Going for a Heisig99

I thought I’d post this here for a bit of extra accountability.

I’ve been in a self-imposed PhD silo since January, but since finishing my draft I’m allowing myself a bit more slack for fun tasks and experiments. One of those is to work on my mnemonic skills and techniques. One thing I’ve identified as being a bit of a problem (where I’m slow) is in mental visualisation, which if you know anything about those techniques you’ll know that the visual capacity is at the core.

Anyway, one thing I decided to do to improve my visualisation is to do a lot of it. So I’m going to do a “Heisig99”, which is basically to learn all the Japanese Kanji symbols in under 100 days. That’s 2200 symbols, though all I’m doing is learning how to write them and to recognise their meaning when I see them. I’m leaving the pronunciation of them to a future date. [I’m following the methodology outlined [here](https://nihongoshark.com/learn-kanji/), which uses association and memory palaces as the main way to capture all this information.]

I’m charting my attempt here. I’m using Anki and Skritter as my main applications tracking my progress.

I will also have a weekly write-down-all-the-kanji session on a huge whiteboard. The use of memory palaces means that I am able to recall all the characters, in order, from memory (and using the correct stroke order, even up to very large numbers. You can see a timelapse video of today’s session here, all done without referring to any books.

I’ll check in regularly here but consider me on the hook. It takes me about 90 minutes of work to learn 25 characters and map out what’s going in which part of which palace etc. 25 characters a day will have me finishing in 88 days, so that allows for a bit of wiggle room along the way.

(Note that this isn’t really considered a great feat of memory. Lots of (motivated) people have learned the kanji in under 100 days.)


I just lost an hour following the links in the post. This sounds way more accessible than I thought. I’ll probably give this a try at some point.


Wow, this looks like a pretty tough challenge!

I’ve been Skrittering ~1hr every day for 7 months (in-app, that is – for wall clock time it’s probably closer to ~1hr30m a day). During the same time period I’ve also been reading Japanese novels 1 hour a day.

https://www.beeminder.com/djahandarie/goals/skritter (Skritter Time)
https://www.beeminder.com/djahandarie/goals/japanese-reading (Novel Pages)

Under this regimen I seem to learn at a fairly steady rate of 160 or so characters a month (at 1120 currently), and Skritter says my retention rate is 86.3%. This is coming off already being a pretty fluent speaker of Japanese who is just finally properly learning their reading/writing.

I do feel like I spend a lot of that time learning words – that is, remembering which characters are used for a given word – usually not a big deal since I have a decently sized vocabulary and can go based on meaning, but there are still tricky/irritating words like ones with unstandard readings (七夕, 素人, 明星, etc.) or ones where it’s just hard to differentiate between the meaning of two kanji with the same reading, like ~師 vs ~士 words.

So perhaps cutting all of that out can considerably quicken the learning, along with the memory palace stuff you’re using, but learning all 2200 characters in ~3 months seems like it might require a genius… but from my experience of reading your blog you might have that covered too. :slight_smile: I look forward to hearing how you do and what meta things you learn. Good luck!


A week or so into the challenge, it’s generally taking me only 90 mins or so to learn the 25 characters, and then another 30 minutes of reviewing each day to cement my learning. I’m still find int a manageable amount to learn, though perhaps ask me in a month or two when the reviews have really mounted up :slight_smile:


Today the lesson I completed has left me on 249 completed Kanji. That’s over 10%. The lesson today was 43 items, which was a bit much, but making sure I space things out every day to get around 25 should be best.

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Checking in at the end of the week, as I do my various reviews. This week I felt more resistance to working through the kanji, but I moved to a new house and work environment, not all of which feels that natural/good yet, so I’m going to chalk it down to that. Also there were a number of disruptions in the mornings, when I try to get my kanji work done.
In any case, I’m at 345 completed kanji as of today. Next week I need to be better and more consistent, but will try to sort that out now as I schedule what I’m going to be working on, where, etc.