What’s the best way to remember the mnemonics?

I can remember a lot of them after several times of seeing them, but is repetition an effective way, or am I doing something wrong?

I close my eyes and visualize the story of the mnemonic. I’ll do each one 2 or 3 times initially, always trying to make the story as ridiculous as possible (as wanikani often instructs you to do) and sometimes changing it to something that is more relevant to my personal experiences.

If I change anything I will add it to the notes section for that item. But be careful when doing this because some future items will build on these mnemonics.

In terms of the repetition, I feel like before items get to master or so, you are seeing them enough to where you just start remembering them on sight alone. But then when it starts being weeks or months between seeing an item, simple repetition fails and mnemonics win.

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Thanks, I’ll give this a try.

To recall a mnemonic I generally try to piece back together the story by the radicals. So for 禁 when I see it I say to myself: Ok there’s two trees and a jackhammer, what do they try to do… they try to [prohibit] people from doing something. If they’re trying to prohibit something they are… [きn] on stopping people from something. If you remember either the pronunciation or the meaning of a kanji it is significantly easier to piece back together the other half.

Mnemonics shouldn’t be hard to remember. The whole point of a mnemonic is that they help you to remember. The definition of a mnemonic by a random google search: “a system such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations which assists in remembering something.”

If the WK mnemonics don’t work for you, make your own. Spend a little time to make a good one. One or two minutes for an excellent mnemonic can help you remember something for years.

edit. maybe I should make myself more clear: make sure you know your radicals, and for readings, try to use only one mnemonic for one sound: Koichi for こう, Mrs. Chou for ちょう, Charlie Sheen for し, etc. This way the stories “come to you” instead of the other way around.

If I need to remember a mnemonic I usually click on view details button and reread mnemonic during reviews. Even if I got the answer correct. Always do this and mnemonic will stick in your memory.

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That’s an interesting point. Do you need past mnemonics to understand/be able to use new ones ? So far, I use very little of them either becauseIi already know the kanji or because I tend to think that I cannot remember such a ridiculous story for long, or because I don’t know what it’s all about (Charlie Sheen for example) and them I find make my own. Is that safe ?

Do you have a problem remembering any of them or are there only certain ones that are hard to remember? If it is only some items that you find difficult:

I do forget some mnemonics after the first time but if I still can’t remember them after the second or third time although I really tried to imagine the story and the details then I assume that this mnemonic just doesn’t work for me and I create my own. I think I have my own mnemonics for maybe 20% of all items.

Sometimes I can remember the mnemonic but not the exact reading: should “toss” stand for "たす” or "とす”? At least for me as a non native English speaker that is not obvious. I also add my own mnemonics in such a case: I’m tossing a “Tasse” (German: cup) instead of a rope as in the original version and now all is good.

That is usually time well spent because your own (ideally at least as ridiculous as the WaniKani ones, I really hope they are not publicly visible anywhere… :wink: ) should be even easier to remember.

I have found that I often need to make up my own “stories”, as the ones given by WK don’t always match my own way of thinking. I mean, I can imagine only so many “toes” or “charlie sheens” doing different weird things. I guess it will be only worse once I move up to higher levels.

BTW, I would recommend that you look up the newly learnt Kanjis in other sources (e.g. online), as sometimes your brain might associate them with the colored background and font, and you may find that even the ones you already know perfectly well might be a bit hard to identify when seen written in small fonts and with a different (white) background.


Yes, so true!

I often feel like, no matter how often I saw (and correctly identified) an item here on WaniKani or on KaniWani, I haven’t really “learned” it until I’ve seen it elsewhere at least once. It seems to me like teaching a dog a new trick: just because he knows how to do “sit” on the red carpet in your living room doesn’t mean he will be able to do it tomorrow while you are on a walk. You have to practice in different contexts.

As I progressed through the levels, I started to learn what mnemonics I’m likely to remember and those that I won’t.

Those that work well (for me): those that conjure up a clear, unambiguous visual story. Example:
複 (duplicate) - “pelican” and “black hole” radicals - the mnemonic was something like, “You throw a pelican into a black hole and out pops its exact duplicate”. Then, the reading mnemonic was "when the duplicate pelican pops out it’s angry and says f**k you (ふく).
This imagery is strong, because it’s funny (to me) to think of a black hole as a duplicating machine for pelicans. And, of course, the pelican and his duplicate will be pissed afterwards.

Those that don’t work that well: mnemonics for any abstract word (e.g. 徴 “indicate” or 諸 “various”), simply because the story component of the mnemonic doesn’t really tie strongly to the definition, and often I’ll remember a synonym, or remember a different word used in the mnemonic. This isn’t WK’s fault at all, abstract words are … abstract!

Those that kill me: kanji/vocab that are virtual synonyms and whose mnemonics are somewhat arbitrarily tied to their specific definitions. 怖 and 恐 (“scary” and “fear”) are going to take some time before I stop confusing them with each other.

But, I got/am getting there (as did many others). Some strategies that work for me (ymmv):

  • When i read a mnemonic, I rephrase it in my own words using the fewest number of words possible. I find WK sometimes includes a lot of ancillary details, I presume to try and strengthen the imagery, but for me it does the exact opposite: it increases the chances I’ll remember the wrong thing.
  • I absolutely strive to get my 4hr review done as close to 4hrs as possible. This seems to make a massive difference in terms of making the mnemonic stick
  • I don’t try and “jump off” the mnemonic too early; every review up until the first Guru I force myself to recall the mnemonic. This seems to be about the time when the kanji’s visuals are starting to make their own association in my mind.

Sorry for the essay - I hope it’s some help!

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Later on when you get to kanji with 3+ radicals, it can be helpful to see if WK is maybe breaking things down into too many radicals, and actually making it a bit tougher for you in some cases.

際 for example is butcher + jackhammer + tent per WK, and means “occasion”. I can’t connect WK’s mnemonic to “occasion” in any memorable way. Nor does it lend itself to remembering the さい reading.

But jackhammer + tent is also a kanji we learned earlier, 祭 or “festival”. And “a butcher festival is an occasion” is how I’ve been remembering it. Admittedly I haven’t worked さい into this but I also remember さい as a reading of 祭, and the way that kanji with parts in common are sometimes (often?) read the same way is maybe the most interesting concept that WK never clues you into. (Maybe coming in the radical overhaul?)

Sometimes the mnemonic isn’t necessarily bad but I still feel like I’m remembering two totally different stories between reading and meaning. So for 被 (incur, ひ, with radicals pelican + skin) I skipped the WK mnemonics and just remembered “He incurs pelican skin”. Does that sentence make sense? Nope! But it’s also a whole lot easier for me to remember than WK’s story of “If a pelican loses its skin, it could very well incur death. But how did this pelican lose its skin in the first place? The pelican was shot with a heat (ひ) ray.”

Anyway this will vary from person to person and sometimes there’s just no good mnemonic available period (and plenty of WK’s mnemonics are super helpful!), but when the WK mnemonic is getting too complex, try to simplify it with something else.

My mantra since I’ve started WK has been “the less words in a mnemonic, the better the mnemonic”. I don’t think any other characteristic affects my ability to remember one more than length.


Recently I’ve started writing each kanji I learn about 6 times (randomly ordered). I find that writing forces me to remember the radicals that make up the kanji and I think about the story/mnemonic as I write it.

Found this has made my first apprentice review have a much higher success rate than before and it only gets better from there :slight_smile:

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