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Caitlin Sacasas

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Do you know those kanji yet? They’re some of the JLPT N5 kanji. If you’re going to take the test, it’s time to memorize them!

If you don’t know, “JLPT” stands for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It’s one of the most well-known and acknowledged tests for Japanese proficiency around the world, with five levels of proficiency. N1 is the hardest level, considered near-fluent. N5 is the easiest level, covering the basic level of Japanese.

If you’re looking to test your skills and see where you’re at in Japanese, the JLPT is a great place to try it out. So here’s your guide to learning the necessary JLPT N5 kanji.

The article below goes in-depth on the topic, if you want a quick overview here's a video I made:

What to Expect on the JLPT N5 Test

Even though the JLPT N5 test is the most basic formal Japanese test, passing the test is still a big achievement.

To pass the JLPT N5 test, you have to be able to read Japanese at a basic level and understand simple conversations from daily life and school. You should know around 800 vocabulary words. I recommend starting with the Core 101 Japanese words, and about 50 basic grammar patterns.

My two favorite resources for studying grammar at this level are Genki I and JTest4U. Plus, you’ll need to be totally comfortable reading all the hiragana and katakana characters.

Why You Need to Know Kanji for the JLPT N5 Test

One of the most daunting tasks when starting to learn Japanese? Kanji.

At the N5 level, the JLPT expects you to know about 100 kanji to pass. These kanji can change slightly between tests, but you can generally expect to see the 100 most common kanji for verbs, numbers, time, places, people, basic adjectives, and directions.

The good news? These kanji are used so often you’ll see them over and over again in the vocab you learn and the texts you read. The bad news is that you’ll need to independently memorize most of these kanji because they’re radicals, or roots. Radicals in Japanese are simple kanji — they’re the building blocks that make up complex kanji.

So, the more radicals you learn in kanji, the easier it becomes to understand more complex kanji. Learning the radicals first, then advancing onto complex kanji, is the most popular method for memorizing kanji (more on that later). For the first 100, because they’re radicals, you’ve just got to memorize them.

That being said, you can still come up with mnemonics to help you remember the kanji and their readings — and I highly recommend that you do, because it will help you immensely down the road.

Japanese N5 Kanji List — the 100 Kanji You Need to Know for the JLPT N5

Alright, so let’s start learning these kanji! I’ve broken them up into categories, such as numbers, time, people and places, because I’ve found that kanji are easiest to learn when I associate them with related words.

In the lists below, you’ll see the kanji and the English meaning, followed by the onyomi and kunyomi readings.

Why these different readings? Kanji originated with Chinese hànzì characters which the Japanese adapted and gave Japanese readings. Thus, onyomi (Chinese readings) and kunyomi (Japanese readings) were born. Almost all kanji have two readings (and most, unfortunately, have many more than two). A rare few gems will only have one reading.

For the most part, these different readings are less important for the JLPT N5. If you learn these kanji with a vocab word that might also be on the test, then you should be able to remember the most common reading. This won’t always be true, but it usually will be. It’ll help you get the most out of your study time.

For that reason, I also include an N5 vocabulary word that uses that kanji.

Japanese Kanji for Numbers

First, let’s look at numbers. The first three are very straightforward to remember: a single line (one), two lines (two), three lines (three). Easy.

The rest can be more difficult. The drawback is that most of the time in Japan, they use 1 – 10 romanized numbers instead of kanji. But you still have to learn them. Be careful with 千: it looks almost identical to チ (katakana chi) and one of the readings is the same.

Also, you may think 万年筆 (“fountain pen”) will never show up in the JLPT N5 and yet it somehow it always does. It translates as “ten thousand year writing brush” aka a pen that outlasts all others.

KanjiEnglish MeaningOnyomiKunyomiJLPT N5 Vocab with Kanji
Oneichi, itsuhito(tsu), hito一人 (one person, alone)
Twonifuta(tsu), futa二人 (two people, pair)
Threesanmit(tsu), mi三日 (3rd day of the month)
Fourshiyo(tsu), yo, yon四日 (4th day of the month)
Fivegoitsu(tsu), itsu五日 (5th day of the month)
Sixrokumut(tsu), mu六日 (6th day of the month)
Sevenshichinana(tsu), nana七日 (7th day of the month)
Eighthachiyat(tsu), ya八日 (8th day of the month)
Ninekyuu, kukokono(tsu), kokono九日 (9th day of the month)
Tenjuu, jitou, to十日 (10th day of the month)
Hundredhyaku百万円 (1 million Yen)
Thousandsenchi千万円 (10 million Yen)
Ten thousandman, ban万年筆 (fountain pen)
Yen, circle, and roundenmaru(i)円い (round)

Japanese Kanji for Time

These kanji are often used together with numbers, so I’ve included them next. You’ll pair numbers up with kanji like 月 to create the months of the year, like 一月 (“January”).

