Kanshudo Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What is Kanshudo?
Kanshudo is the fastest and most enjoyable way to learn Japanese. We believe that to learn Japanese efficiently and well, you need to learn to read kana and kanji, and you need to learn kanji, vocabulary and grammar in parallel. Kanshudo's teaching approach is built around these core concepts.
Kanshudo is an 'AI' (Artificial Intelligence) learning platform. It monitors your study activities and recommends learning exercises based on its assessment of your current level. So you can start using Kanshudo whatever your current level of Japanese ability. Your central reference point on Kanshudo is your Dashboard, accessible from any page from the icon, where the system will report your progress and give you new recommendations.
Kanshudo provides unique visualizations of your Japanese ability - a display of your current progress through grammar / words / kanji (on your Dashboard), and then displays of your overall knowledge of each area separately (the mastery wheels). You can also view your progress with Japanese as a 'map' through Japan itself.
Many of Kanshudo's tools can be used independently. Kanshudo includes extremely comprehensive dictionaries, a grammar library, beginner and intermediate lessons, flashcards, games and exercises, and a reading library. You can use any of these tools as part of your study sessions, or whenever you feel like it.
Read more about the proven learning concepts Kanshudo is based on, or more about how to use Kanshudo.
Where do I start?
Kanshudo is designed to help any student of the Japanese language master kanji, vocab and grammar, whatever your current level. Kanshudo will learn your knowledge of Japanese as you complete exercises and challenges. The best way to use Kanshudo is just to jump right in by visiting your Dashboard and following the study recommendations there.
You can also read more about the learning materials on the site:
To get started, read through the Welcome page, or browse our Feature overview. You can also use the Quick Start links in the main menu or the Site index.
How do I go about learning kanji?
Perhaps the most common question we get is how to get started learning kanji, and next most common is how to persevere once you've started!
We have put together a comprehensive introduction to both topics, in an article which will take you step-by-step from absolute beginner to kanji expert. Read How to master the kanji and put your studies on a foundation for success!
If you are just getting started with Japanese, we have a guide and a series of lessons designed especially for you. Start with Getting started learning Japanese, and then try a Beginner Lesson.
How many kanji are in Kanshudo?
Currently there are 14,412 kanji in the Kanshudo system. This includes:
  • All 2136 Jōyō kanji ('regular use' kanji), the official Japanese government list of kanji used in government documents, 1006 of which are taught in primary school (the Kyōiku Kanji), and the remaining 1130 of which are taught in secondary school (the Secondary School Kanji). (The 2136 includes the 196 characters that were added in 2010.)
  • The 862 Jinmeiyō kanji (kanji officially allowed for personal names).
  • Many Hyōgaiji ('outside the chart' kanji), i.e. kanji not in either set, but that are in use, for example in novels or on the web.
Additionally, many of the kanji in the system have variants, either still in use or occurring in older texts, and the variants are linked to/from the modern accepted form. Finally, Kanshudo includes many characters that occur as common components of other kanji.
How many kanji have mnemonics in Kanshudo?
Currently Kanshudo contains 3947 distinct mnemonics.
How about vocab and example sentences?
Currently Kanshudo contains 259,228 individual dictionary entries, and 156,562 Japanese/English example sentences.
Why do some kanji not have mnemonics?
Some of the simpler kanji do not have mnemonics, because they are the basic elements we refer to as 'components' that make up other kanji. Our goal is to present each kanji with a mnemonic that includes the simplest possible component parts of that kanji. However, at a certain point the kanji can't be broken down any further, and you just have to memorize the meaning of the components, in the same way you have to memorize hiragana and katakana. This includes some of the more common kanji (think of 一 or 人), and many of the 'radicals' (the traditional means of organizing lists of kanji - a subset of all kanji 'components').
Your first step in learning the kanji should be to learn these components in parallel with learning the most frequent kanji. Don't worry! This is easier than it sounds, because the components are used to make up all other kanji - so every time you look at a more complex kanji, you are also refreshing your memory of its components. The Kanshudo cascading kanji™ system of presenting each kanji followed by its components, and their components, and so on, makes this especially easy.
What does a frequency of 100 mean?
