I need guidance with!

Oh I did not know about this!!! I am going to do that right now!


Okay so - I installed the Yomichan extension on Chrome and downloaded the “jmdict_english” dictionary and imported it. Now how do I use it? :sweat_smile:

Also - I am a little confused with Anki - I only see Windows/Mac/Linux installation and I’m not sure if the Linux-type-thing on this Chromebook will work with installing it. I tried but it couldn’t open the download and I am definitely not computer savvy! It does have the “Anki Web” version but it says it’s supposed to be used along with the computer version. My only thought is I could download the iPhone version to go along with it.

In terms of Torii - It also has the same issue with Windows/Mac/Linux, but it also had a Google Play option. I tried downloading that version but it wouldn’t start the download… :unamused:

I logged into my Kitsun account, and it seems great! However, you were right, it does seem to have a subscription… but I can’t seem to figure out what subscribing actually does? I seem to have access to many things without being subscribed… so maybe it’s worth using its free aspects?

Just an update! Any thoughts would be appreciated per usual :smiley:

The nice about these is that if there are any of them that you really liked, you can work toward being able to read the manga counterpart in Japanese. I finally read Sailor Moon in Japanese in the past two years.

Although most of these will take a lot of learning to become approachable, here are few previews (from a Japanese ebook store):

I think it’s good to have one manga (or other Japanese material of preference) that you take the time to go through word by word, sentence by sentence, looking up all the words and grammar you don’t know. This is because simply learning grammar will only get you so far. Actually seeing it in use lets your brain build up pattern recognition. Over time, as you see the grammar (and hear it when watching/listening to Japanese), you’ll slowly get faster at recognizing the grammar when you encounter it.

The book clubs are a great way of streamlining this process because you don’t have to look up everything, and you get explanations from more experienced learners who are able to take everything they’ve learned and distill it down to just what you need to know to understand a sentence.

Are there any genre you like for media in general? There’s plenty of genre you’ll find in Japanese media that don’t quite align with what’s available in English media, but you’ll also find a lot of overlap. For example, I like detective fiction, and I’m reading (the English release of) the Detective Conan series (called Case Closed in English). One of my targets is to re-read the series in Japanese one day. (It’s such a long series that by the time I read it in Japanese, I’ll have forgotten all the whodunit’s, and it’ll be like I’m experiencing all the cases for the first time.)

Be sure to check out the Absolute Beginner Book Club’s list of previously read series. They tend to have links to their original nomination, which includes sample pages (so you can see the art style) and a summary of what the manga is about.

As for the manga you have to start off with:

  • よつばと! will be extra difficult at first because there’s a lot of colloquial speech that you often don’t learn from typical grammar-learning resources. It’s like learning English as a second language, where you learn “cannot” and “would not”, and then you read a comic where people say “can’t” and “won’t”.

  • しろくまカフェ will be extra difficult because the humor is based on words that sound similar, so you’ll encounter a lot of very uncommon words. Granted, when you’re starting out you’re looking up every word anyway, but there’s a much lower chance that any given word you look up appears again later.

Personally, I’d recommend putting more focus on よつばと! until you build up recognition of grammar, common vocabulary, and colloquial and slang speech. But both have book clubs to lean on as resources.

Yomichan lets you view English translations for Japanese words when you view Japanese web pages. I think it was holding the shift key and moving your mouse over a word gives you the definition.

But you don’t need to just use it on Japanese websites. Even on the forums here, if someone posts something with Japanese, you can use Yomichan to see translations of the individual words.

Since you’re on a Chromebook, I highly recommend Kitsun over Anki, because although you can install Anki on your smartphone, adding cards will not be easy. It’s just a matter of cost with Kitsun.

There’s a two(?) week free trial. After that, it’s locked behind a subscription. Like with WaniKani, there’s a lifetime subscription available. I recommend trying Kitsun on a monthly subscription if you are able to, and if you find it’s a valuable resource that you’ll continue to use as a means of learning words, consider a lifetime subscription when you are able to.

