Wani Kani Mnemonics

'Sorry for the contrarianism, but I don’t care for Wani Kani Mnemonics; I feel - and have learned from experience with another Asian language and with Japanese as well - that making my own mnemonics ‘is the point of (better) mnemonics’, because after all, the mnemonics one makes him or herself are the mnemonics our consciousness thinks of naturally, so they are the mnemonics we will recall easily and/or re-invent again!

I once bought that big, soft-cover, famous, white mnemonics book from Kinokuniya in New York (I don’t recall the name) - the one everyone who has browsed Japanese learning materials has seen for sure, and 'sorry again; it’s pure bullocks! Everything I thought of it ran counter to and I threw it away.

So - ! Can I use Wani Kani and still pass your quizzes, or do I have to adhere to learning your mnemonics to do so?

As far as I can tell, you can add your own notes if you so desire :thinking:

But I find the mnemonics cute enough to remember & they helped me recall On readings that I find totally unapproachable! :innocent:

(But you do have to remember what the radical names are on WK, though. Even if they sometimes don’t make much sense)

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There’s a note section in every single item for a reason: to write your own notes (which mnemonics are included).

WK mnemonics are there for a reason: to help in situations when one can’t make their own, whether if it’s for just 1 item or for the whole program.

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The main components of WK that justify it costing money are

1 - the mnemonics pre-written for all 2000 kanji and (idk how many) kunyomi vocabs
2 - the names for the radicals chosen to be conducive to writing memorable mnemonics
3 - the ordering and level structure of the curriculum that help you with pacing and not get burned out
4 - the audio recordings of all 8000 vocab by native speakers to help with pitch accent
5 - the user interface that prevents you from lying to yourself about how well you know an item (cough anki)

If you find #1 totally worthless, imagine entering your own mnemonics for every kanji and vocab (and perhaps renaming some of the radicals too), and then ask yourself: are the remaining features worth it?


This one is worth aaaaaall the money. :slightly_smiling_face:

But yeah, @manjimichi, I’m absolutely with you on the mnemonics. The best mnemonic to use is always the one that works best for you.


Most of the mnemonics are totally useless for me. But fortunately some of them are useful.

But the points 2 to 5 (and sometimes the point 1) is enough for me to find WaniKani very useful. And with some userscripts, it’s even better (for me, for the readings, the Keisei Phonetic-Semantic Composition script is often more useful than the mnemonics…).

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Consistency is important, especially for the readings. You can make better mnemonics after you know all kanji. And I rather have 10,000 mnemonics pre-built and use the ones I like for inspiration instead of thinking for every item what would be nice.

“Do your own mnemonics for everything” is an advice for people who have all the time in the world to waste; maybe better but also an unrealistic drag.

To answer your questions, if you can remember the readings and meanings of stuff on your own you can pass, because that is what is being asked.


The mnemonics are silly, but the work is taken out by just using them. Yes, ones you make yourself will hold better, but this also soaks up a lot of time. If I am struggling with a certain item, then I make a custom one that I can remember better, but to do this for every kanji AND every special case will take you a ton of time.
So just give it a try, it’s worked for A LOT of people.

Thank you so much, Unyuu!:grinning:

No problem! :sparkles:
I wish you the best WaniKani journey~ :blush:

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I have a much better time with mnemonics I can see. Conceptual mnemonics are a dud for me.

I will go a long way to get something I can see. For instance, to remember that the 化 in 化ける is read as “ba,” I picture BAryshnikov dancing ballet and transforming into a swan. I also see a strange ballet pose in the radicals. That’s four syallables to get the single syllable “ba” but I can see it.

Generally speaking, if WK’s mnemonic is of something I can see, I use it. If it’s something I hear, probably not. If it’s something conceptual (“民” = “mean,” so imaging ducks being terribly mean), I won’t use it.

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I like the mnemonics in general and find them useful. Not having used a system like this before where the radicals have names and you use them to tell a story, the mnemonics were a revelation to me.

