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Reader Response
November-December, 2003

Heisig's book fires up Chinese Malaysian's kanji study

I am a Malaysian Chinese and I was in Japan last month. I stumbled across the Kanji Clinic web site while reading The Japan Times. I found a LINK on your site to the first 125 pages of James Heisig's, Remembering the Kanji I, and have almost finished them. I have been able to memorize most of the characters. I have found that most of the stories Heisig formulated can be very well remembered and applied to the characters. I really got interested after reading his "computer" story. Of course some stories take a few readings to remember. However, at least the stories provide the basis where to start. I have ordered the Heisig's book I & III & III through Amazon.

I did a total of 6 years of Mandarin/Chinese during my schooling days (when I was 9 till 15 years old). It was a 40 minutes per week class. Mandarin was not an essential subject at that time as our major languages were Malay and English. I cannot remember how many characters I have learnt. But it was all the classical way of learning - writing over and over again and memory. I know how the strokes in each character are written.

I have not resumed learning Mandarin until this month (23 years since the last schooling class ) after reading the first 125 pages of Heisig's book. I have had a strong desire to learn Mandarin since some 7-8 years ago after being involved in business dealings with mainly Malaysian Chinese businessmen (some of them were educated using Mandarin as a major language).

I will be proud that I am finally able to read/write Kanji (bearing much similarity with Mandarin) - especially since I am of Chinese grass root. It was impossible prior to Heisig's book - too much time and memory needed. Not possible to do it systematically.

The interest to learn grew greater after my Japan trip last month. It will make me able to improve my knowledge from materials written in Kanji and explore further the Japanese businesses and community.

Best Regards.

Note: If you are interested in learning Chinese using Heisig's method please check out this dissertation.
Check out Yomihoudai

Just a quick note to let you know that I have my own Web Domain for the Japanese reader, formerly called "Yomiyasui" and now called "Yomihoudai" at

Development is ongoing (currently 26 Japanese texts to read) and plans include mediating in the other direction - English to Japanese, adding Speech Synthesis, and adding a 'Google' style toolbar to the Firebird Web Browser.

Stephen Nightingale
What is this coat made of?!

The following anonymous letter recently came to the Kanji Clinic:

"I wonder if you can help me. I am trying to find out the most mundane of things, yet it seems to have led me into a linguistic quandary. I bought a coat the other week, and conversations with two of my Japanese colleagues while looking at the label have concluded that it is made of "hair."I'm sure you know the kanji I mean but I don't know how to put it on this e-mail. I've been told this is an indeterminate word to mean something from an animal in origin. I bought it assuming it is wool, but now I'm intrigued and not a little suspicious..."

The kanji on the coat label is probably , which means "hair of humans or animals." The compound for "wool" is r literally, "sheep's hair." Can any site visitor help us out by explaining why labels on clothing, presumably made of wool, would have only and not the entire compound r written on them? My husband's winter sweaters, purchased in Japan, have similar labels.

Peruvian hopes to learn kanji using Tetris

A friend recommended your page to me. This weekend I enjoyed reading the first ten columns of your Kanji Clinic. I am living in Lima, Peru. Luckily the access to Internet is not so difficult. I print the columns at work to be able to read them at home. It's fun to remember kanji using De Roo's method which appears in column #1.

I was on scholarship in Okinawa 3 years ago. My Japanese level is elementary, I think, and I remember only basic kanji and conversation patterns. I think Japanese culture is very interesting, however I only can read Spanish and technical English.

Okinawa was my first time in foreign country. Father's family is from there. I think that Okinawa is the best place that I have seen and I remember with affection its people and places. I hope to be able to return to Japan someday... and to be able to enjoy its books too.

Do you know Tetris game? I saw a tetris-like game for learning typewriting. This method could be very useful to practice kanji readings in variable velocity. In Tetris, a Russian origin video game, basic idea is to be accommodating blocks that fall. There are several types of blocks that can fit to form lines, like a little puzzle, then they disappear and you win points. The speed is slightly increased too. You lose when the lines cannot be formed as fast as the blocks fall, but you can retry.

I saw a typewriting game based in this idea. You can see it at


I think other learning challenges could use this approach: music reading, japanese reading, kanji meaning asociation (perhaps fitting kanjis to meanings)... since learning by games is fun. As an amateur programmer I will try to implement that idea to kanji learning... soon, I hope.

