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Congratulations to Heisig Graduates: You’re The Man Now, Dawg

I’m wanting to write about Japanese learners’ success stories in more detail, but just by way of a quick and timely note to inspire all of you kids plugging away there, two readers of this site have recently finished James Heisig’s “Remembering the Kanji”.

Matt Claridge and Wan Zafran have respectively learned all 2042 kanji in Heisig’s seminal book. Wan learned 100 kanji a day for a just over three weeks. I think Matt went through fewer per day but was equally steady and dedicated. Both these guys are heroes. But they’re both also very normal people (no offense, lads). Tenacity is what won the day for them, not any magical “talent” or other fatalistic BS, just plain elbow grease and some cerebrospinal fluid.

Congratulations to both these guys. And may their success serve as an example to all of us (do I sound like the high council guy in Matrix 2 now?). Anyway, they’ve taught me a lot about dedication.

  40 comments for “Congratulations to Heisig Graduates: You’re The Man Now, Dawg

  1. Saru Sponge
    July 14, 2007 at 18:28

    Far out, man. How the heck do you get that kind of time? That’s crazy. I stopped at 500 a good few weeks ago because the stories were just running into each other in my head. :*( Although I hope to pick it up again next week.

  2. Twentytw0
    July 15, 2007 at 12:00

    That’s pretty awesome, I wonder how much sleep they were getting. Which reminds me, how much sleep were you getting, Khatzumoto, when you were learning Japanese hardcore as well as having a job, girlfriend, and school? Though I imagine you had your schedule set.

  3. khatzumoto
    July 15, 2007 at 12:21

    As I’ve mentioned in several posts, I actively worked Japanese into many of the things I did, include job and school.

    As for sleep, I got plenty of that. Sleep deprivation is horrible for memory, at least mine, so I always got enough sleep. I imagine the excitement of doing Japanese might have kept me awake at times, but I never tried to cut down on sleep in order to make more time for Japanese. On the occasonal night I didn’t sleep enough, I always found it difficult to remember kanji when doing SRS repetitions and stuff.

    So, to repeat myself: sleep! It’s good for you; you need it. When you manage yourself in such a way that Japanese is a priority, you needn’t steal sleeping hours away from yourself.

  4. July 15, 2007 at 13:07

    I read about Wan at the “Reviewing the Kanji” forum. His dedication is impressive considering how much time he spent learning Kanji daily.
    I would go crazy. I mean, I like the language but learning ONLY Kanji at a rate of 100/day would be rather boring to me.

  5. July 15, 2007 at 13:10

    Wow, well done to both of them! The Heisig books are great and I’m thinking about not doing anything but learning the first two volumes after I’m finished working here in Okinawa. If I just sit down everyday and really push myself, I think I could have them done in a month or so and then be literate! That would boost my Japanese level immensely!

  6. Saru Sponge
    July 15, 2007 at 17:14

    Khatzumoto, how did you manage to work Japanese into your job? I work 8-4 with a half-hour lunch break, and I just can’t seem to find time for much of anything.

  7. Kontaz
    July 15, 2007 at 22:15

    Well done, Matt and Wan! I just finished up today myself, although it took me longer than these two hard chargers.
    Tenacity is HUGE in completing this little obstacle. Especially with the SRS repetitions. There was a time I missed about a week… holy cow, that is hard to recover from. So no matter what, try to hit your reps every day! Otherwise it will snowball, and you’ll get discouraged. You’ll develop an iron-will during the Heisig phase that will help you keep plugging away no matter what.

  8. khatzumoto
    July 15, 2007 at 22:25

    Hey Saru

    >Khatzumoto, how did you manage to work Japanese into your job?
    Lots of ways. Depended on the job.
    1. Headphones–playing Japanese audio. I had these on almost 24 hours a day.
    2. Documentation–I’d read the Japanese version of everything (e.g. when I needed to look up something about Java, SQL, etc.)
    3. Good old reading–one of my jobs involved sitting around waiting for people to come ask for help.
    4. Doing reps–same job as (3)
    5. Comments–I wrote my program comments in Japanese and English…I think I got some complaints, so that ended.

