Kanji (漢字) are the logographic characters used in writing Japanese (along with kana).

Learning kanji

  • Learn kanji radicals first. Study them in order of stroke count, and associate them with mnemonic meanings.1

  • Learn kanji in order of increasing written complexity. Contrast this approach with how Japanese children learn: they learn kanji with simple meanings first, e.g. learning 曜 (weekday) before 勺 (ladle).2

  • Consider the 80/20 rule: Learn kanji on the jōyō kanji (commonly used kanji) list.3

  • For pronunciation, focus on being able to read words aloud in context. Don’t try to memorise all of the on and kun readings.4

Kanji lists

  • Jōyō kanji (2,136) – the official list of commonly used kanji.
    • 1,026 kanji taught in primary school (kyōiku kanji, “education kanji”).
    • 1,110 additional kanji taught in secondary school.
  • Jinmeiyō kanji (863) – additional “name kanji”.