Jalup Group Challenge 1: The Summer Of RTK (Final Update) — 125 Comments

  1. This is really cool. Good luck to those participating!

    I’m in the process of writing up my own “RTK Survival Guide” of sorts, and now it seems I have a good reason to get it done ASAP. Hopefully the extra advice will prove helpful =)

    • Wow, I’m really amazed by the level of response to this. I hope these next 3 months are very successful for all of our challengers =)


  2. Good luck to everyone who participates! This is a great idea. I wanted to do some power leveling when I got back to Japan from a trip hope, and did RTK book 1 in about two months — 2/16 to 4/17. I’ve taken a few weeks for travel and for the review stack to settle, this week I start phase 2.

  3. I think this is a fantastic idea, if I hadn’t already done RTK I would definitely do this. Could you maybe do something for vocab also?

  4. Awesome idea for making a challenge like this.
    I won’t be participating because I completed RTK like 4 years ago, but I’d like to see maybe some more group challenges in a similar style in the future for higher leveled learners as well!

  5. Oh, this sounds so interesting! I’d be really, really interested in other things like this. Good luck to all the participants!

  6. My level is low, less than 10, probably ~5.

    I am a start-and-stop Japanese learner and I go at a very slow pace. I am actually okay with this, although I know it is inefficient–Japanese is not a high priority for me, just something I enjoy doing when I’m in the mood. If I could read Japanese literature in my old age fifty years from now, I would be very happy.

    I have done the first stage of JALUP Beginner and some RTK and a portion of the JALUP kanji assist beginner deck. My RTK mod deck has all the kanji in the kanji assist decks removed (so I don’t double up), so it has 1,141 cards in it instead of the usual ~2000. My goal with this challenge will be just to get through the RTK mod deck, of which I have 1,000+ new cards to add.

    I tried to power through RTK at the very beginning of my Japanese studies a few years ago and hated it. Then I decided I would just skip it and do the JALUP sentence decks, so I deleted my old deck, but I realized that I needed RTK after all, so I downloaded the deck again and for a month or two I have just been adding one new RTK card per day to keep myself in the game while I focus on other things, but this summer I would like to overcome it once and for all so I can get back to the sentence decks that I enjoy.

    I will need to add about ~12 cards per day starting June 1st to get through my deck by August 31. That doesn’t sound too bad, although I have a very busy life right now–I am a caregiver for my father, who is partially paralyzed after spinal surgery, as well as my uncle, who has Alzheimer’s and is rapidly getting worse, plus I manage our ranch by myself now that they cannot, and I am currently building myself a house (like, actually building it myself by hand) so that I can move a short distance away from the family home and have some privacy while still continuing to care for my relatives. So even this modest goal may be a challenge! But other people work full time or go to school and manage much more, so I should be able to make it.

  7. Level: Somewhere between 13 and 25.
    I actually started RTK (for the first time) about ten days ago, and I’ve been adding 20 cards a day. So I guess I have a bit of a head start ;) I hadn’t started RTK until now because the negative reviews of it were pretty persuasive, but I’ve come to see the light since then lol.
    I’m joining this challenge because it’ll motivate me to meet my goal of ~2000 kanji internalized by July 13th, when I’m possibly going to Ishinomaki (I have to finish fundraising first) on a missions trip to aid in the recovery from the 2011 Tohoku disasters. Also I’ve been studying Japanese for a while, but have never seriously attempted to learn kanji.
    My game plan: add 25 cards a day. Set aside an hour or so a day specifically for engaging with and learning kanji. If I miss a day I will think of some sort of creative punishment.

    • Ok, here goes.
      I started RTK over on June 1st because of a lack of motivation and self discipline. Right now, I have 757 young + mature cards in the RTK deck I started at the beginning of the month, but of those 757 cards, perhaps 100 of them I can’t remember at aaall when I go to review them. Thus, I’m holding off on adding new cards today and tomorrow so that I can focus on learning the ones I’m having trouble with. 30 days in June x 25 new cards a day = 750, so I can do that and not fall behind.
      As for 2000 kanji by July 13th, not gonna happen. That’s fine though; this trip is definitely not going to be the last time I go to Japan. (I hope)
      In order to keep up motivation and stay on top of things, I’ve been using I encourage y’all to check it out. :)
      皆さん頑張ってね !

    • I can feel myself burning out. Burnout is a thing that is happening. I have a backlog of reviews that I didn’t do while I was in Japan, and all of the kanji are starting to look the same. I’ve also gotten super lazy on the stories, and have started to mindlessly click through the cards without actively engaging with them. Bleeeh.
      I work more effectively in small bursts of four or five kanji at a time, but going through all of my due reviews is gonna be super time consuming if I do it like that.
      Good news, though! I finally got around to actually buying the book two or three weeks back. Now that I’ve actually put money towards RTK, I can use that as last-resort motivation when I need it.
      All in all, by the end of the month, I’ll have about 1000 kanji done, which means that either I’m not finishing by August 31st, or next month is going to be hell. I’m still going to complete this no matter what, however, even if I’m not done until September or October.

      • I’m not sure why, but for some reason I found it much easier to go back and patch up holes after I’d finished my initial run through RTK. My suggestion to get out from under the review pile is to be really generous with your grading on reviews. Focus on learning all the different primitives and get to the end, then let Anki do the maintenance for you.

        Currently my rule for RTK reviews is:
        -If I no longer need the story/primitives to recall it (like 出), it’s Easy
        -If I get it right w/ story/primitives, it’s Good
        -If I get it wrong and…
        …I don’t know a word that uses it, it’s Hard (this lets me push it off into the future a bit since it’s not as important yet)
        …I do know a word that uses it, it’s Again (and I relearn or recreate the story, so I can make sure I get it right next time)

        You might be able to adapt something similar to just blow through your review pile without taking it too seriously. Maybe even mark fails as Good for now just to get them out of the way for a while? You’ll get to review them again before too long anyway.

        • I really like those rules for RTK reviews. The past couple months I think I became too lenient with my RTK reviews, which led to being able to recognize some kanji that I couldn’t really remember how to write hardly at all without sneaking a peek.

          I’ve been trying to find a balance between failing too many kanji that I’ve mostly forgotten how to write and kanji that I know “good enough” for the time being, and I think this is it.

      • Hey!
        Here are some suggestions that might help:
        1. Don’t make your own stories. Just Don’t. Cheat. There is a great article on this site.
        2. LOOK at kanji. After your have drawn the kanji on anki and pressed show answer, LOOK at the kanji for a few seconds (doesn’t matter conscious or unconscious) and see how the primitives fit in. This will atleast double your distinguishing power. Your typical kanji recognition will look like this->
        1. Kanji -> Keyword

        If you SKIP this step, however,then later on when you are presented with kanji, you have to->
        Kanji->Break it into primitives->Remember the story and check if it is even in RTK->Remember the keyword.

        As your level increases, probably around 50+ (I have been starting to feel this phenomenon at ~40) it will look like -> 1. Kanji only. You will forget the keyword but remember the meaning.

        3. I highly recommend checking out some Mind Palace exercises [An ordered list of 10 items/week].

      • Ah man, thanks for the tips and encouragement, guys! I really appreciate it. I decided to switch to a different RTK deck that has pre-written stories on the front of the cards, which I’ve found has really helped a lot. It’s also a kanji=>keyword deck, which is easier than keyword=>kanji for me. Being able to recognize kanji is more important to me than being able to write them, so I think that’s okay.
        The only downside to switching to a different deck is that I have to catch up to where I was in my old deck, so I ended spending a couple hours on Anki today just to do that. I think I’ve got my motivation back, though! I can totally do this thing.

        • Ahahaha, I finally finshed! 嬉しいー
          I didn’t think that I was going to be able to complete RTK in time for the end of the challenge, but I’ve been doing 35 cards a day, and today hit the last new card in my RTK deck. I’m so glad that I stuck with this, and just in time for the J-J 1000 sentences challenge, too! About a month ago I made a little clay だるま doll to remind myself to stick with RTK, so when I’m done with reviews today I’m going to go fill in the other eye. This challenge was really rewarding; thank you very much, Adam! ヽ(。・ω・。)ノ

  8. – Your level:

    Level 0.

