After Remembering the Kanji Volume 1

The following is written assuming that the reader is familiar with James Heisig's book Remembering the Kanji Volume 1 (RTK1) and spaced repetition flash card software such as the Reviewing the Kanji website, Anki, Mnemosyne, Supermemo, etc. In fact, I'm going to assume not only familiarity, but also that the reader is convinced by the merits of both.

17 May 2008



After completing RTK 1, I continued to use flash cards to review the writing of all of the 2042 characters in the book. After RTK 1 should come RTK 2 but in my opinion the method described in RTK 2, although interesting and useful, isn't sufficient or effective enough. This webpage describes the method I used to try and integrate the efforts that I had made with RTK 1 with the rest of my Japanese studies. I'm going to make the work that I've done freely available and hopefully other people will find this useful.


After assessing things, I realised that I knew how to write 2042 kanji but that I didn't know how to associate them all with Japanese language. Instead, I had associated all of the kanji with English words whose meaning was an approximation to the true meaning of each kanji. A great first step, but what next? Heisig said that after completing the book, the English keywords would fade away and the Japanese language associated with each kanji would replace them. But how was this going to happen if I'm using flash cards every day that contain the English keywords?

I set myself this goal:

Continue to practice the writing of the characters using the imagery and stories from RTK 1 but associate kanji with Japanese language instead of English

The Solution

What I did was very simple. I went through each of my flash cards and I replaced the English keyword with Japanese. Here are some examples:

Before, my flash cards looked like this:

Question Answer

Now, my flash cards look like this:

Question Answer
かがやく 輝く

With the help of several members of the community from the Reviewing the Kanji Forums, I have compiled a list of Japanese prompts that replace the English keyword prompts. (By prompts, I mean the question part of the flash card that prompts you to produce the answer part)

Very simple but it's been amazing how much of a difference it has made. Before I discuss the details, I'll describe some of the benefits that I've found.


Despite completing RTK 1 in 2006, I only really got started with this project last year. I have been reviewing using Japanese keywords for 10 months now and I can honestly say that it has made a huge difference to my reading and writing ability in Japanese. Specifically, I have noticed the following improvements:

  • When I hear Japanese being spoken, I often will unconsciously visualise the associated kanji. This did not happen when I was reviewing with English keywords.
  • I can often guess the pronunciation of new words that contain kanji I know.
  • I can now talk to Japanese people about the kanji I know how to write by using the Japanese prompt.
  • I can now honestly say (to potential employers etc.) exactly how many kanji I can write.
  • I rarely have to look up kanji by radical or stroke count because I can usually type at least one pronunciation into my electronic dictionary or my pc.
  • No more frustrating confusion with the English keywords that have similar meanings
  • No more frustration with English keywords I didn't agree with e.g. town = 村, village = 町 ??? 

If you're still interested then please read on.