I know that the JLPT levels are not an official list, but still, it is based on the many JLPT tests that has been done.

My question is more about how to estimate the level difference between the hiragana and the kanji version of a word.

Here is an example:

  • どなた is ranked N5
  • 何方 is ranked N1
  • 何 kanji is rated N5
  • 方 kanji is rated N4

So, for a vocabulary rated N5 with an N5 kanji and an N4 kanji, the jukugo is rated N1.

何方 can be found on the N1 page on Wiktionary: https://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:JLPT/N1/%E3%81%9F%E8%A1%8C

Why is it so highly rated and does this seem correct?

  • Borderline on-topic, but an interesting question.
    – jarmanso7
    Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 21:49
  • If I saw 何方 suggested for anything below N1 it would be pretty surprising to me, so I definitely don't have any issue with that assessment.
    – Leebo
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 5:51

1 Answer 1


Yes, I'd say this rating is more or less accurate.

何 is usually read as なに・なん, and is one of the most basic words. Therefore, it's not a surprise for it to be N5.

方, read as かた or ほう, means a few things, but 日本の方、仕方、漢字の書き方, as you can see, are all pretty basic as well, 方法、正方形 are not too advanced either. Therefore N4.

どなた is basically a synonym of 誰, also one of the most basic words; therefore N5. There is also あなた and そなた, with the latter being somewhat archaic.

The problem with 何方{どなた} is not the word itself, but the spelling, namely the kanji. Yes both kanji and very basic, but this reading is not a normal reading, but a 熟字訓. Meaning it's got a special reading that's specifically for this kanji pair, and cannot be broken down to individual kanji. Like with 今日{きょう}, you can't separate 今 and 日, and it's not いまじつ, but when and only when this pair comes together, it's きょう.

So, while some words are simple, they're mostly spelled in ひらがな. The kanji version exists, but is not too common among Japanese people and therefore would be attributed a higher level. Other examples could be

  • あなた・貴方{あなた}
  • ここ・此処{ここ}
  • いつ・何時{いつ}

There are some words whose kanji spelling are so rare most Japanese would not know of.

  • かかし・案山子{かかし}
  • さんしょううお・鯢{さんしょううお} but more commly 山椒魚{さんしょううお}
  • そびえる・聳{そび}える
  • えぐい・蘞{えぐ}い
  • and way too many others to list exhaustively...

By themselves, かかし or さんしょううお or others are not necessarily hard words, but there kanji version is just too rare.

  • Ok, thanks, you. I suppose also that the kanji version of どなた is less frequently used than 今日. I suppose then that is it better to learn the hiragana version of どなた for the moment and the kanji version later, when I better know about all the N4, N3 and N2 vocabulary kanji and jukugo, which are probably more frequent? But I'm not sure if I should ask this question in a comment.
    – Quezako
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 6:12
  • 1
    Yes, indeed the N5 and N4 words are much more common in use, compared to N1. The basic words should be learned first. It just happens that N1 contained an alternate spelling of a same word in N5, but that shouldn’t change anything, and it doesn’t hurt to know this kanji spelling as a 豆知識 anyways.
    – dvx2718
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 13:59

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