I studied kanji for 2 (and a bit) hours every single day for two years

Like the title says. I studied kanji for around 2 (and a bit) hours every single day for two years. This is a direct follow up of my previous post -

Here’s what happened.

New kanji that I learned - 2533

Individual reviews of kanji - 67329

Seeing as though my focus was writing, and I wrote each kanji 10 times per review, that makes close to 700000 individual kanji written.


I wanted to see if writing was more effective than mnemonics… Also my partner is Japanese. As this was the second year, it was also simply an extension of my first year of kanji study.

“Result worth it?”

Without a doubt, yes. Of those 2533, I can write about 99% of them. There are also about 300 extra I can write based on common radicals/being almost identical to one I have already learned/not bothering to learn the equivalent ‘rarer’ kanji with the same meaning. Example, 島 and 嶋. They both mean island, they both have exactly the same radicals, they both have the same kun/on-yomi, one is simply far rarer. Knowing one while being ‘aware’ of the other means you also know the second, and are able to draw it. There are probably at least 100 kanji like this.

“What order did you learn them in?”

I did japanese school grade order. This is usually not recommended, but I wanted to try to understand why this order is used for natives, so I used it. In hindsight I am very glad that I did, as learning easy ‘concepts’, rather than learning easy ‘kanji’ was definitely more useful as you progress further and further. You start to notice that each new difficult kanji is just a unique nuance of something you’ve already learned.

“Can you actually read now?”

I would say that I can read 98% of anything, and almost 100% of topics that I enjoy (as those kanji tend to repeat a lot and I learned them after sidetracking from school level kanji). I tend to come across about 2 new kanji per book series recently. This is primarily because each author probably has a few artistic words that they tend to use over the span of their novels. If a series has the same author all the way through, generally there will be no new kanji by the 2nd/3rd book in the series, as that particular author has exhausted their specific writing flair.

“Would you recommend it?”

Knowing the basic concepts before learning more advanced kanji is certainly helpful, and you are exposed to regular patterns in a manner that allows for later recognization of sound patterns that occur across the entire language. This occurs equally often for everyday words as it does with onomatopoeia, which very frequently have a base kanji verb/adjective meaning that is just doubled up to form a new word. Examples, 艶(つや)めく ‘lustre’, つやつや ‘glossy’, 煌(きら)めく ‘gleam’, きらきら ‘glisten’.

“What about the kanji you don’t know still?”

I am going to drop my number down to only 1 or 2 new kanji a day from now on, as I want to focus more on 四字熟語 for a while (in preparation for the kanken kanji exam). As far as actual reading goes though, the only area natives still beat me out on quite regularly is names. Particularly first names where the readings are far less predictable. I feel like this will be a lifelong struggle… Just like it is for Japanese people :sweat_smile:.

“I don’t have enough time for that!”

It really depends what you will get out of it. If you learn the kanji, including all of their readings, you are automatically learning up to 10 or more words for each new kanji, as you will build a far stronger intuition for new words the first time you see them, if you already know the individual kanji and their meanings. You’ll also be far less likely to forget new kanji compounds. In this respect, it may even be more time efficient than learning individual words.

Conclusion - As with my 1 year post, the purpose of this update isn’t to pressure anyone into studying harder, or even trying the way I studied. It’s just to show that (probably) any study method will work if you stick at it.

Last disclaimer - The 99% studied instead of 100% is due to a 1 day period that I lost my phone, panicked and had to do 2000 reviews on my computer as I hadn’t backed up my Anki data in a while and then miraculously found my phone the day later, synching to the state it was when I had a normal number of reviews. @Jake can attest to this, as I sent him many panicked messages that day :rofl:


Yeah, you are pretty much repeating what I did :sweat_smile:
But even more hardcore :rofl:

And yes, for anyone reading, I can confirm everything this madman wrote above, all 100% true, as I also went through it! :rofl:

Also, I stopped learning kanji about a year ago, I only learn words now when I encounter something I don’t know. I can read pretty much anything and I can write about 1000 of them (I haven’t bothered learning to write more, as they never realistically come up for me to need them in real life).

That’s not to say I’m good at japanese or anything, my spoken japanese is still crap and reading comprehension of complex texts is still equally as bad.


That original thread kicked my butt to start writing kanji and has helped me quite a bit, so thank you for the motivation. I’m not very far, ~650 so just starting roughly N2 but I think I’ll put some extra focus for the rest of the year because the progress feels good (and it is fun).

