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How To Learn and Review Kanji Using an SRS

For reference purposes, let’s discuss how one would learn kanji (meaning and writing only) using an SRS.

It’s quite simple, really. The question section (the front of the “SRS electronic flash card”) contains the keyword (core meaning) of the kanji and the mnemonic story that links the structural components of the character to the keyword — and also pictures, if desired. The answer section (the back of the card) contains the kanji itself. For example:

a SICKNESS that makes you mentally DODGY
You could also add pictures here: of course, ensure they do not contain the actual kanji or any of its components.


So, when you (1) see the front of the card, your job is to (2) reproduce the kanji from memory and (3) compare your answer to the answer on the card, after which you (4) score your performance accordingly. Let’s answer some common queries and/or objections to this idea right here and now.

  1. Do you need to go the other way (kanji to keyword)? Dr. Heisig would say “no” and I would tend to agree with the sensei.
  2. Isn’t it cheating to give the mnemonic story in the question? Not really, because you still have to reproduce the entire kanji from memory. I think Heisig actually suggests that you do, in the book where he gives a sample flashcard…but that might be wishful memory [confirmation, anyone?]. Anyway, I recommend you do it.
  3. What about readings? You learn those later, in the context of sentences. It’s easier that way.
  4. Are you sure? Yes.
  5. What’s with these stories? Why am I memorizing stupid stories? It’s called a mnemonic device, it’s the basis of virtually all human active-memory techniques and so-called “tricks”. And one way or another, producing kanji from memory, indeed language itself, is a memory trick. The kanji stories will eventually fall away quite naturally, like a scaffolding, leaving only the kanji.
  6. Are you sure about the readings? If you love readings so much, why don’t you marry them! If you want, you could include maybe one reading in the question section to “get yourself familiar” with it, but, there’s really no need other than that, as I see it right now. Just focus on the kanji. Readings come later, seriously. Just do it now. You’ll thank me later.
  7. Should I continue reviewing kanji after, like, finishing RTK? Definitely. Yes. Big yes.

As always, anyone with useful tips and advice, please feel free to share.

  137 comments for “How To Learn and Review Kanji Using an SRS

  1. Cush
    March 16, 2008 at 13:12

    should you still review kanji even at the sentence phase? If not when do you stop? Also has anyone heard of or been using a book called ” The Kanji Handbook” by Vee David if so what do you think of it, has it worked for you, how long did it take to finish and how well did you remeber the kanji using Vee’s method?

  2. March 16, 2008 at 15:41


    I was wondering what order you used when you went through Harbaugh’s [i]Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary[/i]. I’m thinking about using that book to learn hanzi. Did you just go straight through? I don’t have the book just yet so I don’t know exactly how it’s presented, and the website doesn’t seem to have them in any order, just a searchable database.

    Or would you recommend a different book for hanzi now, after the fact?

    P.S. – I recently wrote an adaptation of your method for Chinese on my blog. Click my name to see it.

  3. 名無し
    March 16, 2008 at 15:51

    >> # Isn’t it cheating to give the mnemonic story in the question?
    >> Not really, because you still have to reproduce
    >> the entire kanji from memory.

    Personally I disagree. When I review, I first try to remember the kanji without reading the story. If I can’t do that, then I read the story and try again, and then fail the kanji anyway.

    If you are using Anki (, you can write the story as a separate field. You can also write it using the same color for the font AND the background, so it will become “invisible” when reviewing. If you need the story, just select the text and it will become visible as if by magic.

    By the way, you forgot the most important point: use RevTK (

    Thanks for your articles and keep on writing.

  4. March 16, 2008 at 16:35

    I’m still not sure about having the mnemonic on the front of the flashcard but I agree about learning readings through sentences. Sometimes I’ll see a compound and the reading will just come to me because I’ll have seen the kanji in other compounds and subconsciously have memorised the on-yomi! I surprise myself when I check the reading and then realise “Oh yeah, I have seen these kanji before but just in other places ^_^”.

  5. Chiro-kun
    March 16, 2008 at 16:51

    I say if you’re going to get readings at all, take a word down with it…
    (simple ones which don’t need sentences)


    たか:い (tall)



    ば:か (stupid)

  6. Nivaldo
    March 16, 2008 at 17:13

    Hey People! Maybe subs have some utility, however only for those who don’t get uncomfortable with them. When I’m watching anime(subbed), I just don’t look at the subtitles until I hit a word or sentence I want to know. Then, make some kind of elimination process in the subtitles to see the probable english equivalent. With that done, I search for the japanese equivalent again(E-J dictionary) just to confirm and if confirmed add the whole sentence or another one with the word in it. It maybe an exhaustive process so I don’t use it much. 🙂

  7. Chiro-kun
    March 16, 2008 at 18:17

    To EVERYONE reading this blog (yeah you too Khatz :P), check this out:

    LIVE Japanese TV!
    (Haven’t yet set it up myself though)

  8. March 16, 2008 at 19:20

    It is a known fact that the brain does not work using words, or symbols, et cetera; it works with images. By feeding your mind with an image (i.e. the mnemonic image), especially one that is exaggerated or bizarre in form, you give the mind an ‘image index’ (if I may be so rash to label it that way) to work, and often that would be enough to lead you to what you want to recall or say.

    If anyone would doubt the efficacy of mnemonics, then I must refer you to the fact that the participants of the World Memory Championship(s), most of whom are able to perform immensely impressive feats of memory, utilize mnemonics extensively, and near-exclusively.

    It is also to be mentioned that research and analysis of savants have mostly found that part of what makes them so extraordinary is how their mind overwhelmingly produces images. I provide one anecdote, of a man who is able to memorize any string of numbers you give him, because each number when spoken to him produces an image, that leads to another, and yet another continuously; and these images, that he would be able to so perfectly recall, is what would lead him to easily reproduce any number he is asked to memorize.

    Therefore, in essence, you can’t go wrong with mnemonics. Haha.

  9. Jamie
    March 16, 2008 at 22:03

    Wan has spoken.

    Your new nickname will be “Century Slayer” like Gattz in BERSERK.


    I think having the mnemonic there will help some people learn a bit faster, cos they need that little extra help to remember the story, but soon they won’t need it. As general advice i would say include it..

  10. Rob
    March 16, 2008 at 23:26

    I’m curious to know how many of you use mnemonics when you are learning new sentences. For example, last night I came across 引火する, and I made a mnemonic image of someone pulling at a fire to try and get something bigger to ignite.

    Do you think it is wise to continue using keywords in mnemonics or just try and remember the readings through rote SRS repetitions?

  11. Christina
    March 17, 2008 at 00:00

    Im not learning Japanese, but I am learning Chinese. Ive never used mnemonics before and actually I put the Hanzi in the Question and reading/meaning in the Answer (in chinese its easier to put the reading because for almost all hanzi there is only one). Ive learned plenty characters this way so I doubt I will switch to mnemonics… I’m just saying that that method might not work for everyone.

  12. Codexus
    March 17, 2008 at 01:37

    So you make the story part of the question!!

    That’s interesting. That would certainly avoid the problems with confusing keywords and make the revisions easier.

    By the way, you’re right. Heisig actually writes the story on the same side of the card as the keyword but upside down. Suggesting a two-step approach: 1) Try to remember it from keyword alone 2) If you can’t, read the story.

    I’m using and sometimes it’s a bit frustrating when I’m confusing keywords. I write a correct kanji with confidence but it wasn’t the one I was supposed to write.

  13. Jason Reaves
    March 17, 2008 at 01:47

    Thanks, Katz, for the review of this very important topic!

    I “graduated” from RTK1 about six months ago. My goal had been to make it through RTK1 as quickly as possible so I could start learning “actual Japanese.” Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up with my RTK1 SRS reps. I had gone through RTK1 mainly with the goal of familiarizing myself with the kanji in order to facility vocabulary acquisition; I didn’t think I would every really want to write the characters when I could just type/copy/paste etc.

    More recently, I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the importance of being able to write the characters. I found that there were a lot of sentences in my SRS that I could read but wouldn’t be able to write if I heard them. Of course, part of the solution to this problem is more reading input, but another solution is to create flashcards with pronounciation as the question (either kana or actual audio clips) and for the answer, to write out the sentence using kanji. As Katz said in another post, this is like taking dictation. Writing out the sentence takes a little more time up front, but I suspect that the effort up will be rewarded by a better understanding of the sentence, the ability to write the sentence, and if an audio clip is used, better listening comprehension. This method doesn’t directly involve reading, but I suspect that if I can write it, I will also be able to read it.

