This got me confused:

Various kanji learning sites on the Internet and even books on kanji stress the importance of stroke order while learning new kanji, saying it's highly essential to learn to write kanji correctly. Yet the same sources say that the act of writing kanji is slowly getting obsolete and one shouldn't worry too much about writing the kanji while learning them;knowing the readings and recognising them are more important.

Aren't these two statements kind of contradictory; stressing that learn stroke order while learning kanji, and also saying knowing to write them is not something to be worried when learning them?

  • 1
    Knowing the stroke order can be helpful in reading handwritten kanji (because flowing handwriting often blends strokes), so as counterintuitive as it might seem, there are cases where you can benefit from knowing stroke order without writing.
    – Leebo
    Mar 25, 2022 at 14:55

4 Answers 4


The stroke order matters mostly in relation to handwriting. Although writing may be not the most prevalent way over typing nowadays, recent rise of touch devices allows people to easily input characters by handwriting again. It lets you look up kanji you don't know whose reading; and to my experience, those recognition engines are trained with people's normal stroke order, while would be less accurate when written in untypical order.

The importance of stroke order in the discussion of handwriting is more like that of the common sense. People may say the order is not that strict (and it's not always unique actually), but for example you don't write capital A from its horizontal bar. Since the previously written strokes rein in the layout of following strokes, character produced in unusual order may look unnatural aside from good or bad. Thankfully learning the stroke order is rule-based rather than memorizing the same number of definitions as kanji.


Since kanji shapes are heavily based on calligraphy, the stroke order and the subtle nuances of strokes (like hane, harai) are generally considered more important than the stroke order of Latin characters. All Japanese children learn calligraphy (書道) at elementary school for dozens of hours, and are taught to pay attention to stroke order and stroke nuances even when they are writing with a pencil or a ball-point pen. Special fonts similar to calligraphy are used in elementary school textbooks.

Not all Japanese adults can write beautiful kanji themselves, but basically all adults can intuitively notice dirty kanji whose strokes are written in random order with their endings pointing to random directions. You don't have to worry about too many details, but I recommend you remember the correct order of most common components including 田, 山, 見, 糸, 本 and so on.

Of course, if you do not plan to write handwritten Japanese at all, you can put off learning those things and rely on computers. It depends on your purpose of learning Japanese.


Well, it's same for Japanese children. For some reason when we start learning the basic, easy kanji, teachers stress the right stroke order; but when you start learning more difficult kanji they care less. Honestly, stroke order isn't that important unless you are learning shodo (書道) as people can tell if it's written in the right stroke order or not, or taking the Kanji Aptitude Test (漢字検定).

  • So it's more important for simple kanji and not for complex ones? Mar 25, 2022 at 14:41
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    @TirthankarDe I think it's more that once you learn the basic stroke orders for simple kanji, you will "mostly" get it right on complex kanji (because there are patterns, and in the first place complex kanji are often just combinations of simpler ones), so it naturally becomes less emphasized (except for places like calligraphy and kanji tests as mentioned by user12965567). Mar 25, 2022 at 14:49

In my experience living in Japan, stroke order has only been important when it came to online dictionaries that let you search by 'stroke' - so, if you don't know what a word means - you can look it up by stroke order.

I also heard many Japanese people forget some kanji because they rely on electronic devices when answering things, and my teacher once told me that people can sometimes tell if you write kanji in the wrong order.

I haven't actually practiced writing Kanji in a long time, however, as I think pursuing speaking/reading fluency trumps writing fluency at the moment. But in the end, you do want to write properly if people can tell you wrote something wrong.

  • I have heard that sometimes the kanji needs to be shown when you are talking in Japanese, when it's not clear from the context. Stroke order is important to know to show it correctly; is it something you needed while you were in Japan? Mar 25, 2022 at 14:41
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    I never needed it so far! I've written my mail in front of officials, and they really didn't mind how things were written Mar 26, 2022 at 0:06

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