Some beginner questions Wanikani / Japanese learning

I apologize if a lot of these seem obvious, but I had a few questions about WaniKani lessons & reviews, so here goes!

  1. I just recently hit level 7 and I feel very good about my progress, but I’ve just been hit with 127 new lessons. Should I do them all at once? If not, how many per day is recommended?

  2. I do between 80-100 reviews per day and usually get no more than 2 wrong in any given review. I feel like the WaniKani mnemonics are hit and miss so I rarely use them. Do you have any tips for coming up with your own mnemonics or other ways of memorising vocab?

  3. At what level (about) should I consider reading practice? For example, I’d like to get started with Manga / Light Novels but I fear my level is too low.

  4. I usually set aside an hour for lessons / reviews per day, but I hear of people studying Japanese for 4+ hours a day. What are people actually doing during that time?

Sorry if some of these questions seem odd. Thank you in advance for your help!

  1. That depends entirely on you. Can you do all those lessons and actually remember everything? I mean, we’re not going to stop you if you want to, right? :smiley:

But things like that would probably only work at lower levels. Once you start learning more complex kanji, slowing down and doing around 10-20 lessons per day is probably a good idea.

  1. Yes, I also rarely use WaniKani mnemonics. For kanji I either use good old-fashioned rote memorization or rely on some “hacks” like identifying which radical/part in a kanji could be the phonetic component and just associating that with the kanji instantly or going by overlapping pronunciations and trying to group all kanji with the same pronunciation into a meta-concept where each kanji can explained as some flavor of “big”, “important”, etc.

  2. I think grammar and vocab might be a little more important to get you going. Manga and light novels (I guess?) will often have furigana so even if you don’t know a kanji, you will be able to read it anyway. I wouldn’t wait with starting grammar and do it asap actually, because if you keep progressing fast with WaniKani, your kanji knowledge will quickly overshoot your overall reading ability.

  3. Certainly not only WaniKani :stuck_out_tongue: . Look at it that way - WaniKani is just a tool to teach how to read kanji. The vocab is just a bonus, because while usually common, there are words you will rarely use or come across. So you have to work on your vocab outside of WaniKani. Same with grammar. Also, people read articles, books, etc. and that too theoretically counts into study time, right? :wink:


Thank you for your answers!

I did see some videos suggesting a massive amount of comprehensible input being important too (dramas, anime, youtube, reading etc).

I feel stupid asking, but could you give me a rundown on what you do in any given day?

  1. It’s up to you. I always do all of them ASAP. However, if you want to do between 80-100 review per day. You should keep the apprentice item at around under 100. I’m reviewing around 250-300 item per day at the moment.

  2. I usually ignore the mnemonics because two main reasons. Firstly, I’m not an English native speaker. Secondly, I learn vocabs above my level so I already familiar with those new vocabs and kanjis.

  3. Wanikani only contribute a fraction of your reading skill. You could be level 40+ and still can’t read and understand any book properly. So you might want to learn some other skills like grammar and vocabs too. Wanikani only teach you kanji and the vocabs learning order on Wanikani are not designed to be any helpful. They might teach the most basic Japanese word on level 40+ because the kanji is on that level.

  4. I’m studying more than 6 hours a day. Well I practice/learn different Japanese skills during those times like; listening, speaking, vocabs, kanji, grammar, and reading. I’m not touching the handwriting skill for now. It just consume too much of my time and my current goal is I want to pass JLPT test ASAP.

I hope my answer would be any helpful to you. If you have anymore question feel free to ask. I’m not a Japanese expert by any mean but I can provide you some answer as a fellow Japanese learner. Good luck!!

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Sure, why not :smiley: .

For the last couple of months I’ve been doing the following:

  • WaniKani + Anki reviews for 1-2 hours
  • Genki, later Tobira for 1-2 hours
  • Reading articles from NHK Web Easy with whatever time’s left during a day

On weekends I have more time so I do more reading - either articles on NHK Web or stories from Aozora Bunko.

Recently I switched gears a little bit, because I’m able to read quite well already so:

  • WaniKani + Anki reviews for 1-2 hours
  • Reading for 1-3 hours

However, I got back to Tobira again the day before yesterday to see whether there is any difference after spending more time on reading and after getting used to the writing style again, it’s not as challenging as it used to be :slight_smile: .

Spending all your time on WaniKani is probably not a good idea if that means neglecting other areas of study.