    So now I’m going through RTK1 again, this time more more attention to correctly writing the characters using the stroke order animations in Jim Breen’s dictionary. I’m actually writing the characters down with each SRS rep rather than tracing them with my finger or just saying the primitives. Despite spending a little more time on each character, RTK1 is going much faster the second time around. When I’m finished with RTK1 (again), I plan to start creating audio flashcards from Japanese TV shows such as Tiger and Dragon. (By the way, the process of extracting audio clips can be almost completely automated, and I plan to post some information on how this can be done on my blog if anyone’s interested.)

    Sorry for the long post! I guess my main point to those still going through RTK1 is not to rush through it in an attempt to move on to the next phase. I’ve come to believe (as of course Katz has said many times) that RTK1 can be an integral part of the process, not just a diversion on the way to learning how to read.

  14. March 17, 2008 at 02:27

    I actually collect sentences that use a kanji before learning the writing. I’ve found that by seeing the character in the context of a few interesting sentences and words, I get a mnemonic story for free.

    And I look at those words and sentences, with the kanji blanked out, and try to recall the kanji’s writing.

    I guess another way to put it is that my “stories” are japanese sentences.

  15. Mark
    March 17, 2008 at 02:40

    “By the way, the process of extracting audio clips can be almost completely automated, and I plan to post some information on how this can be done on my blog if anyone’s interested.”

    Yes, please!

    I haven’t got quite reached the sentences stage yet, but I plan to extract a lot of my sentences from dramas/etc. So any ‘automated’ method of sentence extraction from audio clips would be very much appreciated.


  16. March 17, 2008 at 08:52

    Rob: “I’m curious to know how many of you use mnemonics when you are learning new sentences.”

    I use mnemonics mainly, and mostly, to remember the kanji forms. For sentences, I like to use rote repetition and practice instead. (Also, I find that sentences are usually able to conjure enough visual imagery, such that I usually don’t have to resort to mnemonics for them.)

    Jamie: “Your new nickname will be “Century Slayer” like Gattz in BERSERK.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t quite get the reference?

    Jason Reaves: “By the way, the process of extracting audio clips can be almost completely automated, and I plan to post some information on how this can be done on my blog if anyone’s interested.”

    Here’s a rather useful tip on using Audacity to automatically split files into small pieces/chunks, that will help one shadow and practice:

    TIP: Automatic audio-splitting, Audacity (Language Learning Forum)

  17. Jamie
    March 17, 2008 at 09:13


    Sorry.. It’s a manga. The character in question (Gattz) once defeated 100 enemies on his own, earning him the nickname “century slayer”. Not unlike your defeat of 100 kanji a day… 🙂

  18. Charles
    March 17, 2008 at 09:43

    I guess this falls in line with Khatz’s theme of painless/powerful imput. I have always used just the keyword and kanji, only. By adding the story to the card with the keyword, I’m divided in my opinion.
    I believe that it is probably better to try to recall the story form just the keyword. However, this may be better in the long run because it will help me recreate the story from the components every time! I have noticed that I can’t remember the kanji and as soon as I see the component keywords, I instantly remember.
    I’m looking forward to trying this because, I have been in a real slump with my RTK. We’ll see what happens:)

  19. Jason Reaves
    March 17, 2008 at 10:06


    Thanks for the link regarding the “auto silence finder.” In TV shows such as T&D, where there are Japanese subtitles, it is possible extract subtitle timing information automatically in clear text and then use that information to split the file precisely. No user interaction is required to generate the audio clips. It is also possible to synchronize the data with third-party English subtitles (which are available for T&D and other J-dramas) for inclusion on the back of the flashcard. The only piece of the puzzle that cannot be auto-generated is the Japanese text, but as has been noted elsewhere on this site, the Japanese text is available on the Dramanote site. You can split the video track at the same points as the audio track to help you identify where to cut and paste from Dramanote or, if necessary, re-type the text by looking at the Japanese subtitle at the bottom of the screen.

    I’ve experimented with the (free/opensource) tools needed to make all this happen enough to convince myself that the process is technically feasible, and in the very near future, I plan to create a huge set of audio flashcards from the first episode of T&D. I’ll be glad to share my flashcards and any tools I develop along the way with anyone who’s interested.

  20. Cornfed
    March 17, 2008 at 16:23

    I tend to do 1 of 3 things when putting RTK kanji in the SRS to review.

    1) if the kanji is easy enough to recall, just put the keyword by itself
    2) if the kanji is one you easily confuse with another or has a very similar meaning put the keyword and a brief definition alongside (eg. submit (to offer/present)). This also helps if the english keyword is difficult to understand as well.
    3) if the kanji is a tricky one put the whole mnemonic sentence in the question field as well. You can always put some space between the keyword and the sentence, so when you do the review try with the keyword first and if you can’t remember look at the mnemonic.

    Hope that helps someone.

  21. Charles A.
    March 17, 2008 at 18:17

    Here’s some of my opinions:

    1. Use Anki if you can as your SRS but definitely use RevTK site to get your stories.

    2. Use VISUAL stories and not mnemonics.

    3. Since you’re using an SRS and not flashcards, do BOTH keyword to kanji and kanji to keyword reviews. When a keyword pops up, write down the kanji. When the kanji pops up, just say the keyword. These will not conflict with each other. Remember that with SRS, things get spread out with time which did not happen with the flashcard that Heisig was thinking about. By the way, if you’re doing Kanji to Keyword, it’s safe to make it more a Kanji to Concept for marking as correct or not (ultimately, aren’t you going for that anyway?).

    4. I personally recommend not putting the story into the question display. If you’re like me, your stories can be pretty detailed on what goes where. As is said above, if you’re using Anki, you can do the “invisotext” trick with your story.

    5. For readings, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with adding kana keywords to kanji word with Kun readings. Don’t replace your english card, just add in new kana keyword to kanji cards (do not activate the kanji to keyword unless you’re question indicates to say the kana type). Perhaps do this as your words are added in your sentences.

    I personally think the only advice by Khatzu that many will disagree about is adding in the story as part of the question.

  22. jubilantia
    March 17, 2008 at 22:26

    Story on the question side? That would definitely make my life easier, but I don’t know if it will decrease the quality of my retention or not. I will definitely try it and see.

  23. Miss Silvestris
    March 18, 2008 at 00:48

    Khatz, you should put out a book. I’d buy it B)

    There are large numbers of non-Japanese studying Japanese right now (either to understand anime, for business, or whatever) but I find way less studying Mandarin. it’s interesting that many at least attempy Japanese but write Chinese off as ‘crazy moon-speak’ when they’re not really THAT much different (Asian, character-based langauges with many of the same characters, tones aside). I’m sure in the course of studying Catonese you’ve come across these peculiar people who say things like “To be fluent in Chiense takes 8 years!” “I lived in China for five years and I still speak like a baby.” “The Western ear cannot hear tones, blah blah blah”.

    You don’t hear as much from the people studying Japanese. Just an interesting observation. And also, would you agree with the statement that people are constantly looking for ‘scientific’ or ‘circumstantial’ facts that they can’t do something? Like the people who say “I’m not Catonese! My ears cannot hear Catonese syllables blah blah whine blah”, when in reality they’re just looking for excuses for their laziness/lack of drive?

    I know you’re busy and in Catonese-mode right now. Good luck!

  24. Tuma
    March 18, 2008 at 05:46

    >>The only piece of the puzzle that cannot be auto-generated is the Japanese text

    If the SRS you’re using supports images, it should be possible to use the subtitle data from the DVD (OCR wouldn’t be necessary since you could just use the image-based subtitles from the disc). It’s not as memory efficient as text of course, but the difference would probably be negligible compared to the audio clips themselves.

    I’m definitely interested in what you come up with though. I’ve been interested in trying some audio cards for a while, but felt that the tedious work would take too much time away from the rest of my Japanese learning processes. An automated procedure to convert a Japanese subtitled DVD to audio flashcards would great.

  25. Jason Reaves
    March 18, 2008 at 07:58


    Good point. I think it would be nice to have actual text, which makes it easy to look up compounds in an online dictionary for inclusion on the back of the card. But for SRS’s like Anki that can display graphics, it would also be possible to just drop in the image. I’ll look into the possibility and maybe try it both ways.

