Free Kanji Course – lesson one

Because Japanese learners in our Facebook group so often write that they have trouble with kanji – and sometimes don’t even dare to start – we are offering a free kanji course with lots of resources. In this course, you will be taught new kanji each week and eventually you will have learned all the kanji for the JLPT N5! So, without further ado, let’s start learning kanji!

Welcome to the first lesson of our free virtual kanji course. We are happy that you joined us! This first lesson consists of some fun YouTube videos, a downloadable workbook and a clear table, so that you can learn more about what kanji is and memorize your very first kanji – the numbers.

First, we will briefly address some study methods you can use during this course. After that, we will offer some more resources with background information, to learn about what kanji actually is. Then, we will learn the kanji for the numbers and to end this lesson, there will be a sneak preview of the kanji that are up next. Happy studying!

Free online kanji course by Japan Fans – Japanese Art & Culture from the Centre of Utrecht


Everyone has a different learning style, so it is important that you find out which way of learning works best for you. For me, it often helps to watch videos and write along in the meantime. It also helps a lot to discuss things with others, for example in our weekly study group and in our Facebook group. And what I have always done is to use flash cards. You can buy flash cards as a game, like the one that I show in the video below, but you can also make them yourself very easily.

And last but not least, I just love to study from books, to write – or even calligraph – in my notebooks and decorate them with my pencils and more. Do you also like to study from books? And if so, which books do you use? Below is a video by YouTube polyglot Lindie Botes, with her recommendations for Japanese study books. (Soon, I will share some of my books & notebooks in a video as well, promise!)


To practice your writing, download a free (and copyright free) kanji workbook by clicking somewhere on this paragraph here – it includes the stroke order and mnemonics to help you remember the kanji.

In this video, Reina Scully offers an interesting & fun introduction to kanji. She explains how to read 21 basic kanji of them, including the ones that we will cover in this lesson, so be sure to pay attention.


So, what are kanji? You can think of them a bit like the Egyptian hieroglyphs, as a system of symbols that represent ideas. According to Wikipedia, “Kanji are the adopted logographic Chinese characters that are used in the Japanese writing system.” Kanji were first introduced to Japan in the 5th century via the Korean peninsula. The characters can have a few different meanings and pronunciations (depending on their context) and by combining characters, even more words can be created. Kanji are build up from radicals, and we will also cover that in our course, as I always think of learning radicals as similar to learning the letters of the alphabet. If you’d like to practice your radicals, I can highly recommend .

In this video, Alisha & Risa will tell you more about what kanji is, how you can learn them and what radicals are.

For JLPT5, you’ll need to know around 100 kanji (check out the video below for all of them), with both the onyomi (Chinese readings) and kunyomi (Japanese readings). Do not be alarmed and do not worry! We are going to build it up step by step. The first kanji you will need are those for the numbers.

In this video, Caitlin from “Fluent in 3 Months” shares her strategies for how to learn kanji fast, and wastes no time helping you memorize all 100 kanji you need to know for the JLPT 5 test. One trick is to recall the kanji, just before Caitlin says the Japanese to help improve your memory.

Lesson 1: the numbers

If you do any Japanese martial arts or sing along to Japanese children’s songs, you probably already know a lot of these numbers. But do you also know how to write them? The Arabic numbers also appear regularly in Japanese media, and are called Sanyoo suuji. For the test, we will learn the kanji of the numbers, or Kan suuji. Here they come:

Your very first kanji!

Note: be careful not to confuse 1000 (千) with the katakana chi (チ), they look similar and one of the readings is the same.

That’s it! Now you’ve learned your first chunck of kanji. Which was your favourite? I really like “fountain pen” as it translates to “ten thousand years writing brush”. ^_^

If you have any questions or comments, make sure to post them in our Facebook group. Native speakers as well as professional Japanese teachers are happy to help you in you learning journey.

Next lesson, we will learn 日、月、火、水、木、金、土、川、田 . If you cannot wait ’till next Monday, you can watch this video by NihonGoal to get acquainted with this second group of kanji.
A flyer for our free kanji course. If you like these lessons, please spread the word!