You don’t need to worry about rushing in, though. Even though WaniKani will not be sufficient for general vocabulary learning, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself with too many daily flashcard reviews, or else you might burn out on it. Once you start reading, excruciatingly slow as it will be early on, you’ll start seeing common words enough that you’ll be able to learn them without using flashcards.


Now, I’ve only seen the anime and not read the manga, so I don’t know if presentation of these jokes differs, but I’ve always wondered if this particular challenge isn’t a little overstated? In the anime, the show very heavily delineates the pun chains, basically announcing “this is the part where you probably won’t know these words and don’t have to worry too much about knowing them,” plus they’re acted out so much that they’re often clear in context. If the manga is like that, I can certainly say that you won’t get the same level of enjoyment (needing a joke explained and all that) but it’s not a real impediment to reading.

Of course, I think the bit you left unstated is that every manga that exists has very valid reasons to say it will be extra difficult at first, haha. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! These are good warnings to have, but whatever you read, you’ll be ok. I spent a lot of time overthinking how to get started and got overly worked up on how for every person who says Yotsubato is the best place to start, there’s someone saying Yotsuba can’t speak Japanese properly, there are old people using dialects and being a pain to read, the manga throws you into words like “global warming” almost immediately… and I mean, yeah. Both groups are right haha. Whatever you start with (within reason), you’ll be ok, as long as you really work at it.

I don’t know anything about Kitsun, but I also hate the Anki app a whole lot; it causes me nothing but problems every time I have to be away from home for a full day and use it, so I’d second this on that basis alone.


What I mean on this one is the difficulty is that you’re repeatedly being exposed to words that you may never see again. (Volume one of this manga was my second-ever manga I read in Japanese.) Yotsuba on the other hand, a lot of words you encounter either show up repeatedly within the same chapter, or show up often throughout the manga.

I’m only speaking in comparison between these two (Shirokuma Café and Yotsuba). As you say, whatever one starts with, it will be extra difficult.


@ChristopherFritz First of all, thank you for this well thought out and in-depth reply!

That’s great! I think I’d like to do Sailor Moon or Dragon Ball/Z and such just because I have faint memories of familiarity.

Yes! I was hoping this would be the case!!! I plan on doing that with よつばと!at this point, I keep wanting to sit down today and start vol. 1 but I keep getting pulled away!

It’s honestly hard for me to say with such little experience and just an appreciation to go on. I love Shenmue because it emphasizes the “daily life” kind of thing - which must sound boring but I think it’s what attracted me to よつばと!- it seems like it’s about a little girl going through little adventures and fun experiences? I could be totally wrong about this, but I’ll hopefully know more soon and I know it’s highly suggested! Detective stuff sounds great too - I hope your re-reading of Detective Conan in Japanese is awesome and it’s like you’re reading it for the first time all over again!

I did not know of this thread and will bookmark it!

Ah I see, this makes sense. Well, I guess the more I struggle the better I’ll learn!

Haha I did not know this obviously, but thank you for the cautionary information ahead of time! I will keep it in mind when I start it.

Aye aye!

I have been testing the shift key thing but it hasn’t been doing anything! Yomichan seems to have a lot of settings and I’m not sure if I have the right ones selected? I haven’t changed anything other than install 3 dictionaries from their list.

Yes I was afraid that would be the case. You are correct about the free trial too - I didn’t realize I have 2 more days left on a free trial period before they want $8 a month :unamused: I think I can swing WK and Bunpro together, but adding a third right now seems a bit much, as awesome as Kitsun seems. I’m not sure if you use Kitsun, but regardless of which one you use - HOW do you utilize it best?

Yes, I think my plan at this point is:

  • Heavy time into WaniKani / customized self-study quiz / asking questions to the community
  • Moderate+ time into reading / looking things up
  • Light time into Bunpro
  • TBD on flash cards

Does that make any sense? :smile:


Welcome, by the way! Probably should’ve led with that when getting lost in my own little side conversation, heh.