    You mentioned OCR. I always kind of assumed it wouldn’t work well enough to be useful. Do you any experience with using OCR for Japanese?

  26. Charles
    March 18, 2008 at 12:42

    To piggyback on Jason Reaves. I’ve been looking everywhere for a decent Japanese OCR… Any suggestions?

  27. Tuma
    March 18, 2008 at 13:47

    >> Do you any experience with using OCR for Japanese?

    Not really – the only one I’ve tried myself is the one in Adobe Acrobat Professional. It seems reasonably accurate if you can feed it blocks of crisp typed text (“reasonably accurate” as in “it would probably take less less time to fix the mistakes than to re-type the whole thing”). I’m somewhat skeptical that there would be anything reliable enough to use without human supervision at the moment though.

  28. munashi
    March 20, 2008 at 20:37

    Hi all, completely agreeing with leaving the reading for later, I think the best way to revise these is with SRS sentences.

    However, I wanted to comment and get some feedback on the last Q/A :
    7. Should I continue reviewing kanji after, like, finishing RTK? Definitely. Yes. Big yes.

    I’ve finished RTK one year and a half ago and stopped reviewing the kanjis maybe half a year ago. The reasons were.

    a. Reviewing kanji keywords was an unwelcome workload
    b.1. Forgetting answers because of confusing keywords.
    b.2. At my level of Japanese (~1600 sentences) I associate kanjis with Japanese words not keywords.
    c. RTK (and the govt’s jouyou) have quite a few kanjis of dubious utility.
    -> D. Reviewing Kanji’s was not fun! And that was one of the elements of the Khatzumoto method IIRC.

    So far the only real downside I see, is my capacity to write individual kanjis going down.

    The last thing I want to do is to instil doubt, an imperfect method being better than no method. I was just taken aback by the “Definitely. Yes. Big yes.” answer.

  29. Charles A.
    March 21, 2008 at 16:31


    I’m assuming you were using an SRS to learn your kanji. If that were the case, the workload should have gotten smaller and smaller over that year. If you were doing just flash cards, then yes there would be the tedium. With the SRS, you’ll get the reduced workload, and you’ll get the benefit of exposure to less used kanji and kanji you need more review on.

    PS: If you use RevTK website, there are Firefox plugins that’ll allow you to change keywords (hmm, use a Japanese keyword in katakana?).

  30. nacest
    March 21, 2008 at 18:44

    Just as Charles A. said. To give an example, my daily kanji workload has so far shrinked to 10-15 kanji a day, which take less than 10 minutes to do. The number is also slowly decreasing.
    Therefore it’s not boring nor time-consuming, while my kanji ability keeps growning.

  31. munashi
    March 21, 2008 at 21:47

    Thanks for replying Charles and nacest,

    yup, I’m using an SRS, great invention and even greater when using sentences! Respect to Khatzumoto and Antimoon for making it known.

    Charles, you say : “you’ll get the benefit of exposure to less used kanji and kanji you need more review on.” That was not the case. By definition less used kanjis are less benefical. For instance, I’ve been more exposed IRL to 頃 and 膝 (not in RTK) than 寧 or 菱, (these two kept coming up in my SRS 🙁 ). I think SRS are very poor judges of the usefulness of the questions.

    Nacest: 10 minutes a day isn’t that much, I agree. I however believe that time would be better spent on receiving comprehensible input, even on inputing a single sentence in the SRS. I will however admit that fun is a subjective matter, some stories gave me more pleasure remembering than others and I certainly enjoyed learning kanjis “a la RTK”.

    All in all, thanks for your input. I think I would have been happier if Khatz just wrote: “Yes keep reviewing them, at least long enough for the Massive Comprehensible Input TM to do it’s magic.”

  32. March 21, 2008 at 23:47

    Hello there! I’ve posted here once or twice before.
    I never really made much progress with Remembering the Kanji 1 – after studying it for weeks and weeks, I managed to get to frame number 11 or so. This wasn’t because I was a slow learner (although that’s what I told myself), it was through lack of motivation.

    You know what my three favourite moments in Japanese have been so far? They’ll seem tiny to you but all of these happened within about three days and they pushed me to try harder.

    1. Although I hardly knew any kanji, I thought I would first check out the 日本語 section of AJATT. The first article that came up, by coincidence, used two kanji I had already studied: ‘three’ and ‘day’. Having read the website for a while, I was able to work out that it meant ‘three day monk’. Yeah, it seems tiny, but that was probably the first useful thing I’d read in Japanese until that point (with the exception of the odd hiragana in [i]Cat Soup[/i]).

    2. When I had this tiny spark of motivation, I finally got round to installing a Japanese copy of Windows XP Professional on my PC. When I chose to update my OS, I thought I’d take a chance and I’d do the entire process in Japanese. Which I did. (At this point I was a little further into the book). Once again, there were just a few phrases I could recognise; one of the most ‘exciting’ being the date on the page.

    3. Sweets. The other day I was reading a blog entry of yours where you said that eating sweets as a “reward” for learning/recalling kanji was a good idea. Since now I was in full flow with RtK (and craving for sweets :P), I went out a few hours ago and bought some 31p ‘Midget Gems’ from the local supermarket. And boy, does it help! I’m actually getting bored of writing this now because I want to do some kanji and eat some sweets. 😀

    Lastly, a question: do you think it’s a good idea to use Reviewing the Kanji as an alternative to an SRS? I can already guess your answer – no – but hear me out. The reason is, I need to be able to input the kanji into my SRS. Although I do own RtK, I use an eBook of it, and the kanji are in image format. Since I don’t know the readings, I don’t know how to put them into the keyboard/SRS. Any help?

  33. nacest
    March 22, 2008 at 00:21

    certainly someday one will have to stop reviewing the kanji, I agree with that. It’s the “when” that’s dubious. I’d say that it should happen when your Japanese input reaches a certain very high volume. But as long as one is still not really sure to remember them for the next, say, year or two, keeping on reviewing them would be beneficial.
    Besides, even when your level of input is very high, I don’t think it can be all that bad to review the RTK characters, also considering that by that time you will only have a very low daily workload.

    by “reviewing the kanji” you obviously mean the website, right? If that’s the case, it IS an SRS, and a good one too. I don’t see anything wrong with using it. Why do you think so?

  34. cabjoe
    March 22, 2008 at 00:24


    I would say that the Reviewing the Kanji website is an SRS, just one dedicated to the Heisig method. So I wouldn’t worry about that too much.

    I must say I found that site to be brilliant. I had a lot of trouble creating stories that would stick when I reached part 3 of RTK1 and if it wasn’t for the user stories on that site, I don’t know that I would have completed the book.

    By the way if you want to use an SRS that follows the Supermemo/Mnemosyne methodology more closely I would recommend Anki. It comes with a complete 3007 card Heisig deck and can be used from a mobile phone, website or desktop application keeping your deck synchronised at all times. I’m using it for Sentences and I’m finding it to be perfect for my needs. Apologies to Khatzumoto, who has truly been an inspiration, but I just couldn’t get Khatzumemo working on my mobile phone

  35. Kaba
    March 22, 2008 at 11:06

    Cheeseweasel: Transferring kanji from onto SRS is easy when using the good ‘ol copy paste method 🙂 Either you could get an automated list of kanji from the RTK Yahoo group and import it into Anki or another SRS, or do it one by one via copy/paste. I find the that just the processing of copying and pasting adds to my retention of the characters instead of having it all done for you.

  36. JDog
    March 24, 2008 at 08:38

    Hi everyone,

    I have a question about SuperMemo. I know it is frowned down upon by this site for its excessive complexity and features, but I am wondering about the Palm OS version. I have Anki on my palm right now, but I am getting into the hundreds of flash cards (with long definitions of biology terms on each) and getting frustrated with Anki for Palm’s inability to make new lines and change fonts and especially the fact that it lacks a repetition algorithm. I have read that the Palm OS version of SuperMemo is nowhere near as complex as the regular version, and is very stable and less prone to bugs. I use a flash program a lot, but being a college student and tight with money, I’d really like to know if anyone here uses SuperMemo for Palm and how they like it. BTW, I have yet to do the trial version, and probably won’t have too much time to play with it. Any feedback from people who have used the Palm OS version of Supermemo would be much appreciated!

