SRS courses for kanji mastery

This page describes free SRS tools several people have made for learning kanji with the Kanji Learner’s Course.

The KLC is a system for learning and remembering the core meanings and word-building functions of kanji while learning thousands of useful vocabulary words. It has a superb system of general & mnemonic notes for all of its 2300 kanji, an ideal learning order, and sample vocab using only kanji learned up to that point. Combining it with SRS, you can learn and remember 2300 kanji and 7200 words in about 450 hours (230 lessons averaging about 2 hours each). There is also a more compact list of roughly 3400 words that reduces your SRS review time for the vocab portion.

Study the kanji and sample vocabulary together, because the vocabulary is the ideal way to reinforce the kanji (including kanji studied earlier) and learn how they are used and pronounced in real words. You can either study a kanji lesson followed by the corresponding vocab lesson (Anki or Memrise), or study them together in the same cards (Anki only).

The rest of this page describes these courses and how to use them. Check the bottom section for information on using Anki vs. Memrise.



This course (Anki / Memrise) tests each kanji’s core meanings, as well as each kanji’s main on-yomi (optional). At least in the Memrise version, it also displays the kanji’s KLC entry number and KLD entry number.

Only one on-yomi is listed for each kanji, since the course recommends against trying to memorize every on-yomi of every kanji. Kun-yomi are not listed at all in the kanji course, since these are covered thoroughly in the Key 7200 vocab course.

The KLC recommends against trying to memorize kanji readings. Instead you should associate kanji with real words and remember the pronunciations of the words. But in case you would at least like to remember each kanji’s main on-yomi, the SRS kanji course provides this.

At least in the Memrise version, each item in the kanji course includes the corresponding entry number in the Kanji Learner’s Dictionary (KLD), so that you can refer to it for more information. You should do this for every kanji that has more than one core meaning, or which you know from outside knowledge to be an important kanji contained in lots of words.

The app version of the KLD is cheaper than the book, and is easy to navigate. To find the page for a kanji, just type “@“ in the app’s search window, followed by the number. For example, to find the character marked “KKLD 0079”, just enter “@79”. Or just open the Browser (tap the “0001” icon), tap “By SKIP”, and then scroll to the number using the right-hand thumb bar for rapid scrolling. The app conveniently allows you to tap on any word to navigate to the entries of all the other kanji in the word!!


Studying this selection of 7200 useful & instructive sample words helps you really grasp the 2300 KLC kanji and how they are used as word-building elements. Because of the way KLC works, each word you study serves a triple function: it allows you not only to expand your vocabulary, but also to master the kanji’s meanings, readings, & word-building functions, as well as to review earlier kanji (because words contain only kanji already covered!).

The 7200 words in this SRS course (Anki / Memrise) consist of the 3000-4000 “suggested” words from the book (the ones marked with a circle), and a selection of other words to take better advantage of the vocabulary provided in the book. Unlike the book, it includes example words for the first 50 kanji, since many of these are actually really useful words.

Update: If you prefer a smaller selection of vocab, try this Key 3400 deck (Anki only), created by some other KLC users to support the community. Please give their deck a good Anki rating if you like it! (ditto for the Key 7200)


This amazing combined deck was created by another generous KLC user to support the community. Please give his deck a good Anki rating if you like it!

NB: This deck might still have a few bugs, so check the linked page for future updates.

Updated 2016年8月15日 to distinguish between important and less important vocab.


This information applies to the "KLC Key 7200 for Kanji Mastery" deck on Memrise.  Some information may not apply to the Anki decks (7200 or 3400).

These are some practical details that you can come back to after you have started the course and can see what the cards look like.
  • Each word is listed with its four-digit KLC entry number. For kanji that have more than one core meaning, a one-digit number (1, 2, or 3) indicates which core meaning the word illustrates. If the word does not correspond to one unique core meaning, or the kanji only has one core meaning in the first place (this is most kanji), the one-digit number is replaced by an underscore “ _”.
  • A few compounds (like “一日”) correspond to multiple words with different meanings and different pronunciations. These are marked “irregular reading”/“regular reading” or “on-yomi”/“kun-yomi”, to allow you to distinguish which reading is being tested. This is not done when a compound has different readings with the same meaning, as such a compound is really just a single word (although the alternative pronunciation will be listed).
  • Cards consisting of a single kanji (without any kana or other kanji) are all kun-yomi words; for example, 目 by itself represents the word “め” (eye). So within this course, you should read all one-character items with their kun-yomi. This rule applies only within this course, as single kanji words can also be on-yomi (if less frequently).
  • Independent kun-yomi words marked with a “(2)” can represent two distinct words with different meanings. For example, 間 corresponds both to あいだ (during; between; interval, space) and to ま (time; interval; space; room).
  • If you see a card with two correct answers, you can disambiguate by looking at the reading. For example, the prompt “Face” could have two correct answers: (a) 顔面 and (b) 顔. If the reading says がんめん, then you know the correct answer is (a).


One of the things I like best about the KLC kanji course course is how it allows you to review related kanji together so that you’re really thinking about the differences among them as you learn them. As the authors state in the book, this is the best way to solve the “differentiation” problem. For example, KLC puts 壊 (#1666) right between 壌 (#1665) and 懐 (#1667), the two kanji that look most like it. Not only do you learn those kanji together in the KLC, but you also review them in close succession in the SRS course. This really allows you to internalize their differences and recognize each kanji for what it is.

