WaniKani order/layout

Hi guys

I was just wondering, what logic was used in organising the kanji/vocabulary into the various levels? Initially I thought it was based in order of how common a kanji is (i.e. lower levels have more frequently used kanji and vocab), but lately I run into words that either seem like words you’d literally never use (e.g. wisteria?) and still haven’t encountered very basic words like “to close”, despite having long since learnt “to open”.

Can someone illuminate the logic for me please? :sweat_smile:

I’m not asking this because I disagree with how it’s set up, but more so I can understand what I’m missing vocab and kanji wise and adjust accordingly.



the basic concept of WK is to go from graphically simple to graphically complex kanji. doing that, it builds up from simple radicals to more complex radicals.

there is some allowance made for frequency of kanji as well.


Basically, the choice of level content is based on the complexity of the kanji involved as the primary thing (as in: simple → complex). So, it’s not about complexity of meaning for example. But, there is some thought taken for how common something is. Single concepts, like a specific animal, can appear in the upper levels since those kanji might not be used outside of that specific use, for example. So, it’s fine to postpone learning them, even when those words are common knowledge. (lots of animals are also written in kana as well)

Vocab exists to give you a chance to see kanji readings in actual words, and to also give you examples of alternative readings that are fairly common. There’s some thought to how common words are, but in the end, vocab are there to showcase various kanji readings, so less common words can equally work as a vehicle for learning.

I think those are the main lines of reasoning I’ve gotten from using WK.

I think it works. It’s not a “quickly learn how to hold conversations”-tool. Instead it’s a long-term commitment to learning to read. :durtle_megane:


It’s loosely based on the kyoiku kanji list.

Click on the charts, and then click on joyo. You’ll see the lower levels get completed first. Then compare it to the JLPT and frequency charts.
I believe the wisteria you’re referring to is 藤. This is actually a very common kanji, but it’s mainly used in names.


So true! I recently learned this one as well and immediately that same week saw two proper nouns (a school name and a family name) using it in the books and articles I was reading. Really surprised me!


Yes, if I remember correctly the most common Japanese surname is 佐藤.


The Tofugu team has written a very extensive article about it. You can find it here:

As for the content: you can look up all items that are part of the program also the levels higher than your current one. You will need to do your own research though to match it with something else, e.g. common Nk words or something. …or you learn other items simply when you encounter them in the wild :blush:

Anyways, good luck with your studies :four_leaf_clover:


Thank you very much all, your responses made it very clear. 本当にありがとう!:pray:


To bridge the gap, I use anki decks that tackle more commonly used vocabs alongside WK. If the vocabs in my anki decks happen to use kanji from a higher WK level, I’d check the explanation for that kanji in WK…just for the sake of familiarity without sweating too much about perfectly memorizing the kanji now. That’s how I familiarize myself with a number of vocabs that I can immediately use even before I reach the respective WK level.


It’s easy to feel that way when you come across an “uncommon” word but they may not be as uncommon as you think. I still have fond memories of going to a 藤祭り with some friends in Japan. And I guarantee if you watch the Japanese news around wisteria time, you’ll see it show up. I also I have met people who are named 藤さん.

I agree, it’s an odd choice to put in level 33.


I always saw wisteria as an odd word to learn, then in my current level ‘The Big Dipper’ appeared and I was like “oh, one of those words again I never had an idea it would exist to be in a SRS” :grin:


A manga I read actually has a school called 藤女


Yup. All true.

It might also be worth pointing out that the plant is native to Japan (and many other Asian countries) but perhaps not your home country.

It is also native to the Northeastern US (I grew up in Virginia and saw it growing wild often enough), but my botanical identification skills (and vocabulary) was pretty much limited to roses and tulips. I always called it “that purple stuff”.

But I’d at least seen the word “wisteria” before. I had no idea what “hollyhock” was until I looked up the English word after coming across it for the first time here (I don’t think I’d ever even seen the word before). In my defense, that plant is not native to North America.

Anyway, I doubt there’s any order of characters/vocabulary that will seem logical to everyone. Ordering is at least partially based on Japanese frequency of use, not English. WK made reasonable choices, and, more importantly, continues to revise those decisions (witness the weekly content updates).


It’s not just common kanji, it’s more complicated than that. You have to keep in mind that their system needs to be somewhat comprehensible as well, and making it both logical, systematic and gradually have the most common kanji is hard. Some crap till slip in order for consistency. It is what it is. Is it perfect? No. Will it ever be? No. Is it worth arguing about? Not really.

WK is well thought out, they don’t wake up one day and think that a kanji will be at a certain level just because. There is a reason behind it.

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If there’s a reason, why is 閉 so far behind 開? :wink:

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I’m pretty sure it is, since there are alot of rare words that are combined with the kanji, learning it early and have it combined much later on will be more confusing. There is a reason behind the order.

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You’re teasing, I think, but it’s at least partially because the radicals for 开 and 才 are introduced on different levels. Though waiting until level 33 for 閉 does seem a bit egregious, and why those radicals are on different levels might also be up for debate.

I think this falls into the the category of oddities that inevitably slip in. Any ordering will inevitably invite arguments and create weirdnesses. I wouldn’t want to try.


As I said earlier, wanikani loosely follows the kyoiku kanji list. 開 is grade 3 while 閉 is grade 6. So even natives are taught the character much later.

One of the main reasons I’m using wanikani is because of the systematic ordering to fill in the gaps of my kyoiku kanji knowledge. Because I’m a geography nerd, I know more obscure characters beyond what is expected at my level like 琵琶湖, 旭川, 函館, etc.


You remember correctly. Also 伊藤 at 6th, 加藤 at 10th, 斉藤 and 斎藤 at 20th and 21st, 後藤 at 33rd, 近藤 at 35th, 藤田 at 37th, 遠藤 at 38th, 藤井 at 44th, 安藤 at 68th and 工藤 at 77th. One of the nice things about the 藤 in names is that for the hundred most-common surnames, all names with 藤 in the second position, and only those names, are read entirely with on’yomi - almost all of the remainder are kun’yomi, with the occasional nanori or mixed kun’yomi and nanori. (That rule breaks down a bit once you’re past the top hundred, unfortunately. Or maybe two hundred? I can’t remember.)

Though, I just noticed that the source for this list is all of the customers of Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Company in 2008, which may not be a representative sample for all of Japan.

Well, if you want to learn all of the (urban) geography:


wat? I feel like that would be a breach of data protection laws in the EU…

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