  37. March 24, 2008 at 14:58


    I use Palm Supermemo extensively. I love the portability of it. It is sometimes difficult to import tab-delimited text files into it the right way, but some trial and error should do the trick. And yes, it is a barebones, minimalist flashcard program, and I love that about it. Very easy to use. I talk about it a bit on my blog (click my name).

  38. JDog
    March 25, 2008 at 08:38

    John, thanks for the reply. I am using it now and am loving it. It wouldn’t have been possible a few weeks ago when I didn’t have my bluetooth keyboard, but now with the BT keyboard I can type stuff in fast and not worry about syncing it. I love it. I think this will be a worthy investment.

  39. Chiro-kun
    March 25, 2008 at 12:10

    This is just my own humble opinion but I don’t think an SRS is needed for kanji review if you’ve actually associated the kanji with images. I used an SRS myself to review kanji until two months back or so. There were certain kanji which I just couldn’t get into my head after 5-6 spaced repetitions. There was the kanji for 接(11 strokes) which I came across (in the word 接続) after nearly 6 months and could remember it perfectly (equivalent to a ‘5’ grade on KhatzuMemo and Mnemosyne) whereas I kept forgetting those like 契 (9 strokes) after god-knows-how-many reviews on the SRS.

  40. Ivan the Terrible
    March 25, 2008 at 23:01

    One thing that worries me about ‘Heisig’ing it: you lose a lot of the phonetic value that would otherwise be present. I’m not sure if that’s true for Japanese, as well, but it’s definitely true for Guoyu.

    The example I stumbled across recently was 鱈, cod. I kept trying to think of a story involving fish and snow that would stick…until I saw the pronunciation was precisely the same as 雪, at which point the character became really, really easy.

    Overall, though, very useful. I’m nearing the coveted 3000 character mark in Anki, and I have no intention of stopping there!

  41. Brian
    March 26, 2008 at 03:13

    Yeah, just to confirm what Katz said, on page 42 (paperback edition) the sample flashcard that Heisig shows is indeed one that looks the same as what Katz ia telling us to do. Story and meaning on the front, Kanji on the back

  42. khatzumoto
    March 28, 2008 at 09:59

    Nice article. I went through中文字譜 in order, except where it didn’t make sense to (which was quite a few times), i.e. I would plow through a tree, but I needed to jump to different trees to collect “primitives”/fundamental components.

  43. khatzumoto
    March 28, 2008 at 10:00

    Have you (or anyone else) gotten KeyHole to work?…Mine still doesn’t go online…

  44. khatzumoto
    March 28, 2008 at 10:03

    >I’ve come to believe (as of course Katz has said many times) that RTK1 can be an integral part of the process,
    Haha. Thank nacest for that one…

  45. khatzumoto
    March 28, 2008 at 10:06

    @Miss Silvestris
    >would you agree with the statement that people are constantly looking for ’scientific’ or ‘circumstantial’ facts that they can’t do something?
    Yeah! And “looking” is the word! ACTIVELY, DILIGENTLY searching for reasons why it’s impossible. Those Wright Brothers will never fly that air machine…

  46. khatzumoto
    March 28, 2008 at 10:14

    @Ivan the Terrible
    >One thing that worries me about ‘Heisig’ing it: you lose a lot of the phonetic value that would otherwise be present.
    For shizzle. It’s a trade-off.

  47. March 28, 2008 at 21:05

    Have you (or anyone else) gotten KeyHole to work?…Mine still doesn’t go online…

    It works like a dream here. Have you checked your ports or anything (I didn’t change anything, and it still works…)

  48. Forrest
    March 28, 2008 at 22:44

    My Keyhole works fine too. though the channel choices aren’t that great, and the audio/video don’t quite sync up pretty often

  49. March 29, 2008 at 00:44

    Thanks, khatz. That’s the approach I had planned on taking. I’m learning all the 部首 up front, though.

  50. khatzumoto
    March 29, 2008 at 00:50

    >I’m learning all the 部首 up front, though.
    Good call. That sounds like a really effective strategy.

  51. March 29, 2008 at 08:18

    Has anybody found a method of using Anki on Ubuntu Linux 7.10 (Gutsy)? Whilst I use Windows XP (in Japanese :P) on my desktop, I study most of my kanji on my laptop, which runs Ubuntu without dual-booting or anything.

    Any help would be much appreciated! Yes, I have tried WINE, but the program just doesn’t run.

  52. zodiac
    March 29, 2008 at 12:26

    Well, I’m not sure why you’d use WINE, as there’s a build for linux. Just go to the download page of anki, click debian (which links to a .deb file).

    But I did have a bit of problems with dependencies being not satisfied…apparently the problem is that anki requires some newer versions of packages that are not found in the 7.10 repositories (such as sqlalchemy) what I did was that if I found them, I went to google to search for them and download the .deb for the latest version.

    If for some reason you can’t find out which dependencies are missing iirc if you open up the .deb file there’s a file somewhere in there that lists them all out.

  53. March 29, 2008 at 14:57


    Question for you. When you learned the 部首 did you stick with the definitions supplied, or did you come up with your own? So far I count 4 with the definition of “sprouting plant.” Several that have to do with roots, and many other plant-related things. It’s hard to keep them all straight.

  54. khatzumoto
    March 29, 2008 at 15:01

    I didn’t go learn the 部首 in one hit (I considered it and started doing it, but eventually decided to do a more Heisigish approach). But…YES, definitely, you have to change the names to make things more regular and consistent. Inconsistent naming is a big mnemonic killer.

  55. Codexus
    March 30, 2008 at 04:52

    Anki runs fine on my Ubuntu Gutsy. You need to compile it yourself though and in order to do that you’ll need to download some other softwares and compile them first. Just use the readme file to know what you’ll need. You could try to find packages for everything I guess but that’s just more complicated.

  56. Lucid
    April 8, 2008 at 13:37

    Putting the mnemonic device on the flashcard makes it seem too… easy. That sounds like a good thing, but I’m skeptical about whether or not this will help me remember Kanji during times when I don’t have a little story to read. If Heisig thinks it’s a good idea, I guess I’ll give it a try.

  57. madmerse
    April 22, 2008 at 14:50

    Putting the mnemonic on the question side of the card sounds like a good idea, but I’m pretty much set on going without them in the production. Instead I put the mnemonic and the story outline in the answer field. That way I get a chance to firmly fix the story and the image in my head before going on. I’ve found that I make more mistakes if I haven’t gotten a strong enough image established. It takes a bit more time, but I feel it’s worth it. Also, if I have a strong story and vivid image established for a keyword, the kanji just pops into my head like magic. That’s one of the things I like about Heisig’s RTK method. It’s really cool.

  58. kanjiforme
    May 15, 2008 at 19:12

    How do you grade yourself on a kanji from 1 to 5?

  59. madmerse
    May 17, 2008 at 21:10


    If the scale is 1-5 then it would be

    1 forgot
    2 made a mistake
    3 hard to recall
    4 recall without too much effort
    5 easy to recall

    I use Anki for my kanji studies and the interface is nice, but it’s a bit of a resource hog. Also, it uses a scale of 0-4 but the same ideas are at work. I’ve used it for the past 2 months and I’m at about 1500 in Heisig’s RTK.

    I haven’t made as much progress as I like but I’ve been rather erratic with my studies during the college semester. Now that it’s over I’ve covered over 700 kanji in about a week and a half. That makes me happy. 😀

  60. tyro
    May 23, 2008 at 19:37

    Hello, a couple of questions, hopefully the solution is very obvious to someone out there..

    On the tiddlers page, how can I increase the font size so the hanzi character is huge ?

    Is there an easy way to port the data into Anki or Zdt ?

  61. khatzumoto
    May 26, 2008 at 22:59

    >On the tiddlers page, how can I increase the font size so the hanzi character is huge ?
    It should be possible using your browser settings

    >Is there an easy way to port the data into Anki or Zdt ?
    Not yet

  62. June 5, 2008 at 20:21

    So it’s not cheating to put the mnemonic there? Wow…you’re right, it doesn’t always have to be hard, does it? Thanks!

  63. WangSen
    June 6, 2008 at 13:13

    Hey! I have a question for you guys. How many Kanji did you memorize before you started with sentences? I am currently studying Chinese and was using the old fashion method of character on the front of the card, reading/ definition on the back. I want to give your way a try with keyword/mnemonic device. But I wanted to know how many word sdid you study before moving on? I have been adding words and then If I find a sentence and have already studies every word in it, I will add it to my SRS.

