HOW To Get Used To Kanji: Skim, Practice, Use

My goal with this guide is to help you learn how to learn the kanji.

(I use the word “learn” here. But as many have said, and I agree, you don’t learn kanji you get used to them.)

First, A Bit of Philosophy

As mentioned elsewhere on this site,
Yasuke! Versus Kanji, its dictionary, and workbook have an advantage over flashcards in that you get an overview of the kanji all at one glance.

This gives perspective, and a flood / Tadoku style of learning to learning the Kanji.

Let the Kanji flow over you. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t worry about which you get right or wrong. Go for volume.
Have fun making mnemonics.
Visualize in your mind’s eye the “scene” of your mnemonic.

No method of going through the information is “wrong” so experiment and find what works for you.

Some might find that starting out skimming through the kanji sheets looking at the components gets them quickly familiar with the form and function of radicals.

As you progress and begin testing yourself (should start quickly at this and do it continually), you may find going down the “keyword sheets” while writing by hand the kanji and component radicals is of great advantage.

Hopefully what I said above makes some sense. If not, don’t worry, it will eventually. 

How NOT To Learn Kanji

1. Don’t learn by rote

I have had a lot of Japanese classes (including three years of intensive college classes in Japan). In all these classes we learned kanji by rote. By the end I learnt 1900+ kanji. Once that was done it wasn’t long before I forgot how to write pretty much all of them, except one: .

Why did I remember this kanji? Our teacher taught it to us as 月匕匕

with the funny sounding mnemonic ”MU TSUKI HI HI” 

It was the only time a Japanese teacher EVER taught us a kanji using a mnemonic. And it was the only kanji that ever “stuck” to my memory.

So, don’t learn by rote. Use mnemonics instead. (More about that later)

2. Don’t go through kanji one PAINFUL flashcard at a time

There is another thing almost as bad as Japanese teachers teaching by rote and telling you to write it 100 times :


Almost every kanji mnemonics website, app, book, etc. uses flashcards. 

Do you really want to take 1,700+ baby steps? I didn’t think so…

DON’T use flashcards. 

Yasuke! Vs. Kanji does not use flashcards.


How TO Learn Kanji

It’s (almost) as easy as 1,2,3

  1. Skim
  2. Practice
  3. Use

The most important things you can learn about kanji are the “Jukugo.”

Jukugo are actual words in Japanese that are in common use.

The bulk of your practice time (#2 on the list) should be on jukugo.

But before jukugo, you will benefit from seeing how Kanji form.

And for that you will want to “skim”


If you notice the “Kanji Navigation Links” box at the top of this page, you will see the section titled “skim”

There you can find lists of kanji in an order where each builds on top of the last. For example:



combine to make “like”


In this way you can see that kanji is a kind of “2D Spelling”

(And you will learn how kanji are “spelled”)

So a good place to start is by learning the “letters” that make up one “word”-kanji.

Here is a “letter” (radicals) list from wikipedia,Table,-%5Bedit%5D

You will begin to recognize these simple little bits (letters) in bigger kanji as you skim our lists.

You can also get a “skim” effect using my “visual journey thru 1700 kanji” videos:


(970 – 1750)





I will be adding the rest of this guide soon.

Now let’s talk about your goals!