A frequency of 100 means the kanji is the 100th most commonly used kanji according to the Japanese government. 1 = most common; 3500 = least common of the kanji with frequency data. (Even less common kanji have no frequency entry.) For details on the frequency data used in Kanshudo, see the Introduction to the kanji.
What's the difference between radicals and components?
Both radicals and components are 'elements' from which more complex kanji are made up. The 'radicals' are a standardized list of 214 kanji elements (plus their variants) which were historically used by dictionaries to index the kanji. Before computers, kanji were typically only indexed by one element, so one element was chosen (sometimes arbitrarily) as the primary classifier. Today, however, we can find a kanji by looking for several elements at once, including elements that are not considered 'radicals' but are nevertheless in common use. We call these components.
For more information on components and radicals, see here.
For a full list of all components and radicals, see here.
For more information on the standard list of Japanese radicals, see this Wikipedia article (⇗)
Do you use English or American spelling in the readings / mnemonics?
Great question ... you may be asking this because you have noticed an inconsistency. That's very possible, and if so it's our creator's fault - he is English, but has lived in the US for over fifteen years! In general Kanshudo is standardizing on American spelling, so if you see any errors, please let us know. Thanks!
Where does the name Kanshudo come from?
It is a pseudo-Japanese word built from the characters 漢習道, which roughly translates as 'the way to kanji mastery'. To learn about the kanji used, look up Kanshudo in quick search.
Where can I read more about Kanshudo online?
You can read some user comments in our Testimonials page. Check out our Facebook page ⇗ - we post updates on new features and articles of general interest to Japanese learners regularly. We are also on Twitter ⇗. You can also read some discussion about us on Reddit ⇗.
Can you recommend a good Japanese textbook?
Yes! We can actually recommend several. Our Textbook Companion supports Adventures in Japanese, Genki, Minna no nihongo, and Japanese for Busy People. Each has different strengths and is suitable for a somewhat different audience.
  • Adventures in Japanese is the standard high school text in the US.
  • The Japanese for Busy People series is perhaps most popular amongst expat business people studying Japanese, as it takes a more conversational approach, and introduces kanji more slowly.
  • Genki is a very popular series, created by the publishers of the Japan Times, and provides a balanced mix of kanji and vocabulary.
  • Minna no Nihongo is a series that has stood the test of time, and the materials are available in several languages for students whose native language is not English.
Whichever textbook series you choose, the Textbook Companion enables you to benefit from all the power of Kanshudo while working through your textbook.
Why do I see squares in place of Japanese characters?
It's possible your device does not have the full range of Unicode characters that are needed to display some of the rarer characters. It's also possible your specific setup has an encoding problem which is just corrupting the display. The following simple test should diagnose the problem:
Your system Should be Notes
𤰔 This character is not included in the character set on various mobile devices, including iOS 1 through 9. If you are on a mobile device, and you can see the other characters in this list, there are only a handful of characters in the Kanshudo system that you will not be able to see.
This character is a common Jōyō kanji, and should be visible automatically on all modern computers, tablets and smartphones. If you do not see this character, you may be using an older system, or you may just have an encoding problem. In the View menu of your browser, look for an item called Encoding or Text Encoding and check it is set to UTF-8.
𠂉 This character is a commonly-used component in kanji (for example, it appears at the top of 年). However, it is not visible in some versions of the Chrome browser or the Android operating system.
What is Kanji Mastery and the Kanji Mastery Score?
Once you have registered with Kanshudo, the system monitors your interactions with various kanji - for example, every time you guess correctly or incorrectly in the quiz or a game, every time you study a flashcard, every time you tag a favorite. From these interactions, we infer your knowledge of that kanji and other similar kanji. Based on these inferences, we assign a mastery score from 0-4 for you personally to every kanji.
These mastery scores are visible to you from the kanji details page of any kanji, and aggregated into the Kanji Wheel (see the next question).
What is the Kanji Wheel?
The Kanji Wheel is a visual representation of your entire knowledge of Japanese kanji and kana. It is a simple and fun way to monitor your progress, and help you focus your studies.
The wheel is a set of 7 concentric rings, representing Japanese characters of different difficulty levels. The inner ring (1) represents hiragana and katakana, ring 2 represents the most common basic kanji, through to ring 7 which represents all non-Joyo kanji. Each ring is colored according to your knowledge of the kanji in that ring. You can click on different sections to instantly identify kanji you know well (or badly), and then automatically generate flashcards etc to guide your studies.
