Similar Kanji leech squashing

I, like everyone i expect, have some annoying issues with visually similar Kanji. Especially if i am trying to rush through a review session.

For instance, I was getting really bogged down with the following -


time / hold / special / wait / poem / acquire / samurai

It actually took me a while to realise the reason I was getting them wrong was because each was so similar to the other (at least to me!!).

I decided to sit down and concentrate on this group of visually similar kanji, in-particularly by writing them, and learning the correct stroke order. This allowed me to concentrate on the differences between them - and acted to reinforce the knowledge.

This might seem an obvious thing to do, but thought I would share my success in the hope it could help someone else.

One of the issues with wanikani in isolation from other learning methods is that you only learn the the memory recall one way - ie - you can recall the meaning from seeing the kanji. However this does not necessarily result in being able to ‘visualise’ the kanji, when only given the meaning.

To really cement kanji in ya brain, recalling the memory the other way round (for instance by writing down when given the meaning) is really important IMO.

Unfortunately I don’t have time to use Kaniwani (or similar resources) which do this - and so have decided that I will deal with problem kanji as I realise they are a problem, by learning how to write them.

anyone else have any similar kanji / radicals they have / had issues with? and more generally are people learning to write the kanji as they do wanikani? :slight_smile:


同 same 何 what
牛 cow 午 noon
get me every time I’m on a roll and going fast. This is especially true when I have not seen them for a while. I don’t write them down, but finally got the differences by 1. realizing they were so similar 2. looking at them side by side and spotting the differences, 3. changing the mnemonics.


I got noon wrong in my reviews today ! although i din’t get it confused with cow, but 許 (permit) for some reason. Hopefully after today this will be sorted. haha.

the radicals 己 (cobra) and 巳 (snake) mixed up all the time ! I don’t really blame myself, they look the same and had similar meanings ! luckily now they have changed cobra to oneself - so this should help - hopefully. i suppose you will soon find out ! :slight_smile:

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The cow has a head, noon doesn’t. Just as 矢 arrow (already without a head) and 失 (fault)
At least that helped me:D


I imagined cows with horns. Thanks for the tip on arrow and fault which just showed up in level 7. I had something complicated involving the husband being a devil kicking a dog…didn’t stick though.


I’m not quite as far as you are, so my experience with similar kanji is limited. A few examples:

鳥,馬 (i feel slightly embarrassed for this one, though…)

I try to tackle this by examining a lesson or incorrect review very carefully, and determine what the distinguishing features are. For example, I only recognized 鳥 by the four drops below. Obviously, that went wrong after 馬 appeared. So now, whenever a kanji appears that’s similar to one I’ve already learned, I just look up the similar kanji and directly compare the two, identifying key differences. Ever since, I haven’t had any problem with visually similar kanji at all.

(plus, this is also partially why you learn radicals to begin with imo…)


他 地 - i had forgotten about these little blighters !

yeah - i think i get a bit lazy sometimes and rely on the general overall appearance ! i should take a bit more time and recognise the individual radicals maybe.

don’t know why you would be embarrassed by this ! pretty similar really !


You can try my scripts :slight_smile:

On level 30 the kanji 時・持・特・待・詩・侍 (not 得) actually shouldn’t give you any trouble anymore, you have to memorize them as temple (寺) + X, and then look at the X only (which would be 扌=手, 彳=行, and so on).

It always amazes me how much variation there is in which kanji people perceive as similar and get tripped up by. I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble distinguishing any of the examples given by other people so far, but I’ve definitely had my problem sets. I used to have trouble with

示 余 除 宗 祭 察 際


天 矢 夫 失 末 未


剤 済 斎

Another interesting observation is that there are kanji that look similar to the kanji in those lists above and it seems like I should have been confused by them as well but I wasn’t. Some examples being 禁 or 木.

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When did that stop? Those were all on my list in the beginning. Some are OK now but it feels like I will still keep confusing 矢 夫 失 years after I reached level 60… But maybe complaining about them now helps.

I can relate to these two… in theory I know the difference but in practice they still keep tripping me up when I read something quickly, it doesn’t help that 持つ and 待つ also sound similar. My Japanese teacher said that this is common but maybe she was just trying to be nice.

I can’t believe I knew about the “visually similar kanji” but for some reason didn’t have it installed anymore. Such a great script, thank you!

The only thing that helped me so far is collecting all the ones that give me trouble and then finding mnemonics that help me differentiate the differences (like @FlamySerpent already said: there’s a horn sticking out on top of the cow for example). But for some kanji my eyes just keep telling me that they are the same thing when looking at them quickly. At least while reading this thread I realize that I have squashed some of these leeches just by continued exposure. I’m hoping the same will happen for the other ones.

Here are some more from my list:

教 teach
数 count

知 know
和 peace

体 body
休 rest

科 course
料 fee
=> These two were on the last N4 and I know I was not the only one having trouble. I ended up deciding on the correct one but it took me a minute of going through the mnemonics…

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I remembered these as the plane of some sorts that already crashed into a wall, and its front is squished ( 末 ) It’s the end for it, that’s the end of its flight
And the second one ( 未 ) is not yet crashed, it’s flying still


i got cow and noon confused a lot too and eventually remembered them by thinking of cow as having a little tail up the top

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I’m soooo bad at similar Kanji.
My worst ones are the ones that look like 説/税/祝 etc.

When did that stop? Those were all on my list in the beginning.

I would drill them in my head until I had them all straight. Basically, whenever I would realize I was mixing certain kanji up, either on Wanikani or while reading I would make a mental note of it. Then whenever I would come across one, or even just when I had a spare moment I would try to remember all the others as well to try to make them as distinct as possible in my mind. For instance, I’d start with 天 and think of the meaning and as many readings as possible, then add the drop to make 矢, then go back and add the bit at the top to make 夫, then both for 失, etc. I’ve found practicing production like that really helped me make them distinct.

In other words I was making a kanji map in my mind, but I only included the ones I personally felt were similar, which as I mentioned before is extremely subjective. For instance, I never had any trouble with 鉄 even though it contains 失 as its radical. The existence of the 金 must make it visually and semantically distinct enough that it didn’t present an issue. I highly recommend doing this for any groups of kanji you have trouble distinguishing between, either in your head or writing it them out. It helps to focus you in on the small details that distinguish them, and if you can produce them you can definitely recognize them.

I remembered these as the plane of some sorts that already crashed into a wall, and its front is squished ( 末 ) It’s the end for it, that’s the end of its flight
And the second one ( 未 ) is not yet crashed, it’s flying still

Yeah, I used a similar mnemonic which wanikani provided. I never actually had trouble distinguishing those two from each other thanks to that, it was more about getting 未 confused with 夫 and 失 with 朱 (which I forgot to list).

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