  9. khatzumoto
    July 15, 2007 at 22:26

    Nice job on finishing RTK, Kontaz!

  10. tatoeba
    July 18, 2007 at 23:31

    Hey Congrats to Matt, Wan and Kontaz! I myself finished last month but it took me one and half year. The key, as Kontaz said, is to keep going even if you learn a few kanji every week. It will later strengthen your will not to stop reviewing and inputting sentences in your SRS.

  11. Mark
    July 29, 2007 at 04:21

    Hi Khatzumoto – I have quick question:

    As far as the ‘Remembering the Kanji’ books are concerned, you mention that only the first volume is required.

    On another page on this site, you mention that , ‘Given a single English keyword, learn to write out every general use kanji from memory.’

    So, when you were learning the kanji, does this mean that you didn’t bother to learn the on/kun yomi for each character *during stage 2*??

    If so, that would make sense – I am guessing that you just picked up the appropriate on/kun yomi readings when learning the 10,000 sentences? (I am hoping so, as I can’t think of anything more tedious than learning on/kun yomi in isolation [without the context given by sentences]).

    Thanks – and I promise to bung a goodly sized donation your way when I am through with this process (if it works – and I have no reason to doubt it – it will be well worth it!).

  12. khatzumoto
    July 29, 2007 at 07:47

    >does this mean that you didn’t bother to learn the on/kun yomi for each character *during stage 2*??

    >I am guessing that you just picked up the appropriate on/kun yomi readings when learning the 10,000 sentences?

    >I can’t think of anything more tedious than learning on/kun yomi in isolation

    >I promise to bung a goodly sized donation your way

  13. Max
    August 12, 2007 at 12:14

    Hey Khatzumoto, I’d like to know your opinion on something.

    I’ve been learning Japanese for about 8 months now, and discovered your site about a month ago. I’ve been using an SRS to great effect, and I’m at about 1000 sentences. The only hang-up is, I never used RTK. When I first heard about it I kinda dismissed it right away, but after reading about your method I saw that it could be really useful. The only problem is I’ve already learned about 650 kanji and their readings through rote memorization. I realize that my lack of kanji knowledge is what’s really holding me back, but I’m not sure if I could still effectively use the Heisig method with all these readings floating around in the back of my mind. Any suggestions?

  14. khatzumoto
    August 12, 2007 at 12:24

    Go ahead and Heisig it. It’s never too early or too late to get your kanji house in order. Momoko had learned Chinese before, and was really good at kanji/hanzi, but then she went to India for about 2 years and hardly wrote a single character in that time, so she had forgotten them by the time she came to Japan. Anyway, she screamed through RTK at 0.5 wans (the wan is a new unit of learning speed equal to 100 kanji per day, so Momoko did 50 per day) and didn’t really find “confusion” or anything. Don’t worry, you’re not “polluted” because you know some readings and stuff. That kind of knowledge cannot harm you. So go for it.

  15. Max
    August 12, 2007 at 12:34

    Thanks, I’ll go for it.

    What should I do about SRS reps and watching stuff in Japanese in the meantime?

  16. khatzumoto
    August 12, 2007 at 12:36

    >What should I do about SRS reps and watching stuff in Japanese in the meantime?
    1. Keep up the SRS reps, no use forgetting what you’ve gone to the trouble of learning.
    2. Keep up the environment, it’s never a bad thing to be surrounded by Japanese. In fact, it’ll help you even if you’re not “working it” as such. For one thing, it’s great motivation. You need constant reminders of why you’re busting your tail learning kanji in the first place.

