Review Of Tofugu’s WaniKani — 24 Comments

  1. I’ve been using WaniKani for just under a year and a half now and I’ve been pretty impressed with it so far. Thoroughly learning Kanji is draining and exhausting but I’ve been able to maintain motivation and for that it gets an A+.

    Since it’s an SRS system, I’m starting to see the downsides to SRS based learning methods. Unless if you do it every single day until completion, you’ll all of a sudden be hit with a mountain of reviews and from that point on, it’ll make you feel as though you’re always playing catch up instead of advancing.

    And even if you do get caught up, by powering through the mountain of review items, you’re stock piling all those reviews to come crashing down on you again in the near future. So instead of focusing on other Japanese related studies, I do find much of my study time dedicated to WK. That is the one downside to WK and other SRS based learning methods.

    • Wow! Fantastic input, I really appreciate your insight. I too have been using wanikani for about a year and a half.

      I agree, if you don’t remain consistent you will be hit by an avalanche of reviews. Making wanikani apart of your daily routine is crucial. It is a huge time commitment, but I generally like to couple it (wanikani) with a nice japanese podcast. This way I feel I’m being most efficient.

      It will all be worth it! See you on the other side of level 50!lol

  2. One minor correction: some of the features you identified, like the phone clients and the progression graphs, aren’t created by WK themselves, but are user-created third-party tools which are powered by the provided API. However, that certainly doesn’t diminish their usefulness, though anyone relying on them should be aware that they’re not part of the WK subscription and may not always be supported or updated.

    • Oh, terrific point! The app with the progression charts are developed by a third party; however, the most useful tools- online community chat and kanji and vocabulary progression are within the website and controlled by wanikani under “profile” tab.

  3. I’ve never used WaniKani (I learned my Kanji before WaniKani was released), but I can vouch that Tofugu’s products are always awesome. I used Textfugu for a while when I was beginning, and I can say that it’s one of the best starting points for learning Japanese. WaniKani looks great, too.

    • Yea, they have some good beginner material. I also used textfugu years ago, it was very helpful. Thanks for the comment, I hope you give it a shot!

  4. I never heard of WaniKani until I read this article. After I tried the two free levels, I signed up for the $80 yearly subscription. WaniKani is way better than Heisig’s Remembering The Kanji. Learning the onyomi and kunyomi readings while you are learning the kanji is the better way.

    • Great point. Learning on’yomi and kun’yomi at the same time as mastering definitions and radicals is truly an efficient way of learning. I’m glad you were able to implement wanikani into your study routine.

  5. I’ve only just started using it, so it’s too early for me to give a full impression. However, so far, two things have bothered me with it:

    1- That I can’t use it offline (mobile app). It would have been nice if at least the upcoming review/lesson, could be pre-downloaded into the app so that I can use it when I’m somewhere with no network, such as the subway.

    2- I’m rather advanced in Japanese, and although I don’t mind starting from the beginning (as you said, good review), the progress is so slow. Even though I’m ready to jump at the next lesson, the app literally forces me to wait 4 hours for the next phase.


    • Thanks for your contribution. I think that’s a great idea you have with pre downloaded material, I can absolutely see how that would be helpful to users.

      Yea, I understand where you are coming from- the site may not be as efficient for an advanced learner, but I hope that your able to hang in there and benifit from some of the later levels. As time goes though you will have so many reviews that you will be constantly trying to catch-up, and the timing issue will become irrelevant. Thanks again!

  6. I just began using WK in Sept last year, and am on level 9 so far. I just couldn’t power through RTK, and am glad for WK in that I am able to pick up readings, radicals and vocab simultaneously. I love the level-ing concept, it keeps it interesting and me motivated to get to the next level. The community is active and there are many API add-ons. I’m glad to hear sentences will be added, I feel like sometimes I don’t understand the usage of the vocab word. Oftentimes, I look it up in Midori to read examples. Thanks for the review!

    For reference, I’m level 22-ish in JALUP. :)

  7. The biggest downside for me is the subscription model which does not have a lifetime option. Once the yearly/monthly subscription is over, you’re sent back to the free levels (1 and 2). Paying while I learn is okay, but once I complete all levels, I may want to go back and refresh some kanjis on a need basis and for this, we’re expected to pay again. This does not make the app a utility for life – one would want to come back and use it as a reference for forgotten kanjis 1/5/10 years after completing all levels.

    I’ve dropped them a mail and am yet to receive a response. Will have to look for alternatives otherwise as my goals are longer-term (immediate goals are passing JLPTs). James, could you suggest alternatives similar to WK which have content available lifetime, even if at a premium? RTK of course will require creating a whole mnemonic system on my own and I’m rather pressed for time to do that. I’m also not aware of any comprehensive Anki deck which exists for RTK.

    I also agree with an older comment about no offline support in the third-party app – but again, since its made out of an intent to help the larger community, I guess there’s little room for complaint. It would be nice though to have an official Android app which incorporates offline support.

    Doesn’t take away from the fact that is the only Kanji learning app that I’ve come across in my research which helps you hit the ground running (i.e. the mnemonics already being in place). Kanjidamage showed promise (AFAIK, they came out before WK) but severely lacks a mobile app and active support from the developer – I wonder if that would change if he decides to make a business model out of it?

    • Hi,

      I think the following may actually solve both of the problems you have with RTK:

      – Adshap’s modified RTK deck can be downloaded for free from this website (you’ll find it by clicking the Store tab above).
      The “modification” in this deck is that cards come with both english keywords and japanese keywords (i.e. a word using that kanji). This is of little use in the beginning but makes all the difference in the world as your level increases as english keywords naturally start to feel bothersome once you know enough Japanese words using the kanji.