Also, the book’s vocab and learning order is set up so that you get regular review on kanji you just studied. For example, 公 89 (“PUBLIC”) gets reviewed soon after in vocab items for entries 109 (公式), 169 (公的), 170 (公約), etc. Similarly, 崩 1650 (“CRUMBLE”) comes up again a few pages later at 1666, in the vocab word 崩壊. This happens throughout the course.


* The single most important thing you can do to improve your learning efficiency is to remove the items you already know well. In Memrise, look for the “Ignore this word” button. Anki also gives you an easy way to remove items.

* Together the kanji course and Key 7200 course allow you to learn and remember 2300 kanji and 7200 words in about 450 hours. To avoid making your learning too kanji-intensive, you should spread these 450 hours over at least a year while studying grammar and practicing your listening and speaking. If you are just taking one Japanese class per school  term, then you should spread out the 450 hours over at least 4-6 terms. The Key 3400 probably reduces the total time from 450 hours to 400 hours or so (it only reduces the vocab SRS time, which is a small portion of the total time).

The rest of the information below will be easier to understand once you have opened the courses.


The KLC recommends against trying to memorize kanji readings, and instead urges you to associate kanji with real words and remember the pronunciations of the words. However, in case you would at least like to remember each kanji’s main on-yomi, you can test yourself on these by just trying to pronounce the kanji out loud when you see it (as either a prompt or as an answer choice). Anki hides the readings on the back of the card. Memrise always shows the main on-yomi, but it is easy enough to ignore since it appears in small print on a gray background (update: depending on your device/platform: Memrise may display the on-yomi in large font without the gray background).

For either the Key 7200 or Key 3400 vocab courses, you should definitely test yourself on the readings, not just on the meanings.
  • For Memrise users: When you see the word (as either a prompt or as an answer choice), try to read it out loud, and then check your pronunciation against the one listed. Again, it’s small enough that you can avoid reading it before you’re ready. If you get the meaning right but not the reading, just deliberately tap on one of the wrong answers (or type Esc in the web interface), so that Memrise won’t think you’ve mastered it. You should not consider yourself to know a word until you know how to pronounce it.

For extra writing practice, it’s a good idea to test yourself on the readings by actually writing out the kana by hand before checking the answer (this is better than typing, since writing kana is a harder skill to master). Even if you did this just 10% of the time, it would give you a lot of writing practice. When you’re not writing out the kana, you should pronounce the word out loud when you can.

For Memrise users: As mentioned above, you can always test yourself on the reading, even when the prompt is just the English definition (just test yourself on the reading once you identify the correct Japanese answer).


(1) Study ten entries in the KLC. As you learn each kanji, make sure to write it out several times, while thinking about how the different strokes and parts relate to each other. Also read through each vocab word, pronouncing it out loud. Try to make sense of why the vocab words mean what they do (see KLC Appendix 4 for help), but don’t bother testing yourself on them, since the SRS will take care of that. This part should take about 80-90 minutes.

(2) Study the same ten entries in the SRS kanji course, which is divided into levels of ten kanji each. This should take 8-10 minutes.

(3) Study the vocab for the same ten entries in the Key 7200 or Key 3400 course (just complete the same level as you studied in the kanji course). This should take about 20-22 minutes for the Key 7200 course, or about 10 minutes for the Key 3400 course.

If you use the combined deck (Anki only), steps 2 and 3 are done together.



Most people prefer Anki as their SRS tool, but Memrise is easier if you want to avoid the Anki learning curve.

If you would like to learn Anki, try this manual with tutorial videos. Also check out the specific tips listed by the creator of whatever deck you're using, and use google for any questions or troubleshooting (you will find plenty of community support for using Anki).


You can use Memrise for SRS using their web interface and by downloading the free mobile app (recommended).

How many words to learn per session

You should set Memrise to 10 new words per session, otherwise you will get excessive repetition of the same words in a short period. Ten is also a good number since that’s the number of kanji in each lesson.

The settings on web and mobile are independent, so you need to set them separately. They may even be independent within mobile (tablet and phone).

Do I have to pay anything?

If you don't have a Memrise subscription, it will periodically prompt you with a subscription popup. You can keep going indefinitely without subscribing, by tapping "Back" and then continuing. I assume they label the button "Back" so that you will think that you can't move forward without subscribing. In fact you can do the whole course for free. I am not discouraging you from subscribing, but I am not clear about what benefits that has.

If you see a ”Take the free trial" popup, just tap it and do whatever practice exercise they give you. It may be a special exercise to give you a taste of what's available in "Pro". It doesn't subscribe you to anything.

Interface: Mobile versus web

There is no big advantage in using the web interface, since these courses do not require typing. However using the web version does allow you to consult other websites/software on the fly, and it allows you to answer questions with numbers (since the numbers sometimes go up to 8, a number pad is a good investment if you plan to study many hours with the web version).

My preferred Memrise interface is the phone app, since it’s easy to reach all answers with one’s thumb, which also conveniently blocks out the answer choices! The tablet version works the same way, but the tablet screen is too big since it’s harder to reach the buttons. It's also too big for your thumb to cover the answers.

Why the meanings appear first in Memrise

Because of the way Memrise works, it was important that the English meanings be input in the first field. This means that they appear on top, in large print (especially on the web interface), when the kanji or word is first introduced. Not ideal, but also not a big deal.

Scripts (web-version only)

I recommend you install scripts to disable the Memrise timer:

Different browsers use different extensions for scripts: