Weird Kanji Readings are not helpful!

Isn’t it weird that the first kanji in this system have readings that are so uncommon?

For example, instead of onna for woman it’s jyo, and instead of iri for enter it’s nyu; and instead of kuchi for mouth it’s kou or ku.

So if you already know the most common readings of these kanji you’re going to get the answers wrong a lot of the time in the quizzes or at least get confused!!

Even the examples of how these kanji are used (e.g. 入口 i.e. いりぐち) are not consistent with the reading taught!

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Welcome to the site.

Both the onyomi and kunyomi for the early kanji are extremely common.

For instance, for 女, in the words 女性 (woman, female), 女子 (girl), 少女 (girl), 彼女 (she, girlfriend), 女王 (queen), etc… those all use the じょ reading. All rather essential, basic, and common words.

You’ll see as you go, I think.

You won’t get the kanji items wrong by answering with the kunyomi either, you’ll just be asked to answer with the onyomi.


WK usually teaches the on’yomi for a kanji first unless the kun’yomi is more commonly used. The other readings are then taught to you through vocabulary as to not overwhelm the user.

Even so if you answer a kanji with the wrong reading it will not count it as wrong but ask you for the other reading instead.


Thanks James,

But surely girl is おんなのこ and woman is おんなのひと. There’s no じょ reading there. That’s what I’ve learnt in my Japanese lessons here in Japan over the past couple of years. This why I’m finding it confusing.

Similarly, 入口, which we see everywhere, is read いりぐち.

Anyway, if I can answer with kunyomi instead, I guess that’s OK. I suppose it’s less confusing for people who haven’t already learnt some kanji in Japan.


Leebo is fine. James actually isn’t my name… it’s something the forum admins slapped on there… don’t worry about it.

Sure, both 女の人 and 女の子 are basic as well, but if you teach the おんな reading initially, then you get precisely one word out of it. 女 (おんな). 女の子 and 女の人 are just 女 attached to other words with の, at their core.

The other words I mentioned each have their own time and place to be used. They are all common and basic as well. None of them are rare or advanced words.

Of course, WK teaches all of these. おんな is taught in a vocab lesson. But じょ appears in a wide variety of words. おんな appears in only one (but that word does get used in what are essentially phrases).

I actually have a thread where I talk about how and when to use all the various words for “girl.”


It’s extremely difficult to get through life in Japan without hearing 女子 (joshi), aimed at girls/young women (usually students), or 女性 (josei) for female as a gender. That’s without touching on 女 with its “jo” reading in any number of compounds. Opposite those words are 男子 (danshi) and 男性 (dansei), using their on’yomi as well, even though 男 is “otoko” as a stand-alone word and in a number of set phrases.

The goal of the kanji lessons in Wanikani, independent of the vocab lessons, is to teach you to be able to read the kanji whether you’re encountering it on its own or as a component of other words. More often than not, these compounds will utilize the on’yomi readings, which are separate from how the characters read as stand-alone vocabulary, and at any rate, you’ll need to know both for most common kanji to have anything approximating a level of literacy in Japanese. In selecting which reading to pair with the kanji as a kanji item in reviews, the site generally opts for the one which is the more useful building block for other phrases and words, which is usually but not always the on’yomi.

The goal of Wanikani is to teach you to read, and that means teaching all common readings of the kanji it includes. On a practical level, it won’t mark you incorrect for putting in the other reading during a kanji review–it’ll just shake and try to prompt you to put in the one it’s looking for, leaving the other up to vocab. That ensures you’re hitting both (or sometimes more) of the common readings for it during reviews.

(Edit – Whoops; looks like I’m just repeating statements above…)

I guess as a way of adding something new, just keep an ear out for 入 with its on’yomi reading. It’s all over the place. 入学;入社;入式;入場;入院;突入;入力(you probably have a button for this on your TV remote), and on and on.


Most of the vocab on WK has readings of くち or ぐち… but WK vocab isn’t everything. For instance, Jisho lists 109 compounds with the こう reading versus 198 words with the reading. The 210 Jisho compounds with the く reading might be broken; according to my trusty yellow Tuttle Kanji Dictionary, “mouth” with a reading of く is rarer but still valid for some compounds.

On WK it’s common to get the 音読み (Chinese reading) when you learn the kanji and the 訓読み (Japanese reading) when you learn the vocab - e.g. 山 as kanji is さん but as vocab is やま. Sometimes you get the Japanese reading first when you learn the kanji, and then maybe a few levels later you’ll get the Chinese reading, e.g. 見 is taught as み and けん shows up much later.

And then sometimes there’s hateful kanji like 上 which can’t make up their stupid mind how they want to be pronounced from word to word so it barely matters which reading you learn first. Grr!

WK’s general approach is to teach you the on’yomi as the initial reading of the kanji, and then the kun’yomi shortly afterwards as vocabulary. So for 女, you learn the じょ on’yomi at first, because you’ll be learning おんな as a standalone vocabulary term shortly afterwards.

You’re saying you live in Japan and have never encountered the words 少女 or 彼女? That seems highly dubious. I’ll also heard the word 王女 in all manners of TV shows, movies, etc. The じょ reading is far from being “weird.”

Yes, because those are the readings for the words like 人口, 口語, etc.

What does learning kanji in Japan have to do with anything? You’re claiming that people learning kanji in Japan don’t learn on-yomi readings? Again, that seems highly dubious.


That’s because 口 is a body part, and body parts tend to use kun’yomi for whatever reason,
so くち is the most common reading. Most kanji will use on’yomi when in a compound word though. For example, with 力, りょく is used in much more words than ちから.

You can’t. You won’t be marked wrong, but you’ll be asked to answer with the reading taught. You usually get the kun’yomi from the vocab items, so essentially WaniKani wants you to know at least 2 readings.

This is only true for kanji. For vocab, you will for sure be marked wrong because, for example, 人口 is not じんくち.


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