  64. June 8, 2008 at 06:29

    Yo, just thought I’d give my two cents.
    I had already finished the first Heisig book last summer.
    But recently, I got into reading old stories in Japanese like 枕草子、源氏物語、& 羅生門
    Granted they are full of old school words and I’m sure anyone could question their relevance or usefulness for “modern Japanese.” But, like the man (Katz) said, “All japanese is good.” I’m sure if he actually said that, but I know he would, so that counts as a quote in my books. Anyways, the other thing that these books contain besides old school words is old school characters. That’s like the 旧字(きゅうじ:old characters). These would be Kanji that have fallen out of use or modified into “easier” 新字(しんじ:new characters). Anyways, I was fed up with not knowing how to read these let alone understand the meaning of them, so I started that book that the man recommended for Chinese characters. ( Then I just Hesieged/Waned my way though it. Granted there are some Chinese characters that aren’t used at all in Japanese, so I would cross reference the sketch ones with the Kanji database ( to make sure there was a word or something for those Kanji. I think the important to do, is of course make sure you use the Heisig method. Second, add pictures and crap to your cards; that really helped me a lot. You really have no idea how amazing your imagination for remembering Kanji gets until you add pictures. Third, yeah like the man said, it’s OKAAAYYY to put the story on the front face of the cards. Fourth, make your stories relate to your picture. Sometimes I had pictures that had more to do with my story than the actual meaning of the Kanji, those work freaking great. Anyways, if you read this, by now you’re probably stabbing your eyes out with your 0.05mm japanese mechanical pencils and telling me to shut up. The fact of the matter is that this method works and it just all depends on whether you actually want. Just remember, if it ain’t working, you ain’t either! 😛

  65. khatzumoto
    June 16, 2008 at 23:00

    I memorized maybe 3500 before starting sentences, and another 1000 or so thereafter. I’m also still picking up the occasional new character.
    I’d definitely recommend you do the same; it’ll make life a lot easier.

  66. khatzumoto
    June 16, 2008 at 23:01

    All Japanese is good :).
    (What I originally said was probably: “If it’s in Japanese, then it’s good [for you]”).

  67. Mallory
    June 24, 2008 at 12:25

    I’m about 400 kanji in now, but I don’t use Helsig.

    Does anyone have any tips on remembering different kanji with the same meaning? Like 中 and 央 both mean center, middle but I can’t tell them apart when reviewing. Does anyone else have this problem?

  68. チャッド
    June 27, 2008 at 11:50

    Hey Khatz,

    I just wanted to post letting you know that I have started using your method. It has been two weeks and I have managed to knock out RtK and am now moving on to the kana. Cannot wait to start sentences.

    I do have a question though, do you think some of the material from is significant enough for beginning sentence mining or should I get it from other authentic sources like dictionaries and actual websites.


  69. simone
    August 1, 2008 at 09:28

    I have been studying Japanese for several months. I had bought Heisig’s books and started with Learning the Kana, which I liked a lot. Then I passed to Remembering the Kanji, and liked it less. In France a couple of months ago I found a book on learning the 500 most common kanji. It shows the meaning, the japanese word (in hiragana) and the “on” in katakana. Also 3 examples of usage (like Tôkyô as illustration of capital, etc.). So I started looking for something similar here but in English and more complete. I found: “A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters”, by Kenneth G. Henshall. It has the meaning in English, a paragraph on the character, a mnemonic, but also the “kun” and “on” meanings, and 3 examples of usage. I find it much better and more useful than Heisig, as it builds your vocabulary as well as your knowledge of kanji.
    This is a very long comment, sumimasen! But thank you very much for your insights, I like your site very much!

  70. simone
    August 1, 2008 at 09:32

    PS: Re what Brian said earlier about modified or old kanji. The book I mentioned also has an index of “non general use” and “chinese only” characters.

  71. Loren
    August 10, 2008 at 12:44

    Just want to write a whole hearted “Thanks man!” here so…

    Thanks man! Your an inspiration.

    I think one of the reasons your posts are so inspirational and potent are because you bring it right down to our [the learners] level!! as you were one yourself (Recently… ish..)!!

    all these professors of japanese/chinese/korean or whatever are so obsessed over the 3000 year old etemological routes of the kanji for “Text” that it looks alot like “support” and that totally kills us learners.

    alsor. i do have one question!

    with the heisig method.. the keywords are always in english..

    i’m probrably going to make a grand tit out of myself here…maybe i’ve missed something in my 4:30 am caffein driven haze but..

    whats the point of learning the kanji with the english meanings if you can’t quite fit it into a japanese sentence..

    or is this a small part of a bigger puzzle?

    or do you still advise that we stick on an SRS and adapt some of the heisigs card and mnemonic ideas with the japanese word/words added on the card?


  72. Squintox
    August 20, 2008 at 04:06

    If you have trouble inputting kanji into an SRS, then you can use the Kanji IME Pad (that is built in to the Japanese Windows XP IME). Press “IME Pad” on the language bar and press “hand writing”. You can write in the Kanji with your mouse pad. You can also search kanji by radical/primitive, or by stroke count.

  73. Juz098
    September 14, 2008 at 03:04

    Yea, Heisig says that you should put the story of the kanji on the front. He also says that if later you dont need it dont put it, he says think of the stories like scaffolding, they help you put up the builiding but when the building is comlete they are no longer there.

  74. Capitalist
    September 29, 2008 at 09:07

    Why not go kanji to keyword as well?

  75. KanjiCane
    October 2, 2008 at 15:22

    I have to admit I was skeptical to use stories on the front of my card to jog memory, but I am going to give it a fair trial. Being at 100, I am already failing some of them, so I may as well give it a shot. I will begin where I am now, 105 and see how I do compared to my older Kanji’s.

    Sadly its true, people spend more time trying to be convinced and looking for why than they actually do the task. Always looking for tricks, maybe the story on the front is effective+easy. Go with it I say, at the very least you have recognition down. With all the time we all waste asking why, we could have experienced what and reward.

    Cheers to staying on task, don’t stray and don’t by any means read any more opinions… In my experience, the Internet has WAY too many opinions to take into consideration, thus the last is usually the one to sway you.
    Just my thought on things.


  76. KanjiCane
    October 2, 2008 at 15:35

    Let me add a link here, I believe it to be the best method in which to learn anything you need to without being distracted and lured off task.
    (If this is not ok to add, please remove it.)
    I find that one doesn’t need a schedule to stay on task, much to ones belief. The plus of this method is known as ‘Time Distortion’. When focusing 100% of your attention on one task, time seems to slow to almost a halt, and when your done your amazed at how much time you have conserved.

    I can attest to it because it has helped me on my hectic weeks of not being able to form+stick to a schedule.

  77. NightCrier
    December 20, 2008 at 00:50

    I do it the old fashioned way i make cards with kanji on one side and the keywords on the other. I do to this because i couldn’t figure out how to input kanji’s and stuff in the srs and didnt want to to fuss about it so i just make cards for each lesson do them a couple of times and its working pretty well.

  78. vgambit
    December 20, 2008 at 03:00

    NightCrier, that is bad. Use an SRS. You shouldn’t have any trouble inputting kanji if you copy and paste them from .

  79. vgambit
    December 31, 2008 at 02:10

    Also, Anki has a pre-made Heisig deck you can use without having to input anything.

  80. edsmaffs
    January 3, 2009 at 06:35

    Should I put the primitives that are not actually kanji from RTK1 into an SRS?

  81. Chris
    January 17, 2009 at 20:28

    Has anyone had any problems with similar meanings between kanji/hanzi when doing production recall? I find it’s really confusing to keep them apart. For instance, 投, 拋 and 擲 all conveying more or less the meaning “to throw”.

  82. Torzken
    February 12, 2009 at 18:36

    I have a few questions regarding RTK.
    1) Currently I’m going through RTK1at a pretty quick pace (avering at about 50 kanji a day). Would it be adviced to slow down? My retention rates are currently just over 50%, but I find this to be a bit low (maybe this is normal at the “beginning”? I’m at 766 at the moment).
    2) What are your thoughts about going RTK1 ->RTK3 right away? Or should I go RTK1 -> sentences, and perhaps work on RTK3 as a “side project” (meaning a few new kanji every day)?

