Whether or not the extensive discussion from the past post will continue or not here I don’t know, but seeing as it has become long and is slightly off (the original) topic I am making a new post. Also, the following links may be more useful and easier to spot for other people here rather than buried in the comments section of the last post. So, the book:

Remembering the Kanji, James W. Heisig.

The basic idea behind this book is learning the kanji characters without the on/kun yomi using your imagination to keep them firmly in your memory. The second book moves on to the readings.

It’s an interesting idea to leave aside the yomi-kata and learn the characters first. Using imaginative stories for remembering things is hardly a new idea, but by using ‘principles’ or a common set of building blocks this feels like much more of a complete memory system rather than making up totally different stories for every part of every kanji.

I’ve only read some of the preview so can’t really give a totally useful comment but I’d suggest you have a quick look and join the discussion!

> Book preview (quite a sizeable chunk)
> Kanji clinic review

[Links and discussion credit: Roy & Tae Kim]


  1. Hmm… I really don’t have much more to say. I guess Roy has a point. If he thinks it’s helping him study Kanji, who am I to tell him he’s wrong? I just hope all that extra English doesn’t get in the way.
    Personally, I believe in simulating the natural thought processes of a native as closely as possible in order to train the mind the way they think. In order to do that, I depend on my handy electronic dictionary. Whenever there’s a word or kanji I don’t know, I flip open the dictionary to look it up. It’s like my brain is the cache (with huge capacity but a tendency to lose data) and the dictionary is the hard drive. It’s a lot slower to lookup on disk, but with training, it’ll eventually enter the cache (much faster and closer to the cpu). That’s what I would call my inital concious stage and it allows me to think only in Japanese.
    Personally, I can’t stand just sitting there and studying Japanese. It bores me to tears. I need to be reading something or writing something, anything that has another purpose. I can’t imagine spending hours flipping through hundreds of cards. *shudder* To each his own I guess 蓼喰う虫も好き好きか・・・

  2. well, I’m actually using that book and, while I admit its method is suitable for everyone, it works. The point is that an foreigner adult cannot learn Japanese as a Japanese elementary schools student (write 1000 times 花…) especially if he does not live in a kanji-based world. As Tae Kim-san I cannot stand studying Japanese for more than half an hour without loosig focus, so I meed something fun or interesting to do.

  3. Got my 2 kyuu JLPT results.. see JLPT 2 Passed thread for the result.

  4. I understand what you are saying Tae Kim, about the cache feel of learning Japanese. I learnt many kanji compounds just by having to look them up so many times while learning grammar points. However, this is or was purely sight recognition and however many times I look at a kanji I’m not convinced I could write it. So, something else might be useful..
    So, Tokidoki, you are having good results with the book?
    I must admit to be tiring before even the end of the online preview – probably more related to lack of will to study, though.
    There are a few points that came to mind while reading through the preview. First, not all of the little stories will be helpful. For example, if the author refers to some song name you don’t know, or a part of the bible you have never heard of, then you’ll have to think of your own story. Presumably you should keep to the principle elements so the system won’t break down later.
    I have noticed that many of the stories are quite ‘negative’. I’ve read in the past that happy thoughts and stories are better for the memory to recall – we want to recall them rather than stories like needles coming out of sake cups… Just a thought.
    Also, some of the keywords are a little strange in my opinion and on some occasions I thought the keyword wasn’t all that related to the kanji (or it disagreed with my other kanji dict). But of course, pinning down the meaning of a kanji with one English word is going to be tricky at the best of times.

  5. I found this book at Kinokuniya, Shinjuku. It was tempting but the 4200 yen price tag kept me from snapping it up.

  6. I’ll send you mine when/if I finish it!

  7. I’ll be waiting 🙂

  8. I have a txt file of a set of stories I used (They aren’t mine, but I used them) to complete the first book when I couldn’t think of a story. They start at 500 and go all the way to the end.
    As far as Heisig’s method of learning kanji, I support it all the way. The only down side to the method is that you have to stick to the rules as outlined from character number 0001 and follow it through to the end. It’s not a shortcut for those that already know lots of kanji, it’s a whole new way of remembering them.
    Also, as you progress through the first book, you won’t learn anything regarding actually reading the kanji, or forming kanji compounds. And you have to finish all 2,000 before you start reading them (According to the book).
    But once you finish the first book, and you start to apply the second book, where your knowledge is applied, it’s amazing. You’ll start reading words you’ve never seen before, you’ll learn vocabulary much, MUCH quicker and when you speak, you’ll see kanji in your head of the words you’re using (Maybe that’s a bit too far, but as an exercize that’s what I’m doing).
    Go for it, it’s the BEST kanji learning method I’ve seen as of yet. I hope to be able to read (At least the on yomi) all 2,000+ kanji outlined in the book before the end of this year.