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Japanese Characters

What is the easiest way to study Japanese characters? There are so many, and it proves difficult to learn them with my bad memory.

November 28, 2017



Well, I have 90% memorized Hiragana by writting it 15-20 times, and watching children songs, Like Dongiri KoroKoro Katakana and Kanji, you can load up on textbooks if ya got the cash ( they are around 15 - 20 bucks) and they help. Or you can do other sites that help with Kanji and Katakana. They are hard to memorize, but writing it over and over does help! Also, use Furigana, It's Hiragana on-top of Kanji, you can look up videos called "On-Vocal" and most will have furigana, also so children books have furigana. For a real test, you can read some manga in Japanese, some are in Kanji, some have Furigana, it all varies, more of the younger teen to children manga have furigana, katakana, and Hiragana! Here's the link! - https://shonenjumpplus.com


Kana is relatively easy, it can be learned in a few days to a few weeks. There are a lot of great resource out there to give your memory a boost, for example in the form of mobile apps. You can also print a kana chart and put it on your wall to look at every day, here are some nice ones.

Kanji is another story. While some kanji are indeed pictographs or ideograms, most of them consist of a radical and a so called "phonetic component", which means that they basically are two characters put together, with no real shared meaning. Kanji belonging to that last group can have a lot of brush strokes, so learning them stroke by stroke can be pretty inefficient (unless you have a very specific type of memory, I heard such people exist).

It makes sense to learn pictographs and ideographs first, because they are easy to remember, and come with nice visual memory hooks in most resources. Additionally, a lot of them are radicals, which will come in handy later, when you have to conquer more complicated stuff.

For example 木 tree kind of looks like a pine tree, 山 mountain looks like three peaks, 水 water looks like a splash etc.

Second group are the so called simple ideograms. They represent simple ideas, for example 上 up or 下 down. Meaning of 一 one, 二 two and 三 three is pretty easy to guess too. The ideas such as 末 tip, top end and 未 not yet are also pretty simply expressed.

Then there are compound ideograms. For example two trees 木 make a 林 small forest, and three trees make a 森 big forest, and a 人 man by a 木 tree is 休 resting.

Even if they aren't really identified as compound ideograms by specialists, there's nothing stopping you from thinking about them as such, as long as it works in your mind. For example you can 信 trust what the 人mansays.

The whole radical + phonetic compound group can be treated in a similar manner. Because who cares if linguists say the components of a given kanji have no real logical connection, as long as they do in your mind.

At this point it is helpful to know what a radical is, and learning some of the more common ones.

There are some resources out there that can help you identify compounds of a kanji from this group in an efficient way, for example kanshudo, kanjidamage, wanikani, this kanji decomposition tool. Then you can pretend you're a kid with building blocks.

Lastly, there are some miscellaneous kanji that don't belong to any of the above groups, because of their origins or how they changed over time. For example 又 again originally meant right hand (it kind of looks like a palm of the hand too), you can see part of it in 右 right if you squint really hard. But it's possible to learn those too, by using some combination of the above methods.

Now, if you know how to recognize a kanji, you just have to learn its readings, so be ready to open that can of worms too...


At the beginning, the best way is studying hiragana first, you can review one list by day like k line (kaか kiき kuく keけ koこ ) for strength hiragana learning i recommend you to read hiragana text, the same advice applies for katakana learning. For kanji learning, you have to study level by level, and try to read and write in japanesewen you can. I think kanji is a little hard to dominate, but the key is to go ahead bit by bit.


The most important thing when learning kanji is to have in imprint on your memory early on. The best way to do that is by identifying the kanji with its central meaning. As kanji are ideograms, matching in your mind what they represent is extremely beneficial. I would recommend getting a book or using websites such as this to help reinforce those images.


Repetition and use. By use I mean, the more you end up using hiragana to learn how to pronounce new kanji, the more solid hiragana gets as a bonus to learning the kanji. I found that studying hiragana directly only got me so far, and that using it was what locked it in. It was slow and painful at first but it does improve rapidly. For this reason I resisted resources that offered "romaji" text because I felt it was an unwelcome crutch that slowed me down in learning.

For hiragana and katakana there are various books and online resources that offer "mnemonics" which may or may not help you. I found some of them useful. I found some silly and unhelpful. But it's about which ones work for you.

I found it useful to have a wall chart I could easily consult when needed. If you study in different places maybe a laminated sheet. That way I don't need to swap away from my spot in the app / book / whatever to remind myself of a kana.


Just a quick list of what I do for kanji:

  1. When you learn one, write it a whole bunch of times. Speak it out loud to yourself.
  2. If it's a complicated kanji or one that is easily confusable with another, come up with a mnemonic device. For example, 持つ (motsu) vs 待つ (matsu) was a really hard one for me since they both sound and look so similar. But since 侍 (samurai) is really close to matsu, I ended up just remembering "wait for a samurai" and that stupid connection makes me remember it every time. Not the best mnemonic device though, haha.
  3. Flash cards. This is essential in my opinion.
  4. Find some kind of study guide that writes Japanese at the level you understand. Unfortunately since there are so many characters to learn, it's hard to jump into most native Japanese writing. But since everyone has to start somewhere, the only real option is to read as much material as possible at your reading level that exposes you to new kanji at a natural rate. Encountering kanji naturally while reading is not only good practice, but it's massively encouraging. Getting that jolt of excitement when you have to think for a second and then recall the reading of a kanji is a great feeling.


how do I find the correct characters on my "Japanese for Iphone keyboard" I need them to answer Duolingo questions. For example, type the characters for Good Morning.

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