Unpopular Kanji

I was wondering if anyone had a list of unpopular (or rarely used Kanji) that WaniKani teaches you. I understand the point of learning easily recognizable Kanji but when I try some words (里心 for example) I get some funny looks or laughs. This isn’t a huge issue as most people find it interesting to discover Kanji they are unfamiliar with. Although if there were some indication of how common the word is colloquially that would be a big help.

Side note: I have also found it interesting that some of my Japanese friends tell me that Kanji aren’t used often (米国 for instance as opposed America in Katakana) but it is actually really useful for me to learn. Working at an online center now at an Eikaiwa I have to constantly switch the keyboard language and sometimes the computer is in Japanese. It is actually really helpful to be able to differentiate American English from UK English and this is the Kanji that is used for it.


Just want to say that just because some people (even natives) say a word isnt used doesnt mean you wont come across it. There have been many discussions around the forums if you look for them, showing that even these uncommon or “unused” words are in fact used in different forms of media.


The unpopular kanji is 不人気. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.

But yeah, in all seriousness, there are vocabulary items that don’t see a lot of use in day-to-day conversation. 里心 is one of the ones that get brought up in the forums on a regular basis, and kanji-ified country names like 米国 only ever come up in formal or academic texts and/or papers. That said, you’ll also fequently find that when people say “ah, we never use that in conversation”, often what they actually mean is “I and my close circle of friends rarely use that in conversation”.

As for the kanji themselves, though, all save twenty-six of them are in the 2500 most-used kanji used in newspapers in Japan.


What you’re noticing is a difference between written language and spoken (or casual written) language.

Japanese people know 里心, and they wouldn’t bat an eye at it appearing in a novel, but of course it’s going to be odd when a beginner whips it out in a normal conversation.

Since WaniKani is focused on teaching you only a written component of Japanese, it leans toward those kinds of things. They aren’t “unpopular,” they’re just not used in spoken language.

In a newspaper headline, 米国 is much more likely to appear than アメリカ.

Just don’t introduce yourself as being from 米国 and you’re fine. But you still want to be able to recognize it, right?


:smile: haha nice! I always respect a good play on grammar.
But yeah I have found that has been the case for many of them. It’s the same thing in English I find even teaching. I say “we never use that word” or “we don’t use that phrase” and then find it commonly in different forms of media lol.
differentiating between 米語 and 英語 is actually very helpful much of the time for me.

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Okay I actually didn’t realize that it would be more prevalent in a Newspaper! Thanks (I still cant read anywhere close to that atm).
I was actually testing out the reading with some of my coworkers and my girlfriend and they had no idea what the reading was for it. I can’t remember if they understood the meaning or not though tbh.
It’s become a hobby for me to try and find someone that knows the Kanji XD
But yeah I think that’s something I can discover through trial and error I suppose.
While I understand that wanikani is not a vocabulary learning tool, it has been very helpful in complementing my vocabulary learning. I guess I’ll just have to sound like weirdo for a little while lol

Edit: I forgot to mention that I’m Canadian. Do you know if there is a Kanji for Canada もみじ国??

My favourite continuation of this pattern:

米語 = American English
英語 = British English
豪語1 = boastful talk, bombast

Sounds about right to me. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 From 豪太剌利 = Australia


Canada in kanji is 加奈陀 (no specific meaning intended, just those are kanji that make the sounds かなだ)

加 is the typical abbreviation, the same way 米 is for America, but as far as I know there’s no 加国 or anything like that.

You don’t mean they couldn’t read 米国 do you? Or something else? 米 and 国 are taught in elementary 2nd grade, and obviously America is in the news every day.

Some Japanese people will express surprise and be impressed by even very low levels of Japanese ability, so maybe that’s what they were doing?


Ah, a little disappointing for me that Canada isn’t Maple Country. Oh well.
No it was 里心 that they couldn’t read. They all gave like very puzzled looks at the Kanji and kept saying like “Mhm?”
I am actually not sure if they couldn’t read it but as soon as I told them it meant homesick they kind of just kept saying “we say Homushiku”

edit: either way, they got a laugh out of it and there is no chance in hell that I’ll forget the meaning and reading.


Funny enough I used this exact word with a native in New York who I happened to sit with at a jazz concert. His entire demeanor changed when I used it, like he was finally running into someone who understood a bit of what he was feeling. I’m looking forward to visiting some jazz clubs with him whenever he gets to return to Japan (or if I’m back in New York before he leaves).

So my thought is not to spend too much time worrying about it. Besides, it’s kind of fun to know “rare” words.


I’m in Taiwan right now. I’ve been surprised to read 加式料理 for “canadian cuisine”. I wonder if something similar could happen in japanese. (as a quebecer, I’m a bit offended that they call it canadian cuisine, but that’s an other story :see_no_evil:)


Oh OK, interesting! Even if it is an uncommon word perhaps culturally its appropriate (maybe calming) because many people wouldn’t learn that word outside of Japan.
I actually enjoy learning these “rare” words. I’m kind of looking for more like this to be honest because it is kind of cool to be able to understand them and show them to my friends.

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Canadian cuisine would likely be カナダ料理, since those kanji abbreviations tend to only get used in news (or tight space) scenarios. So you could see 米加関係 (American-Canadian relations), but in places where people are speaking more normally, you’ll see the katakana names.


I was going to ask what they have at a “Canadian Cuisine” restaurant other than Poutine or maple syrup but the picture answered my question lol! How was the poutine there? My students are always amazed when I explain what poutine is to them.

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Mmm, interesting. So basically we’re talking about hipster kanji? :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


Mostly poutine and beer. They also had fries :dog:

The poutine tasted good, but it had a weird texture.

gives you frequency of kanjis you’ve learned, not sure is it by newspapers or what, but the idea is there.

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Yeah, the original version of the stats page says that it’s the “2500 most frequently used kanji in Japanese newspapers, grouped in blocks of 500.” It also links to a source, but that sadly doesn’t seem to exist any more.

I was living in Tucson AZ for a while, and a poutine restaurant opened up suddenly downtown. The odd thing is it was called “US Fries”


Freedom Fries!