    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt:

    The first.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge:

    So I can learn some Japanese and flirt with cute AV girls. Joke. I want to kick some Kanji ass.

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have:

    I will get it done. End o story.

  9. – Level 5X
    – I completed it ages ago in the beginning of my studies.
    – I can read and type kanji accurately at almost a native level — I know the nuances of several kanji better than most of my Japanese friends– however now that I am living in Japan I have several times to where I physically need to write Japanese, and I’d really like to improve my kanji writing again as I’ve really completely neglected it since doing RTK the first time. Honestly this is more of writing practice for me as I already know the meanings of the kanji. I wanted a system to control the kanji I looked at to practice and went to this site to download the anki deck, and this just so happened to be up, so I figured it was perfect timing and I may as well participate.
    – After work I have to wind down a bit before being able to sleep, even when I get home after 2am, so I will use that time to practice with kanji writing with RTK.

  10. Sounds like a great venture. I recently finished RTK 3 myself so I won’t be participating.

    Good luck to everyone taking part in this. Doing RTK is very much worth it ^.^

    • I also just finished RTK at the end of April, but this challenge is a great idea. Best of luck to everyone!

  11. – Your level:

    Around Level 5, maybe?

    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt:

    I have already attempted it, even reached the halfway-mark, but got so stuck up with exams and stuff, that i missed way too much repetitions..So it boils down to re-learn many of those repetitions i missed.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge:

    I’ve been dragged down by that unfinished task way to long! It’s really time to get up and get over with them!

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have:

    Using my started Deck, i still have to finish 841 unseen Kanji, which makes around 10 per day. And to follow up with my missed Repetitions i’ll simply repeat old cards until i have another 10 that were forgotten, so it comes down to 20 ‘new’ cards per day.

    Good Luck everyone!

    • Here I am again, a month-worth of knowledge richer:

      – How many kanji you have completed
      Of the 841 Kanji I managed to learn 272 until now, which leaves me with 569 Kanji still missing.

      As for my missing repetitions..I still have to do around 700 of those, but i found a quite good way in managing that..

      – Reflect on your progress (issues, struggle, discoveries, etc)
      Well..i quickly noticed that simply learning new cards and repeating a bunchful of old cards is quite impossible, as Anki withhelds the recent repetitions in favor to the old ones..thus I splitted my whole Deck in two Parts: the Remaining new kanjis and the old missing repetitions.
      While I’m using the New Kanji-Deck like a regular one, I started giving each Kanji in the other Deck Tags, sorting them by their lesson in Heisigs book, and now i’m simply redoing them by lessons. As Anki allows to mark several Tags for costum decks, i can keep my repetitions of all seen lessons at bay while adding more if time lets me.

      If nothing bad happens, i can really see myself finish the RTK Deck! :)

  12. – Your level:

    I suppose I’m around level 5? I’m not super familiar with this site’s level system.

    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt:

    I’ve started and stopped many times over several years. Somehow I’ve made it to ~1200 kanji. The people who finish RTK in a couple months seem superhuman to me.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge:

    I chalk it up to brain damage.

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have:

    Start out strong, get overwhelmed with reviews, lose motivation and quit, then come back long after the challenge has ended to tackle the mountain of due reviews.

  13. -Your Level

    Around 25 I guess

    -Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt.

    I started RTk when I started learning Japanese over a year ago, but I only got around 600 or so cards in. I’ve kept up with my reviews, but haven’t added any new cards in a really long time.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge

    I’ve taken a complete break from adding new cards to any of my Anki decks over the past couple of months since I’ve been busy, and I’ve just kept up with my reviews, so this is a good chance to get me adding cards again, and I want to finally get around to getting kanji out of the way.

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have

    I’m planning on adding as many new cards a day as I can, because I will end up not feeling like adding new cards half way through, so I need to get ahead early if I want to be able to finish.

  14. – Your level

    Around level 45

    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt.

    I have attempted RTK multiple times before but never was able to get past around 500 kanji because I got too busy or found it hard to keep up with my goals.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge (ex. this can be as simple as “I want to kick some kanji ass” or “I refuse to let kanji ever get me down again”)

    I have multiple kanji under my belt though from exposure and learning from context, but have never completely finished RTK, which I think will greatly help. I have always found kanji quite interesting and always thought it would be neat to go back and learn how to write them to help remember them and also because I feel as though there is a great gap in my kanji knowledge that I want to fill. I want kanji to become my next big sensation.

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have (ex. “Will wake up at 4:30am every morning for 2 hours” or “will make every train commute a RTK riders commute”)

    The timing for this is better for me because it is over the summer. So, I will say that every day I will get 20 new kanji done either later at night before I go to bed or early in the morning for around an hour. I hope doing this will help keep me committed so that I can attain new words easier while slowly, but surely leveling up in the future.

  15. My level: Between 5 and 10 I think
    I am actually doing RTK with the lazy kanji deck right now and have reached about 1300 kanji. I have tried a couple of times before but never got very far until I tried the lazy kanji method. However I am a bit concerned with retention rates, since I rely heavily on the primitives to recall the kanji. I have been really lazy about it by scoring with 4 when I get it right and with 2 when I get it wrong (eventually the interval will become low enough that I get it right).

    I am joining this challenge to finally nail RTK after multiple attempts. I have yet to decide whether I will go on with my current progress with the lazy deck and make the challenge somewhat easy since I need only around 700 kanji in 3 months which is less than 10 per day. Or whether I will try out Adam’s deck.

    For the first month of the challenge I will probably have a slow pace due to this being the last time of my Master’s Thesis. By July 1st I am done with that and have a job ready for September 1st, so for all of July and August I should have plenty of time to make up for the loss from my slow pace in the first month.

    My current routine is to do my kanji in the evening before falling asleep however when I reach my 2 months off before my new job I will try to do them in the morning instead.


    • So inspiring to see my name up on that list of 夏の漢字ライダーズ! :D

      I have finally decided to hold off on adding any new cards to my Lazy kanji deck and only keep up the reviews (which aren’t too bad, around 10 cards a day and declining). And do the challenge with the JALUP RTK Mod deck. I keep up the reviews on my lazy kanji deck in case the mod deck turns out to not suit my style after all, so I won’t have to start all over.

      With 20 new cards a day by the end of June I should be around 600 kanji, and I know those 600 kanji pretty well already meaning it should be attainable even with the pressure of finishing my master’s thesis at the same time. When things start to toughen up I will have hit summer vacation be able to dedicate the time needed for the less familiar kanji. I have already setup the mod deck in Anki and now I can’t wait to get started! \o/

      The 1st of June is upon us, fellow riders.. Good luck to you all!

      • One month down two to go. I have managed the pace of 20 new cards per day for June. Not a single day missed \o/. As mentioned these have been the easy kanji for me since I knew most of them well already. Starting Tomorrow I will up my new cards to 25. So far no real struggles, but I have begun needing a bit more time to form good images for the keywords to stick. The only real issue I have found this far is that English is not my native language and some of the Heisig keywords I don’t know the meaning of. Trying to remember two new things at once (keyword and kanji) is a bit rough. I have tried to handle this issue by looking up the meaning of the keyword and see if my native language helps me remember. So far working out well.

        600 kanji reached and still going strong.

        • Honestly, the keyword thing is a problem even for native speakers. Some of Heisig’s keywords are incredibly obscure/archaic (owing in part to the fact that the book itself is 40+ years old).

          I strongly encourage people to change keywords in cases like that, and even wrote a guide on this site recently detailing the process. Hopefully it helps you as well =)

        • Woops, a little late for this second update post…

          As I wrote in my update for July goals: vacation have made me miss a some days worth of new cards. Currently I need to add ~28 new cards every day for the rest of the challenge to reach my goal.

          I have had a few issues with stories that simply wouldn’t stick in my memory. Marking those cards with the “Hard (2)” button in Anki made the cards appear frequently enough that eventually I either came up with another story or I tweaked the story enough to make it stick.

