Japanese language (re)learning progress


I finished よつばと! volumes 4 and 5, and last night started volume 6. I also finished Mario 64 in Japanese before the end of January. I was pretty good about noting new words as I played 4/5ths of the way through, but then I got so frustrasted with and tired of the gameplay itself (dying so easily for stupid reasons)  that I just blazed through the rest. Still, I picked up a lot of useful phrases, and it's cool to know that I'm slowly able to consume real, native content! First, certain children's manga and movies, and now, certain children's video games!

I also started the Kodansha Kanji Learners' Course. Apparently I was on kanji #1898 in RTK when I stopped... I don't know which would've been easier: restarting RTK or starting Kodansha from scratch. But I was kinda tired of my previous way of creating stories in RTK myself. I like that Kodansha provides stories for me and (optional) vocabulary words to set the kanji in context. Still unlike Wanikani and like RTK, readings aren't essential, but unlike RTK, I still get them with Kodansha and can slowly build a pattern for associating them with the kanji themselves. Maybe this is still less efficient in blazing through all the kanji than RTK, but I think at my stage of learning, being exposed to those readings doesn't slow me down too much, doesn't overwhelm me, and is helpful.

I also picked up several N3 JLPT practice workbooks. I feel like I could pass N4 if I wanted to, so I'm now trying to see where I am with N3. Anki says I'm about halfway through the vocabulary, though I'm skeptical. :) At the same time, I get exposed to a lot more meaningful vocabulary with the native content I consume. And then, I have been bad about learning new grammar... at least formally. I do pick up new grammar patterns in the native content, but I'm not sure how much it sticks with me, and how far along I am in terms of the N5/N4/N3 progression.

In other huge news, I'm planning my next trip to Japan in the fall! I'm thinking of Kansai again and upper Kyushu so that I have an easy way to make a side trip to the Philippines and bypassing Manila (I heard bad things about the airport and surrounding area re: traffic and customs chaos). High level, plans are the following: small stop in Tokyo, then Osaka, Fukuoka, Kobe, Cebú City, Bohol -> Panglao, Moabloab, Mactan, back to Osaka or Kyoto (?), with a final small stop in Tokyo.


  • FF words memorized: 560
  • Anki
    • Core N1 (17.73%)
      • Mature: 2025
      • Young/Learn: 480
      • Unseen: 11630
    • Core N2 (29.94%)
      • Mature: 2025
      • Young/Learn: 480
      • Unseen: 5863
    • Core N3 (47.11%)
      • Mature: 2025
      • Young/Learn: 480
      • Unseen: 2779
    • Core N4 (100%)
      • Mature: 2025
      • Young/Learn: 160
      • Unseen: 0
    • Core N5 (100%)
      • Mature: 1127
      • Young/Learn: 16
      • Unseen: 0


I finished よつばと! volume 3 and am partway through volume 4. I got the audiobook of Harry Potter book 1 in Japanese, but I haven't yet started it. I got through all of Pimsleur Units 3-5! I may want to go back and mine some flashcards out of them. I really liked them for speaking and listening practice. I got Rosetta Stone lifetime access on sale for 60% off (~$120), but I haven't yet started it.

I've been able to pull off twice-weekly 20-minute coaching sessions with my FF coach. I've been using this service for almost two years now. Having the twice-weekly sessions makes the expense of the ovepriced app ($9.99/month) and sessions ($79.99/month – totalling $1076/year) worth it for me so far.

My brother gifted me a bundle of Mario games that I can play in Japanese! There's no Japanese audio, but I'm able to do a lot of reading practice. As an adult, I've typically found Mario games boring compared to childhood, but the reading practice stimulates my brain a lot, so I am genuinely enjoying them again. I'm a good way into Super Mario 64. I have to look up maybe 65% of the words for new passages I run into, but then when I go back to read them again, I can mostly remember what they mean!

It's the last day of 2023! Do I have particular Japanese language goals for next year?


  • Finish よつばと!
  • "Master" kanji?
  • Finish the Tae Kim guide or other grammar source
  • Go back to Japan!