Some of the kanji on this list have more uses than just time, such as 来る which is an irregular verb. But, 来 also reads as らい, meaning “future”. Combined with other time kanji you get: 来週 (“next week”), 来月 (“next month”), and 来年 (“next year”).

KanjiEnglish MeaningOnyomiKunyomiJLPT N5 Vocab with Kanji
Day, sunnichi, jitsuhi, ka明日 (tomorrow)
Weekshuu毎週 (every week)
Month, moongetsu, gatsutsuki月曜日 (Monday)
Yearnentoshi今年 (this year), 去年 (last year)
Time, hourjitoki時計 (clock, watch)
Time frame, span of timekan, kenaida時間 (time, hours)
Minute, part, to understand, to dividebun, bu, funwa(karu)三十分 (thirty minutes), 自分 (oneself)
Noongo午前 (morning, A.M.)
Beforezenmae名前 (name)
After, later, behindgo, kouato午後 (afternoon, P.M.)
Nowkon, kinima今晩 (this evening), 今朝 (this morning)
Before, ahead, futuresensaki先週 (last week), 先生 (teacher, master)
To comeraiku(ru)来月 (next month), 来る (to come)
Half, middlehannaka(ba)半分 (half)
Every, eachmai毎日(every day)
What, which, how manykanan, nani何曜日 (what day of the week)

Japanese Kanji for People & Things

This category includes many of the basic natural elements (very important in Japanese culture, so they pop up a lot), people, and body parts. Because these kanji are used in so many words, they’ve evolved the most over time and have a lot of readings. I’ve included most of the top ones to know, but you’ll often find these have irregular readings, too.

Consider, for example, 母 and 父. When talking about your own mom and dad to others, you would read/say them as haha and chichi. But when talking to your parents, they would be kaa as in okaasan (お母さん) and tou as in otousan (お父さん). These kanji also change when used for grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

Just be on the lookout. You’ll have to memorize them on a word-by-word basis.

KanjiEnglish MeaningOnyomiKunyomiJLPT N5 Vocab with Kanji
Personjin, ninhito人々 (people)
Man, boy, maledan, nanotoko男の子 (boy)
Woman, girl, femalejo, nyoonna, me女の子 (girl)
Childshi, suko子供 (child)
Motherbohaha母 (mother)
Fatherfuchichi父 (father)
Friendyuutomo友達 (friend)
Firekahi火曜日 (Tuesday)
Watersuimizu水曜日 (Wednesday)
Tree, woodmoku, bokuki, ko木曜日 (Thursday)
Earth, grounddo, totsuchi土曜日 (Saturday)
Money, goldkin, konkane金曜日 (Friday)
Book, sourcehonmoto日本語 (Japanese)
Riversenkawa川 (river)
Flowerkahana花火 (fireworks)
Spiritki, ke元気 (healthy, spirit, fine)
Life, to live, to be born, to growsei, shoui(kiru), u(mareru), ha(yasu)生徒 (pupil)
Fishgyosakana魚 (fish)
Heaventename, ama天気 (weather)
Sky, emptykuusora, a(keru)空 (sky)
Mountainsanyama山 (mountain)
Rainuame雨 (rain)
Electricityden電気 (electricity)
Car, vehicleshakuruma電車 (electric train)
Language, word, to chatgokata(ru)英語 (English)
Earjimimi耳 (ear)
Handshute手紙 (letter)
Foot, to addsokuashi, ta(su)足 (foot)
Eyemokume目 (eye)
Mouthkou, kukuchi出口 (exit)
Namemei, myouna名前 (name)

Japanese Kanji for Places & Directions

It’s a good idea to memorize each reading really well for these common kanji. 店 is read as ten almost as often as mise. 外 is just as often read as gai as it is soto. But, they have patterns. 店 reads as ten when combined with other kanji, like 喫茶店. On its own, it’s mise. It’s the same with 外: gai describes something foreign or outside the norm of one’s own country or group. Soto is used to just say “outside.”