Visit your personalized Kanji Wheel now. For a more detailed overview of the Kanji Wheel, see our how-to guide, Your Kanji Mastery Score and Personalized Kanji Wheel.
I just took the Quiz - why isn't my Kanji Mastery Score higher?
The Kanshudo system infers your knowledge of kanji based on your interactions with it, and we try not to go too far just based on the Quiz alone, which is only one data point. So for example, we don't automatically flag you as mastering all kanji in level 1, just because you got a quiz score that indicates you know kanji in level 5. For many reasons, you may have learned kanji at higher levels sooner than some kanji at lower levels, and we don't want to flag kanji you don't know as mastered.
What we do is give you the option to specify your mastery level of a ring yourself if it seems likely to us that you have mastered it. So, for example, if you get a quiz score higher than 750 (which corresponds to knowledge of about 750 kanji), it's highly likely that you have mastered kanji in rings 1-3 (hiragana+katakana, plus the most common 250 kanji). So, in your intelligent study recommendations list (the list that appears below your personalized Kanji Wheel), you will see an option to flag rings 1-3 as mastered.
If you yourself are not sure whether you've mastered kanji in lower rings, we offer another option - eg in this case, to flag ring 3 as partially mastered, and rings 1-2 as mastered.
If you are not sure, don't click on either of these options! As you keep using the system, your score will gradually improve automatically as we gather more data. You can also edit your mastery score for any individual kanji directly from the kanji details page.
I've already mastered hiragana/katakana - how do I reflect that in my Kanji Mastery Score?
Congratulations! You have already taken a key first step, and Kanshudo can reflect that in your score. There are actually several ways to do this:
  1. The first thing to do is to take the Quiz. Your score will help to set a number of different variables in Kanshudo, which will 'infer' how well you know kanji below the level you get to, including hiragana and katakana.
  2. Depending on your Kanji Mastery Score, at a certain point you will be given some new options in the study recommendations which appear below your personalized kanji wheel. These options will let you set ring 1 (the hiragana/katakana ring) as partially mastered or mastered. See also I just took the Quiz - why isn't my Kanji Mastery Score higher? for more information.
  3. You could create and study flashcards for the hiragana and katakana You can create them by clicking on ring 1 of your Kanji Wheel, or directly from the hiragana / katakana introduction pages). That will directly set the mastery score for each card as you study it. If you need a bit of revision, this might be worthwhile.
  4. You can also directly edit the mastery scores of individual kanji on the details page. Of course, this would take a long time, so we don't recommend this over the options above. For example, here's the page for hiragana あ - scroll down to the section labeled My Kanji mastery to see your current level.
How does the Quiz help me understand my kanji level?
As with English vocabulary, kanji knowledge tends to operate in 'bands' based on frequency, i.e. how often you encounter each kanji. In other words, if you know some kanji in band 1-100 (where 1 = the kanji you encounter most frequently of all), you will probably know most of them. If you don't know one kanji in band 500-600, it's quite likely you won't know others. The Quiz helps you identify what frequency band you have reached, which enables you to focus your learning where it will be most effective.
Of course, recognizing kanji when you are shown their readings is a lot easier than coming up with the meanings without being shown anything, or (hardest of all) writing the kanji when being told a reading. But recognizing the kanji with some context is a great place to start, and the Quiz helps you understand your current level.
The Quiz is most useful if you are an intermediate or advanced kanji learner, because it will help you make your studies more efficient. But the Quiz can be fun to take for any level of student, and testing yourself is a form of studying, so go ahead even if you are a beginner!
Note: you can practice the Quiz here, or take the full Quiz here when you are ready. You can take the Quiz as many times as you like.
How does the scoring work in the Quiz?
The Quiz scores your kanji ability as follows:
  • You will be given a series of questions, each of which resembles the Kanji Match game - you drag a kanji over to its correct readings on the right.
  • The questions are drawn randomly from kanji within a frequency band, starting with the most common 100 and gradually working up. Before leaving each band, you are also randomly shown kanji in the full frequency range up to your current band.