Regarding lessons: I personally wouldn’t do all the lessons at once. That just gives you a big spike in workload that I don’t think is sustainable long term. My lessons/reviews strategy is as follows:

The times are based on maximizing the apprentice intervals for newly learned items. A typical day would look like this:

  1. Do reviews in the morning (trying to be consistent and do my first reviews at the same time each day, let’s say 8 o’clock).
  2. After reviews, if I just leveled up, I’ll do the new radical lessons asap (use reorder script for that: [Userscript]: Reorder Ultimate 2 [newest]). The point of doing the radicals first is that it gives you a few days to cover other lessons leisurely while not worrying about going fast or not, because level up speed is gated by how fast you do the crucial items (items that unlock other items, aka radicals and kanji).
  3. If I didn’t level up and I don’t have radical lessons (I shouldn’t because I’d have already done them immediately after level up), I’ll do just 20 lessons (prioritizing kanji lessons with the reorder script). 20 lessons should be enough to cover 99% of items that unlock during a level up, considering they’ll be spread out over 8 days (duration of a level), and it should provide a more balanced workload throughout the whole level rather than doing all lessons at once. (prioritizing kanji with the reorder script because they are crucial for leveling up).
  4. I’ll do my next review session when the lessons in the morning come back for review (4 hours later), and I clear the review queue.
  5. I’ll do the 3rd and final review session of the day when the lessons from the morning come back up again (8 hours after the previous session).
  6. If after the evening session I just leveled up, I won’t do new lessons immediately (I mean you could but it messes up the routine and you only lose 12 hours which I find acceptable), but will do the radical lessons the next morning. Alternatively you can do the radical lessons then and squeeze in another session 4 hours later, so the next interval will come up right on time for the morning reviews.

And that’s it. With this schedule you’ll have 8 days level up time, which is going fast, and a pretty steady and manageable workload throughout the whole duration of the level.


This is exactly what I was looking for. I definitely need to do a lot more than just WankiKani. I’ll look into some of those sources. Tobira and NHK look very interesting!

Thank you so much!


This was such an interesting read and so detailed. Thank you for your efforts in explaining. I was always curious about the ordering that WaniKani offers but always just assumed that it was efficient and right, but perhaps not!

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It is decently efficient, but when you level up, the kanji that you just guru’d would also unlock a ton of vocab for the previous level that the default sorting algorithm will prioritize instead of current level radicals. You’d have to go through all the vocab lessons first before it puts radicals in the lessons queue. With the reordering method you can focus on vocab lessons after radicals and kanji, but you end up doing them anyway, since with 20 lessons a day it’s enough to go through all the content (or 99% of it anyway).

  1. Decide how many reviews you can manage a day, and then do the number of lessons that will match that.

A rough guide with 100% review accuracy:
5 lessons is 50 reviews/day
10 is 100/day
15 is 150
20 is 200.

Making mistakes increases the number of reviews, so when I was doing 15 lessons a day, I had 180 reviews, with 85% accuracy.

  1. When I make up mnemonics, I try and do two things. First, I always use the same word or phrase for the same sounds. This helps when you’re trying to remember whether it’s was しょ or しょう, etc. Secondly, I combine the sound and the meaning into one mnemonic. Three things… Thirdly, I try and link the mnemonic to something, rather than just have a random phrase.

  2. Reading when you don’t know much is a bit of a slog. What I would do is to pick up some graded readers, and use them to learn how Japanese sentences are structured, and how the grammar works. Once you can look at something trivial like これはなんですか and just read it, then maybe attempt a light novel. Manga comes in all sorts of reading levels, but even young kids are pretty competent at grammar and have large vocabularies, so none of it is really easy, and a lot of it uses non-standard and slangy Japanese. Have a look at the absolute beginners book club books.

  3. SRS kanji & vocab 1.5 hours. Listening to podcasts 0-3 hours. Reading 0-3 hours. Watching anime jp audio & subs 0-1 hour. Learning about Japanese via textbooks and YouTube 0-1 hours. Maximum of 4-5 hours in total. Rarely less than 2.


Manga may or may not have a lot of furigana, and it usually comes down to the target demographic / magazine it was originally published in. Shounen manga are much more likely to have furigana for everything. I’d estimate that at least 80% of manga that I read don’t have much furigana, but that says more about me and the type of manga I read than about manga as a medium.

As for light novels, in my experience they don’t have much furigana. Light novels aren’t kids books after all. They are generally targeting teens / young adults, so there’d be no reason to use furigana for everything.


Another amazingly detailed answer. I often read Japanese texts (literally texts from some Japanese friends) and I’m mostly okay at reading it, although I can make mistakes from time to time of course. I’ll definitely look into the beginner book clubs because I think the biggest issue for me right now is finding input.

With anime as an exception, I’ve pretty much exhausted Netflix’s library of all Japanese drama / movies, and in terms of reading, I’m pretty much stumped. Ideally I’d want to buy reading content in digital format as opposed to waiting weeks for shipping.

I love your method of creating mnemonics by the way! I’m sort of doing the same intuitively, but your way seems far more refined.

I’ve started following some Japanese YouTube grammar explanation videos and I’m trying to find some podcasts to listen too. Any recommendations?

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Get a Japanese Amazon account, and get stuff on Kindle. You’ll need a separate Kindle from your main language one, if you have one, or you can use a tablet or PC with a Kindle app. For manga, a decent sized tablet is good. Manga generally has half a dozen sample pages (the button under the main image), which is useful for language (& content, the covers often suggest content which is a lot… worse… than what is actually inside, but just occasionally…).

There’s a company that specializes in exporting from Japanese retailers, and you can set up an account using an address they give you. Someone who can remember what they are called should be along soon.