You’re in luck since “slice of life” type stuff is what gets regularly recommended to start with. The daily life vocab is the kind of stuff people tend to learn early.

My personal take is that you’re definitely on the right track with resources, but since you seem to want to prioritize interacting with Japanese media early (which is a good idea!), I’d personally shift priorities a little. There are a lot of words that don’t use any kanji that are essential and all over the place, so even if you’re doing a tiny amount, I think you need SOMETHING to supplement Wanikani’s words. Unless you are someone who can handle picking up all of that in your reading, but I personally needed a few months of training to make that doable. Not to mention the way Wanikani’s structure by kanji complexity makes vocab order a little odd. I learned “stocks/shares” a while back, and in about 10 more levels, I’m gonna learn “he” :sweat_smile: And for a while you can get by on all furigana stuff (readings written over the kanji), so your kanji knowledge doesn’t factor into your early ability to read.

What I think matters most for making early reading more palatable, besides a base of common vocab, is knowing some grammar. I haven’t used Bunpro but I know it’s pretty well regarded, but a little brief so you may need to supplement that with more info (IIRC you mentioned Cure Dolly?). There’s sort of a curve to grammar priority – when you’re new, understanding those particles and the basic structure of the language and whatnot is about the most essential thing for getting started, in my opinion. But over time the grammar gets less common and easier to just take as it comes, and vocab outnumbers it so severely that eventually you’re grinding words more than anything else. That said, for now… you don’t have to grind grammar super hard because most people tend to despise that, but the more you can get introduced to early, the better the foundation you’ll have to lay your readings on (and recognize the grammar in said readings, to start really internalizing it).

The good news is things like direct grammar study and learning words from a list can really drop off bit by bit as you get better with reading, and you can start just learning everything on your own from what you’re interacting with in Japanese, which is a great feeling.


Here’s my history with flashcards, which will probably better answer your question.

Several years ago, I decided to get serious about learning Japanese. But I couldn’t get past one page of manga because of the words I didn’t know. I determined that clearly all I needed to do was learn a lot of words first.

That lead me to learning the “core 2K” deck of words. Well, I should say “learning” with quotes, because anything with kanji I did poorly with. The application I used had a variety of ways of answering cards, one being multiple-choice, and I think that allowed me to guess my way through a lot of it. After a few years of doing daily vocabulary reviews, I got through 2,000 vocabulary words, and in that time I probably forgot half of what I’d learned as well. (And the ones I didn’t forget include many words I already knew in advance.)

I did learn new words along the way, which I retained, but that was the most inefficient method of learning vocabulary words for me.

After that, I changed my approach to reading. I read my first manga volume over the span of several months, looking up every single thing. Since the manga didn’t have furigana(ふりがな) readings beside the kanji, that lead me to start to use WaniKani. (I’m three years in, and halfway through. A lifetime subscription has definitely been worth it for me!)

For a while, I let WaniKani be my only source of learning vocabulary. Keep in mind, WaniKani is not meant to teach vocabulary, it’s meant to teach kanji. Thus, eventually, I reached a point where I want to learn vocabulary from a source other than WaniKani.

This is where immersion (in my case, reading a lot of manga in Japanese) + sentence mining come in. Now that I’ve learned a lot of words (through the Core 2K deck, WaniKani, and reading lots), it’s easier for me to come across sentences where I know every word (and all the grammar) except for one word.

Known as a “i+1” sentence where “i” represents everything I know, and “+1” refers to adding one unknown thing to it, this kind of sentence is perfect for “sentence mining”. I create a card in Anki for the word, including its sentence, and that’s what I do for Anki flashcard reviews.

Note that I use Anki because that’s what works for me (and it’s available to me), but Kitsun can be used just the same.

That's where I am right now: many of my flashcards are from material I'm reading or watching.