          In a few days I will pass the point I reached with the Lazy Kanji method and start encountering actual new characters. I’m really looking forward to that :D

          I didn’t see Matt’s comment until now, which is a bit of a shame. But thanks Matt, I will find your post and see if that works out for me for characters I keep struggling with! :)

          • I forgot to include how far I have come. My current amount of new cards is 835 in the JALUP RTK mod deck.

        • I just finished reading through the progress-update comments. Really inspiring! Good work all of you… On that note I wanted to add that currently my Anki time is around 2,5 to 3 hours every day. That includes reviewing RTK and adding 25-30 new kanji, as well as reviewing JALUP Beginner and adding 10 new sentences for that deck every day. I think around 2 hours is this challenge alone. It is a large amount of time and I am really grateful for not having to start working until September 1st… The first few weeks of my new job will probably still have a high amount of reviews, but not thinking about new cards will be great. This challenge couldn’t have been at a better time for me, really…

    • And done! What an amazing feeling to have completed this tough challenge :D I feel like making a victory dance _o/ \o/ \o_…
      I have completed the Jalup mod deck which leaves me at 1901 kanji in total.
      It has been tough and not all that fun at times, but it have also been worth it. Being able to recognise almost every kanji I come by in simple texts feels like a huge step.
      For the next month or so I plan on focusing on sentences and get the amount of reviews down. I do plan to keep adding kanji as I encounter unknown ones in the wild. Maybe only with a Japanese keyword then.

      I don’t think I would have made it through RTK without you guys, so thank you. When I started seeing the finishing comments I got really excited for finishing myself.

  16. My Level: 8-10

    I have had rather a stuttering relationship with RTK. I started it way back in 2009 when I first found AJATT. I started it again after life pressures forced me to put it on hold. I started it again after further life pressures forced me to put it on further hold. I started it again after further further life pressures forced me to put it further on a further hold……you get the idea. I’m currently working on it again, and I’ve gotten to a whopping 365 Kanji. You can bet I know those first 200 pretty well after seeing them so many (further) times…..

    I’m joining this challenge because I need some accountability. I need to further (see what I did there?) my Kanji knowledge and kick me some Kanji ASS!! And I wanna be done…

    I am equipped with the RTK book (a fairly worn and well loved 5th edition. I did all the wearing and loving…..), the RTK Jalup Mod Deck, a login on Reviewing the Kanji (now Koohi) which I LOVE, the first 2 parts of Jalup Beginner 1000, and all of you (Adam counts extra). I plan to try, as much as possible, to focus on adding 25 (nice round number) new kanji/day….10 early in the morning and 15 in the evening. I may push this number on weekends when I have more time.

    I’m excited to do this, and to finally, FINALLY get thru Heisig’s seminal work on all things kanji. Please do NOT reply to this reminding me that RTK 3 is out there waiting for me…..that would really be more than I can take.

    Thanks to Adam for bringing this to us, and to the illustrious Matt for suggesting such a thing. I’d love to participate in a group challenge on the Jalup Beginner 1000 as well….just sayin’.


  17. Level 15 or so.

    I have attempted RTK before, and I’ve actually finished RTK 1 – it took me around 4 months the first time. But I’ve been having a difficult time retaining everything, so I want to start over and maybe go a little slower so it better sticks in my head. (Plus I might actually recognize some of the Japanese keywords this time.)

    Last time, I made the mistake of doing RTK at night. Staying up late to do kanji is not such a good idea…I’d always feel tired and fuzzy the next morning. Since this is going to be over the summer, I’m hoping to do around 25 a day and split it so that it’s 15 in the morning, 10 in the afternoon/evening.

    Good luck, everyone! 頑張ってください!

    • One month later, and I’ve completed 560 kanji. Something I noticed almost immediately is that RTK is much, much easier the second time around…probably because your brain is already familiar with many of the stories. Reviews and especially new cards take much less time now than I remember them taking before. (Still having some time management issues, though – I need to work on those!)

      Another rather interesting thing I’ve noticed is that although I can’t understand many of the Japanese keywords, the ones I can understand are infinitely more helpful than the English keywords are. Quick example: when I saw the keyword “study” in my deck for the first time, my mind drew a complete blank (I know the kanji for that word?). But right next to it was the word がく生 and as soon as I read that I thought “oh, that’s easy – it’s 学!” I’m assuming this is a good thing and am moving on as usual. XD

      • Bit of a late update, sorry – haven’t had an Internet connection in a while.

        I’m now at 940 kanji. This month has been a little harder because we’re visiting family out of town, and I currently have a huge backlog of reviews to plow through. I especially haven’t been doing as well the last couple of weeks. But I’m staying optimistic!

  18. – Your level

    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt.
    I had powerleveled through it a few years ago, but could not keep up with the reviews. I have reset the deck a couple of times since then. Im am currently 300 in.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge (ex. this can be as simple as “I want to kick some kanji ass” or “I refuse to let kanji ever get me down again”)
    My goal is Japanese pwnage, mastering the kanji is an important part of that.

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have (ex. “Will wake up at 4:30am every morning for 2 hours” or “will make every train commute a RTK riders commute”)
    Procrastinate less. Make better use of my free time.

    • – How many kanji you have completed
      575.. 275 since the start of the month.

      – Reflect on your progress (issues, struggle, discoveries, etc)
      I was going along very well until about two weeks ago. Maybe its a lack of motivation, but by the time I fire up Anki it is usually very late at night and I’m not willing to do much after clearing my reviews. I have also added 350 sentences from the beginner 1000 in this time, putting me at 550. My goal for this month is to start early each day.. to make it the first thing I do when I wake up, and to add at least 20 each day.

      • – How many kanji you have completed.
        800. 225 since the start of the month.

        – Reflect on your progress (issues, struggle, discoveries, etc)
        I am up to the point where I reset my deck the last time, so the kanji are less familiar. I have been focusing more more on the beginner 1000 deck this month and am already see the benefits of doing RTK. I still have been putting reviews off until late at night and most days I have been staying up quite a bit later that I should to just finish adding cards. My goal for this month is the same as before: do reviews earlier and add 20 every day. I dont expect to complete the challenge, but I want this to be the most productive month.

        • I have to decided to reduce the number of cards I am adding each day to 10. 20 is just not sustainable for me. With that, if I don’t slack at all, I should be finished with the kanji a couple of weeks before I am finished with the intermediate 1000. Also, college schedule is super amazing for reviews. I get a lot done in the 10 minutes waiting for classes to start and loads more during lunch and just walking around campus.

          • So obviously I failed the challenge, but I am not too stressed about it. I finally settled on a very sustainable pace of 10/day and have been consistently adding all my Kanji and sentences every day. I have 870 unseen, so I should finish RTK at about the same time I finish the Intermediate 1000 if I keep my pace.

            Im glad I took part in this challenge and its super exciting whenever I see kanji I know in J-J!

  19. Oh man… I’m so tempted. I’ve stated in comments elsewhere on this site that I “don’t do RTK”, and have been using Kanji in Context to just pick up kanji by exposure. Also, since I’m already in the 20-something level range, it’s only gotten harder to convince myself to go back. I’ve got 1600+ unique kanji in my Kanji in Context deck, which makes it seem like I already “know” most of the ones I need.

    That said, I feel like once I hit the 1000+ mark I my kanji knowledge got much fuzzier. I feel like I’m guessing a lot of the time, or relying too much on the context of the sentence to puzzle out the meanings.

    Someone in one of the other RTK posts left a comment referring to the “mental address space” that RTK provides. I feel like this is exactly what I lack. (And as an engineer, it speaks to me.)

    Argh. I dunno. I dunno! To finish in 2-3 months, I wonder how much I’d have to sacrifice of my other study efforts…

    Shoulda just listened to Adam from the beginning, of course! :D

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to find what works for you =)

      I actually did the latter half of RTK during the level 20-35 range, so I can probably speak to that a bit. While trying to tackle it without the initial wave of motivation you have as a beginner is tough, you also get some distinct advantages doing RTK as a veteran learner.

      For example, many of the characters you learn will be useful immediately, so they’re easier to retain and feel more relevant. Also, it can be surprisingly fun to “collect” the kanji for words you already know, but don’t know how to write properly yet.

      It’s still a pretty hefty grind and will take a lot of dedication, but I’d definitely encourage you to give it a shot. The long-term benefits to your study are (IMO) well worth the short-term struggle.

