Remembering the Kanji

Live and Work in Japan

James Heisig

I think this is the best method available for learning kanji, but it’s not for everyone.

This first volume teaches you how to recognize, write and understand the meanings of over 2000 kanji. It seems to be succeeding so far for me, though I am only up to about 400 or so. The idea is that you learn all the characters using this book, and then Volume II helps you learn readings (pronunciations) and some words containing the characters.

This is an unusual way of learning because it is “all-or-(comparatively) nothing”. With most kanji study methods, you learn the characters in order of usefulness, and you learn reading, writing, meaning and pronunciation all at once. So if you give up a quarter of the way through, you will have completely learned the most useful 25% of the kanji. With Heisig, the order you learn in is determined by his method, so many of the most useful characters are not learned till the end.

Sounds bad, but. In the long term, I think Heisig’s method is better if you want to learn all 2000-odd kanji in the book, not just the most common few hundred. It sometimes takes a few days of review, but so far it’s been hard to forget a kanji once I’ve learned it with this method.

You can buy this excellent book at If you’re in Europe, go to

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