What wanikani level to learn 300 kanji

On the Tofugu podcast, Koichi mentioned learning 300 kanji before going to Japan and I’m just curious what level that would be?

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But by knowing just 300 kanji and little else you’ll have quite a hard time.


Thanks :slight_smile: It’s true he also said to learn about 100 vocab and grammar…

By when you know 300 kanji in WK you’ll know more than 300 words, but even then you’ll have a hard time. I mean, if you study some outside vocabulary and basic grammar you’ll be able to ask where’s the bathroom and some basic things, but not much else. You’ll be largely illiterate, and most written signs you’ll be unable to understand.


I visited Japan twice during my WK studies, once at level 3 and once at level 22.

I was surprised at how many signs (or at least portions of signs) I could read at level 20-something. I felt like I was surrounded by reading practice and was staring at signs everywhere.

Of course:

  1. You’ll also need to know katakana (which I hate) and hiragana.
  2. Your listening and speaking will be largely, but not completely, unaffected by WK.

To be honest, you’re better off taking a convo class than knowing 300 kanji before going to Japan


For travel to Japan? I’ve gone 4 times knowing maybe 5 kanji and speaking almost nothing and had a fantastic time. Just to offer some perspective. It’s not a hard country to get around and do things even if you only have the skill of being polite and asking nicely for help :slight_smile:


I would think that katakana would be fastest way to understand some Japanese since most katakana words come from English anyway. Spelling is just what it is :slight_smile: They are trying very hard to make Tokyo easy travel place for foreigners because olympics are coming so there should already be some amazing phone apps and stuff to help go around. Don’t know how to find those tho.

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I agree with Tzakiel, but think as you improve at Japanese you get more from the experience. Knowing spoken and some Japanese has allowed me to take advantage of opportunities that are almost impossible for people to do without any Japanese knowledge.

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In my opinion, Katakana can only be learned in Japan. It’s hard to find enough source material in the US to make Katakana seem worthwhile at all to beginners, but it gives such a huge sense of accomplishment (kind of silly) when you can read it in Japan

Edit - Katakana can be learned in the US. I exaggerated for effect.

Huh…? You know there are people who never travel to Japan and pass N1, right?

On the topic of Tokyo, you don’t need any Japanese, even katakana, to get around reasonably comfortably. Going outside of cities becomes trickier though.


The key word in my statement was “beginners”.

Everyone is a beginner at first. How did they learn katakana without going to Japan? I can’t imagine you actually mean what you wrote.


You’re right, that was an exaggeration but since you challenge like every post I make, I question your claim as to how many people pass the N1 without setting foot in Japan and expect that they are the exception not the rule as you implied.

An unnecessarily long but much less “exaggerated” response -

My opinion from when I was a beginner was that Katakana was a waste of time. This was reinforced by teachers who said that it was something they had to cover and the only reason they were covering it was that if you couldn’t bother learning the Katakana you were going to have a hard time sticking with Japanese to learn the Kanji. I didn’t exactly buy that logic personally because when I opened up a book, I noticed much more of the kanji than the Katakana. But I get the point in terms of patience.

My story continues and I went to Japan much like the person who made the post suggesting OP learn Katakana, and I felt hella accomplished for knowing Katakana. Because even with limited Kanji at the start I could read things like “pet bottle” because I knew Katakana and this got me excited and encouraged me to continue studying and to be more vigilant with learning Kanji.

Literally, was just trying to say that even if the value to learning Katakana doesn’t seem to exist from the states, there is value.

Considering that if you know where to look you can pass N1 without paying much for study resources, and it takes what, $50 to take the test, and thousands of dollars to go to Japan, and like 20,000 people pass N1 at overseas testing sites during each sitting of the test… its easy to imagine not all of them are people who have made the trip to Japan.

I have a hard time imagining a Japanese person saying that katakana is only useful to learn as a way to weed out people who can’t make it to kanji. Katakana vocabulary is extensive, even when just limiting it to pop-culture content people everywhere can find.

Sorry for responding when I disagree with something you’ve said. I’ll take care in the future.

Dude you need to learn to pick your fights :slight_smile: I like the spirit but you kind of shot yourself in the leg there so it’s gonna be hard to win. I understand that katakana is not really useful here but it sure is easy to learn here. It’s just alphabets anyway.

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You have no data to back up any of your claims (and neither do I for mine as it is not available) regarding precisely how many people who take the JLPT who haven’t been to Japan. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that most people who sign up for the N1, aka literally the highest level available of the test, from another country has set foot in Japan at some point. It’s not like I’m claiming people who take the N5 have to have been to Japan or that people who take the N1 must have married someone Japanese or something outlandish. I’m literally saying that they probably went on a vacation at minimum to have that sort of dedication to Japanese language study. Alternatively, they are a unique exception (and pretty darn good at language study) and I envy whatever aspect of their life has made that possible for them.

You really can’t see a Japanese professor teaching American college students trying to be on their level and saying something like that? Really? You must have been in class with like the most dedicated Japanese students in the world, because today’s students question almost everything they have to learn. I had a student the other day not question an assignment I gave them, but literally tell me-- not ask-- tell that they shouldn’t have to complete it and should still receive full credit. these are the same professors who would say things like “it doesn’t seem like stroke order is important but you’ll impress Japanese people if you know it”, it’s just trying to give context/seem like what their asking has a purpose (and they are right as I said, it just can be hard for some beginners to get this).

You are welcome to disagree with me in posts, and it is likely simply that you are so active on this compared to me that it is noticeable to me and likely not to you at all. My issue is that I just don’t post expecting to defend every single syllable of what I post. I come to try to add to the conversation my own experience and opinions. Your mileage clearly differs.

I didn’t shoot myself in the foot at all. I’ve already said it was an exaggeration. My post literally was in agreement with what you said, I said nothing about the difficulty only how important it seemed to beginners. Source material is not the same as teaching materials.

I’ve never taken a Japanese course with a professor or at a college. It sounds more like they’re just trying to preemptively stop people from complaining than sharing an actual truth about the usage of katakana in Japanese.

And no, of course I don’t have exact stats on how many people pass N1 without going to Japan. But unless you think the number is 0 (which is what you implied with what your wrote, even if you don’t agree with that interpretation) we don’t need to know the exact number.

Plus N1 was just the extreme… people who pass N5 and beyond presumably know katakana, and they don’t all go to Japan.

As I thought, you didn’t mean what you wrote, but you are insisting it doesn’t mean that because later in the same paragraph you mention beginners.


I think this is the second time we’ve ever interacted on this site, so I assume again that was an exaggeration that I nitpick everything you say?

Regarding the data piece, I think it may as well be zero and I -do- think that. I don’t have any knowledge about the N5 only that it is basic like 1 year of study and the N1 is advanced like 1000 hours or summat. I’ve never taken or studied for the JLPT. To be honest, I’m a bit surprised they test Katakana on the 5. That’s interesting. If I were doing Japanese pedagogy I don’t think I’d put that on the 5.

It’s like I said, I don’t post often. So no, not an exaggeration? If I post more, maybe yes?