how to learn kanji effectively

How to Learn Kanji Effectively

So, you are probably looking for a guide that can tell you how to learn kanji effectively. Well, then you are in the right place because in this post I’ll introduce you to a method which lets you learn all 2,136 characters in just 3 months.

Before I found out about this method I struggled trying to learn the Japanese characters for about one year. During that year I wasted so much time and money on books that didn’t work.
If you don’t want to make the same mistakes, read this guide on how to learn kanji effectively in 3 months.

In this post you’ll learn:

  • What kanji are
  • Why normal methods fail
  • How to learn kanji effectively
  • How long it takes to study all 2,136 characters

What Are Kanji?

what is kanji

漢字 kanji are a set of characters that the Japanese adopted from the Chinese and now use amongst their other two writing systems, hiragana and katakana.

In modern-day Japanese, there are 2,136 official characters, called the jōyō kanji (常用漢字, regular-use kanji).

Each Japanese character can carry multiple readings, which are called on’yomi and kun’yomi.

Most importantly, the characters aren’t just some random lines and they don’t always represent real objectsActually, only a small fraction of all Japanese characters directly represent real objects.

In fact, kanji are made up of other smaller parts. And if you count those so-called radicals, you end up with just 214 “characters”. So, studying those first, will make learning all Kanji characters a lot easier.

How Not to Learn Kanji

how to learn kanji effectively

Before I explain how you can learn all 2,000 kanji in 3 months without forgetting them, I want to show you why you shouldn’t use “normal” methods.

That’s because I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did when I tried to learn the kanji.

Studying Kanji Like Japanese People

Did you know that it takes Japanese children nine years to learn all kanji? Nine years where, every week, they get a list of characters, their readings and a piece of paper to practice writing them out hundreds of times.

That’s the wrong way to learn kanji. So why do Japanese language classes all around the world use this method?


You shouldn’t use mnemonics because creating 2,136 little pictures will take way too long. And to be honest, why would you create another character to remember a character? That doesn’t make much sense, does it?

How to Learn Kanji Effectively

how to learn kanji effectively

If your goal is learning all kanji characters, frequency or difficulty of the characters shouldn’t be something you’re worried about. Because in the end, you want to know all of them. So, you might also take the most efficient way, even if that means that you won’t be able to use those first learned characters immediately.

What you need to realise is that the efficiency of a kanji learning method is determined by the order in which the characters are presented.
Because as I said earlier all Japanese characters are made up by other smaller characters, studying these first makes more sense, even if they hardly ever get used.

But how do you know which characters to study first?
Well, meet the book Remembering the Kanji 1.

Remembering the Kanji 1

Remembering the Kanji 1 is a book that teaches you how to remember all the kanji characters. However, it doesn’t tell you anything about the readings. But that’s exactly why it is the most effective way to memorise all the Kanji characters.

It’s way easier to memorise just the character together with its meaning and then later learn its readings. Trying to do both at the same time simply doesn’t work as I can tell you from experience.

How does it work?
Instead of trying to memorise some abstract lines that all look the same, characters get split up into smaller parts, also called primitives. These characters and primitives then get a meaning associated which you use to create your own stories.

Those stories must include the primitive’s meaning and conclude with the meaning of the whole character you’re trying to learn.

For example, this difficult character 織 gets the meaning weave and is made up of thread and kazoo (The primitives thread and kazoo were introduced earlier).

糸 (thread) + (kazoo) = 織 (weave)

You then create a story with those keywords and the meaning of the kanji at the end. For example, my story for this character included the kazoo kid holding a thread and then weaving something while flying around highrises like spiderman.

For the method to be effective, you must create weird stories and then really try to imagine those scenes inside your head while you write out the character out by hand.

Here’s a preview of the book

Spaced Repetition System

how to learn kanji effectively

For the book to be effective you also need to actively study the characters and their story. And this is best done with pencil and paper and a spaced repetition system like

The site has flash cards with the kanji and their meaning on them and you simply have to type in your story and click “add card”. It will then tell you each day which characters you have to review and you say the system how difficult the character was to remember.

Another great part about this site is that it lets users publish their own stories. So, if you’re struggling with coming up with one on your own you can take a story somebody else has created. However, I highly recommend making your own stories, as they will stick better.

How Many Kanji Should I Learn a Day?

The author of the book recommends studying 20 to 25 kanji a day. Which means that it will take you about 3 months to learn all 2,136 kanji characters.

But if you do have the time and willpower to do more the author says that it could be done in 4 to 6 weeks which would mean studying 50 to 76 new kanji a day.

Just take the amount you find suitable, do what the book Remembering the Kanji 1 says, and don’t forget to do your reviews on

Tip: When writing the character out, focus on the stroke order of the parts, their order and try to connect these to your story.

TLDR; How to Learn Kanji Effectively in 3 Months

Found This Useful?

If you found this guide on how to learn kanji effectively in 3 months useful, consider sharing it. By doing that you can save more people from using bad kanji learning methods!

If you have any questions about how to use the book or something else related to learning kanji, feel free to ask them in the comments.

You can support me, by buying the book Remembering the Kanji 1 with this affiliate link:

Thanks for reading 🙂

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