The Kanshudo system: mnemonics and cascading kanji™

The Kanshudo system for learning kanji is based on a combination of two key learning concepts: mnemonics, and what we call 'cascading kanji'. Both are very powerful memory techniques, which enable you to memorize a kanji quickly and easily. Even better, with the Kanshudo approach, every time you look up a kanji, you are also refreshing your memory of all the kanji components that make up that kanji.

Mnemonics and components

Mnemonics are memory aids - typically rhymes or phrases that are easy to remember. Mnemonics are an extremely effective way to memorize large volumes of information. They are much faster than rote memorization. Every kanji in Kanshudo has its own unique mnemonic which makes it easy to remember.
Since most kanji are composed of smaller components, each of which has its own meaning, the Kanshudo system uses those components in the mnemonic. This is a powerful technique, because it means that you are reviewing the component kanji at the same time.
Kanshudo works by breaking each kanji down into components, and putting the meanings of each component together into an easy-to-remember sentence known as a mnemonic.

Let's take an example: 茶

Consider the kanji 茶, which means 'tea'. Looking closely, you can see this is composed of three parts:
... a common variant of 艸, which means 'grass'
... a common variant of 人, 'man'
... this most closely resembles katakana 'ho', which is often used as a variant of 木, 'tree'
Putting these three elements together with the meaning of the character, 'tea', we create a simple and easy to remember mnemonic, as follows:
the man (𠆢) in the tree (ホ) makes the grass (艹) into tea
チャ さ tea

Cascading kanji™

The beauty of the Kanshudo system comes from the 'cascading kanji' way of displaying the kanji. In addition to displaying the kanji you searched for, we look at each component, and also display that, along with its components, and so on. This is a fantastic tool for learning, because every time you look at a more complex kanji, you are also revising all its components. The most common components come up literally hundreds of times, so you will very quickly become familiar with them.
For example, here is how the kanji 茶 is displayed in search results:
チャ   サ    tea   
Please LOG IN to view this kanji's mnemonic
ジン   ニン   ひと man   
katakana 'ho'; tree
The green stars on the right of each kanji enable you to mark any kanji as a 'Favorite' - try it now with any of the kanji above. You can tag kanji, words, and grammar points as Favorites. You can then review your Favorites any time, and use them for Quick Study or Flashcards. Click here to search for 茶 yourself.
Wherever you see kanji in the cascading kanji format, they are colored based on type:
  • Jōyō, e.g.:
  • Jinmeiyō, e.g.:
  • Hyogaiji, e.g.:
For more information on these classifications, see our kanji collections, or read more about kanji generally.

Next steps

Ready to get started? Take the Quiz, then visit your personalized kanji wheel for intelligent study recommendations. Or if you prefer, dive in with a Beginner or Intermediate lesson, or choose your textbook in the Textbook Companion. Visit our Feature overview or FAQ to find out more about what Kanshudo has to offer.
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.