      • Thanks! I know Adam has spoken elsewhere about how he got on the RTK train as an intermediate learner as well. It’s nice to hear others saying the same thing, that it’s still beneficial. I’m thinking I’m gonna give it a shot! (Going to give it a couple of days before I commit to the challenge though, see how I feel about it after that…)

        I grabbed the RTK mod deck and have a couple of questions for anyone else who has gone through it (or RTK in general):

        1) The story doesn’t seem to show up on the cards anywhere. There is a field for it, but it’s empty. Do you just go through adding stories like crazy ahead of time? Do you use the ones in the RTK book or the ones? (Or your own, even from the beginning?)

        2) How do you use the stories as you study, if they don’t show up on the cards themselves? I know you can customize the cards to show stories, but I’m curious why the default is for them to not be there.

        3) I’m also curious about the mental process. First you see the keyword, then from there conjure up the story, and use that to generate the kanji? Or do you just write it out and use the story to “confirm” the kanji?

        I appreciate any advice/guidance. Thanks again!

        • Originally the deck was designed to make your own stories after the first 500 cards. However, there is another really cool RTK deck out there that has stories pre made for you from
          If you would prefer to check them up manually, the deck you have now has hyper links to anyway. When I started this option didn’t exist, so I made up my own stories once the RTK book stopped providing them.

          2) The story should only be used when absolutely necessary, they slow you down. Eventually the story should fade and you should be left with the keywords, and then after that you would just remember the Kanji by looking at the keyword. For example: 始:when the woman (女)sits on the pedestal (台)it ‘Begins’ (english keyword. Eventually the keyword ‘begin’ would trigger just the pieces , woman and pedestal. Some day far off in the future you wouldn’t even need those pieces, you’d just spontaneously remember the Kanji. Eventually the end goal would be to not even need the English Keyword. You would only then use the Japanese example word (はじめ)and you’d automatically write the kanji without any English necessary. But to be honest, you don’t really need to worry about when any of these changes will happen, they are mostly organic and automatic.

          3) read the keyword, which triggers the story (reduces over time automatically) and then write the kanji out piece by piece visualising the story in your head wherever necessary. Don’t overthink it, and just try and get through reviews fast. If you create your own story you might want to spend a minute or two visualising the components in the kanji playing out in your story.

          Good luck :)

        • 1: This is probably up to personal preference, but I don’t record my stories on the cards. The reason is that these stories are meant to serve merely as scaffolding, and it’s natural for them to eventually fall away. Writing them down, I think, makes you more inclined to worry about remembering them (as opposed to the kanji itself).

          The stories you choose to use should be the ones that serve you best. It’s normal to rely mainly on what Heisig provides early on (though not everyone does), then start making your own as you get comfortable with the system (or when Heisig cuts you off at 500). Relying on koohii to some extent is totally fine too (some people use it 100% from beginning to end. If that suits you then awesome.)

          Personally, I think it’s highly valuable to personalize this process as much as possible. I’m working with Adam to get an in-depth article posted about it hopefully soon =)

          2 & 3: I see the English keyword, and this triggers a memory of the story in which that keyword features. From the story, I recall the elements needed to construct the character, and I write them out as I recite the story. Personally, I try to create stories where the order of elements matches the writing of the character in chronological order, but this isn’t always feasible.

          I’ll often repeat this process a couple of times to make sure I feel confident, then flip the card to see if I recalled it correctly. If I did not, I’ll usually remember (some variation of) the correct story immediately and recite it a few more times before moving on to the next card. The point is that, the keyword by itself should trigger you to recall the story, and from the story you can be sure of the necessary elements to write the character correctly. The goal is to remember the parts of the kanji and where they go, not the story itself.

          If you think of reciting a story with the important parts (keyword, primitives) in CAPS, like so…

          “Window(窓): When the Zombies came, every WINDOW in my HOUSE was broken by HUMAN LEGS and ELBOWs. I almost had a HEART attack.”

          …then the only parts that matter are in CAPS. If I botch the story but still arrive at the correct Kanji, then I’d call it a win.

          More recently, as some of my very old kanji are coming up and the stories are getting fuzzy, I find myself relying more and more on the Japanese keyword to recall the correct kanji. As far as I know, this is precisely how it’s supposed to work, but it does feel weird starting to move away from caring about the stories XD

          • > This is probably up to personal preference, but I don’t record my stories on the cards.

            Do you record them anywhere? I’m curious whether the stories will tend to stick in my head enough… or if not, perhaps a new story with the same keywords is equally effective?

            If nothing else, I’m leaning toward not adding them to the cards in the interest of speed…

        • For me writing the stories was how I actually learned the card. Every evening I would go through the cards that I was going to study (New) the following morning and add stories to them.

          For each new card I would first look at the elements that it used according to the RTK book. If a story sprung to mind, that was it. If not, I would scan through stories and look for a catchy one. Once I had found a good story, I would rewrite it in my own words on the card and then move on to the next one. In the beginning this was quite time consuming, but in the end I was able to do my daily quota of 30 cards in about an hour.

          I was not looking for perfect stories or even logical ones. Crazy is good here, because it means you will remember it. Personally my stories were quite minimal. I very carefully made sure that there were no words in my stories that could be confused with the names of other radicals. As time went on my stories got shorter and shorter to the point where they were almost just the radicals with a few well chosen words to connect them. This is a bit against what RTK recommends, but I found it worked better for me.

          • This is exactly what I have done.

            I used a deck with no Japanese keyword. These days I increasingly find that when I review a Kanji I think “Oh that’s X” in Japanese, and then I fill in a Japanese keyword slot.

        • Thanks, all! This is really helpful.

          I think, as with most of my other studies, I’ll just dive in and see what kind of method takes shape for me. (Which usually involves at least a few missteps, but c’est la vie I suppose…)

  20. I kinda want to add the missing Kanji and the remainder of RTK 3 back to my one deck but I have no idea how to do it. If anyone knows a quick way to do this let me know.

    I might participate in my own way if I can add the extra 300 kanji back +RTK 3 to my deck.

  21. I’m in! I’m approaching level 10 and am itching to get into more reading, so it’s long past time to do RTK. I’m very much an auditory learner, so to give myself confidence, in the beginning I started with mostly listening input. It’s worked! In that I know quite a lot of words and basic sentence structures already. But I’m Japanese illiterate still, basically, though I know the kana.

    So yes, first time RTK attempt, though I vaguely attempted to learn some basic kanji with another book a few months ago and about 20 of them have stuck.

    I ordered the book, so…well, I’m not so sure what the best way to learn the story -> picture connection is for me. Humans are supposed to be visual learners primarily but I find the kind of things promoted in “visual learning materials” to be counterintuitive. I’m going to try writing the kanji by hand a lot and saying the story to myself, seeing if I can make a silly cartoon in my head or something. Maybe I’ll even draw it! I like drawing, and I was learning to draw before I realised Japanese was more urgent/important for me. And then I can review those cards in Anki.

    I like the idea of having a nice book and all that but probably I’ll draw some of them on bits of paper, some on my phone and some into my computer on my graphics tablet, so probably no point aiming for that kind of organisation.

    So really, that means my game plan is “make it as easy as possible for myself to learn”. I’ve got a physical copy of RTK, a kindle copy on my phone, and anki on both phone and laptop so I can just do it wherever, however. Trying to stick to a specific time/place never sits well with me, but I’m always either on my computer or have my phone.

    20 new cards a day is a lot, though. I’m kindof intimidated, because it’ll be easy in the beginning I think but 20 new complex ones a day is a lot. So I think I’ll try and do 25-30 for the first month, so I can dial it back a bit near the end.

    I’m actually really excited. I’ve got some ノゲームノライフ light novels, and even if I can’t read them well I’m looking forward to the text looking less intimidating because the kanji are familiar.

    • Well…I didn’t succeed at this.

      I abruptly had to move both my home and business premises, and broke my phone all in the same month, so no on-the-go kanji for me. Thinking of all the things that happened this summer, I’m amazed I got any done at all – but in fact I learned nearly 350 kanji, which means japanese texts *do* look less intimidating. In particular I recognise a good two thirds of the kanji in the “credits” section of anime, so it seems the first bit of Heisig includes a lot of kanji common in names.

