Worth writing kanji?

Is it worth writing out and memorizing the kanji and how to write them, for the sake of memorization not as much writing in the future, since I will pretty much always type Japanese.


Personally, I would say yes. I view it the same as doing math by hand rather than all by calculator. Sure, you can get by, but I don’t feel like I understand as well without the reinforcement that writing things out provides.

But you don’t necessarily need to prioritize doing it early on.


If you search, there are frequently discussions about this. Some people, even those who live in Japan, decide that it is not worth the effort to learn. Other people learn to write a little bit to help with memory. Some of us love written kanji, and practice most days.


Personally, I’ve had little trouble memorizing kanji just from using WK normally. If anything, the vocab gives me much more trouble because of alternate readings, and writing the kanji won’t really help with that. If you think writing will help you, I encourage you to try it, but just keep in mind that everything will start to accelerate and there may come a point where writing is actually holding you back.

It’s also important to remember that you will actually get better at learning as time goes on (this is just from personal experience so I’d be curious to see what other people have to say on this point). I know that for me, learning the kanji of the first 5 or so levels seemed more difficult than they do now. I just did a huge batch of level 11/12 lessons this morning and during my midday reviews I remembered most of them, something that would never happen in the earlier levels. Learning using WK is just as much of a skill as the actual kanji are, so you may get to a point where kanji learning is easy enough that you don’t need to write to help yourself remember them.

Of course, like I said before, do whatever suits you. If you can go through WK using writing to help you, then congratulations! Now you can also write kanji, which is a hugely difficult thing on its own that most people (myself included) skip over because it’s not needed. I know you said you’d be writing for the sake of memorization and not actually being able to write but if you keep up with it you can use it for both either way. Another benefit to writing (so I’ve been told) is that if you know the proper stroke order for kanji it can help you read written kanji better, because it’s not always as neat as a typed font but you can see the individual strokes.

That’s my two cents anyways, someone with more WK experience might have more to say, but no matter what you decide, the most important aspect is that you’re consistent with WK. Writing or no, you won’t learn if you don’t do the lessons and reviews.

Best of luck!


One thing writing kanji might really help with is recognizing different fonts. If you know how it is written, what the stroke order is like, it’s easier to extrapolate how the kanji might change in calligraphy, or in a handwritten font.


Depends on your objectives for learning the language and how you personally learn.

I haven’t done any kanji writing at all and it’s been fine for me.

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If hand-writing kanji would bring you joy, then by all means go for it. :slightly_smiling_face:


It is definitely worth learning to write it.

There are a lot of myths and deceptions going around the internet and in general that the Japanese people cannot write Kanji or do not bother to learn it anymore. This is a flat out myth and total fabrication. Kanji is an essential part of Japanese life and it is impossible to live there, attain work and survive (as a Japanese person) if they do not know Kanji. It is drummed into them in school to learn it.

The myths and misconceptions arise due to the fact that some kanji are considered irrelevant and not worth learning. The Japanese government I believe oversees which Kanji is essential and not. Some Kanji have been made obsolete. That is probably why this myth has arisen. I have seen plenty of YouTube videos with some “wiseguy” showing an obscure Kanji to a Japanese person and they have no idea what it means and uses it as proof that the Japanese people do not know Kanji anymore. It is a flat out lie. It s the same as asking an English speaking person what the words “panoptic”, “Barmecide”, “bruxism”, “thaumatrope”, “turbary”, “Bifurcation” and “Certiorari” all mean and when people get them wrong claiming that we no longer use English.

I do not consider I have learnt a Kanji unless I can actually write it with the correct brush stroke, know the stroke count and can write it from memory. This is what the Japanese people do in their schools.

I do not use online media for this. I own a book and it is probably the best book I have ever had for Japanese study. It is called Essential Kanji by P.G. On’Neil and has 2000 Kanji in it it has written and computer form as well as old form and has the stroke order and example vocabulary it is used in. There is a list at the back that has meaning lookup as well as stroke order lookup to find that illusive Kanji as well as a list of radicals by their correct translated names. If you cannot write the Kanji from memory then you simply do not know it. There is no argument about it. If you cannot write it then how are you supposed to recognise it when you see it in vocabulary you do not know and mix it up with similar looking Kanji.


I don’t specifically go out of my way to learn handwritten kanji by heart, but I take notes by hand when going over grammar. And when I read, I keep a list of vocab words by hand as well, so I end up writing a reasonable amount.

It has helped me with retention (even more mental pathways and memories connected to those kanji), but it’s also very time consuming if you’re checking how to write something before you write it. I do agree that knowing stroke order has helped me a little bit with recognizing kanji in more crazy fonts.

There is nothing wrong with giving hand writing a go - just make sure to evaluate if it works for you over time.

A boost to retention can be nice, but if you end up not doing your kanji work because you don’t feel like the lengthy process of doing writing drills; consider changing up your methods again. Depending on what you want to use Japanese for, writing by hand might not be immediately necessary, and it’d be a shame to let that aspect burn you out.


