I'm, as a beginner, pretty bad with Kanji. I've heard that even some native japanese are. Is it really necessary to get the hang of it to be able to read/write in Japanese?

  • I don't say impossible, but it'd be like playing Minecraft without Pickaxe... Sep 14, 2015 at 9:23
  • 3
    Have you ever even tried to read Japanese?
    – ssb
    Sep 14, 2015 at 11:17
  • @ssb, no, never heard of Japanese. what's that?
    – Oskar K.
    Sep 14, 2015 at 12:12
  • I'm closing this question because it strays into several areas that we are not well equipped to handle on the stack exchange network. We don't do study questions, and generally try to keep the focus on the language, not on specific learners.
    – jkerian
    Sep 14, 2015 at 15:30
  • 3
    If you can't read kanji, you won't be able to read most Japanese. You'll still be able to read comics with furigana, or play games with furigana or voice acting, if you like that sort of thing.
    – user1478
    Sep 14, 2015 at 17:30

2 Answers 2


At the basic day-to-day level, there are several components of “knowing” kanji.

1. Identifying visually

There is no way to understand written Japanese if you cannot identify a kanji and decipher its meaning. But, you can get away with not knowing how to pronounce it, i.e. generate the hiragana equivalent.

2. Choosing the correct one

When writing a word you know orally, even when typing with an IME, you will still have to know which kanji matches the word. So many words have homophones, like the English to, too, and two. Is it 箸{はし} (chopsticks), 端{はし} (edge), or 橋{はし} (bridge) ? You will have to know if you're going to communicate in written Japanese.

3. Reproducing by hand

This is usually what natives means when they say they're “bad at kanji”. They have no problem with all other components of “knowing” kanji — they just can't reproduce the characters correctly from memory. Of course this is exacerbated by the overwhelming use of computers/smartphones. It's like being a bad speller. You can definitely get away with this.

Here is the problem immortalized in this fun song, 「漢字読めるけど書けない (I Can Read Kanji, But Writing, Not So Much)」.


If you are not going to read historical/official document ,just want to have a treval or simple oral Communication,it is not neccessary to learn very well. Many Japanese before middle school are also very poor at kanji. As I am a Chinese,the kanji is easier for me.

  • historical - unlikely, but what about living in Japan and communicating every day?
    – Oskar K.
    Sep 14, 2015 at 12:13

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