      I’m going to return to RTK at a slower pace, now, but it was good to have a reason to get started!

  22. My practice is similar to several above, and has morphed over the years. Currently, I use a combination of the RTK Book and Koohii to learn my cards ab initio. What I do is hit the book for each kanji (and this is particularly important if the entry is designated as a *primitive* and not a kanji, as these primitives are not entries in the koohii list, and many of the stories that appear there depend on them…it can be confusing if you don’t know the primitives) and use Heisig’s story, or make up a better one. I enter this story on koohii (or use one of the shared stories if they are more memorable) until I’ve done my number of new cards for the day. Then, for doing reps, I use the Anki app and the RTK Jalup Mod Deck on my Galaxy Note 4 or on my PC…if I find I need the story I merely click the hyperlink and there it is, in Koohii. If I really need help, I’ll copy and paste the story from Koohii to the card.

    One issue with this is that I was pretty far along in Koohii (365), and I had to start over with the RTK Mod deck when I got it. So, I’m not caught up in my reviews to where I am in Koohii. I’m working hard to get that fixed, while also doing Jalup Beginner Sentences.

    Anyhow, I find that I often remember the kanji without the stories, but that when I’m on that painful, mind wrenching point of ALMOST forgetting (and where real learning takes place at recall), the stories are invaluable to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.


  23. – Level 35

    – Three and a half years ago, I successfully completed RTK in eight months doing between 10 and 20 cards a day.

    – I’m joining this challenge because I think it’ll be fun, and I really love Kanji.

    – My strategy for completing RTK this time around will be setting aside a dedicated hour just for RTK. It may not take an hour at first, but I know the reviews can pile up fast doing 20-30 cards a day. On the weekends, I might focus on just reviews and only do a few new cards so I can manage the reviews. I’ll probably do what I did when I first did this and carry around a wide-ruled composition notebook and write out the stroke orders for each Kanji each day.

    • It’s been going quite well. I’m at 775 cards in 25 days; I don’t do any new cards on the weekends. I’m doing this challenge while going through JALUP Advanced and another deck I’ve created to supplement my learning.

      I can’t wait to see where I and everyone else will be by the end of July!

      • It’s been really busy since my last update in June with school starting again and just life stuff, but I’m proud to say that I have completed RTK again! All 2042 Kanji! Yes!

        I was able to review and learn Kanji that I had forgotten that were actually really important to know, and some words that weren’t clicking before suddenly clicked during this RTK adventure. I’m very happy to have taken part in this challenge.

  24. I’ve completed RTK in the past but somehow deleted my deck (what went through my mind???) So now I honestly wonder, should I go through it again? Maybe to learn to write them? Or is it not worth it anymore, since the point of RTK is more to get used to kanji?

    • That’s a pretty big somehow! It’s hard to say whether it’s necessary, but reviews help keep things strong. Are you having trouble remembering kanji? If you did go through it again, it would be significantly quicker this time around.

      When I found out close to a year ago that I had accidentally removed 3000 cards from my deck a few years before when I created the One Deck, I returned those lost 3000 cards and reviewed them all from scratch.

      • I guess really the only thing that Im not certain about, is I’m afraid I will get bored of it again and end up quitting… but the difference now is that since I’m already doing sentences, I would actually notice how it helps; so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad!

  25. -My level is somewhere around 15. I’m studying Japanese and Korean so I’ve been slacking in Japanese quite a bit and have some reviewing to do.

    –I’ve attempted RTK before, but didn’t get too far with it since I didn’t give it an honest try.

    –Many people have reaped benefits from this method and while I usually prefer learning in context or as I go, it does seem logical to learn kanji separately as we do with hiragana and katakana. I didn’t really try to get into RTK before, but I’d like to give it an honest attempt this time. I think completing the challenge will make my learning experience go smoother by giving me more space to focus on things that aren’t kanji (i.e. grammar, pick up vocab faster, read better, etc.).

    –Nothing special. I’m going to try to get through 20/day. I already know about 400-450 characters so the real challenge is in reviewing/studying every day especially once I start running into less familiar characters.

  26. – Your level
    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt.
    Currently working through it actually. I’m at 1242.
    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge
    I’m going on holiday to Japan for the very first time in September. It’d be awesome to have beaten this thing by then.
    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have
    Review every day. Even if I don’t add, I need to keep on top of those reviews…

  27. Okay, okay, this is just the excuse I’ve been looking for. I’m in!

    25, maybe? Definitely somewhere between 20 and 30, anyway.

    None! In fact, I’ve actively poo-pooed RTK in the past.

    Not being able to produce kanji is my secret shame, though I’ve told myself in the past I’d “never need to”. Also, learning them in context as I have been is very non-precise. Often I’m not even sure whether I know a kanji or not. Especially now that I “know” 1600 or so, there are many nearly identical characters that I’m just not equipped to distinguish. No more excuses! Time to get it done for real.

    My basic plan is 25 new cards a day.

    However, now’s going to be a tough time to do that because I recently went on a sentence-adding spree so my daily review number is pretty huge. So at least for the near future, I’ll be adding very few new sentences (or none at all). I’ll attempt to zero out my reviews every day first, THEN add my 25 new RTK cards for the day and learn them, to ensure I don’t wind up under the fabled “Anki avalanche”. I’d much rather skip a day of new cards and zero out my deck than wind up caught in an endless pile that I can’t escape. (Then burnout, then seppuku, etc.)

    Good luck everyone!

    • Posting a day early… though I guess it’s already the 30th in Japan right now…

      917 kanji right now. Assuming another 25 today and 25 tomorrow, I’ll be at 967 on the 30th-proper (California time). So close to 1000!

      Apologies in advance for the long post, but these are some things that I would have loved to’ve read a month ago when I was first getting started. I hope this helps some folks!

      Most important thing I’ve learned: It’s absolutely ****ing worth doing RTK. If I could go back in time and do it years ago, I would. But even at the level I’m at now, it’s been enormously helpful. (I can go into more detail about exactly how it’s been helpful at some other point.) Anyway, I am fully prepared to eat any negative words I’ve said about RTK. All other haters, please take note :D

      The story is the IMAGE, not the words that you use to describe that image. If you try to depend solely on wordplay, you’ll start to lose it in the long term. (I learned this the hard way with 勧 and “Pegasus Persuasion Power”, among others.) The plus side of this is that you should feel free to steal story ideas from Kanji Koohii. Even if you steal the description of a story from someone else, once you picture the image it’s YOUR image, with your own nuances and setting and so on.

      Related to image advice above: listen to Heisig! Don’t try to cheat. While you don’t necessarily have to spend the full 5+ minutes per kanji that he recommends, you should absolutely take the time to form a clear, memorable image, with as much detail as you can muster. If you don’t, you’ll just wind up doing so at a later time anyway once you forget the kanji for the hundredth time.

      This is a really useful article:
      Read it! :D

      Use your phone! AnkiDroid has a really cool (fairly non-obvious) “whiteboard” feature that’s a great middle ground between writing the kanji out on paper and just “writing” them in your mind. I find that I might miss a random stroke and not realize if I’m fake-writing a kanji on my palm or something. Related to this: if you put the RTK PDF on your phone you can study anywhere! Even if the physical book is nice to have (it definitely is), having the PDF available anywhere, anytime, in your pocket, is great.

      Semi-tangential, but important: if a kanji looks “wrong” to you, it’s possible you’re a victim of “Han Unification”. In short, you’re likely seeing the Chinese version of the character, not the Japanese version. Read about it here:

      And particularly watch out for the characters mentioned here:

      I had noticed this in the past but never thought too much about it. But once I started learning to WRITE the kanji, the little differences suddenly stood out a lot!

      Find some advice on how to deal with this problem at the bottom of this post, in the comments:

    • Counting the 25 new ones I’ll learn today, I’m up to 1554. Whew.