  17. Nuke-Marine
    August 26, 2007 at 14:11

    Khatzu, the only thing I disagree is where you wrote to ignore book 3 of Remembering the Kanji. While I think we can start going for Sentences after book 1, it’s good to get that extra 1000 Kanji under our belt. I agree that On and Kun can be gathered as you go through the sentences. So use book 3 only for getting the new Kanji. Fortunately, the good people at have the kanji from book 3 up for your learning pleasures.

    Currently upto 900 Kanji, looking to post my own “congratulate me” post in a month or two after getting all of book 1 done.

    As for using Heisig even if you know alot of Kanji, go for it. I’ve impressed two guys who were verbally fluent with my knowledge of kanji. They knew only 1000 kanji at their own guess, but took to what Heisig had done. Yes, go for it. If nothing else, you’ll get stroke order down pat.

  18. khatzumoto
    August 26, 2007 at 16:58

    >the only thing I disagree is where you wrote to ignore book 3 of Remembering the Kanji.

    YOU DARE DEFY ME??!?!?!?!?! :D.
    Well, the reason I said to ignore it was that…everyone I know (ok, 4 people:. Mary Sisk Noguchi, some other people at Kanji Clinic, my brother-in-law the pure AJATT boy) seemed to have trouble with book 2 (the on-yomi book)…so I didn’t know if book 3 would help [I’m guessing you’re saying that you can skip book 2 and go straight to book 3]. But yeah, the more kanji, the merrier. I just imagine that, in the so-called “general” case, by the time you’re done mnemonicking 2046 odd kanji, you want to bust out into sentences SO bad, that you don’t want to be hearing about book 3…especially if those kanji will not become necessary for a while. But, sure, those who want to should go for it: I did 4500 kanji and still counting; I learn new ones and odd ones and rare ones as I go along.

    No kanji knowledge is ever going to hurt. More is always better. But at the same time, I want to give people as little burden as possible. I try not to play cop/parent and tell people what they should do because it’s good for them. I just want to tell people what they need. The kanji in book 1 are an absolute minimum, and absolutely necessary to know. Anything over and above that is up to each individual’s drive, curiosity and reading choices–you seem to be having no trouble in those fields, and I’m really impressed by you with your kanji thirst there. It sometimes seems rare in Japanese learners these days. Way to go! Learn that book 3! Heisig’s mnemonic system is excellent.

  19. Brian
    August 28, 2007 at 13:27

    Yeah, the heisig books really works.

    I got mine 4 days ago and I’ve already learned the first 7 essons. So, about 130-150 in 4 days.
    Plus, it really isn’t hard at all, in fact it’s on the easy side. Plus, it makes you feel smart when you pick up a new book and can recognize a few new characters each time and guess the meanings of words right.

    Oh, in case you couldn’t tell…..I highly recommend this book. You can get the paperback copy at Plus the intro and side notes are pretty inspiring.

  20. Brian
    January 25, 2008 at 09:14

    omg…So, I finally finished this thing and like Katzu says, just keep learning new ones everyday and when you do the sentence reps, do some research behind each word to see if it has tricky kanji that aren’t usually used for example:

    Apple: リンゴ → 林檎
    Lemon: レモン → 檸檬
    Rose: バラ → 薔薇
    Mandarin: ミカン → 蜜柑
    Kirin(the japanese beer): キリン → 麒麟
    Anyhow: とにかく → 兎に角

  21. Shaun S.
    April 1, 2008 at 23:44

    I just finished Heisig’s RTK1. Now on to RTK3 and real sentences(which I have been cheating and doing a little of anyway). I wanted to tell the world. So, I am telling this forum. Thanks Khatz! You have already improved my Japanese AND Mandarin.

  22. Ricky
    July 12, 2008 at 11:18

    Hey Khatz, so…. if i learned kanji with heisig at roughly 1.7 – 2.0 wans would that be good or bad? It seems to be a super fast method, I only work three days a week and i’m on summer break from college so ihave loooooooaaaaaadddds of free time. I’ll become the kanji demon, maybe if I keep my motivation I can become the sentence demon too!!! Also on another note, I had the idea from your site about SRS devices, in the way that I could employ it to helping my friend learn his music theory. I think it would work do you?