  • Pimsleur: Done! Units 3-5
  • FF words memoried: 545
  • Anki
    • Core N1 (16.76%)
      • Mature: 1986
      • Young/Learn: 383
      • Unseen: 11766
    • Core N2 (28.31%)
      • Mature: 1986
      • Young/Learn: 383
      • Unseen: 5999
    • Core N3 (36.77%)
      • Mature: 1986
      • Young/Learn: 383
      • Unseen: 2915
    • Core N4 (100%)
      • Mature: 1986
      • Young/Learn: 199
      • Unseen: 0
    • Core N5 (100%)
      • Mature: 1115
      • Young/Learn: 28
      • Unseen: 0


I have kept up a chill but relatively steady pace with my Japanese. I read volumes 1-2 of よつばと and am part-way through volume 3. I got through 2 and a half seasons of アッグ烈子 until we paused on our Netflix subscription, though I gave up watching without subtitles in between. I continue to watch anime with subtitles, and I played through the Ghost of Tsushima: Iki Island and Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness video games with subtitles.

I am generally good about my daily flash cards, though haven't yet restarted kanji.

I've made slow but good progress on Pimsleur. I started at level 3 in early December 2022, then barely did anything of it when in Japan mid-February to mid-April; then picked it up again and am half-way through level 5 (the last level). I have to relisten to episodes several times, sometimes. It's an awesome set of learning material, and I highly recommend it to people who want to get comfortable listening to and especially speaking survival+ Japanese.

I am starting to consider when I would like to take classes again. I found a series of online classes that are affordable and cater  to specific levels of Japanese. There is a semester starting in late August until early December; do I jump into this, or wait until next year?

I would ideally pause (or stop) Fluent Forever. I've come to like the built-in vocabulary sets, and while the coaching flash cards aren't great, they are still a net positive to my studies – along with, of course, the coaching sessions themselves.

Maybe I could pause on the coaching sessions but still have access to the app, while I still have vocabulary sets to unlock? The base monthly price for the app is $9.99, or $120/year, which I think is kind of steep for what it provides compared to a lot of free tools out there. There is a 24-month deal at $167.76, which comes out to $7/month, and a 12-month deal at $95.88, or $7.99/month... These still seem expensive.

I'm not sure. According to the app, I have gone through 34 vocabulary sets and have 56 sets to go. I've done FF for a year and a half now, though I ignored the app for at least 6 months out of those 18 months... and I reset the app in April, which was about 4 months ago. Maybe, just maybe, I could get through these remaining sets in the next 6 months. We'll see. That would mean the longer-term deals would not be cost-effective for me, if I am diligent.

  • Pimsleur: Level 5, Unit 14
  • FF words memorized: 383
  • Anki
    • Core N3 (36.77%)
      • Mature: 1649
      • Young/Learn: 294
      • Unseen: 3341
    • Core N4 (88.92%)
      • Mature: 1649
      • Young/Learn: 294
      • Unseen: 242
    • Core N5 (100%)
      • Mature: 1105
      • Young/Learn: 38
      • Unseen: 0
    • Heisig's Remembering the Kanji (86.45%)
      • Mature: 1329
      • Young/Learn: 573
      • Unseen: 298


I stayed in Japan from mid-February to early April this year. I practiced a lot of spoken/listening Japanese, as well as reading day-to-day signs and restaurant menus. My kanji progress halted at around 1900, along with SRS flash cards.

When I came back to the States, I took a break for a couple of weeks. Then, I reset my Fluent Forever app progress since I hadn't used it in a long time, and anyway I had evolved my preferences at optimizing SRS usage. I am slowly rebuilding my more nuanced deck there. I haven't reset my Anki decks. I haven't restarted kanji review yet.

I've started watching アッグ烈子, usually with Japanese subtitles, but once in awhile with English subtitles. I still watch other Japanese stuff with English subtitles. Sigh.

  • FF words memorized: 114
  • Anki
    • Core N3 (29.54%)
      • Mature: 1267
      • Young/Learn: 294
      • Unseen: 3723
    • Core N4 (71.44%)
      • Mature: 1267
      • Young/Learn: 294
      • Unseen: 624
    • Core N5 (100%)
      • Mature: 1084
      • Young/Learn: 59
      • Unseen: 0
    • Heisig's Remembering the Kanji (86.45%)
      • Mature: 1329
      • Young/Learn: 573
      • Unseen: 298


I wrote about my kanji learning progress.


Last month I started recording my time and costs spent on my Japanese study in this Google sheet. It gives me an idea of how much and where I spend my time so I can identify gaps and trends in lapses, which occur when I am traveling.


Over a third of the way through 形の声 vol. 3.

Finished  おむすびコロリ and started ツルのおんがえし at work.