      I started with the RTK Mod Deck, but I’ve re-added about 35 extra cards so far. I think I’ll probably re-add all of the Jouyou Kanji before I’m through, though not necessarily before the August 31 goal. Once I’ve done that I can post my deck so others can use it too, though. (I’ve seen a handful of people asking for a more complete RTK deck *with* Japanese keywords.)

      As far as “reflections” go, I don’t really have much to add to my lengthy post above. It’s tough, man. But the main thing I want to reiterate: it’s sooooo worth it. If you’re reading this and wondering whether you should go through RTK… just do it!

      That said, I’m really excited to have it behind me in another few weeks :D

      A few days early, even! Let August 19, 2015 go down in history as the day I kicked kanji squarely in the groin. Whew.

      1946 kanji. (Well… “final” for now. See below.)

      I started with the Jalup RTK mod deck, but wound up adding 45 kanji back in. (Either because I already had sentences that used them, because I already learned them as primitives, or because I just thought they might come in handy.) I’m probably going to wind up adding all of the jouyou kanji back in at some point, which I mentioned in a comment above. That will likely be a slow trickle though, rather than a marathon. Unless I get inspired :D

      I left some pretty lengthy points/tips/advice in my comments above. In addition to those, I’ll just add these things:

      1) SO worth it. Can’t reiterate that enough. RTK works so well it feels like cheating.

      2) One billion thank yous to Adam for creating this challenge. As a level 20-something who never did RTK, it’s very likely that I’d NEVER have gone back and done it without a specific challenge staring me in the face. Awesome.

      3) Another billion thank yous to all the other kanji riders out there. It really helps to have others in the trenches with you!

      Good luck with the home stretch everyone! Almost there!

      • おめでとうございます!!!!
        I’m still working on the challenge, but wanted to shout a huge CONGRATULATIONS to you!

        Yay! Yes, the challenge has been a great way to create time-urgency and make you do RTK *now*. :D

    • NEW “FINAL” COUNT: 2105.

      I decided I may as well polish off the rest of the missing 常用 kanji since I had a little extra time :D

      That’ll probably be it for a while. Back to sentences!

  28. – Your level

    Around 15 or so.

    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt.

    This is my first attempt. For years I saw the book around, read about people using it, but thought that it wasn’t worth my time. Now I wish I could go back and kick myself.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge (ex. this can be as simple as “I want to kick some kanji ass” or “I refuse to let kanji ever get me down again”)

    I decided towards the end of April that I would finish by the end of August, and suddenly here this challenge comes. Perfect motivation to keep me on track. RTK is part of my plan to get to level 25 by the end of the year.

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have (ex. “Will wake up at 4:30am every morning for 2 hours” or “will make every train commute a RTK riders commute”)

    I need to do at least 15 a day to make it in time, I start out with 10 new kanji mixed with reviews, then later I add another 5 kanji with some more reviews. I continue with adding 5 at a time until I have no more time or motivation left for the day, since I am also doing sentences I tend to do 15-20 kanji a day. After I finish this post I will be working on #501-515.

    I’m going to be tweeting updates(@mahoutsukai4), partially to keep track of where I’m at, I didn’t even realise I hit #500 until I checked to make this post.


    • I’m a little late on getting my update in but better late than never.

      – How many kanji you have completed
      June 31st – 685
      – Reflect on your progress (issues, struggle, discoveries, etc)
      I’ve had to deal with a lot of distractions and have been finding it hard to stay motivated. With a lot of things going on and people making increasing demands on my time, I simply need to get better and blocking out time for study and then sticking to it. I know that without motivation it is easier to burnout but it’s also easier to keep at a slow pace then to constantly start and stop, so I just need to stick with it and work at getting my pace back up to a level that will allow me to finish on time.

  29. By way of inspiration to all my fellow 漢字 Riders:

    Sons of Heisig!

    Of Leitner!

    My brothers and sisters,

    I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me.

    A day may come when the courage of 学生 fails, when we forsake the 漢字 and break all bonds of 漢字 Rider fellowship, but it is not this day.

    An hour of failed cards and shattered decks when the Summer of 漢字 comes crashing down, but it is not this day!

    This day we immerse!!

    By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Riders of the 漢字!

    NB: Riders of The Kanji….RTK….Coincidence? I think NOT!


  30. -Level
    At the moment, I’m around the level 10~15 mark.

    I have attempted RTK twice in the past, once at the start of my Japanese studies, and again around half a year later. I made it to around 200-300 kanji on my first attempt and roughly 500 on the second, but I tried to do too much and burnt myself out.

    I have several reasons for wanting to take part in this challenge. First off, even though I’m currently learning new kanji through JALUP’s sentence decks; I believe RTK could give me a huge advantage when learning new kanji. I also wanted to complete the RTK books before I studied abroad (possibly next year), so this just gives me the perfect chance to complete it. Also, like most us here, I simply want to kick RTK’s ass for all the pain and demotivation it has caused me! ;)

    I plan to complete 25 kanji a day on average, but if time is willing, I will go for 30-35. The keyword for me is balance. While completing this challenge, I will still need to keep up with my other sentence decks as well while also preventing another burn out.
    Overall, I think this challenge is a great incentive for completely RTK. Not only does it hold accountability, but I find goals are far easier to achieve in groups (and of course more fun!).


  31. LEVEL:
    Approximately level 5.

    Learned 500+ Chinese characters in Mandarin (Hànzì/汉字) via the brute force method (not particularly recommended), then proceeded to RTK when I gained more interest in Japanese. Casually approached it, which yielded large results for a few days and few results for a large number of days, weeks, months, and even years. Have attempted various methods ranging from RTK to Skritter character studies to textbook methods.

    Academically, I’ve been a sprinter for a long time, and I’d like to become a marathoner. Consistency is what I’m after. I’m not getting any younger, and sprinting doesn’t seem to suit me anymore. (I’m 31, but I’m more aware of my finiteness than I was, say, five years ago.)

    Run more slowly and keep pace. This time, pursue accountability, which is why I’m joining this elite group.


      At the beginning of the month, I solidified all primitives using Memrise, which I think was a helpful step. Now every time I approach a new set of characters, the essential primitives are already familiar. After that, I was making solid progress for about two weeks and then dropped off. I am at 425.

      1. After reading other people’s comments, I realize again that I spend comparatively very little time establishing imagery and stories, so I end up having a number of characters that simply won’t stick. Even when they do, if I revisit them after a period of inactivity, I’ve often forgotten them. I need to redouble my efforts to establish stories with creativity, not rushing the process.

      2. The demands of work and life in general often distract me from personal goals. When I have too many things on my plate, instead of prioritizing or implementing helpful strategies for accomplishing tasks, I sometimes break down and don’t accomplish much of anything. Instead of all or nothing (which for me usually ends up being nothing), I will focus on challenging myself to be consistent every day, even if some days that means two minutes. I’m returning again to my idea of endurance/perseverance over and above intense but short-lived efforts. If at the end of the summer I don’t do all of the 常用漢字 but have solidified the first half and have broken into the second half, I will still consider that a win.

  32. LEVEL: 8
    I have started RTK and got to ~200.
    I have been slacking on my kanji, even though I already started seeing results after only learning so few of them. What is wrong with me? :O I’m sure this challenge will help me motivate myself.
    My plan is to review all cards and add 25 new ones everyday. this will give me a little extra time at the end in case I miss some days, which of course I won’t :P

    I am ready to get these kanji over with by the end of the summer!

    • I am currently at 720 Kanji!
      This is something I am really happy about, but I wish I would have been further ahead. I was learning vocab at the same time, and couldn’t keep up with the reviews anymore. (One day I had 500 reviews.) So in the last week of this month I decided to prioritize vocabulary. I was able to complete the vocab course and since I won’t be adding there anymore, I can focus on adding kanji, jeej!! I did keep up with Kanji reviews, so that’s nice.
      I am not a native English speaker, but I think some natives might have the same problem as I am having: some of these keywords are definitely unknown to me. I heard about renaming some kanji but I’m not sure if this is a good idea.
      Remembering the kanji has already been proven useful to me. In the vocab course I mentioned, just knowing the English keywords helps me make sense of some of the kanji used for a word. I am not just pressing the space-bar when typing and guessing for the right kanji, I actually start to know what I am looking for!
      Overall I am happy with my progress.