Best wishes,

Antonio Kobashikawa-Carrasco
Lima, Peru
How the heck do you learn kanji proununciations using Heisig's method?

Thank you so much for your very informative column in the Japan Times. Today's column ("What's the point in learning to write kanji?") convinced me that there is still value in learning to write the kanji. In fact this column seemed particularly relevant to me as I am learning kanji by the "endless copying method" and all I seem to be doing is filling up dog eared notebooks as well! Perhaps it is my age - I am 43 and have only just started. I am told by everyone that I am crazy trying to do this so late in life!! I have now studied about 400 kanji but do not claim to "know" them by any means.

I have purchased "Remembering the Kanji" and can see how Mr. Heisig's methods of linking the kanji with stories can work. I used his methods and book to learn the hiragana and katakana. However what I do not understand is this: Surely you need to know how to pronounce them as well, but this book does not have either the on or kun readings. All I am learning is the symbol and a meaning. Can you please explain how I link in the pronunciation and the hirigana/katakana equivalents as per something like the Basic Kanji series of texts. At the rate I am going I am beginning to believe that the disbelievers are right and I will have pushed up the daisies before I learn the 1,945 kanji, which is is my goal.

Again thank you for your column and I look forward to any advice you can provide as a continue on my journey with the Kanji.

Kind regards,
Juliette Carson

Mary Noguchi's response

Dear Juliette,
I am glad you found my column useful. Thank you for taking the time to write me with words of encouragement.

Heisig takes a "divide and conquer" approach, which is particularly suitable to learners like yourself who desire to learn all the general-use characters and are thus more likely to have patience for a relatively long-term approach. As for the readings, I personally found it useful to learn them in context by reading a variety of materials with furigana (readings written in hiragana above kanji). May I ask you to read a letter I wrote to a site visitor back in May? ("Heisig's book enabled me to pass Level 1," second letter on the page)

Best of luck in your kanji study, and I hope to hear progress reports from you in the coming months.

Best wishes,
47 years of age and still an effective kanji learner
Learner develops freeware for advanced level kanji

Please tell your readers about my freeware kanji learning material, the Maktos Kanji Collection. I've studied Japanese with greater or lesser intensity since Fall 1996. I've been learning Japanese in various ways these last 6 1/2 years. I used to use Anime, Manga, J-pop, video games, books, internet, NJStar WP & dictionary, etc. but now I just practice translating websites. I use books, NJStar, and my Japanese Bible (also a recording of the Bible read in Japanese). I'm still of course trying to learn more Kanji - you can never learn enough.

I've found that the more Kanji you know, the easier it is to learn many Japanese words. I'm one of those who has reached the "800 mark" as far as # of Kanji recognized, but I've come through much experience (and textbook searching) to realize that there are no good flash cards (etc) for the harder kanji. There are so many places to learn the Kanji for "Day", "Moon", etc. but VERY few books or flashcards to deal with the intermediate/advanced Kanji! All you can get is a book with all 2000 Kanji - 2 X 4 inches of paper is devoted to each kanji. All you get is a few compounds using each one, and you're on to
the next one. Where are the flashcards? The advanced Kanji, so extremely complex, are the HARDEST to learn. They need more attention than "Tsuki/Getsu", not less! Why is it that so many students of Japanese hit a ceiling when they have learned around 700 Kanji? Lack of good study materials?

To FILL THIS VOID is the aim of this Maktos Kanji Collection! I decided not to give out the SAME simple Kanji which so many kanji learners already know (Yama, Taberu, Tsuki, Nen, Ichi, Ni, San, etc.). On the contrary, the Kanji in this set are mostly JLPT 2-level Kanji, with some JLPT-3 mixed in.

This freeware can be used as a windows desktop wallpaper for study. You can use it in other ways, I suppose (print them out, etc.) the point is to go in-depth about one individual DIFFICULT kanji, the way so many other programs, flash cards, and books do for the FIRST 440 kanji. I made these, thinking they would help me, and then I realized they would help others just as much.

You get 30 pieces of Kanji wallpaper! Of course, they are yours to keep - the bitmaps don't "expire" after a length of time. *grin*


Download directly from this link: (239 Kb download)

Matthew McDevitt
Rockford, Illinois USA
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