  • In each band, you get points for questions you get right. When you get a certain number right, you move to the next frequency band up.
  • However, if you get a question wrong, the number of questions you need to get right to move to the next frequency band goes up! In other words, as you make mistakes, it gets harder to progress to the next level.
  • The Quiz ends when you make three mistakes in the frequency band you are on, or a total of seven mistakes across all frequency bands you've attempted.
Note: you can practice the Quiz here, or take the full Quiz here when you are ready. You can take the Quiz as many times as you like.
What are Study Points and how do I earn them?
Study Points are 'rewards points'. Every time you interact with Kanshudo, for example when you study a lesson, learn a flashcard, play a game, tag a kanji as a favorite etc, we reward you with study points. As you accumulate study points, you are automatically awarded coupons for free use of the system. The first coupon, WHITE, requires only 250 study points, which you can earn very quickly. The WHITE coupon gives you two free months of Pro access Kanshudo - during which time you still earn study points, and you can earn more coupons.
If you study on Kanshudo consistently, you will earn study coupons regularly. Some of our most active students have earned hundreds and in some cases thousands of hours of free use of the system.
View your current study points, or see how many points you need to earn the different study coupons.
How long does it take to learn the Jōyō kanji using Kanshudo?
Learning the Jōyō kanji means learning the 2136 kanji in 'daily use' in Japanese newspapers. This is also the set of kanji you are expected to know to pass the highest level of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). In other words, this is a good measure of a reasonable level of 'mastery' of Japanese.
The actual amount of time this takes will vary considerably from student to student. However, the administrators of the JLPT have in the past said that their expectation is that 3000-4500 hours of study are required to pass the highest level.
So how fast can you learn with Kanshudo? We have seen some evidence that the combination of techniques we use (mnemonics for kanji, games, integration of kanji / words / grammar / examples, our cascading kanji format etc) can provide a considerable speed boost. We have seen examples of students learning 1000+ kanji in six months. We have seen many students new to Japanese complete the Beginner Lessons (which introduce the most useful 100 kanji, along with words and grammar) in just a few weeks. Of course, this involves a lot of commitment and focus on the part of the student.
We are tracking the time students take to reach different kanji mastery scores, and when we have enough data, we will present a synthesis of our findings.
Why do I need to register for Kanshudo?
Kanshudo helps you master the kanji, by helping you study the kanji you don't know in a structured way. To do that, Kanshudo needs to remember what you already know, and to do that, we need to have a way of seeing who you are. Registration lets us store your Quiz results, your game results, your flashcards, and your progress with lessons, so that you can build on your progress over time.
What do I get if I subscribe to Kanshudo?
Subscribing to Kanshudo, i.e. becoming a Kanshudo Pro, gives you full and unlimited access to all features of Kanshudo. All your kanji searches are saved and accessible in your search history. You can take all 20 Beginner Lessons and all 55 lessons in the intermediate course, the 53 Stages of the Kanshudo. All Pro features (such as detailed study history, advanced flashcard management, vocab list download etc) are enabled. You can take the Quiz and play games such as Kanji Match or Word Match an unlimited number of times. Perhaps most valuable of all, you can create an unlimited number of sets of kanji or vocab flashcards, for use on a computer or smartphone. For a full list of all the benefits, see here.
What is Joy o' Kanji and how much does it cost?
Joy o' Kanji is producing a detailed essay in the form of a 10-15 page PDF on every single Joyo kanji. Each essay contains a wealth of information on the background and usage of the kanji, along with examples and images, which will give you a truly deep perspective on the featured character. The Joy o' Kanji essays are a perfect complement to a study plan - studying an essay will give you a level of insight into a kanji that no other study method can reproduce.
You can get access to Joy o' Kanji essays in several ways. When you go Pro, you can optionally include access to essays. A monthly subscription to Kanshudo + Joy o' Kanji gives you access to an additional four essays per month (any four from the existing library or new ones as they come out). An annual subscriptino gives you access to any 20 per month. A lifetime subscription gives you access to the entire library at any time.
Joy o' Kanji essays are produced at the rate of about one a week, and currently there are essays for about 400 kanji. An essay is available for any kanji when you see the JOK emblem next to it in search results: . Clicking the emblem will enable you to purchase or download the essay.