As I progressed in levels, I do find I have better success in general if I create my own mnemonics. I do it for some tricky vocabulary and most kanji at this point (assuming I don’t know them already). So yes, feel free to roll your own. They do often stick much better.

One that I made and was particularly proud of recently was for the vocabulary word 用事. It means “errand” and is read “ようじ – youji”. I thought to myself, there’s no way I’m going to remember the word “errand”. So I got to thinking about a knight errant who’s going on an errand. Then I remembered the Japanese cinematic hero played by Toshiro Mifune, in the movie Yojimbo. He’s a ronin, kind of a knight errant. So here’s what I wrote in the note for that word: “A Knight Errant named YŌJI-mbo [I know that’s not really his name] must wander the land to prove himself. But to him it’s just an ERRAND.” And I’ve gotten it right every time.

I find WK worth the price for just reasons 3-5 of the ones bblum listed (though I don’t listen to the audio recordings as much as I should). Aside from the names of the radicals, you can use or ignore the mnemonics as you please. (Although if a radical is REALLY annoying, I just rename it after seeing if the name will stick or not.) Most of the time I use my own mnemonics, not WK’s, but occasionally one is too good to pass up. In the notes section you can record your own version.

You can still use WK, whether you pass or not the quizzes depends on you. Definitely self made mnemonics work the best, so if that’s what you’re going for I’d say you’ll do just fine.

Wanikani works perfectly fine without the built in mnemonics. I’ve only used the provided mnemonics for probably less than 50% of the material here. As you said, often I’ll think of a better mnemonic or memory device than the provided one and just go with that. There are also items that just stick in my head with no memory device necessary, usually because I’m already somewhat familiar with it. However, I do try to use the provided mnemonic first because when they work they’re incredibly helpful and save a lot of time and effort.

Wanikani’s main draws for me are the order they introduce material, the carefully constructed SRS spacing system (which I have found works much better than trying to do it myself in Anki), and the semi-controlled rate of material which keeps me consistently learning without over-burdening myself or slacking off. The mnemonics are just a bonus for me. When I started I didn’t actually intend to use the mnemonics at all, however I found that most of them ended up sticking with me even though I just quickly read through them. Especially in the early stages of my study, around levels 1-20 the mnemonics were incredibly helpful. After around level 30 or so their usefulness started to wane for me but I still find them helpful when they work.

My suggestion is to go ahead and give Wanikani and its built-in mnemonics a try and see how far they take you. If they don’t work you can ditch them and still continue with Wanikani.

Looks like you really don’t need any more responses, but I’ll further reinforce that the mnemonics are 0% necessary for success on this site. I’ve maintained over 97% accuracy for now 27 levels and I can’t name a single mnemonic for anything I’ve learned. :rofl: If you know that you perform better creating your own mnemonics, go for it. That’s what I do usually, especially since I also ignore/remain all of the radicals to their appropriate kangxi equivalent (if possible).


Which script is that?

(it’s this one ^^)


As a beginner, I was a little concerned about the mnemonics as well, mostly for the same reasons people have pointed out here – they don’t really mean anything to me. I’m not in a huge rush to learn though so maybe coming up with my own isn’t the worst idea in the world.

But one thing that I don’t understand is why they came up with unique mnemonics for the radicals that are obviously kana. If you’re even attempting to learn kanji, surely you’ve already learned hiragana and katakana, right? The radicals for power, spoon, mouth, slide, two, treasure, etc. are all kana. And then for some crazy reason, they decided that “ra” should just be “ra”, it’s katakana pronunciation.

Then again, I suppose that in the grand scheme of learning thousands of kanjis, a few redundant characters is nothing.

Yes. Very. I’ve always had this issue with Koichi’s radicals.

To be fair, he uses names because (at least in his mind) they lend themselves more easily to mnemonics, but since the mnemonics that he always comes up with a daft anyway…

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