learning about japanese 2019

links and tips

the japanese language education center once posted an average of 2000 study hours needed to pass the jlpt n2 language proficiency test



  • human japanese and human japanese intermediate android app textbook. there is an anki deck for it's vocabulary and sentences. human japanese (first part) starts with teaching kana, keeps all words in kana throughout and has a focus on grammar and additionally gives cultural context
  • anki is a spaced repetition flashcard software for mobile and desktop
  • jisho fast dictionary for english, japanese, romaji, kanji and components
  • topokanji-deck anki flashcards and data csv with example words where no kanji is introduced before its parts
  • pass jlpt5 vocabulary and related pass jlpt decks
  • wanakana.js convert from latin characters to kana on the example page of this code library
  • hiragana stroke order, katakana stroke order
  • jensechu/kanji writing practice sheets. with faded example and stroke order
  • kanji bakuhatsu a map of kanji connected by shared components and shared readings. with meanings
  • suiren a map of kanji words connected by shared components
  • list of kanji by concept
  • kanji tree android app

    • free, fast. has all jouyou kanji sorted in sets by school grades or jlpt level

    • kanji components are colored and links to their detail page

    • tracks progression with color and percentage grades. uses multiple choice quizzes to grade progress

    • shows word frequency per reading

    • kanji are linked to a list of words that contain them, sorted by reading

    • large, offline-usable dictionary

    • explore, collect and quiz the words you chose to learn

    • handwriting practice

    • better than some expensive paid apps



  • kana are about 142 characters in two sets that can represent the pronounciation of all words in the japanese language. usually kana are used as suffixes to kanji for conjugation and particles
  • both hiragana and katakana are used frequently. some words use the one and some the other character set. loan words are usually written in katakana and in dictionaries some types of kanji readings are given in katakana
  • small character version: small tsu is silent and stresses the next character, other small characters are combined with the previous one to form a sound
  • romaji is japanese written with latin characters. there are mulitple systems: hepburn (most common, corresponds more to pronounciation) and kunrei (only two latin characters per kana). both have ambiguities
  • each character has an associated stroke order that describes in what order the parts of a character is to be written
  • similarities: さき, さち, けはほに, たにこ, こい, たな, ほま, あおぬ, われね, ろる, ユコ, ソンツシ, マム, リル, チテ, ワウフヲラ, クケヌタ, メナ
  • similarities between hiragana and katakana: へヘかカやヤせセうラとヒ
  • the characters that i found most difficult to write: そふかや
  • last stroke direction: ソ top to bottom, ン bottom to top, シ bottom to top, ツ top to bottom


the most common character order is called gojūon (五十音) and goes like this: aiueokstnhmyrwn. to remember it, i pronounce ordered syllables as a fictional name: kasatana hamaya rawan. characters modified with dakuten and handakuten, for example べ and ぺ, directly follow their unmodified variant in this order. the full consonant order with modified characters is kgsztdnhbpmyrw.

kanji (漢字)

  • jouyou kanji (常用漢字) are the about 2130 kanji that are most commonly used and officially recommended for use. in some contexts like official documents and newspapers, texts are limited to these characters, plus characters that are used exclusively in names
  • many if not most japanese words use kanji
  • kanji are not each completely separate drawings but share 200-300 components. knowing the components makes most kanji recognisable as a combination. this should make it easier to recognise, write (you know how to write each radical), learn (grass, field, beast -> cat) and look up kanji in the dictionary. it is not always easy to recognise the components used and there are variations in how exactly they are integrated into a kanji
  • the reading or actual pronounciation of kanji appears in the context of words. kanji can have different readings in different words. usually there are a number of most common readings but i have found that readings displayed in study software are often not actually used in words im interested in, or not actually frequently used, so i ignored them and focused on just the reading of words, which is probably the best starting strategy anyway
  • kanji have an associated stroke order
  • kanji can be looked up in dictionaries by component, stroke count, hiragana pronounciation or by topic
  • some simple kanji that i found difficult to recognise: 又夂攵夕久攴貝具且自首真禾夫未矢牛午美石右力刀人入

what to learn first

  • learn the kana in the 五十音 order. the order will make it easier to enumerate characters and remember related ones

    • should be able to recall kana->reading, reading->kana
    • should be able to write from memory all characters in order and with the correct stroke order. you are able to do that in your native language with ease and you should be able to do it in japanese, too
  • learn to name all or most kanji components. should be able to recall component->name, name->component. knowing a name for symbols, like basic meanings for kanji, makes it easier to distinguish the symbols
  • learn the basic grammar
  • learn kanji in a good order. topokanji, kanji odyssey, rtk or similar
  • learn the most common verbs


  • smartphone apps or other software. for example for flashcards, spaced repetition software, practice sheet generators and textbook-like apps
  • kana-latin converter to input japanese characters without learning a new input system
  • online or printed dictionaries for words, kanji or grammar
  • spreadsheets. can be used for word lists and making practice sheets

how to make your own anki deck

import from csv

  • prepare them in a spreadsheet. one column per field
  • export to comma separated values / csv file
  • ensure that in anki a card with the right number/type of fields exists
  • in anki go to file -> import, choose the target deck and map fields
  • first field is the question, other fields are the answer
  • edit the card template to have the fields and layout you want

export apkg deck file

  • go to browse
  • select the deck in the tree left
  • this file can be imported in anki on desktop or android and shared

add/remove available fields

  • browse -> select deck in tree -> fields... button
  • fields can be deleted from all cards if no card or all cards are selected

edit the card template

  • browse -> select deck in tree -> cards... button
  • templates use html and css

the 142 commonly used kana

あいうえおかがきぎくぐけげこごさざしじすずせぜそぞただちぢつづてでとどなにぬねのはばぱひびぴふぶぷへべぺほぼぽまみむめもやゆよらりるれろわをん アイウエオカガキギクグケゲコゴサザシジスズセゼソゾタダチヂツヅテデトドナニヌネノハバパヒビピフブプヘベペホボポマミムメモヤユヨラリルレロワヲン

without modifiers

あいうえおかきくけこさしすせそたちつてとなにぬねのはひふへほまみむめもやゆよらりるれろわをん アイウエオカキクケコサシスセソタチツテトナニヌネノハヒフヘホマミムメモヤユヨラリルレロワヲン

the 2136 jouyou kanji as of 2010

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