Tips for coming up with mnemonics for kanji readings?

Hello! I searched around the forums for some tips on coming up with mnemonics, and came across the mnemonics visualization gallery post (which is excellent!). However, I’m still having trouble solidifying mnemonics for the readings of two particular kanji: 下 and 上.

The reading I’ve been taught for 下 is か and for 上 it’s じょう. The trouble is, I keep mixing these up in review sessions, so these two kanji are the last ones I need to level up to Guru. It’s driving me bananas! I’m finding that some of the mnemonics that WK provides are too ‘out there’ for me to really remember. Like the one with JOUrm’s toe… Jourm is too weird a name, it doesn’t really stick in my mind. So I’m trying to come up with other words/phrases to use, and one source I’m pulling from is fandoms I like. I’m a huge Avatar the Last Airbender fan, so I’ve been imagining Toph kicking the crap out of JOE (じょう) who tried to hide underground but his TOE was sticking up and gave him away, so Toph grabs it, yanks him out (from UNDER the ground), and then gets all the CASH (か) for winning.

I can picture this in my head pretty well, but when 上 pops up in reviews, sometimes I STILL put か and get it wrong. So frustrating! Do you guys have any tips for coming up with mnemonics that stick? I know these mnemonics are ‘training wheels’ and eventually I’ll be able to recall the reading automatically without it, but to be struggling at the beginning is disheartening. :pensive:

Just two thoughts:

  1. Those are so common you’re quite unlikely to not learn them from repeated exposure as you keep studying. So no matter how frustrating it might be now, it’ll be fine soon™
  2. When it comes to custom mnemonics, in my own experience they don’t need to be good. So if you find some random nonesense that causes some synapses to fire when you see them that might be enough. (I sometimes come up with random associations that have nothing to do with the actual words themselves)

Not super helpful maybe, but there it is.


I use “Cadillac” for か (I used to use car, but I found it was too general to visualize)
and my “Uncle Joe” for じょう
(my “cousin Joe” is じょ)

An important thing to remember is that these mnemonics will not just be for 上 and 下, you’ll be using them for kanji throughout all the levels.


Thank you for your advice, @crihak and @davikani! I’ll keep moving onwards and doing reviews. My accuracy has been good so far with the number new vocabulary words I’ve been doing each day, so that progress alone is encouraging! I’m keeping a kanji notebook for radicals and kanji mnemonics, and a Google doc for vocabulary. I just unlocked some level 2 kanji, which I plan on starting tomorrow once I finish the level 1 vocabulary :smiley:

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I’ve honestly just giving up on the mnemonics. As you get farther you are just getting bombarded with so many new mnemonics daily. Most of the time for readings I’ve just built up a “feeling” for what things should be based on the radicals making up the kanji, and luckily I’m usually right. I use the mnemonic more for meaning, but I don’t stress to much because each kanji is used so many times in vocab that I have extra chances to keep solidifying it.

Basically I try to rely on my unconscious brain versus forcing a conscious memory, and it’s been going fine.

Good Luck, just want to give another perspective.

this may not be relevant anymore but another suggestion would be to separate the two mnemonic stories. i think using AtLA is a great idea. it sounds like your brain is remembering the full story of Toph and Joe which includes winning cash

may i suggest switching a mnenonic for 下? When (か)Katara was under ground, she almost used her healing magic on Zuko.

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