  23. July 14, 2008 at 04:26

    WTF! reading those stories makes my adrenaline rush so badly, that i begin to shake of desire to learn kanji -_-;;

    I’ve known about heisig ever since i started learning Japanese, but only began reading this site this week. I’ve had the Heisig book on my PC for months I had this SRS for months and never used it. WTF!

    I never did because i was anxious about getting wrong meanings and confusion when learning new kanji that don’t show up in heisig. But i guess that, when you’re done, and are well into the japanese sentences bit you don’t need to make up stories anymore because then the new kanji wil be so special that you remember them and their readings anyway.

  24. Frank V.
    August 28, 2008 at 14:44

    Sup khatzumoto! Just wanna say that you’re an awesome inspiration and a great guide in my learning journey. You keep me going man and I appreciate that to a huge degree. But man 100 kanji a day!? Damn I’ve been doing like 20-25… guess I should step it up!! My only concern is what comes after this, the sentences… I feel that it’s going to be difficult to do, tracking down sentences that I hope are helpful..yare yare… O well I”ll worry about that as soon as I cross this bridge! And I’ll give you a donation for sure (just as soon as I get this whole japanese language thing down pat 😉 Thx for everything man you rock!

  25. Tim
    September 4, 2008 at 15:13

    Personally, I found that the Heisig method just wasnt working for me and so have changed gears a little in that regards. I picked up a book called Essential Kanji, by PG O’Neil. The kanji are organized in such a way that you will never see a compound made up of characters you have not yet seen which you can then create sample sentences from for practice. My one complaint is that readings are given in romaji.

  26. Mentat
    October 16, 2008 at 06:45

    Hi Mr Katzumoto,

    Are you aware of ?

  27. Tyler
    November 16, 2008 at 22:40

    I’ve been studying Japanese for a couple of years, and I’d say I knew about 750 kanji before I stumbled onto this site the other day. The second I got Anki, I went a little crazy with RTK.

    Crazy = I did 500 the first day, haha.

    It kind of sucked cause I had 300 to review today, but I’ve already learned so much, and even with a huge number like that, I’m remembering at least 75%. I’ve slowed it down to 150 per day, and it’s not that bad.

    Also, Khatz, I took your advice, and I put Oprah (my Oprah radical is 莫) into my stories. Now, 漠, 模, 膜, and 摸 are so much easier to remember 😀

  28. David
    November 17, 2008 at 10:23

    1681 Kanji and counting. Schoolwork is robbing my time, but I think given one or two more weeks and I can join the ranks of Phase 4: Sentences. I’ve been anticipating it every single day. And, it’s served as a form of motivation for me, as well. (That’s right, more Japanese serves as motivation to do Japanese. Goooood stuff).

  29. January 19, 2009 at 11:53

    I’m up to 1101, doing 50 a day. SO I’ve been at work for about 3 weeks, and have about 3 more to go. Its going OK, but i don’t know the ones past 500 quite as well as I do the ones before 500, So I started putting the stories into the Question part of the Anki SRS, I guess that’s cool right? What do y’all think?

  30. October 25, 2009 at 06:08

    Damn…I only do about 20 per day : /
    I don’t mind doing more but I get the feeling that if I give myself more I won’t retain the information as well as I have been.

  31. Mark Dawson (Reki)
    November 5, 2009 at 11:37

    Man reading those stories about Wan and Matt really motivated me!!!! I got my Helsig book saturday and I am at about 150 as of today. I upped my retention to .5 wans today and got a 80-85% retention rate so imma stick to it. looking to start book 3 before Christmas. I belive i can do it so i know I will be there. i’ll keep up the updates and doing the immersion in the meantime (Got Jay’ed and Exile in rotation right now lol)talk to ya laterz

  32. Barmack
    November 23, 2009 at 07:00

    I don’t understand where u guys are learning the On and Kun from???

