Why so many useless vocab words?

I always wondered and now I decided to ask: is there any purpose of learning so many useless vocab words, even in lower levels? By useless I mean words, that I have never used before in my life and probably will never use in the future. Neither in my mother language, nor in English and for sure never in Japanese.

Such words as ship hull (船体), police box (交番), shaved ice (かき氷)and some other words I never used before. So it’s very hard to remember them and I wonder if they have any relevance in further levels? And why do we learn them already in the first few levels where more common vocab would be more useful?

The only use I see for that mentioned vocab is that I can impress my girlfriend who studied 2 years for N3 and doesn’t know these words. And I just needed a few weeks Wanikani to learn them :smile:


Don’t know you, but I live in Japan and I use or hear often 交番 (any time) and かき氷 (on summer time, obviously).


The police boxes are quite iconic, and it’s obviously useful to be able to ask for the police (and understand how the police system works; there are basically small police stations for each area). Shaved ice with syrup is extremely popular in Japan, as animes or small children can probably tell you.

I’m not talking about ship hulls every day, but it shows you the logic how words are composed, and you could probably come up with the word for airplane hull (or maybe computer enclosure) if needed.

You will never know when you come across things, you can see it as an opportunity to learn new stuff :wink: I doubt I will need “glory” or something in a conversation, but “useless” is never applicable.


交番 is actually pretty common, don’t diss the police box.
Ever read Moby Dick? Or any other novel set anywhere near the ocean? You’re probably gonna read 船体.
かき氷 pretty common in anime, also pretty popular in Japan.

I mean, you have a point, but the examples you picked out aren’t actually that useless.

The reason WaniKani teaches you these words is so that it can burn the meaning and readings of the kanji into your mind. And also because this is the way you should be learning kanji anyways; not as isolated chicken scratch symbols with random sounds and meanings, but building blocks that form numerous connected words.

Some of the words in WaniKani are not particularly common, especially compared to core 6k (which is, by the way, based off newspaper frequency, so make with that what you will). Learning less common - but by no means rare and useless - words is a good thing, especially if you’re also doing another system like core. Less overlap.

In fact, WaniKani is best used in conjunction with the common word lists (like Core and the JLPT vocab lists) because it can leave simple and common vocabulary until really late levels. You won’t learn the word for ‘cat’ until the 40s! Kanji are the main goal this learning system is teaching you, which WaniKani teaches you via vocab, with no regard for whether those words are common and immediately useful or not.

But hey, reading Kodansha’s Kanji Learner’s Dictionary, I’ve come across wayyyyyy rarer and more useless words for equally useless kanji just because they’re in the jouyou list. WaniKani is pretty good about it in comparison.


Of all the topics complaining about useless vocab, this is the first I’ve seen to mention 交番 as a useless word. That might be literally the most useful word to someone traveling in Japan, in certain circumstances. That’s a bizarre choice for these (typically annoying) topics, for sure.

And I doubt you’ve never discussed the police before, but maybe you’re that sheltered. 交番 is N5 vocabulary, btw, so it’s kind of embarrassing if your girlfriend actually doesn’t know it.

The only words that I think you can argue are not useful are the really specific baseball ones if you don’t care about baseball. Like, I think there’s two ways to say sacrifice fly on WK.

Basically everything else should be in the vocabulary of any Japanese native, and so I can’t see why you’d argue that it shouldn’t be learned.


Also cant think of any time I have needed to use 乱交 but its always useful to know, just in case you are invited to one :wink:

猫 is level 15 js


No need to make things personal here.


Leebo is generally a helpful, but sarcastic/blunt guy. Dont take too much offense to what he says


Can we get rid of the campfire if we’re going to rule based on necessity.

BTW, I didn’t make it personal, he brought all that stuff up.


He’s helped me with grammar before and I’m aware of his sarcastic nature, but no reason to be a dick and call someone “sheltered” because they don’t know the word for police. Just tired with his “high horse” approach to correcting/general Japanese learning.


He said he hasn’t discussed these concepts in English or his mother language. You’d have to be sheltered to not have discussed police stations. My point was he’s not actually unaware of it.

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Not knowing a word for something does not mean you don’t know of said concept.
If you don’t know the word for “giraffe” you can describe it as an animal with a long neck.
I agree with you that the words the user mentioned are by no means “useless”, but why feel the need to resort to calling OP sheltered for not knowing police boxes. Seems a bit childish imo.


If you want to talk about giraffes, then giraffe’s not a useless word is it.

He has talked about police. I’m sure of it.

You’re not reading what I wrote are you. He isn’t actually sheltered.

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Of course OP isn’t, police are an everyday part of our daily lives.

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The only explanation for him thinking that 交番 is useless (besides the obviously impossible scenario of him being sheltered to the extent that he has never discussed them) is that he didn’t actually learn what a 交番 is when he did the lesson for the word. Is he imagining a small box that a police officer is holding? The example sentences do make it fairly obvious what it is though.


Working at a shipyard in Japan, I can assure you that 船体 is not useless for me.


How about 眼鏡? Wasn’t that in the 30s/40s?

Still, point.

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Those are both N1 kanji…

Edit: oh, okay, you’re not saying it should be earlier.

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Not sure how I’m supposed to talk Doctor Who without Police Box, soo…


Thanks for the explanations, that answers my questions. I didn’t know that these words are quite common in Japan (haven’t been there yet). I can’t think of any situation where I used one of these words in my mother language and I had to ask Google about shaved ice and police boxes. Actually even my translator failed to translate “police box” so it is not such a shame to not know it. None of the countries I traveled through have “police boxes”. So now it’s good to know that this is just the word for police station, otherwise I would have just ignored the vocab on WK cause it seemed useless for me.