I'm currently learning kanji using the Heisig method. I think it is a really good system and, relative to my original expectations, I've been making good progress. However, there are also many kanjis that I have trouble remembering because the provided story doesn't really stick with me.

I think it would be nice if there was online service where I can lookup any kanji and get a list of user-provided stories. Ordered by vote count. Similar to the stack-exchange websites.

As far as I know there is no kanji-story website that has these features. I can imagine that building one would take a lot of effort. On top of that it is likely to die a silent death if there is no active userbase to support it.

Levering the technology and userbase of this website is far more likely to be successful. And even though this website is designed as a Q&A database, and not a kanji story database, it can easily be made into one if we introduce some rules on the structure of the content and tags in order to distinguish them from regular questions.

Here is an example:

  • Q: Kanji stories for 誠?
  • Tags: kanji-stories, kanji-stories-for-誠, kanji-stories-for-jlpt-?, kanji-stories-with-13-strokes

The general format behind all questions would be:

  • Q: Kanji stories for {KANJI}?
  • Tags: kanji-stories, kanji-stories-for-{KANJI}, kanji-stories-for-jlpt-{N}, kanji-stories-with-{N}-strokes

I think this system may work well for the following reasons:

  • The tag system conveniently allows filtering kanji stories for a jlpt level, stroke count, or some other property. This way you can quickly find a list of stories for kanjis that you're currently learning.
  • If a story is not yet posted as a question then anyone is free to do so.
  • If the asker doesn't know the kanji's JLPT level or stroke count then he can use kanji-stories-for-jlpt-? as a placeholder tag and leave it up to the community to fix it.
  • The bounty system can help for unpopular or rare kanjis.
  • Duplicate entries are unlikely due to the strict formatting in the title and the required tags.
  • Rep gain is a motivating factor for both asking and replying.

Potential risks:

  • It's likely that some users will provide stories directly from the Heisig book. If this happens too much then it can be considered copyright violation. So we should forbid this and actively delete answers that violoate this rule.
  • Some people might become jealous if other users gain a lot of rep by posting many kanji questions. A possible solution would be to make these questions community wiki by default. But I hope this won't be necessary.

Last but not least: This would be incredibly valuable for kanji learners!

Let me know what you think.

  • 4
    In the introduction to Heisig's book, he specifically says that you should make up your own stories, and his suggestions are merely examples to get you started. Using your own stories make the mnemonics more relevant to you specifically. I made the mistake when I used the Heisig method of thinking using only his stories would be easier. I was totally wrong. Making up your own personal stories is ten times more effective than using anyone elses.
    – Questioner
    Jan 6, 2012 at 4:03
  • @DaveMG Good advice. :)
    – Alenanno
    Jan 6, 2012 at 11:22
  • @DaveMG I often find Heisig's original stories better than anything I can imagine. Take the kanji for revolving (components are "car" and "rising cloud"). I would typically end up with something like a spinning car on top of a rising cloud. In Heisig's story the wheels of a car start spinning out of control forming a cloud of dust. I find this easier to remember. I bet that user contributions would lead to even more memorable stories. Jan 6, 2012 at 17:30
  • @StackedCrooked: I have faith in you. Stop telling yourself your ideas are not good enough, and I'm sure you'll be able to imagine whatever you need in order to remember the kanji. Tip: Don't be afraid to imagine things that are weird or embarrassing, because you will never have to reveal them to anyone and sometimes the "shocking" stuff is easier to remember. In any case, this site is not really set up to mine people's imagination for coming up with stories. It's to answer specific questions directly about Japanese. What you're asking for is too far removed. Sorry :(
    – Questioner
    Jan 6, 2012 at 18:52
  • Don't be silly stackedcrooked! I often find that the crazy stories are the ones that I'm more likely to remember...I never used the Heisig method, but I think making mnemonics for kanji is a pretty standard learning method :) Jan 9, 2012 at 2:01
  • I think everybody makes stories for most kanji they are learning (more or less rooted in the actual etymology). As for Heisig's, I personally don't care for them. Most of them are very contrived and not particularly helpful to me (not to mention, often very US-centric in themes)... which is not to say I think good stories cannot be shared, just that his aren't all that. But if people really find RTK useful, more power to them!
    – Dave
    Feb 1, 2012 at 15:40

3 Answers 3


Please do not do it on japanese.stackexchange.com. Having a few thousand “Kanji stories for some kanji” questions is very likely to be detrimental to the use of the website for the users who are not interested in seeing those stories.

(If you want to build a separate website like that, then go ahead and good luck.)

  • Like I mentioned in my post: the idea would be to use tags to distinguish stories from regular questions. The 'kanji-stories' tag can be added to the "Ignored tags". And, like I also said in my post, building my own website and gathering a big-enough user-base is not really realistic. Jan 6, 2012 at 17:24
  • 2
    @StackedCrooked Even if you create such tag, perhaps only you and a few more people will be using it, with the majority of people not knowing what it is. I had never heard of that method, and is too specific.
    – user458
    Jan 6, 2012 at 18:45
  • 3
    @StackedCrooked: (1) I do not think that the “ignored tag” feature solves the problem like magic. japanese.stackexchange.com is currently providing good services to a solid user base. You are just trying to mix a website for different group of people into it. That will not be a good thing. (2) Of course you have to make proportional effort to build something new. If you do not want to make that effort, then your idea will not become real. Jan 7, 2012 at 0:24
  • 1
    +1 I think that your idea is a good one, but this site is not the place for it :D Jan 9, 2012 at 2:02

Just to point out, there IS such a website out there!

Join us over at http://kanji.koohii.com . Note that the site makes at least some effort to avoid negatively affecting sales of Heisig's book, so please balance a feature request with that thought in mind. If you find it doesn't have an indexing or listing feature you're looking for, an external list could probably be created.

The only thing that I wouldn't use is the "voted on stories", simply because I made up nearly all of mine. But for any given kanji, the site does list stories shared by many people, as well as managing an internal SRS system. (EDIT: And I've never noticed, but it does appear to have a "most voted up" story ranking system)

One thing that can be helpful when you're inventing your own heisig-style stories is to use something like jisho.org (I personally use the jishop iphone app) to look up all kanji that use a particular primative (radical, to the non-heisiggers), to see what other contexts a particular radical appears. Sometimes a meaning will occur to you immediately, otherwise it takes a bit of forcing.


First off: the answer is NO. JLU is not designed for that purpose.

Actually, there are many websites already doing what you are describing.

In addition to the website linked by jkerian above, you can also have a look at: http://kanjistory.com (full disclosure: I am the author)

Although it's unmaintained at the moment, it's still fully usable and designed for the purpose you are describing.

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