How much does it cost?
A Pro subscription to Kanshudo costs $6 per month, or $60 per year (for a saving of 20%).This is unbeatable value - an entire year year of Kanshudo Pro access costs less than a single Japanese lesson, textbook, or Japanese dictionary in many parts of the world. With Kanshudo, you get a dictionary, grammar reference, Japanese game machine, and personal AI tutor all in one place!
To go Pro or see a feature comparison for the different levels of access, see here.
Why do I need to enter a credit card if I have a coupon?
For a non-recurring plan, there is actually no need to enter a credit card - if you prefer, you can pay with PayPal or Apple Pay. However, for recurring plans, where the payment is made automatically each month or year, we do require a credit card on file.
We have a minimum billing amount per payment cycle of $2. If the total of your valid coupons is less than the payment due, you will be able to apply the full amount of the coupons. If it is greater than the payment due, you will pay the minimum amount, and your remaining discount will be carried over to the next cycle.
For example, if your bill is $6 and you have coupons worth $6, you will pay the minimum amount of $2, using $4 of your coupons. The remaining discount of $2 will be applied to your next bill, which would be $4.
For more on earning study coupons, see here.
Note: we do not store your credit card details - they are passed securely to our payment processor, Stripe, and do not even pass through our servers.
Can I pay with PayPal?
Yes! PayPal is integrated into the site, and you can use it to pay for Kanshudo Pro access.
Can I pay with Apple Pay?
Yes! Apple Pay is integrated into the site, and you can use it to pay for Kanshudo Pro access. You will need to access Kanshudo using Safari on an Apple device in order to see the Apple Pay option.
What is your cancellation policy?
When you go Pro, you have the option to set up recurring billing, in which case you will be billed monthly or yearly depending on your plan. If you don't select recurring billing, your Pro access will end at the end of the period you have paid for. If you select recurring billing, you can cancel your subscription at any time, and your Pro access will continue until the end of your current period. There are no costs for cancelling your plan at any time.
You can view your current status and billing details at any time from your account page.
Once your Pro access expires, you'll revert to Registered User status, with applicable access restrictions. Your data will remain on the system, so you can resubscribe at any time. See here for more details on the difference between the various levels of access.
What happens to my data if I cancel my subscription?
Nothing. We will continue to store your data for you. You can resubscribe (and recancel) at any time, and you will immediately have access to all your data. Please note, however, that once you have cancelled your access will be restricted to Registered User levels until you resubscribe. See here for more details on the difference between the various levels of access.
Tell me about Kanshudo the company.
Kanshudo was founded by Jonathan Kirk to provide a better way to learn Japanese. Jonathan is a Cambridge-educated engineer, educator and entrepreneur with a lifelong love of Japan and Japanese. He scored over 80% on the N1 (the highest level of the JLPT, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) in 1997, after studying Japanese for about four years using the method that eventually became Kanshudo. Jonathan also designed much of the key technology that powers the Kanshudo system. Jonathan is still passionate about learning and teaching Japanese, and runs Kanshudo's day to day activities.
Kanshudo the company was established in late 2014, and today is based in San Francisco, near the heart of Silicon Valley. Our team is comprised of Japanese speakers, editors and teachers, as well as machine learning software developers, and is located all over the world (but primarily in the US and Japan).
Our mission is to provide the most engaging and effective system for learning Japanese, combining proven language learning techniques, personalized study recommendations developed through machine learning, and in-depth Japanese-specific data and insights.
Where does Kanshudo data come from?
Kanshudo data comes from a variety of external sources, as well as research conducted internally. You can find specific acknowledgements in our credits page.
I have another question!
If you don't see an answer to your question here, try a Site search. Site search is a quick way to find answers to your questions or features on the site. You can also take the Tour, or check the Site index.
If you need help or are not finding answers to your questions, feel free to Contact us directly.
Kanshudo is your AI Japanese tutor, and your constant companion on the road to mastery of the Japanese language. To get started learning Japanese, just follow the study recommendations on your Dashboard. You can use Quick search (accessible using the icon at the top of every page) to look up any Japanese word, kanji or grammar point, as well as to find anything on Kanshudo quickly. For an overview, take the tour.