  83. Ed
    February 19, 2009 at 02:18

    RTK is really impressive. Any kind of mnenmoic system beats writing it out over and over and over again….
    I’ve set myself an aim of learning 20 kanji a day, but I get addicted and do more 😛 I stop myself when I get to 30. I’m one of those odd people who has decided kanji are very pretty 😀

  84. Ryou
    February 25, 2009 at 13:03

    I’ve only been doing kanji SRS for a little more than a week.
    I’ve done about 200 kanji already– the first few days, I did about 20, and lately I’ve upped that to as many as I can do, which is about 65 before I start going insane xP
    Anyways, I’m having a really hard time. I can’t remember many of the kanji (only about 50-70%!) but is that natural for the beginning?
    I am not using any mnemonic devices, except ones that I make up on the spot (mainly because I do not have Heisig– but I do have Henshall’s??? But the ones in that book makes me even more confused)… I know it’s bad, but I’m doing it by grades… >.>
    Any tips? Is my extreme over-one-day-memory-loss normal for the beginners? Or am I just not doing it right?

    On the front, I have the Grade #, and the definition (which can get to be up to 6-7 different definitions! because I’m using the online dictionary).
    On the back, just the kanji.

    Thank you!


  85. Rhino
    March 8, 2009 at 11:49

    @ Ryou
    >I cant remember many of the kanji

    Your method misses the point a bit, but I can understand that you really want to learn your kanji in a certain order according to your classes kanji schedule or whatever. Heisig’s order is unusual because it groups kanji with similar elements together. for obvious reasons. The type of brute force learning your attempting is not unlike what I imagine japanese schoolkids go through in learning kanji. Just drilling them into your head against the readings and definitions again and again until they stick. This approach is gonna cause you alot of difficultly. For example I myself am over halfway through Heisig’s book and my percentage correct is 92% overall. That is from taking the keyword, and the mnemonic story and producing the kanji.

    Basically your doing it the hard way and that’s why your forgetting them. You will get it eventually but its plain to see that its gonna take you awhile.

    try Heisig instead?

  86. Jonny
    March 9, 2009 at 00:46

    @ Ryou

    I’m impressed that you’ve even gotten that far with the brute force method! I don’t think I could even remember one doing it like that. :/

    You really have to just use Remembering the Kanji, as it’s simply a better way to do it. I don’t understand the argument that “RTK is just adding another step to the process.” It seems like those people are missing the point, as it’s that extra step which makes the process so brilliant in the first place! It’s that extra step which allows someone to (possibly) remember over 2000 kanji in a little over two months, which is what I’m going for right now.

    To sum it up, I really can’t imagine how anybody could remember the kanji using any other method than Remembering the Kanji.

    Alright, now I’m going to go Remember some Kanji. 😉

  87. Steven
    March 16, 2009 at 11:04

    I’ve been using RTK and have reached 1300 without an SRS. Basically I can remember 90% of the stories when I see a keyword. Now, I am using Mnemosyne and Khatzumoto’s suggestion of having the keyword and mnemonic on the question side. I find that I can get through 50 kanji a day and answer them correctly with the mnemonic but without it I have more trouble.

    How much time do you guys spend on the average kanji before moving on to the next? I personally spend 2-3 minutes copying the kanji 3-4 times while saying the mnemonic. Too short?

  88. Andresito
    March 29, 2009 at 06:48

    “How much time do you guys spend on the average kanji before moving on to the next?”

    As long as it makes you feel confident, what matters here (memory) is focus and not quantity.
    Each day depends on your energy to focus, therefore don’t set up anything other than doing it right each time.
    Eat healthy and sleep!

  89. Isharabash
    March 30, 2009 at 09:05

    I’ve started RTK, I’m on lesson 8 and I’m also using reviewing the kanji…

    However, I am failing a heavy amount of them, so my question is the same as everyone above, what’s a “normal” failure rate.

    Just speculation here, but maybe it’s okay to forget a good amount of them? As long as they’re used as primitives later on?

    Some of the author’s stories make no sense… Is there a way to side step the stories all together? I’ve never been good at remembering stories…

    Has anyone used the roman room or language town for kanji?

  90. Steven
    March 31, 2009 at 14:49


    Thanks for your input. Before I started using Khatz’s suggestion of mnemonic on the question side I was doing like you suggested: quality over quantity . This was to actually remember the story without needing to read it and writing the kanji many times to get my hand to learn. Very very agonizingly slow. I’m just past 1500 now and I guess I am trying to sprint to the finish and don’t care if I fall a couple of times. I figure in the sentence phase at least the kanjis I failed will be somewhat familiar to me. I should memorize them with repetition so why try to make it 100% concrete now? Now I write the kanji once on a flashcard for portable review and read the story out loud 2-3 times. The point is I am grateful yet sick and tired of RTK and writing these freakin lame stories.I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I WILL finish the book 100 per day in less than a week. It’s war!

  91. Andresito
    April 4, 2009 at 23:38


    You can learn the story as fast as you read, depends on your focus and creativity.

    Remembering is a different story, use SRS and fail many times!

    That’s the purpose, learn it then memorize it.

    Learning is fast,
    Memorizing is slow.

  92. Andresito
    April 4, 2009 at 23:39


    read above

  93. shikantaza
    May 3, 2009 at 08:48

    I just finished RTK1. Did 100 kanji a day for three weeks. Yay!

  94. Ben
    May 31, 2009 at 07:04

    Well basically im using anki for Kanji, and im going for the
    “invisible text approach”, which is basically splitting the cards into
    three sections, the question, story to help me remember it and the
    answer (the Kanji symbol).

    However, whenever i put three texts in e.g.


    A SICKNESS that makes you mentally DODGY (which would be white, hence
    the “invisible” part as i just highlight it to see)

    And the last box contains the Kanji for it (癡)

    And basically i can’t split it into three seperate boxes. I have
    editied the fields in the “deck properties”, and it shows up as three
    seperate, but when physically starting the reviewing, only two boxes

    I apologise for this being so long, but i couldn’t find the solution
    anywhere. Thanks in advance, and i sorry if it is something simple im
    missing out on here.

  95. Ben
    June 1, 2009 at 16:58

    Nevermind, i fixed this.

  96. Justin
    July 14, 2009 at 09:48


    I am a bit confused. I was flipping through RTK book 1 yesterday and I saw a large amount of English. It seemed to give the English equivalent for the Kanji.
    Correct me if I am wrong, I do not want to invest in a book that will cause more harm than good. I spent five years studying Spanish on a SpanishEnglish textbook.
    I purchased some children’s books here in Japan for learning the Kanji, and learning that way is so easy! Complete with pictures and no English. But if Heisig is ABSOLUTELY, HANDS DOWN the best way to go – then of course I will purchase his book. It is just the fact that I don’t want the English equivalent of the Kanji – – ever.

    Also, any reccommendations for electronic, handheld dictionaries that are only Japanese/// a.k.a. No English? thanks.

  97. Justin
    July 14, 2009 at 09:51

    p.s. and the reviews on….not looking too hot.

    ”You would be better off learning 500 kanji and then just reading, rather than using RTK”,


  98. Jared
    July 20, 2009 at 07:58

    So, for Kanji alone you’re recommending English –> Kanji; for sentences you’re recommending Japanese –> English. Is this right? Why the reversal of direction?

    So for my case, a different language, I could use SRS initially for Arabic vocabulary by doing English –> Arabic…but when I begin sentences I should do Arabic –> English (and eventually Arabic – Arabic)?

  99. shou
    July 22, 2009 at 10:47

    am khatzumoto, i can’t understand the

    “#1 Do you need to go the other way (kanji to keyword)? Dr. Heisig would say “no” and I would tend to agree with the sensei.” from the queries part of this article

    what do you mean with kanji to keyword?

  100. Marshall
    August 17, 2009 at 10:02

    Hey, Khatz- I started the “AJATT Project” about 2 weeks ago. I’ve been using Anki as an SRS- it’s awesome, I’ll use it for studying too. Anyways, i’ve been making my kanji deck differently. I haven’t found RTK yet. On the front side of the card, the kanji is shown. On the back side(answer), the meaning and the readings are shown. I’m starting to think you’re way is better, more natural and more enjoyable. However, my kanji deck already has almost 200 cards- what do you suggest I do?