One reason this method works is because when I see the word and the sentence it’s in, I can recall the context I encountered it in, and that makes it easier to remember. Worst case scenario, I fail when reviewing it enough times that it becomes a “leech”, a card that is draining my review time, and Anki auto-suspends it so I don’t see it anymore. (I would imagine Kitsun has a similar feature.)


Just want to chime in to second that. When you’ve got a little base such that you can go read and find those i+1 sentences, sentence mining is totally the way. No single method is necessary on its own – somehow people learned this language before the internet, which is hard for me to conceive of haha. But sentence mining is, in addition to WK, totally how I learn Japanese now, and it’s been extremely useful. I’d go as far as to say the vast majority of success stories I hear about online are people who have been doing that, and I can’t really back up the claim with anything solid, but it’s certainly very efficient.

Thank you for your reply and the welcome! :slight_smile:

THIS is good to know. I did not know that there were lots of words that don’t use any kanji and are essential. I also agree - I keep hearing that WaniKani vocabulary alone is not going to be sufficient. Part of my problem is I do not have a balance yet on all the wonderful resources out there and how to apply them to my learning. My short term goal of reading manga for the first time ever will hopefully bring some of this balance into a routine for me.

Yes Cure Dolly videos are super helpful, the All About Particle book is handy but also a little advanced for me still, and Bunpro has started me off with basic grammar SRS stuff but it doesn’t seem to teach me very well - meaning when I read their grammar points I often lose track of what the heck they’re talking about! I tend to figure it out a little later on as I keep failing the reviews.

I like this GOOD NEWS haha. Thank you @Daisoujou !


I had the same problem when I tried using Bunpro before I learned much in the way of grammar.

Although I opted to just look up grammar each time I didn’t know it (even if it meant looked up and reading about the same grammar several time over a span of months), and I never really got into using Bunpro, here is an alternate method you can try out with Bunpro:

When you start reading manga, you’ll be encountering a lot of unknown grammar. Any time you learn new grammar, look it up on Bunpro afterward. If you can find it there, and it’s listed as N5 or N4, do the lesson for it.

The pro to this method is you’re only reviewing items you’ve encountered in reading.

The con to this method is that if Bunpro’s example sentences build on earlier grammar, they’ll be a bit useless.

With enough reading, even as an absolute beginner, you’ll eventually encounter all the N5 and N4 grammar on Bunpro. You just have to push through the very difficult trials of first-time reading, of looking up each vocabulary word and reading about all kinds of mysterious grammar. Things that make no sense today will become so familiar that you eventually (one day) will be able to simply recognize and understand them without even thinking of it.


Yes I really like this idea for motivation! I am super tempted to just do it.

Now THIS makes a lot of sense. I can only hope to get to “I+1” sentence mining at some point. As far as the flash cards, you have thoroughly answered my biggest question - and I see the true benefit of it now! THANK YOU! If I can’t get Anki or Torii SRS to work on my Chromebook I may have to swap everything to my PC laptop, which, although much faster, is huge and clunky and would mean redoing all of my extensions, etc. I far prefer this tiny little laptop.

Yes either one I go with I hope has the same efficacy of flash card review! But I love your idea of sentence mining and making flash cards out of them!!!


Yes I just hope I can identify the new grammar I’m not picking up as opposed to kana that are a part of a word, for instance… this worries me. Does it make sense? Is it even something I should be afraid of?

:+1: This really speaks to my primary goal with Japanese at this time. The listening focus will certainly come a little later as I begin more listening practice resources!


If you’re unsure, I’d say the first thing to do is to type the whole sentence into ichi.moe and see how it parses it out. The site isn’t perfect, but in most cases, it should do fine.

Example output, where I've highlighted parts of speech.

From there, anything that isn’t a noun, adjective, verb, or expression has a good chance of being in Bunpro. But you’ll also find entries for some of those types in Bunpro, so it doesn’t hurt to occasionally look at the list of N5 grammar on Bunpro to see if anything sticks out as something you’d recently read up on.