Writing in Japanese

In your learning progress, when did you begin to learn how to write Japanese (as in on paper) and what resources did you use to help you?


I didn’t.

I took Japanese in college, so my experience was different from someone self-teaching. I began to write hiragana and katakana the first week of class, and kanji very soon after. The trick is to memorize proper stroke order, at least for me. I downloaded stroke order diagrams and used my textbooks, and wrote the characters over and over and over again until I could pull them from memory with no trouble. Generally, learning stroke order for hiragana/katakana is easier because it’s always the same. Once you have those memorized, moving on to kanji can be a bit trickier, but my advice would be learning to write the radicals first. If you know the radicals and keep in mind that kanji stroke order usually follows the left → right/top → bottom order, you’ll even be able to write kanji you don’t know correctly on the first try. My final advice would just be to write as often as you can. I’ve forgotten how to write a lot of kanji even over the last two years because I switched more to word processing, but hand-writing things typically makes them stick better in my memory. Good luck and have fun! I love writing in Japanese because it looks beautiful when you’re finished!


So, I first started learning Japanese in school, which meant writing was a necessity, and we started with kana and practised on tracing sheets and later on grid paper (you can get books with grid lines most places you can get notebooks for school, they’re used for math and stuff). These sheets are very similar to what we used in class, but you can find different ones by googling something like ‘kana practice printouts’… The site I linked also has katakana and kanji sheets, but you could also just use this generator and make the ones you need :slight_smile:

Now I recommend learning the principles behind stroke order as you start because otherwise you’ll be memorising it mega inefficiently or else get into awful habits. At first they seem overwhelming, I recommend referring to them as you practise until you get it. The Tofugu guide is popular around here.

To supplement, you could install this userscript, which adds stroke order to the Wanikani display. If you end up using KaniWani (it’s a site that does ‘reverse WaniKani’ in that it shows you English definitions and you type in the Japanese readings to test recall) there’s a setting to enable stroke order numbers, and you could use it to drill writing on a notepad and check your answers (I guess you could also use do this while WKing, but you’re learning material you’re WKing, KW is for recall).

At least on iOS there’s an app called KanjiDraw which lets you drill on your phone. I use an Apple Pencil because I have one, I do not know if I would recommend touch screen practice with just your finger since it is not the same as practising writing, maybe other users can weigh in because I know other users use apps like this.

And of course there are books for this!! Most books that teach you kanji will also teach you how to write them, and so will elementary textbooks. Genki 1 is a very popular starter textbook that has writing practice. There are also dedicated handwriting books, I have no idea about them, sorry, as there are not many scenarios that would make me want to invest that much into writing ><

As to how to improve your handwriting, no clue. shrug This thread is half about stationery but it has stuff on other apps and books too. What's your favorite way to study kanji handwriting? - #33 by DavidOsu

I will add that I would not have bothered to do it immediately otherwise if it weren’t for school, because writing is so painful for me that I do not even do it in my native language. Additionally, I could not think of many situations where I would be writing much Japanese instead of typing it – that may be different for you. And if you plan on taking lots of handwritten notes start writing well as soon as you can, though, and the physical act of writing is extremely good for most people’s memory.


I learned hiragana and katakana with the handy game “Takos Japanese”.
For kanji i can advice to do do KaniWani (a third-party-app for WaniKani) with the “google handwriting inupt” keyboard. You learn a) the Englisch-> Japanese translation, which will greatly help you speak japanese and b) you get used to write kanji.

The stroke orders are integrated in KaniWani (as a nice animation, really great).
Of course you can write with your fingers, but I use a stylus pen, so that I can write more precise.

~T :lion:


The first thing I learned was to read and write Hiragana and Katakana. However, I have no plans to learn to write Kanji. Reason?

  1. My handwriting in English is horrible
  2. I don’t properly hold pens or pencils and it hurts / fatigues my hand when I write.
  3. The age of handwriting is over.

Just like they don’t teach cursive anymore in American schools. The focus on handwriting in a digital world isn’t as important anymore.

My focus is to read and type Kanji because 99% of the time digital is the format I will be writing in. I am also a busy Adult and unlike a teenager or college student I simply don’t have the time to dedicate to such a time consuming task.