  101. Grilled Seabass
    September 11, 2009 at 05:23

    I’m just starting out using Heisig and Anki. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this software before, it’s fantastic. I was just wondering if there is a ‘deck’ out there which already includes Heisig’s stories. Of course I can just type them out, would just be nice if there was one already out there to use.

    Also, let me get this straight, what everyone is doing on here is learning the meaning of every kanji before learning the Japanese readings associated with the kanji, eg learning that 一 means ‘one’, without also learning that it means ‘ichi’ or ‘hito(tsu)’.

  102. Kouki-San
    September 12, 2009 at 13:40

    Hi Khatzumoto u’ve really inspired me a lot and helped me believe i can be fluent in japanese without any classes. i’ve changed my facebk name to jap. i’ve gotten a jap yahoo email acc and forgotten and thrown away my Singaporean/Chinese identity. i’ve got the Heisig Kanji. For SRS i realise its easier to remember the Kanji if i put the Pinyin of the words in instead of stories. Since i’m chinese most of the kanji are not a stranger to me except some of their meanings and writings are quite different in japanese.

    So do you think it is considered cheating to use pinyin in the stories/question section of kanji SRS or shld i still use english stories instead so i can throw away all chinese mind stuff away?

    Thanks so much!

  103. Reno
    October 9, 2009 at 12:27

    Quick question…I have the necessary study aids for the Kanji…although nothing really tells me the pronounciation of them. For example, 大 is “Dai” or said as “ooki” in reading? Or is this all context dependant? Thanks.

  104. October 17, 2009 at 22:38


    The readings do depend a lot on context. Let me try some examples:

    With the one you gave, 大. In a word such as 大切, the readings for both are the On readings (taiたい/setsuせつ respectively). Same goes for 大丈夫 (daiだい/jouじょう/buぶ). If you’ll notice, the readings there are almost the same. Almost but not quite. たい was changed to だい. Technically, they ARE the same, but there’s two small lines (dakuten) in the latter. That will pretty much depend on the word. As for the reading ‘ookii,’ that is a Kun reading. The only time that really applies is in the word 大きい, in which 大 only reads おお and the rest is in the hiragana (okurigana). That, in turn, is used in words such as 大きすぎます and others.

    Other readings: the kanji 出 can be read shutsuしゅつ and 発 can be read hatsuはつ.
    What happens when you put them together? The つ becomes っ and the は becomes ぱ, making 出発 read しゅっぱつ, not しゅつはつ.

    Confusing? Gets better with exposure (sentences). I’m not an expert by the way, just beginning-intermediate-ish? Kanji is one of the easier concepts to me in some ways.

    By the way… my RTK1 is on order and should be here next week (curse Amazon’s Super Saver shipping!! So slow!!)

  105. October 22, 2009 at 03:04

    Hi, I’m very new at this (just started using an SRS to learn Kanji 5 days ago actually) and I’m having this problem remembering the Kanji. I set the from of my card and the back of my card like you said in your blog post but when I try to remember it I only remember the two pieces of the kanji. I’ll have no idea what goes where. Like the symbol for “olden” is I think a “walking stick” and a sun “day” but I won’t know what goes in what order. (top/bottom/left/right) and I’ll end up just guessing. Is their anything I can do to fix this? Should I just write the kanji multiple times over and over to get it right?

  106. October 22, 2009 at 03:05

    whoops typo change “from” to “front” ^

  107. Stipe
    October 26, 2009 at 05:13

    Hey, everyone. I’d like to share my method of using Remebering the kanji, with some maths and calculations on how much time it all requires (this is subjective, you’ll see how the method goes). Khatzumoto, please give your critique on this.

    *1st of all, I’m momentarily not using an SRS as a kanji storage facility. I’m using a flashcard program called Pauker ( which also has an assistant utility Minipauker, a java-based mobile phone application which allows you to transfer flashcards to your phone and review them away from your PC. I’ll probably shift to a proper SRS (to be reminded when I need to do a review) soon, or I’ll just mimic the algorithm and continue using Pauker.

    Tools you will need:
    -An SRS tool, flashcard based or similar (You can use Pauker too)
    -A PC kanji dictionary (which allows you to c/p kanji into the SRS) – Jishop is probably the best there is: It’s not free, but you can download a trial (or pay the full price – I did, it’s worth it. Otherwise I’m sure you know how to use warez forums, but I didn’t say that).
    -A pdf copy of Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji

    The Method
    Have the SRS, kanji dictionary and RTK running. Read the RTK, come up with a summarized story. Write the kanji out (once at least-develops your handwriting). C/p kanji from the dictionary into SRS, save the card. Repeat.

    How long it takes to do this?
    I did some calculations and here’s what I got:
    >Time to read and understand the paragraph in RTK (on average) – 10 s
    >Time to generate a shorter version of the paragraph – 20 s
    >Write the kanji out NICELY (I do twice) – 8 s
    >Find and c/p the kanji from the dictionary into the SRS – from 10 to 70s (depending if the dictionary has that kanji entry under the name Heisig used)
    >Write your story down in the SRS,(optimize), and save it – 30s

    Total for learning a single kanji:
    1min 18s (dictionary has the entry) – 2min 18s (dictionary hasn’t got the entry)

    Which leaves calculating how much it’s going to take to learn my daily batch of 50 (100 on the weekends).
    68s*50=3900s=1h 5min; OR; 138s*50=6900=2h 5min
    which means, to learn 2042 kanji, it takes:
    2 x 50 kanji x 68s (or 138s) x 20.42 (from 2042 kanji) / 3600 (to get it in hours) =38.57h or 78.28h.

    I hope that was well number-crunched. And so on, calculating months and days, deducting coffee breaks, showers etc… The essential calculation is here.

    But, you see, this should firstly be an enjoyable process, not a rat race. You should try to maximize your learning potential by sacrificing time. As Khatz’s software development triangle says, you can’t get both quality and speed if you’re not inputting enough time into it. So, take this calculation as a reference to manipulate your schedule better. If you’re working with a different method (which, I imagine, cannot be THAT much of a contrast) you can compare your results and perhaps optimize.

    I’m looking forward to not getting stoned by the angry crowds for this performance 🙂

  108. Howard
    January 12, 2010 at 17:00

    hi, I need some help. How do you get the story you inputted to show up on the question side in Anki? I have the version.

  109. Maru-chan
    December 6, 2010 at 04:03

    When I first planned to make my own website, I wanted to write like Steve Pavlina, but maybe not so cynical (he is at times). But after I saw AJATT, I think that humorous style is also great.

  110. Chagami
    February 28, 2011 at 05:43

    Just putting it out there; Lesson 5, page 42 of the fifth addition of RTK says that the flash cards should be the other way around, as in Kanji on the front, stories and meanings on the back.

    Perhaps Khatz noticed this, as this article has been crossed out.

  111. Julian
    March 4, 2011 at 01:55

    How do you type the kanji into Anki or any other SRS?

    • March 29, 2011 at 12:55

      Do you have Japanese installed on your computer? You should be able to type it in just as you type kanji any other time. Depending on what operating system you use, the steps to use Japanese are different. I suggest checking out your language settings and it should have a place where it tells you how to switch languages / keyboard layouts.

  112. Beyou
    May 21, 2011 at 07:08

    What process of reading RTK and then reviewing the kanji should I take? I can’t seem to find any suggestion anywhere on this blog. Would reading 20 in day and reviewing 20 in the evening be a good way to go, altering those numbers whenever needs be, or is there another way?

    • ベン
      May 23, 2011 at 19:52

      I don’t understand your question… What do you mean by reading and reviewing? Do you mean reading them in the book in the day and adding them to your SRS in the evening?

    • Anne
      May 24, 2011 at 04:09

      I don’t know how others handle it. I read in the book and think about stories without taking notes whenever I feel in the mood for it. Sometimes, I have a good run and make up 100 stories like nothing and sometimes I just can’t think of anything at all. I also have better ideas, when I’m on the sofa looking out of the window or on a park bench. Staring at the computer screen doesn’t do my creativity any good.
      I use a pre-made deck for anki and go through the kanji I read about before later in the day. Usually, I recall at least 90% then, so it’s quite fast. So there are some days in which I go through 150 ‘new’ cards on anki. (you can always click on ‘learn more’, no matter how you configurated anki) Of course, they need reviewing the next day, so I’ll do as much reviewing as possible in the next day (I review in the morning as far as I can get and maybe later again, if I have the time). If I don’t get through everything, I obviously don’t add any more cards that day, but just stick to reviewing.
      However, I have anki configurated that it will show me five ‘new’ cards each day when I finished all the reviewing. So in a normal day, when I manage reviewing (i.e. almost every day, except the occassional very busy one after one kanji-flash) I make up at least five new stories. This is just to ensure, I will be through the whole deck eventually, even if the passion for making up stories ceases.

