A Guide To Remembering Japanese Characters by: Kenneth G. Henshall

No matter what way you look at it, learning Kanji will be a tough task. Just know your not alone and it’s been done before by non-native speakers. In Japan students learn Kanji through huge amounts of repetition over years of schooling, we on the other hand don’t have this time, we cannot depend merely on repetition to learn. Books like Remembering Japanese Characters help us speed up the process through learning Mnemonics, a memory assisting system that utilizes imagination, stories, and imagery. There are many other options for Kanji books, this is just what I was able to get as a hand me down.

Genki 1 Work Book

Though not required, I would highly recommend purchasing this work book if you buy the Genki 1 Text book. The work book capitalizes on the lessons from the text book, and helps you hone your skills through lots of practice. It also includes a dvd for listening practice. I would recommend buying the work book new, since you will want to write in your own answers in the the pages.

Genki 1

Probably the most well known the Japanese text book, and for good reason. Genki covers a wide array of topics including: grammar concepts, vocab, culture, and Kanji. It’s a great staring point for a Japanese learner, and in College 101-103 classes as wells as by many self studies over seas.

I would recommend trying to find this book used since it’s in the $50-$60 range brand-new.

Starting From Square One

LEEEETTTTSSS GOOOOO!!! Game time babyyyyy, lets get this show on the road. Lets pass the JLPT N5! Think back to your earliest memories of learning, way way waaaayyyyyy back. Back in the good old days, when it wasn’t considered ‘rude’ or ‘disgusting’ to shit your pants in public. Does a certain song stick out in your memory? It’s as easy as 1-2-3, you know it: the ABC’s! I know. Not the most exciting topic, but we all got to start some where right?

This video gave me a clear understanding of the Japanese Writing system with good visuals. I would recommend giving it a watch. (please excuse his pronunciation of Kanji)


Right off the bat, we are hit with some big differences between English and Japanese.

  • Japanese has three writing scripts to English’s one.
  • Japanese writing has no spaces
  • Japanese characters include 45 hiragana and 45 katakana (which represent the same sounds), in addition too over 2,000 Kanji which represent full words.

This has felt overwhelming to me in the past, but I learned by creating a routine and chipping away each day I can make real progress. You have to force yourself to stop over thinking the mountain top, and start focusing on the task at hand or you will become gridlocked and give up.