Is it worth writing out and memorizing the kanji and how to write them, for the sake of memorization not as much writing in the future, since I will pretty much always type Japanese.

If you plan on learning how to read and write Japanese, then yes, you probably need to write them (it’s obviously easier to read characters you have already written). If you’re planning on not learning how to read or write, and are only focusing on learning how to listen and speak at a basic level, then you might want to consider skipping writing.

Try asking yourself the same question about writing English by hand. I think the answer is roughly the same.

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Depends on your goals. If your goal is to work with Japanese long term or achieve a high level of fluency, it’s definitely “worth” it, to the extent that it helps you remember kanji more thoroughly and is a cornerstone of communication if you’re ever living in Japan. It will also aid your ability to decipher other peoples’ handwritten notes, and kanji distorted by shorthand writing methods.

But even then, it’s definitely the most optional part, so don’t feel bad if you’re making the call to put it on back-burner for reading, grammar, vocab, and listening. (As I’m doing now, though I know building in a permanent writing-practice routine is something I should do down the road.)

If you know your goals for the language don’t extend beyond reading or listening as hobbies, then … your call. Prioritize what feels useful. I will say it’s quite possible to read without extensive writing practice, so I somewhat disagree with the post above that claims it’s impossible to say you know a kanji before you can write it. You’ll have to know the differences between kanji that differ by a stroke a two, and while the best way to drill those in is absolutely writing, those are differences you can commit to memory through careful visual drilling and reading. I absolutely think you can be literate without extensive writing practice–and there are probably multiple members here who are living proof of that–while also fully agreeing that it’s better to also be able to write the kanji, and undoubtedly leads to even greater reading fluency long-term.

This is true, but English writing doesn’t have quite the same time hurdles Japanese writing practice does. (Spellings are often arbitrary, but you can more or less write once you have twenty-six letters down.) It’s absolutely a useful skill, and helps with other areas of study, but as a Japanese learner, I think it’s absolutely reasonable to assess whether you can give it the time it requires.

Extremely noted, for a purchase once I’m done with my N1 books.

I feel like some people are forgetting about opportunity cost, aka by the time you learned how to write 5 Kanji you probably could have learned how to read 15.
(No, the exact numbers don’t really matter)

And it’s not a black and white thing either.
Maybe you’d decide to learn how to write the 500 most common Kanji but only read the rest.

Point being: My time is finite. For now I’d rather be able to read more Kanji.


Knowing how to write them does help you remember what they look like because it really forces you to pay attention to how their constructed, not just to look at the kanji’s overall appearance. That said, you’re write that you probably will never have to do more than type them outside of a Japanese class. My advice is, practice writing for a while, but eventually you should be able to give it up without any harm.

And maybe my memory for those 5 is more solid than yours for the 15. Whether you want to focus on broad understanding or deep dives is personal preference as well.

I don’t really see how this would work though, honestly. If you know how to write 500 kanji, and then you learn 汁, you don’t need to make much effort to “learn” how to write that.


That is actually a major misconception about Kanji. You can learn to write them quicker by learning to write them.

The trick is that every Kanji has a pattern of radicals. Once you learn how to write the radicals by stroke order or stroke number then you do not need to learn the stroke pattern of all individual Kanji as you will already know the pattern.

Think of it as ingredients if you like.

It is more like if you learn to write 5 Kanji then you can automatically know how to write 50 or even 500 or more depending on how many radicals you learnt.

In reality you waste more time learning them from memory opposed to learning them by writing. I was told by a Japanese teacher once that you only have to write it 6 times to be able to remember it without looking. Practice writing them 6 times each day of practice and by the end of the week you will be totally proficient at writing the ones you have learnt.


I agree with the main thrust of your post, that kanji-writing is still essential for Japanese people. However, I can say that you don’t need to know how to write a kanji to distinguish it from similar kanji. If you have studied both kanji (burned them on wanikani) you will absolutely be able to tell it from a similar kanji.


How else would you learn how to write them?

You just busted WaniKani, lets all move over to https://skritter.com/

I didnt mean you’d suddenly stop knowing how to write 501 kanji, but you’d not make an effort to practice writing them by memory.
Also, I’d probably say knowing how to write a kanji when you see it and being able to write it by memory are still quite different.


Yeah, I agree with this. And if you see the word 試験 and you burned it on WK, you’ll be able to read it and know the meaning if you see it in all likelihood, even if you can’t remember if it’s 験 or 検 when you need to write it yourself.


I guess the point is that it takes someone who has learned how to write 500 kanji probably 5 seconds to commit the elements of 汁 to memory, if they need to produce it from memory.

Something like 鬱, sure, you’ll need to take some time to work out a mnemonic at first probably, or at least write it out a few times. But many kanji are just “yeah, got it” at a certain point.


When I was living in Japan I was glad I could write some kanji at least. And honestly, my main motivation for learning how to write new kanji was to avoid embarrassment when writing in front of others.