      It’s not a very strict system, but it works well for me. 🙂 After all, there are only 2200 kanji in that deck, so even after a bad flash, I won’t be faced with 5000 reviews. 😛

  113. zakxz
    May 22, 2011 at 09:23

    I don’t think of the SRS as a memorization aid, but as a familiarization tool. It’s not a stressful process of right and wrong, with a definite beginning and a definite end. It’s not about knowing something perfectly by heart, but about becoming ever more familiar with something. Imagine that you want to get to know a thousand people on a first-name basis. Have your “secretary” – the SRS – schedule regular appointments with them – every time a meeting comes up, do your best to become better acquainted with them. Sometime’s you’re tired, or not in the mood, and you don’t hit it off. Sometimes it clicks, and you make progress and become more intimate. All you have to do is show up for your appointments.

    • May 23, 2011 at 16:40

      Perfect analogy. 😉 Kind of like when you’re best friends with someone for so long, leave them for a while, and when you come back it’s like you never left. TV Shows, Music, Books, Manga… they’re all aquaintences just dying to know and become apart of you. You just have to surround yourself with them.

  114. zakxz
    June 22, 2011 at 10:15

    I wonder if part of the difficulty in using the SRS is that we naturally only notice what we’ve forgotten, not what we’ve retained (= a LOT). We might have 80% or 90% recall, but we only see what escaped our grasp. It’s a discouraging experience in that respect, and I don’t think it happens only to perfectionists. It has more to do with the way we recall things: most of what we do remember comes effortlessly. We’re not even conscious of it. Sure, there’s maybe 10% that we do manage to recall after a little conscious effort, and there’s some satisfaction in that. But the natural, automatic progress we’ve made is almost invisible to us. I’m thinking of trying a little experiment just to encourage me in pursuing my SRS reviews: prepare say 20 SRS cards, but only add 10 to the deck. Then, a week later, compare my recall of those 10 SRS cards to my recollection of one of those left-over SRS cards that I’ve never reviewed. Then, two weeks later, or whenever those 10 SRS cards come up again, compare them with a second of those left-over SRS cards I’ve never reviewed since the day I first made the lot of them. I’m willing to bet that three months from now, when comparing those 10 SRS cards I’ve reviewed with a card I had prepared, but never added to the deck, and never reviewed a single time, the difference will be astonishing. Memory is a natural, automatic process that works through repeated, dumb-ass exposure to the same stimuli. The result is something we carry within us, without even being fully conscious of it, like the words of our native tongue. You want your kanji cards or your Russian vocabulary to be as obviously familiar to you as the shape of the Italian peninsula or the design of the Frosted Flakes cereal box. Long-term memory isn’t a permanent photographic impression available for immediate recall; it’s something that’s so obvious to you, you don’t clearly remember ever not knowing it. Kanji number 67 becomes like Tony the Tiger.

  115. Jay
    August 10, 2011 at 09:42

    So we only need to know the meaning of the kanji and how to write it?

    so i don’t need to know the reading just yet? I’m curious as to why we shouldn’t. When i’m ATTEMPTING to read my manga(gotta own before ya PWN) and i do come across kanji that i know i shouldn’t focus on the actuall reading but the meaning? I’m guessing that knowing the kanji itself will piece together what’s being said in the sentence?

    • マルク
      November 4, 2011 at 04:44

      Right. Comprehension is most important. Lots of input going in. But then when you’re going through sentences, you should have readings with the kanji (in the form of furigana or similar) that way when you’re learning how to say what you normally read, you’ll have something going on in your head and coming out of your mouth. You’ll get internal monologue and slight speaking practice (mostly recommended if you took the sentence from an audio source).

      Remember, this is all your call how you do it, so long as you learn the things you need to know to be fluent. And via learning the readings that way, you now know how your kanji are pronounced and you can learn the exact meaning in that specific context via the translation given or whatever you can understand from context and more lookups in a monolingual dictionary. 

    • ブライアン
      November 4, 2011 at 09:43

      Here’s why:  despite what you’ve probably heard from the standpoint of a learner, kanji do not have readings.  WORDS have readings, kanji do not.  Trying to force the readings on kanji rather than words causes problems.  (EX: 日「ひ、にち、じつ」 3「いま、こん」 今日「きょう」)  Learn meanings so you’ll understand sentences, and then learn readings on a case-by-case basis.  It will avoid a lot of confusion.

      • ブライアン
        November 4, 2011 at 09:45

        Okay, I need to proofread more…
        “heard from” -> “heard, from”
        3 -> 今

  116. cmif
    December 6, 2011 at 17:00

    Mine is not so much a question as just curiosity. 
    How do/did you other guys approach adding the kanji to your srs? Ive been going 15-20 new a day
    and that takes me forever just to add to the srs. I read the RTK1 then write the kanji 10-15 times for stroke order.
    After like ~200 kanji I think I get the gist of the stroke orders now. Is it necessary to write the kanji at all? Read rtk -> enter to srs
    or is the writing practice integral? I feel like I’m learning them faster than I am imputing, and I would like to try 50-75 a day for maybe
    a week or so just to see just how fast I can go.

    • ライトニング
      December 6, 2011 at 17:31

      I highly recommend writing them.
      I wrote every single rep on a piece of paper, filling over a page a day.
      After i stopped, my writing ability was hurt, so now i write every single rep.
      My kanji reps are only like 20 a day now, i write them all out on graph paper.
      On sentences, i write every single compound, so i fill probably 1.5 pages a day.
      Based off my experience, i say to never stop writing them

    • ブライアン
      December 7, 2011 at 05:12

      Yes, write them.  It ensures you spend at least some time with each character before moving on.  Otherwise, you risk falling into the trap of not actually learning the characters before tossing them in the SRS, which will make reviews very painful.  (For reps, by the way, you don’t even need to use pencil and paper — I just “sketch” them with my finger.  However, I do write them out on paper when I learn them.)

  117. Jacob
    August 5, 2012 at 11:59

    Okay so ive been ajatting for about a month now listening to only japanese music(except rare occasions that are nessesary because of prior engagements) and watching my 2 japanese movies frequent enough to help not so much i get burnt out on the movies. Anyway the last few weeks i have finally gotten an srs and the 3007 kanji. Problem is i wish i could have done RTK but cant afford the book. So i used the pdf sample sparingly and have been doing the torturous way of just repeating it 6-7 times a day so hopefully i can click show up next day just to forget some of them. And im not efficiently reveiwing because i have gotten my reveiws so backed up i have 120 something due and it feels like i just keep falling further behind. I would love some advice or just anything helpful at this point because i know kanji is first on my to do list and it is fun at times when the load is down but i keep feeling like its just piling up to be overwhelming even with time boxes i feel overwhelmed. If any fellow ajatters could point me to some advice so i can consider alternative solutions to help it would be verryyy much appretiated.

    • ライトニング
      August 5, 2012 at 12:40

      There are places where you can get the entire PDF. I got mine from a bay full of pirates…

    • デビト
      August 5, 2012 at 23:40

      If you feel like lazing your way through it (I did) you could always just jack the Lazy Kanji + Mod shared anki deck. Since it’s got all the stories right there on the card (you can figure out the elements as you go along, and if you can’t, you can also lift E-Dub Kendo’s Primitive deck to do alongside it)

      Or, you could just go through the Remembering the Kanji site (google it ’cause I don’t feel like linking it, super easy to find though). Study in order (you have to register though) and you’ll be fine. What’s more, you can figure out the kanji elements from the public stories on there, or just jack them for yourself.

      Most of the wonderfulness of the book is the layout. You don’t really need the book per se.

      PS Kendo if you ever read this THANKS BRO, you saved my kanji 

  118. joe
    July 11, 2013 at 07:56

    I like this way but what happens when you learn all 2000 basic Kanji and you go to read something in japanese. Your going to read the kana out in japanese but when you get to the kanji you will only know the english meaning, you also wont be able to speak anything written in kanji out loud in japanese.


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