Yeah @sboardsti, doing KaniWani with handwriting input is about as time consuming as WaniKani itself.
BUT it definetely helps me to read the kanji, because in different fonts or handwritings they can look very different. If you know how to write a kanji, you will have a way greater chance to be able to read them.

And, as already mentioned, it gets so much easyer to speak japanese!! Often I think: “what was the word for X again?.. Well I would write it like that… and then it’s pronounced like this… here we go!”

When learning languages you can waste so much time with so few effect. But I think, this is definetly a good investment of time :slight_smile:


I agree it’s very beneficial and applaud the efforts of anyone that takes on such a task. If I was 20 years younger I might dedicate the time to it but at my current age it’s not worth the investment of my time.


I learned immediately :slight_smile:
Yes, most people don’t handwrite things anymore. HOWEVER I believe it benefits you to learn as quick as possible. Not only does it help you memorize the kanji/character better and understand it’s elements, but it’s actually not as hard as it seems. Once you learn how to write the first couple hundred kanji, you can kind of understand the pattern and don’t need to look up new ones. For example, I haven’t learned 能 yet but I know how to write it because I’ve just figured out the “order” most kanji’s radicals are written.
If you want to learn to write, use Jisho.org! Type in the kanji, type #kanji and it will show you the stroke order along with an animation.

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I initially did my first 300 kanjis following the Remembering the Kanji 1 (RTK) book. Then later and due to me wanting to read ASAP and RTK not been a great method to prime you for reading very early, I went with WK (and I’m happy I did).

In any case I consider RTK a far better resource for learning how to write, meaning thinking in a kanji and be able to write it by heart. Thats because the lessons are structured following the radical (components) of individual kanjis, so kanjis with the same base component will be taught in the same lesson, making it much easier to recall the elements that constitue every kanji.

WK imo works better at giving you tools to get reading early on, but writing it’s a different skill, and though I can recognize most kanjis I’ve burnt in WK while reading, if I have to think I some specific kanji and try to write it, I get a blured imaged of such kanji and most likely I would end up writting something only similar to whatever kanji I was aiming for.

In any case, I would love to pick up RTK once I’m done with the WK and my vocab becomes much bigger; the more connections I have with a particular kanji, the easier is to master them.:nerd_face:

That’s brilliant, I hadn’t thought of that. I didn’t know it would accept kanji put directly into the answer box. The one thing I was struggling with was recalling how to produce the kanji (vs. simply recognizing them). I’m totally switching to handwritten input in KW.

But now I think I need two separate KW accounts, so I can also keep up the english → reading practice also.

Separate issue: it’s very annoying that handwriting input on the mac does not recognize kana. So for the mixed kanji/kana vocabulary, I have to switch to typing, then back to handwriting. Anyone know a Japanese IME that recognizes kanji AND kana?

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I write kanji every day using a water brush, or with a brush and sumi ink.
For me, and maybe with others, one of the prime reasons of learning kanji is the beauty of Japanese calligraphy. Over thirty years ago I read that in japan the art of the poet and the calligrapher are inseparable. I don’t know if it is true or not, but it has stayed with me all this time.
Also, the physical act of painting letters is an important part of learning for me.

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Theres already lots of good replies so I’ll just say this: practicing how to write kanji is really relaxing and fun for me. Write one kanji 10 times and see how you improve, or choose the best and the worst one you wrote and improve based on that. I really enjoy doing this!! Looking for new interesting vocab while studying one particular kanji is also fun. If you go to jisho.org there are vocabulary listed below kanji, and sometimes some vocab is really strange so it’s always interesting!! Then learn the vocabulary too, and you learn more new kanji!!

Oh man! its very sad, that mac can’t do this by default. Btw: the pre-installed Handwriting Keyboard of Android is crap as well. It switches the pages every 0.00001 second, so you have absolutely no time to think about the kanji :frowning:

Btw: I do my Englisch->Japanese practice by simply speak the word out loud. If my writing was correct, but my said word is wrong, i change the correct answer to a wrong answer (by klicking the little x in the left of the answer bar). You will learn write hiragana and Katakana automaticly and writing a word, which you can speak out loud in hiragana is very simple.

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