      – On the website “reviewing the kanji” ( you’ll find a wealth of ready made stories for each kanji made by users who went through RTK in the past. All you really need to do is to skim the top stories and find one that works for you (I generally could). Using this website is also free, and in fact it makes the book obsolete in my opinion.

  8. I just tried signing up for it, but had to sign up for a beta invite? What’s the deal? It looks like a lot of people have been using for quite a while? I’ve got 6 weeks before I go to Japan so I’m trying to brush up asap.

    • Yes, you do need to sign up for a beta invite, but they should get back to you really quickly with an acceptance e-mail. It just says it’s still in beta because they’re adding things like new levels, vocab words, and context sentences.

  9. I know this is an old topic, but having searched around I’ve never seen an average completion time for wanikani.
    I previously got past 1000 kanji with RTK fairly quickly, but after a learning hiatus, I couldn’t bring myself to start again and wanted a new format to keep it fresh.
    Has anyone out there completed it? If so, how long?
    Thanks for your help!

  10. I’m currently at Level 20 on WK. You can see the average # of days per level in the stats (through 3rd party apps, I believe), but, that average duration includes radicals, kanji, and vocabulary at each level that one learns. It took me about 6 months to do 500 kanji. So, roughly 80+ kanji per month. My average is around 12 days per level, but I’ve done a couple of levels in as few as 8 days. So, one can do better than I have in terms of # of kanji/month. When I took fewer days, I had to obsessively check WK reviews every few hours – not worth it + I didn’t spend time studying the language as I had to spend so much on kanji alone. In summary, depending on your situation and objective, you can probably do 80-120 kanji/month, which means you can get to level 50 (with 1700 kanji) within 1.5 years. (The website claims that some have done it within a year – I’m assuming that these people are already advanced and were interested in learning only the Kanji.)

  11. Alec – from the FAQ:

    How long will it take to learn everything on WaniKani?

    It depends on how fast you work. Some people complete the main levels (1-50) in just over a year, which is very fast. There’s also bonus content to think about (levels 51-60). Those levels will take another month or two to complete.

    For most dedicated students, finishing all 60 levels in 1.5-2 years is a reasonable goal. You may go faster, or slower, but it all depends on your pace. Considering that most Japanese learners using “traditional” methods take 10+ years to do the same, we think a couple of years isn’t that bad at all.

  12. I completed RTK some time ago but I still have a fair number of reviews every day, and I find myself forgetting some mature kanji from time to time.
    I’m wondering about trying different systems to reinforce kanji knowledge.

    My concern is: would multiple methods interfere and confuse each other? Am I going to get muddled up between the different names for radicals and mnemonics?

    I stalled halfway through Jalup Advanced and I’m working through several grammar textbooks now because I thought basic grammar was weak. Looking to pick up with Jalup again in a few months.

    Do I just keep doing RTK reviews and hope it eventually sticks?
    Should I add another method in parallel to reinforce? E.g. Kanji Kingdom or Wani Kani?

    • I think when you are unsure, it’s worth it to give it a try, and see what happens. Depending on the person, one method will stick better than another, and until you try it, you’ll never know.

    • Hi, I have tried to use wanikani after rtk just to solve the problem I still have with readings and some more difficult kanji, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me: radicals and primitives are quite different and they force you to complete the process from the beginning (you can’t skip the kanji and the readings that you alrealdy know). That takes time and MONEY!

  13. To make it to level 60 is not the faint of heart… Seriously.

    You can read my latest article about the levels on my profile there under this name.

    It turns into beast mode at the last 10 levels (they are short)… I was just gonna go full speed through them. But I’m not going to just work on Kanji when they are available and only go through 20-30 new words a day until they are gone.

    I have around 200 more kanji to learn and about 700 more vocab… I’m set to finish late Feb (’22). I’m fine just slowly having the vocab drip out now. I can’t handle doing anymore 600-800 reviews days.. it’s insanity.

    But hey, I might have a brain tumor now, but at least I can read kanji ne!

  14. In March of 2020 I decided to start learning Japanese. I tried Wanikani, Duolingo, Lingodeer, Bunpro, Jalup, Kanshudo, Genki and Kanjidamage. I wanted a life time membership. I wanted SRS because I have forgoten what I have learned before. I went with Kanjidamage over KanjiKindgom or Wanikani because –
    Anki grades the different cards separtely- so If you know that 力 means power- but forget its onyomi りゃく anki will only ask for the onyomi again where wanikani will ask both.
    I like that Kanjidamage and Jalup are both Anki decks- so I can cover both in one app.
    I like that kanjidamage and wanikani have a bunch of Jukugo so I can see how the kanji is used.
    I like that kanji damage has many feilds (Used in, first jukugo, first onyomi, look a likes, onyomi mneumonic,ect) so I can easly modify cards to include the information I want.
    And for grammar I went with Jalup over Bunpro because Bunpro’s closes had too much English. There would be a Japanese sentence missing one word, with the english sentence below. And Kanshudo’s SRS put the name of a grammer point on one side and a page explanation on the other-TMI. It`s got some fun mini-games, but it is self directed-which didn’t work for me.
    I’m lvl 14 (using XP navi). 66% of the way through kanji damage, and 220 cards into jalup intermediate. I draw the kanji with anki’s white board feature.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>