General Stats

  • RTK deck: 985 (652 mature, 333 young/learn) out of 2200. 44.78% there!
  • Vocabulary
    • JLPT N5 Anki deck: 769 out of 1143
    • Custom sentences: 264
      • Many cards contain multiple vocab words and grammar patterns.
    • From work: 25
    • From Slack UI: 6



I passed 700 kanji in RTK! That's about 30% of the 2,200 I need for literacy. Though, I've done some traveling in the past few weeks, which has messed up my routine some. I've needed to do some longer makeup sessions. Once I caught up, though, I still realized that my review time seems to be slowly increasing on average given the increasing number of kanji I need to retain while still learning 10 new ones.

I have 1475 kanji "unseen" in Anki. If I keep up this pace, I should be able to have seen ~2,200 kanji by February 2023. After that will be maintenance. It seems so far away from now. But it made me feel a little better knowing TokuyuuTV took about the same amount of time – 8 months for him, and maybe 7 months for me? (I started in July.) If I don't pause... I've honestly been tempted to pause new kanji in order to strengthen my current kanji and save some time in the morning. I don't know yet.


Halfway through re-reading volume 2 of 聲の形。Again, reading it much faster with greater comprehension. :) I found a website called Natively which levels native Japanese reading material via crowd sourcing. I learned that folks have voted 聲の形 as N3 level D: which makes me a feel a little better knowing how much I've struggle through these first two volumes.

Edit: it's 09/25, and I just finished rereading it. (⁠^⁠^⁠) It took me about 120 minutes (2 hours) including creating Anki flash cards to do it. I think I went up to 65-75% comprehension!

Finished わらしべ長者  and started おむすびコロリ at work.

Bought the よつばと! manga volumes 1-15 in Japanese, from Japan. It's unfortunately not available on Kindle, so I needed to find physical copies. I found a used set for about ~$100, which seemed like a nice deal. It's one of my favorite manga that I read in English, and it's supposedly suitable for N4 level reading. It should arrive between mid-October and early November.


Still enjoying Japanese with Noriko sensei podcast, but not as diligently listening to it. :(

I'm on episode 12 of ちはやふる season 1. I don't know if my listening comprehension has improved... Well, I have picked up a few words here and there.

I started ハイキュウ!! which I've been enjoying more than I expected. It's super dude shonen sports anime with maybe 20+ male characters (?), and I only remember seeing 2 female characters but don't remember their names. But it's fun! Makes me miss grade school volleyball. I watch it with English subtitles, so it's something I go to when I am feeling a little lazy.

I finished a video game called Virtue's Last Reward, the sequel of 999. The audio was in Japanese, and I definitely picked up some words from here. :) I am not ready to play story-heavy video games with Japanese text, though.

General stats

  • RTK: 725 kanji encountered. In Anki, 404 mature, 321 young/learning.
  • Duolingo: 137-day streak, unit 3
  • Bunpo: JLPT N4 5/23 modules


I wrote about my thoughts on RTK so far.


I translated a song! 桜の森 by 星野源.

General stats

  • Fluent Forever: ??? I am really bad at actually using this compared to my custom Anki decks now.
  • Duolingo: 114-day streak, on unit 3
  • Bunpo: JLPT N4 1/23 modules

Kanji with RTK vol. 1

  • 472 kanji and primitives learned
  • on lesson 18 of 56



  • Japanese with Noriko still
  • Anime: 犬夜叉、ちはやふる (JP subtitles)、Spyx Family、かぐや様:Love is War, ReLIFE
  • Video game: Virtue's Last Reward


I hit 400 kanji in RTK! That's a little over 18% of 2,200 to be literate... but I'm still proud!


Learning kanji with RTK

RTK has been mostly fun, once in awhile a bit of a drain. Learning kanji meanings reminds me a lot of Final Fantasy X where you learn the Al Bhed language by collecting the letters around the game world, and each time you collect a new letter, that letter is translated to the Roman-English equivalent in the subtitles. It's a silly way of showing translation from real world human languages, but I kinda see how it works with kanji!

I'm further thinking about quitting Duolingo, but I haven't yet because I'm attached to the streak if I'm being honest. I watched a neat video on Youtube by someone who had a 2,000-day streak or so and eventually stopped because he realized he was addicted to the game of Duolingo (much due to the streak) rather than the goal of learning a language through it. While this is possibly true with me, I still haven't yet mustered the courage to break from it.