I don’t spend 2 hours a day or spend that much repetition, maybe 3-4 hours a week but maybe because everything is not that difficult ATM & already pretty familiar. It’s not for me to space out on repetitive writing either and I’m just letting SRS drive my learning threshold. I’m not looking for kanken level or even for living purposes; I just was to distinguish kanji better and have better reading accuracy. It really became apparent that the more I learned, the more mishmash everything becomes so the muscle memory really comes in handy.

I can’t say a mnemonic vs writing because I use my own mnemonics to boost my writing. But mnemonic alone, I’d say it gives a pretty good start to help but true production is mastery I feel. And if SRS doesn’t work, I don’t think the solution is more SRS either

Congrats on your learning accomplishment, 2500+ is pretty sick and bet feels good. Personally, I’d feel good after writing the 1000-1200 that covers alot ground and rest would be just nice to know just to eliminate the feeling of getting stuck. Vocab still has to be learned of course, but it makes it even easier.


You couldn’t have put it better. Muscle memory makes things that otherwise look very similar start to actually look very different.


When I did Heisig’s RTK I made cards for recall and writing kanji. I did one recall and one writing per review and “learned” about 3100 kanji this way in like 3 months. You can figure I got burned out of Japanese and stopped studying for 2 years, losing probably more than 50% of my recall and and much more of my writing skills.

Recently I came back to studying but there is no way I’m commiting this much time for kanji. I just do recall to associate one meaning with one kanji. Good thing is that it all comes back relatively quickly, so I’m back at around 3100 and doing quick random reviews almost every day to get that accuracy and confidence. Spellings I learn from learning new vocab. And writing will either come naturally by constant exposure, or it won’t. It’s not like I need it anyway, and when and if I actually need it, I hopefully will be at a level where I could actually devote some time to learning this particular skill.

This approach has worked for me thus far. But all I do is read and listen/watch. I don’t talk currently, but I will in the future. And 100% of my writing is done by a PC/smartphone. I just type in the pronunciation and choose the correct kanji.

Just here to provide a different point of view. Language needs are different for everyone. I rarely even write by hand in my native language. Similar situation is with pitch accent. Some people care very much about it, some don’t care at all. It all depends on your goals and needs. Just don’t burn yourself out like I did. 2 hours of kanji everyday for 2 years doesn’t just sound like madness, it is madness XD There’s no way my feeble mind would survive.


I actually covered the burnout and lack of memory that the RTK approach often causes in my first year post. This is the main reason I only learned 1500 or so kanji in my whole first year of writing, but actually learned them to a solid degree.

Absolutely there are many different ways to study, and we all try to min/max to some degree.

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I just read that. I was honestly surprised how well the mnemonics actually worked. That is, some of them… I could recall the meaning perfectly for some kanji, even the rarer ones, after 2 years. But sometimes this method just absolutely doesn’t work and you are left with brute memorization. Which will work eventually. After all, writing kanji is also a form of brute memorization. And of course recognition is just that, recognition, when you have to produce a character, this doesn’t work most of the time. You will be able to write the common and relatively easy characters from memory just because of seeing enough of them as I do now, but the rarer and more complex are a different story. But I’m fine with that, at least until it keeps working for me.

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@Kuromaku @s1212z I would be really interested to hear how either of you guys are approaching/approached your kanji learning order. Did you stick with Heisig, or the school order? Or perhaps something else?

I really find the order that people learn kanji quite interesting. Do you feel that your order affected the way that you memorize other words/etc, or did you learn new words based on the kanji that you were learning at the same time?


Here is my order below of 2210 kanji (minus 1 repeat). I built my deck off the wanikani stat page and I’m going in N-order as I think this is a reasonable frequency list. Within each N-level, you will see that the kanji are stacked with very similar radical structures which is very helpful because it addresses visually similarity issues which is one the main reasons to spend time doing this. Other than that, I’m not too fussy since I figure it all has to be learned and everything I’m learning right now is frequent usage (and have studied them already prior). I’ve shared this before but my deck is here for anyone interested.


N5 (79 )


N4 (166 )


N3 (367 )


N2 (367 )


N1 (1232 )



Congrats for year 2! … Just witnessing your consistency for 2+ years is really impressive.
Good luck on the kanken kanji exam!