      • Currently I’m stuck at 930 kanji.
        I am not happy with my progress at all this month! And I only have myself to blame, I didn’t focus on my Japanese studies at all. I did have very little time to study,I actually moved three times. (Across town, across the country, then to another country.) I kept telling myself that I would pick up Japanese again once thing settled down after moving, but that was just a excuse. I had little gaps I could have used to study instead of lying around.
        Alright, time to work myself through a huge pile of reviews and face more kanji!

  33. Level:

    This is my first attempt at RTK, and so far I have completed the first 7 lessons (133 kanji).

    I have been going rather slow with RTK so far, and I am someone who likes a challenge and does well under pressure, so I feel like this will help kick me into gear in order to kick some kanji ass in a short amount of time.

    Game Plan:
    Study 1 hour in the morning, and 1 hour at night, adding roughly 20 a day.

    • I totally slacked during my two week trip to Canada and am only at 376 Kanji after my first month. I found 20 a day to be too much while I was there, so I usually only did 5 or so…
      I’m hoping to catch up in the second month!

  34. Ooh! Count me in!
    – Level: ~20? (current textbook: 中級の日本語)

    – I’m actually in the middle of RTK, but need to get back in the game (I hit pause during a vacation and am slowly tackling reviews and getting the ball rolling again).

    – Besides wanting to beef up my 漢字 (to help w/reading, writing, vocabulary, etc), it sounds like fun working through Heisig together and earning a spot on that illustrious Jalup wall of achievement. Mostly, I’d like to surmount this mountain already (and start climbing the next)! ^w^

    – Basically, my anthem is ”Anki in the morning, Anki in the evening, Anki at suppertime. When Anki’s on your スマホ, you can have Anki anytime!” [To the tune of ]. hehe :P

    Otherwise, nothing fancy. Just review, study, review, study. I usually write out the kanji when I’m learning it, to make sure I’ve seen/understood the placement of the parts in my story. When I review, I usually just “scribble” with my finger (on air/my leg). Sometimes I’ll use a dry-erase board for doodly-play. I’m all-ears for advice! :D

    For a fun visual motivation, I made a little clay だるま ( ), wrote a note with a basic “complete Heisig” goal, and colored in one eye. He stares at me, silently commanding me to keep my eye on the prize.

    I’ve also told everyone that I’m completing this book this summer, so there’s no backing out (or postponing it for later). Using peer-pressure for good (not evil).

    Mostly, I find it helpful to break up the huge task of finishing the book into smaller chunks (with rewards!). One way I’ve been doing this is pretty darn nerdy: a Merit Badge Kanji Quest.
    Backstory: When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a Boy Scout and earn merit badges. Alas, I could only traipse the woods and tie knots alone, badge-less (first world tomboy problems)…until now!

    Merit Badge Quest Ingredients:
    Homemade Sash = to display badges
    Iron-on patches (from local craft store) = merit badges
    Index cards (label with days of the week and write which heisig frames to do each day) = bookmark/progress tracker
    Bonus: Other Prizes!

    When I finish learning my kanji for the day, I mark the day off (on the card) with a heart, like I’m powering up in a game. Each completed card (7 hearts per week) earns me a badge! To make the quest more fun, I gave each card/week a fun name to match the merit badges. For example, during the “Mighty Mean Kanji Machine” week, I will earn a cool robot merit badge (after earning my seven hearts that week). This little quest helps me remember what stories I’m working on each day and pulls me through the rest of the week (I tend to lose steam in the middle, but when I look at the card, I am reminded that I’m halfway through and close to earning a badge!). Sometimes it helps to dangle another prize-carrot in front of my nose…whatever it takes.
    P.S. We’re running a mental marathon here, and I’m cheering for all of us to reach the finish line! Whatever pace you take, however long it takes you, I hope you enjoy the journey. *#*—(^_^)—*#* <— pom poms

    • I think technically I’m not supposed to reply to your original post here, but I gotta say: this is so awesome! The badges, the sash, the naming, the whole thing. I’m jealous! Makes me want to find a way to kick it up a notch with my own studies…

      • Haha You’re fine. I’ll add an update in a sec to bring the thread full-circle. ;-P [Maybe you could think of some rewards you’d like to earn with your studies, then pick some point in your studies to enjoy them. Rewards are such a personal thing. Someone else’s “badges” might be stickers or a trip to a café for a matcha bubble tea. Hmm… I might need to make those rewards, too! :D,, <– drool ^w^]

        Week1夏の漢字ライダーズUpdate: My speedy attempts to "catch up" to my past RTK progress were motivationally draining (and hurting my brain), so instead, I arbitrarily picked a midway point and am now taking a more relaxed reviewing pace. I'm still moving at a faster study pace than if the info were brand new, but not for long! I should hit new kanji around the end of this week! I'm super excited because I miss the adventure of discovering new kanji and then recognizing new characters while I'm reading, surfing the 'net, watching テレビ, etc.

        The way new RTK kanji start popping out everywhere is a huge motivator for me. (Like, "Hey, remember me? I'm that kanji you just met. I've been hanging out here in 日本語ランド with my friends this entire time. I'm glad you've finally gotten to know my face enough to recognize me! Now go study some more and meet more of my friends!")

    • 遅くなってごめんなさい。m( _ _ )m
      漢字 thus far: a bit over 600.

      Progress reflection: I’m back in the game! For July, to help focus better, I’ve made fewer commitments and non-RTK monthly goals.

      Has anyone else had some funny RTK-study sessions?
      I’ve had to social-awkwardly squirrel away into a corner and stuff my cheeks with RTK more than once. This month, I’ll be taking RTK to a lake house weekend with friends (studying in my 水着, amidst canoes and kayaks) and on a road trip out of state (studying during driving breaks and whenever else I can). Study hard, play hard. haha

      • My wife had surgery last year, and I pretty much hung out in her hospital room the whole time ’til they let her go home (several days). She was asleep for most of it, so I just had my RTK book out and sat on the floor of a hospital room doing kanji for nearly the whole time.

        And then at home we have a tiny tin can of an apartment, so I had many nights where all I could do was put on my headphones and try to drown out the TV so I could focus on RTK for an hour or two. Thankfully now it’s only a problem during kanji reviews, which take just 10-15 minutes or so these days.

        • I hope your wife’s surgery went well. I’m glad you had RTK to help pass the time.
          I can’t wait until all of us only need a few minutes to review. *daydreams* ^_^

    • I just hit 1026 (傘・umbrella). I’m working double-time this month, but still fighting to kick RTK’s おしり.

      Regarding struggles: I refuse for this to be an excuse, but I lost some time this month adjusting to side-effects from a new medication. (No worries; it’s just a temporary prescription to help a stubborn injury heal properly. In two more months, I’ll be free again and good as new. In the meantime, I’ve gotten a better idea of what to expect and how to adjust my schedule accordingly.) To anyone else who is braving through a frustrating hurdle, major fist bump of awesomeness. We got this.

      Regarding tools: besides Kanji Koohii, I’ve gotten a lot of good use out of the app “Kanji Stories”
      (iPhone: )

      For anyone who is disappointed at their progress, a friendly pep talk:
      Hang in there, even if you don’t expect to finish in August. You might not win this month’s race, but you can still win the battle in the end. In the meantime, please don’t beat yourself up (or, if you’re an awkward penguin like me, try to hermit away like a shy turtle). If anyone understands how tough RTK/漢字 can be, it’s this community. Do what you need to do to take care and make yourself proud — take a breather, adjust your methods or time management strategies, and come back to fight one more round…or try something else entirely. The details don’t matter so long as you eventually reach whatever your goals may be. In the meantime, I hope you find ways to enjoy the journey in your own way. <3

    • Congratulations to everyone who has either finished, is still fighting, or is gearing up to battle!