Watching anime with Japanese subtitles

I found a website called animelon.com that does Japanese – hiragana, katakana, kanji, and romaji – and English subtitles, all toggleable, for a decent amount of old and new anime. It's a non-profit dedicated to making Japanese language learning fun via watching anime. I think this is incredible, what these people have created.

I started watching ちはやふる with only Japanese (kanji) subtitles, and I'm definitely humbled... I can barely understand what's going on compared to 隣のトトロ and ホーホケキョとなりの山田くん. I thought I had a chance since I had seen ちはやふる before with English subtitles, though it's been a few years... I get by with my fuzzy memory of the plot and all the visual cues. I probably understand 20% of the dialogue, and that's with the assistance of the fast subtitles on screen. I thought about slowing down the speed, but I want to try to comprehend at normal speed. But we'll see if I change my strategy...

Rereading 聲の形 volume 1

I was on a bit of a high after successfully rereading this at, I felt, 75-80% comprehension and at least twice the speed compared to the first read. Then, I got my butt kicked watching ちはやふる (above). Hoo!

I just started the second volume of 聲の形. My speed and comprehension have dropped again, but I think I'm overall still reading faster than my first time with the first volume. I'm getting used to accepting that I won't understand everything the first time, I'm finding a rhythm with my general reading strategy, and I am remembering some recurring vocabulary and grammar patterns from the first volume that are appearing in the second. But still, I'm encountering a lot of new vocabulary and contexts, so it'll be a bit of effort again to get through. But I'm really enjoying this process.

Coaching once a week

I've reduced my speaking and listening sessions with my Japanese coach to once a week instead of three. It's a little sad because I've come to enjoy talking to my coach as a "friend", but it's also good because I'm saving money and concentrating more time on acquiring more input.

General stats

  • Fluent Forever: 293 words
  • Duolingo: 104-day streak, on unit 3
  • Bunpo: JLPT N5 10/10 modules

Kanji with RTK vol. 1

  • 352 kanji and primitives learned
  • on lesson 15 of 56


  • Reread 聲の形 vol. 1. Finished today! After maybe ~10 days of dedicated reading.
  • Still 花咲じいさん at work


  • (EN subtitles) started ReLIFE, season 1
  • (JPN subtitles) started 千早ふる, season 1 (again)
  • (EN subtitles) started Spy x Family
  • (EN subtitles) started playing Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward


I finished 聲の形 volume 1 for the first time 2 weeks ago! I am attempting to reread it to reinforce vocabulary and pick up new things I missed on the first run.

I am admittedly not as diligent with rounded immersion. I keep up with RTK the best and am creating more Anki decks: one for essential Japanese (currently dates, some counters), and two for vocabulary I frequently come across in my media (one for personal, one for stuff from work readings). I also downloaded a deck that aligns with the JLPT level tags on Jisho.org – not an official leveling to JLPT, but probably close enough.

I took a break from Fluent Forever coaching for a week last week because I was traveling. I'm restarting this week, though for only one time a week instead of three.

I've discovered TokuyuuTV, a YouTube series by a Canadian expat who moved to Japan after passing the N1 after 7 years of study and getting a job with AstraZeneca Japan. He certainly doesn't sound as native as MattvsJapan, but he seems more fun, less arrogant (though certainly not shy about his achievements), isn't really promoting anything like products beyond YouTube subscriptions, and actually challenges the Mass Immersion Approach. He promotes graded reading and listening media that are suitable for your level.

As I discover more (Japanese or general) language learning channels, it is clear each person tends to promote the method that works best for them.

One thing in common they all have is believing in the power of SRS. Other than that...