My Old Kanji / Vocab Way of Studying

Initially (maybe 900+ kanji over 3+ years): JLPT order on Renshuu. I would write on the top of a A4 lined paper each kanji with the meaning + readings. Rest of the page was for words and their extra kanji meaning + reading (eg 本 will have bellow: 日本語、日本、本棚 etc) eg from Genki, weekly Japanese lessons etc. In an essence, I was making a dictionary and populating it over time haha

At one point I lost all my Japanese related stuff (plus some other things) and around that time for 1.5 years or so, I stopped studying Japanese actively…

When I started Japanese again and I did consider re-making the folders and somewhere I have a stack of about 1200 A4 papers with the kanji written on the top. At the very least, over 3 months writting so many kanji helped me remember a lot and I kinda gained a sense of the kanji stroke order.
I still use Renshuu daily as a supplement… I just do 15 reviews or so a day just for the exposure… not real learning. …

Main way: Randomly from N5 to N1 from Kanji Senpai (its like WaniKani based on JLPT). I try to write each vocab and kanji (with meaning + reading) once in Moleskine notebooks (where I also write Japanese grammar). Whenever I see a new word / kanji on Kanji Senpai, I would try to check if I have done it before so that I don’t have duplicates (as space is precious). N5 and N4 are done, just about 51% left ie about 4k words + kanji hehe.

Second way as a supplement: while reading / living, I would add through Akebi new kanji / words to study on Anki. Later (like months later) I would take the Akebi generated Anki cards and make my own cards on the Kanji / Vocab. Thanks to your original post, I slowly started to convert the cards as they were sitting for 1 year or more in some cases. There used to be 1000+ kanji and 600+ words to sort, now its just 200 words left to check and convert! Thanks :blush:

When reviewing, I sometimes have scrap paper and write the things that I got wrong.


I think school grade order is underestimated. While it sucks coming across some harder to write Kanjis earlier on, it helps a lot for future readings/meanings and gives you the ability to pick up real world books earlier.

I’ve come across this already, although I can’t figure out yet how did I come the conclusion of the “correct meaning/correct reading” for a Kanji I haven’t learned yet. Sometimes it feels it’s the radicals on it, sometimes it feels like it’s the reading.

I really like these posts, and it help me motivate and sometimes adopt new methods of learning/tracking. How long it took you at the pace you were going to pick up easy/mid level books?


Unfortunately this is difficult to answer, as the only mid-level books I have read are normal light novels that aren’t aimed at a particular age.

Among the light novels I have read, てんすら has been the easiest. I would say that I was able to read that at about 85% accuracy at 1200 known kanji (about 10 months of school grade kanji). Surprisingly, ダンまち has been the hardest, as the author consistently surprised me with words I didn’t know.

I am inclined to say this may be a personal thing though, as the words people are exposed to and when is a 100% individual experience.


That is really impressive, it’s great that it sounds like all that hard work paid off. When it came to writing down the kanji, did you use a certain kind of paper or write them electronically? Just curious, because I would also like to learn how to write a good amount of kanji from memory and didn’t know if it was worth buying grid paper or if learning to write kanji on a phone would work just as well.

Good luck with your continued progress/improvement and passing the kanken kanji exam! :slight_smile:

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I live in Japan, so notebooks for the purpose of practicing kanji are very cheap and easy to come by. If you’re not living in Japan though, I would recommend grabbing a set of kanji notebooks off amazon. Bulk (10 or so) is probably the best value.

Electronic on a tablet is probably just as effective, but I really loved the feeling of real paper.


I know this is a difficult question down to your circumstances but …
How much of your studying time did you dedicate to this?
I find that I’m spread quite thinly between kanji, vocab, grammar, reading, listening, writing, genki classes, tutor classes etc. To focus on one aspect in particular would be to the detriment of others.


I think to write them down physically by hand brings the most reward in terms of improvements overall, but does take the most time thats for sure.


I would be interested what your executiion technique of this was. Did you for example just get the raw Kanji itshelf and itshelf to write downlike just 生、or did you train it by common nouns, verbs, adjectives like 生、 生きる、生む、生まれる、先生 etc. or maybe whole sentences which includes this kanji? And what is your view on the difference methods regarding my question? Thank you for your time.

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Honestly :thinking::thinking:, ‘actual study time’, 70%. The rest is only conversation classes, and vocab reviews which take no time at all specifically thanks to kanji.

There is a lot more exposure time, but just fun stuff like reading.

Umm, I did it like that, but also not like that. For example, in 生’s case, I learned

う.む、う. まれる、う. す
な.る、な. す、なま

This may seem like a lot… and it is for one kanji of course. But realistically all I am memorizing is the part before the ‘.’, as okurigana patterns are consistent and elicit the same meaning through the entire language.

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Glad you posted an update. Stumbling across your older post a few weeks is was what helped me quit WK (and there totally garbage order but we won’t go into that).
I also wanted some clarification on how you learn the readings with the meanings. I’ll use your example of 生. When do you take the time to think いきるーto live 生まれるーto be born, etc. When your writing them? Do you add them to another anki deck? Do you not even think about it?