For starting podcasts, Nihongo con Teipei is good. 100s of 3.5 minute casts for beginners. The Real Japanese Podcast is more advanced, but she also provides transcripts. There’s also a Japanese talk radio station, but I have that in the car so I’ve not got the name in front of me.

For YouTube, CureDolly presents a model of the language, and extremely clear explanations of things. If you’re an analytical kind of person, there’s nothing better. You just have to get round the presentation and trash talk. Everyone else mostly just presents loads of examples, and I find it easier to read those.

For content in Japanese, The Real Japanese Podcast also has a YouTube channel which is good for comprehension practice, as it comes with Japanese subs.

Three are loads of channels that talk about approaches to learning, from Matt Vs Japan, to Days of French and Swedish.


For digital reading content (I love having paper books, but have to save up for a larger order for those and wait for shipping, which I don’t love all the time) - I’d recommend either bookwalker (pretty commonly used, easy to set up outside of Japan), or setting up an Amazon Japan account to access e-books (more annoying, need a Japanese address, but it doesn’t need to be particularly real - you might need a VPN at some point - this seems to vary across users). Even if you don’t want to spend money, there are always some freebie manga volumes available for download, sometimes quite popular stuff. The BookWalker Freebies Thread usually has a list of what’s currently free.

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Mmmm. My experience of light novels is that they either use loads of uncommon kanji, or difficult to parse grammar, or allusions to Japanese culture, or subtle jokes, or all of that together, frequently in a single sentence.

I think what I really need is books for a slightly younger audience where the author isn’t trying to show off quite so much.

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獣の奏者 is for a slightly younger audience, so plenty of kanji usage but sometimes will use kana or furigana instead. It’s a fantasy setting though, so you’d have to be prepared to deal with that. Overall it’s one of the simpler novels I’ve read though.

コンビニ人間 is for adults, but uses pretty straightforward language most of the time.


Grammar: Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly, the visual and voice are a little bit “unique” though and some people are thrown off because of that, but she explain grammar really well IMO, using different approcah than your typical textbook.

Podcast: Nihongo con Teppei for Beginner. He’s been recommended by japanese learning community thousands times without no reason. Easy to follow for early beginner and quite short. Once you’re comfortable with how japanese sound (which means you could parse words easily), you could try his other podcast, which is geared towards upper beginner. Learn japanese with noriko and kevinvin sleepy japanese are great too.


Ooh, thanks - I wasn’t fishing for suggestions but I will give both of those a go.

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I’ve only read the first page so far, but this is an excellent suggestion. The rhythm of the writing is lovely, and it is very readable.

  1. I would not recommend you do them all at once. Unless you are familiar with a large number of the kanji and vocab already you should space them out. I am probably not the best to give advice as I am not in a rush so I go slow.

  2. I agree, I almost completely ignore the WK mnemonics (and I know I’m not alone in that). There are other sources of pre-made mnemonics, of the ones from books I’ve come across I like the Kanji Learner’s Course (the word course is used rather lightly here) book. The ones in there are much more rational and down to earth, but I don’t like all of them. This is only if you want to buy a book that is (doubtful). Personally, I makeup stuff for things that give me trouble on my own. Sometimes based on having seen it while reading or something else that makes it meaningful to me. Sometimes just how it looks. For example, 平 looks like a goal for disc golf to me so I remember it as being flat like the discs. As for reading, I used to do Japanese calligraphy so I know that already from writing things like 世界平和 (world peace), a favorite of my teacher’s to have students write. Dunno if that helps at all. I guess my advice is make it personal or visual…

  3. Depends on your overall Japanese level. If you haven’t studied any grammar at all, you should start there. If you’re already doing that and you know the kana I would say start now with reading aloud whatever native content you want to read. If you are low level don’t concern yourself with understanding any (or most/all) of what you read, save that for graded readers. Most light novels I’ve seen/own don’t have much furigana so it will be considerably more difficult to even just practice reading aloud (though I’m hardly an authority here). Manga (shounen, like Naruto, etc. Edit: to be clear, non shounen manga may not have furigana for everything/most things) will have furigana for everything so that will be a lot easier for the task.

  4. If you’re counting time for just reading as studying I can see how people can study Japanese for 4+ hours easily. Also, if you are a higher level and are writing a lot or conversing with a tutor/teacher or other things like that I can see that taking plenty of time too. If you are starting out and just reading grammar for 4+ hours every day that is going to be overkill and you aren’t really helping your brain remember things (also, it’s probably going to make you quit from boredom). Giving yourself time to forget is essential to learning and improves your results. Not studying for 20 hours a day does not mean you are failing at learning Japanese. Start small and build a consistent habit and routine for yourself that works with your life. That’s all you need to think about. Add more time later if you find you can/need to. Small can be read about one grammar point and use it in 10 sentences every other day (or see if you can find it in a manga or something, I dunno). Whatever. If you don’t need to set a time constraint on your studying, don’t (I don’t like to as it tends to bring out the worst in me).

Also, none of your questions are odd. They are good things to ask!

Edit: if you want some audio, maybe this website if you’ve not seen it before and like cultural type content: 日本語学習ウェブサイト「ひろがる」