  33. Barmack
    November 23, 2009 at 10:47

    or more importantly when to learn them using what book/material

  34. chad
    December 14, 2009 at 09:07

    @Barmack, a lot of that info is in other posts, if you want a “table of contents” of most of the meat of this blog you can check here:

    the answer to your on/kun question is that once you finish working with RTK1, you start the sentence drilling phase, which is where you start to pickup the readings.


  35. May 11, 2011 at 03:51

    I was able to finish both RTK I and III… it took me a bit less than a year, but I did it. And on January of this year, I stoped reviewing… which is something I truly regret. Now, if I want to get into Japanese again, I have to start all over again… form scratch… from kanji 1…


  36. June 6, 2011 at 12:24

    I’ve been learning Japanese for almost eight years, but have always had trouble with writing kanji. I have some questions for those learning >10 kanji/day.

    1. Do you create your own mnemonics?

    (I use [most of] Heisig’s primitives/keywords, but I create my own mnemonics. It’s quite time consuming. Creating 10 mnemonics can take 15-45 min. The most I ever created in one day was 50, and I was at it for about five hours. This is why I’m curious of the methods of those who learn >100/day.)

    2. Do you make flashcards by hand, use an app, e.g., Anki, or just follow what’s in RtK1 and don’t write anything?

    (I use Rtk1 + Anki + Kanji Koohi [if I can’t create a vivid mnemonic; creating them yourself sticks the best])


    I was able to read manga, elem. and some middle school textbooks before starting RtK1. It took me about six months to clear 2000 kanji with my above method (avg. 10/day). I haven’t studied nor reviewed the mnemonics I’ve created, but I’ve retained a good portion of them. I can’t wait to review all 2042! I’m scheduled to finish them this week! I’m sure I’ll fly through more than 100/day.

    Thanks, Khatz. All the best.

  37. トラビス
    November 18, 2011 at 03:07

    Hey Khatz, I’ve been reading AJATT since May, and just wanted to let you know that I’ve completed RTK1 and kana, and am now doing sentences. I don’t think I could have gotten this far without the advice on this site. I adapted a lot of it and developed my own method a little differently, but the core of it came from here.
    So thanks, Khatz. Maybe one day I’ll see you in 日本 and buy you a ビール。 🙂

  38. sahr
    October 31, 2012 at 13:41

    Have you ever studied the 훈음 yon readings along with the radicals? It helps me the recognize the sounds beforehand. I couldnt find a book so I ended up making my own.

  39. Zlarp
    November 2, 2012 at 20:59

    Hooray! I finished the damn book! What a slog those three weeks were… and the 600 review day is looming, but I’ve done it and I’m gonna keep it, damnit!

  40. Gabriel
    January 1, 2013 at 11:54

    Khatz. I first saw you through Sam. (You know Sam) It was 2008. I liked what you had to say in his 3 part video. I just never took the initiative to learn. Welp. It’s been a week and 3 days and I’ve been a mad man. I know both Hiragana and Katakana from memory and JUST started RTK 2 days ago. I’m at 350 Kanji. Adding to the chaos, the only thing that keeps me sane is the progress. I’m NOWHERE near fluent, but the fact that when I watched Japan’s 2004 film, “Nobody Knows” after a week into this immersion program, I began to hysterically laugh because I understood the majority of the movie and what was being said. How? Well let’s put it this way, this is the most English I’ve experienced this past week. I surround myself with nothing BUT Japanese. I listen to Japanese music, watch Japanese anime (ENTIRE DragonBall series is coming in the mail soon) Japanese movies, also the Youtuber “Megwin” and the Marimoeo ladies from Hokkaido. I’d like to say thank you to both yourself and Sam. I’ll see you in Japan in the next 3-4 years…u_u…

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