  • TokuyuuTV has his own philosophy but seems to be the most open-minded to the idea of multiple ways to the same goal of fluency, e.g., "learn kanji! I did it through the Study Kanji app, but there are multiple other ways like WaniKani, RTK, etc." Maybe it helps that he isn't selling a particular product. He also promotes grammar books, especially Tae Kim's.
  • Olly Richards promotes grammar and vocabulary acquisition through graded stories. He supplements this idea with his new product that has graded stories integrated with specific grammar and vocabulary lessons so they reinforce each other. This actually sounds super awesome to me, but I hesitate to switch to it since it's another expense and it's super new. I'll keep an eye on it as it evolves...
  • MattVsJapan complements Olly Richards' story method but doesn't have the product to back it, and he actually doesn't believe in graded stories. He heavily promotes Stephen Krashen's works, who also promotes graded stories (or more generally, media that is about 80% or more comprehensible to a language learner). Matt thinks language learners should consume media made for native Japanese people since it's the most natural and real way that language is meant to be consumed. I started this out a couple of months ago, but it just seems too hard. And truth to be told, it took Matt 10 years to reach near-native fluency. He does have a product called Refold, but it's catered narrowly towards kanji acquisition rather than the entire language; I assume because a bigger product is harder to make, and also it is against his philosophy of mass immersion approach.
  • Gabe Wyner of Fluent Forever stands apart with associating images with your SRS flash cards to help stop you from translating from your native language to your target language. The additional piece to it is, when you search for images for bread in your target language, you should get specific nuanced images of what bread means in that language vs. the nuances in your native language. I thought this idea was super intriguing when I read his book, Fluent Forever, and started using his app. However, I'm not sure if the app his company created has helped a lot with my language acquisition. I think the general idea of using images is definitely helpful, and I like that the app automates the image fetching for me, but I think once I retire from the FF ecosystem I'll just carry the habit of images with me to Anki. Sucks that's a bit more work to do, though.

General stats

  • Fluent Forever: 268 words
  • Duolingo: 92-day streak, on unit 3
  • Bunpo: JLPT N5 8/10 modules

Kanji with RTK vol. 1

  • 220 kanji and primitives learned
  • on lesson 10 of 56



  • Finished 同居人はひざ、時々、頭の上 (My Roommate is a Cat)


General thoughts

Picking up more vocabulary and grammar patterns is exciting as I begin to recognize them more in the media I consume – both new content and old, especially old songs I've really liked. Close to the end of my first finish of A Silent Voice, volume 1, 4 weeks in, I started rereading it from the beginning, and my speed and comprehension is so much better compared to my first run-throughs in the first week.

RTK is currently still fun. I'm bracing myself for the burnout. I've been at it for maybe 1.5 to 2 weeks (?) and so far I've skipped out on 1 or 2 days of new kanji/primitive acquisition due to poor scheduling.

I'm starting to further question the helpfulness of FF, but am sticking with it for now. As of next month I'll be reducing my coaching sessions from 3 times a week to 1 time a week, still 20 minutes.

I still am frustrated with the little amount of listening comprehension I have for fresh/new material.

Kanji with RTK

  • 98 kanji and primitives learned


  • A Silent Voice, vol. 1, on my own. Took about 4 weeks to finish!
  • Samurai Mice, a short story, at work


  • My Neighbors the Yamadas with no subtitles, 50% listening comprehension, 80% comprehension overall with visual cues
  • When Marnie was There with subtitles, relistening (no watching) with 60-80% comprehension
  • Inuyasha, seasons 1 and part of season 2 with subtitles, relistening (no watching) with 30-40% comprehension
  • My Neighbor Totoro with subtitles some of the time, 40% comprehension; relistening with 60-70% comprehension
  • My Roommate is a Cat, first few episodes with subtitles; relistening with 30-40% comprehension


  • Some episodes of Learning Japanese with Noriko, comprehension varying between 30-60% depending on the episode.


  • Tae Kim's guide to Learning Japanese: Lesson 9
  • Bunpo: JLPT N5 7/10 modules

Recent releated post from 2022/07/09.

Beginning: 2022/03/16 (or so)


Have watched anime, primarily in Japanese audio with English subtitles, since 2003 or so. Have read manga in English since around 2005.

2008-2012: majored in East Asian studies (Japanese concentration)  in college. Went through Genki I and II and a couple of other textbooks. Read a few poems and short stories in class.

2010: studied abroad in Japan for 3 months in the fall semester. Lived mostly in Kyoto but also traveled to Tokyo, Shikoku, Shiba, Nagoya, Kobe, and maybe other places. Mostly lived in Zen Buddhist temples with classmates.

Starting practices

Began 3x/week 1:1 speaking sessions ("coaching sessions") with Fluent Forever. Began familiarizing myself with their version of SRS and learning via their new mobile app. Read the Fluent Forever original book behind Gabe Wyner's (founder) language learning philosophy.

Read more in this post.


  • FF: Fluent Forever, a language company founded by Gabe Wyner with its own language learning philosophy, program, and mobile app. Based on his book published in 2016.
  • primitives: in RTK, these are similar to kanji radicals, or common components of kanji that have their own meaning.
  • RTK: Remembering the Kanji, a 3-part textbook series by James Heisig with its own system in remembering 2,046 to 3,000 Chinese characters (kanji) used in Japanese
  • SRS: Spaced Repetition System