      Not finished yet, but thankfully, still in the fight! What held me back was getting ill too often from that naughty medicine I’ve had to take (but only for two more weeks!). On the bright side, my injury is finally healing, and I’m up-to-date (*again*) with my Anki and marching ahead again. Come hell or high water, 頑張りますね。

      In case it might help someone, a few tricks that have helped me stay in the game despite sick days:
      —Brain ready to study but eyes a bit fuzzy (tough to read the book-font)? Use kanji.koohii site and increase the browser font size (For Apple, hold command and hit + key. For PC, hold ctrl and hit + key.)! Take lots of eye-breaks. [Note: If needed, you could also change viewing colors. You could change your Anki deck font size and colors, too. If you haven’t tried it, the JALUP RTK deck has a really gentle color scheme and font.]
      —Want to practice writing but eye-hand coordination isn’t too steady? Use a dry-erase board or blank paper and a marker so you can write bigger/bolder/lazier. Focus on strokes, not handwriting.
      —Can’t read or watch? Listen to Japanese audio stuff (like music or movies you’ve seen before) so you can remember what you’re fighting for.
      —Barely mobile but getting cabin fever? Go sit outside for a little bit. Have a gentle study “picnic” with fresh air and a little sunshine (but don’t forget to protect your skin). Or sit near a window and enjoy the flora/fauna and the fact that you’re upright for the moment. Or make a cup of tea, pop in an escapist holiday movie from a different season, and dream of happy times to come (or pop in a classic and get nostalgic and grateful for past happy times). Bonus points if it’s in Japanese, but don’t fret about it.
      —5 kanji a day is more than no kanji a day! 10 reviews is more than no reviews!
      —Instead of slapping on a game face to hide your struggles, let your pride take a little vacation. Be visible with loved ones so they can help you take care of yourself and motivate yourself to stay in the game. It’s okay to be a mere mortal and be on the receiving end. Whine a bit or engage in some black humor — whatever helps you endure. You’ll make it up to them when you can!
      —& If you have a blog: On a good day, pre-schedule some emergency posts! (These saved me sooo much, I actually have September back-ups already done, just in case, and so I can focus on RTK. ^_^) Or maybe ask a friend/guest to post for you, if only to post one video/comment…or to announce a temporary hiatus. :)

      I’ll update again here when I make it to the finish line. I’ll finish by the end of this month, but not sure exactly when (I need some wiggle space in case that medicine decides to be naughty again [it’s a kind that accumulates in the body, which it why it’s been so unpredictable/disruptive…]).

      • お久しぶり〜 Years (of stabilizing my health) later, and I’m finally (doing much better and am) working through RTK, due to finish end of March. 日本語/日本の文化 has been a part of my life this entire time, but I’m excited to finally take this step toward improving my literacy skills.

        I hope this update helps motivate any fellow 漢字ライダーズ. It’s never too late to pick your studies/goals back up again! May you learn from your previous efforts, adjust to suit your health/brain/life, and proceed to your next language-learning baby step.

  35. – Your level

    Around 25

    – Let everyone know whether you have attempted RTK before or is this your first attempt.

    I did wanikani for a year or so. I’ve looked at doing RTK a few times before but never went with it. I cheated a little bit and started the deck and am about 200 in. I wanted to see that I could keep up a few days before committing to the challenge.

    – Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge (ex. this can be as simple as “I want to kick some kanji ass” or “I refuse to let kanji ever get me down again”)

    I have a decent kanji base, but would like to “finish” it.

    – Briefly explain any game plan/strategy you may have (ex. “Will wake up at 4:30am every morning for 2 hours” or “will make every train commute a RTK riders commute”)

    I plan on adding 20 a day and doing whatever reviews come up. I found out that doing reviews before work is the best time for me to actually finish them.

  36. Ok, gang. On 5/19 I posted this:

    “One issue with this is that I was pretty far along in Koohii (365), and I had to start over with the RTK Mod deck when I got it. So, I’m not caught up in my reviews to where I am in Koohii. I’m working hard to get that fixed, while also doing Jalup Beginner Sentences.”

    I’m happy to report that I’m now caught up (through manical reviewing and adding new cards) to where I am on Koohii. I am currently at 365 on both, and I’m ready to begin the challenge on June 1st!!!!!!

    I haz a happy!

    • Copied to reply to myself as others seem to be doing:

      Well, it’s been a month. I’ve been working hard, slipping some, managing to get new cards in at an almost appropriate rate. Anyhoo, I’ve done nigh onto 580 cards in June, to total 945….

      There is no doubt, tho. THIS IS HARD. I hope to continue at this rate, but it is a challenge, and the reviews DO pile up.

  37. I’m level 7 and just finished beginner deck and starting the intermediate deck.

    I got behind in rtk last time I tried, which was about 8 months ago. This seems like a really good opportunity to kick it’s butt and knock it out.

    My game plan is to do it after I get home from work, around 2:30.

    Let’s get this done!

  38. So, my entire month of August is going to be unavailable for Anki study, so I will need to up my cards from 11 per day to 15 per day in June & July in order to finish before August 1st. Still totally doable, though!

    I will actually be absent due to the fact that I’ll be attending a Japanese timber framing workshop (in Utah, alas, not Japan), where I’ll be constructing raised earth and stone building foundations and learning traditional Japanese joinery, which I’m super excited about. But I won’t have much time at all for Anki, and will have limited use of my cell phone (I’ll be camping on-site, and charging my phone only occasionally). Hopefully I will be able to keep up with reviews at least; if not, I’ll have to catch back up after returning home.

  39. June 1, 2015. The Hour is upon us. Anki now set to 20 new cards/day. Reviews await. New cards await. June 1, 2015. The beginning of the month of the summer that I KICKED KANJI’S ASS.

    And now…..I begin.


    • Wow, I have been neglectful in terms of following directions. As you see I updated on a separate message in July. Well, I’m going to follow instructions and update in a reply to my own message here in August!

      It’s been hard. It’s been incredibly tough. I’ve wanted to quit. However, I now need congratulations. I’ve done it. I’ve finished the heinous Heisig!!!!!


      • Congratulations! And to everyone else’s who’s finished so far =)

        To those still going, keep it up! Even if it takes you much longer to finish (like me >_>) it’s still well worth the trouble!

      • Congratulations! Finishing is a huge accomplishment and you should be proud of yourself! I know it really made me feel like pushing even harder in my studies now that I made such a great milestone.

  40. The internal struggle that must be going on in my brain right now:

    “Okay guys, this kanji has to do with a graveyard. Think graveyard! Graveyard… graveyard… Oh! I got it! The keyword is CURTAIN!”

    This is going to be an interesting summer.

  41. Well, it’s been a month. I’ve been working hard, slipping some, managing to get new cards in at an almost appropriate rate. Anyhoo, I’ve done nigh onto 580 cards in June, to total 945….

    There is no doubt, tho. THIS IS HARD. I hope to continue at this rate, but it is a challenge, and the reviews DO pile up.

  42. I’m very late for this, but seeing everyone taking this challenge gave me the motivation to start RTK again and finally complete it. I’m just a level 10 who got tired of RTK long ago and left my Japanese studies. I’ve been wanting to start again but didn’t knew how. This site has helped me a lot in making a new study plan for Japanese.

    With that said, since I’m so late I decided to use Jonathon’s power level method for RTK. I’m on vacation from college right now, so I have a lot of time for RTK. I know it will be very hard to do but I want to complete it in August with all the other people doing this challenge.

    Also, I want to thank everyone writing their progress and experiences here. You guys gave me the motivation and strength to start this journey. I promise everyone in here that this time I’ll finish RTK and I’m not going to quit my Japanese studies no matter what. I already did my 65 Kanji for the day, just 1836 left! (I’m using the JALUP RTK Deck)

    • That’s great to hear. It’s a very tough challenge, but the benefits are enormous. Good luck! =)

    • Just to say something about my experience with power level. Doing the power level method has being very hard. Sometimes I felt like my mind was going to explode lol. As hard as it is, I still like it. Right now I’m just 130 kanji left from the end of JALUP RTK Deck. I’m very happy about that because I wanted to finish RTK as fast as possible. I wouldn’t recommend to do this unless you have A LOT of free time and a lot of motivation. Between the reviews and the new kanji, it can take me hours every day to finish. Is a good method and it works but you have to be very sure that you want to go through this.

  43. So I didn’t sign up in the beginning but joined in along the way! And I just finished!! It’s such a great feeling! And I’ll be starting on the 1000 J-E Sentence challenge tomorrow!

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