KanjiEnglish MeaningOnyomiKunyomiJLPT N5 Vocab with Kanji
Shoptenmise喫茶店 (coffee shop)
Stationeki駅前 (in front of the station)
Street, path, waydoumichi道具 (tool)
Shrine, societyshayashiro社長 (president of a company)
Countrykokukuni外国人 (foreigner)
Outsidegai, gesoto, hazu(reru), hoka外国 (foreign country)
School, learninggakumana(bu)大学 (university)
Schoolkou学校 (school)
Up, aboveshou, jouue, u, a(geru)上着 (jacket)
Down, belowka, geku(daru), shita靴下 (socks)
Middle, center, inner, betweenchuunaka日中 (during the day, midday)
Northhokukita北 (north)
西Westsai, seinishi西 (west)
Easttouhigashi東京 (Tokyo)
Southnanminami南 (south)
Rightyuumigi右 (right)
Leftsahidari左 (left)

Japanese Kanji for Verbs

These are among the most common verbs, besides する (suru, “to do”) which doesn’t use kanji. When used as verbs, you’ll almost always be using the kunyomi readings. For this test, those are the readings you’ll most likely be quizzed on, and the onyomi reading will be less important.

The most important onyomi readings that may pop up would be for 聞, 読, 書, 食, and 会. The first three — hear, read, and write — appear in their onyomi readings in the test descriptions themselves that state the test section you’re on. Most likely you won’t be quizzed on them, but you’ll want to know them to understand what you’re looking at on the test. The last two — eat and meet — have common onyomi readings like 食品 (“food,” or “food goods”) and 会社 (company).

KanjiEnglish MeaningOnyomiKunyomiJLPT N5 Vocab with Kanji
To see, to be visible, to showkenmi(ru)見せる (to show)
To hear, to listen, to askmon, bunki(ku)聞く (to listen, to hear)
To writeshoka(ku)辞書 (dictionary)
To readdokuyo(mu)読む (to read)
To talk, conversationwahanashi, hana(su)電話 (telephone)
To buybaika(u)買い物 (shopping)
To go, to carry outkoui(ku), okona(u)銀行 (bank)
To go out, to leaveshutsude(ru), da(su)出かける (to go out)
To enter, to put innyuuhai(ru), i(reru)入口 (entrance)
To rest, break, holiday, vacationkyuuyasu(mu), yasu(mi)休む (to take a day off)
To eat, foodshokuta(beru)食堂 (dining room)
To drink, a drinkinno(mu)飲み物 (beverage)
To talk, wordgen, goni(u)言う (to say)
To standritsuta(tsu)立つ (to stand)
To meet, societykai, ea(u)会社 (company)

Japanese Kanji for Adjectives

Lastly, we have the most basic and common adjectives to describe things. You will most likely be quizzed on the kunyomi readings, as those are more commonly used as adjectives, while the onyomi readings combine with other kanji to give a more descriptive noun.

For example, 小 (little) + 学校 (school) means “elementary school.” You’ll definitely need to know them for later tests and vocab, but for N5 purposes your time would be better focused reviewing the kunyomi readings.

KanjiEnglish MeaningOnyomiKunyomiJLPT N5 Vocab with Kanji
A lot, manytaoo(i)多い (many), 多分 (probably)
A little, fewshousuko(shi), suku(nai)少ない (few)
Oldkofuru(i)古い (old)
Newshinatara(shii)新しい (new), 新聞 (newspaper)
Big, a lotdai, taioo(kii)大きい (big), 大変 (dreadful, immense)
Little, smallshouchii(sai), ko小さい (little)
Cheap, safety, peaceanyasu(i)安い (cheap)
Expensive, highkoutaka(i)高い (expensive)
Long, leaderchounaga(i)長い (long), 部長 (manager)
Whitehaku, byakushiro, shiro(i)白い (white), 面白い (interesting)

Japanese Kanji Practice: The Best Ways to Memorize Kanji

Okay, so now you’ve seen the JLPT N5 kanji lists and know what you should study. But what’s the best way to memorize kanji?

The best way to practice kanji is to use a combination of James Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji method, the Anki app, and your own mnemonics. You can definitely do it in as few as four days if you followed this schedule to learn all the essential kanji in three months.

Heisig’s method is one of the best methods to memorize kanji. He introduces the kanji based on radical elements so you can learn each one by “stacking” your mnemonic stories together. It’s really ingenious. It still takes effort, time, and patience. But it’s worth it!

Alongside that, l use the NihongoShark kanji deck in the Anki app, or create your own Anki deck specifically for N5 kanji only. Enter in your mnemonic phrases and how to read them. Bonus points if you can tie how to read the kanji (or a word that uses it) into your mnemonic phrase.

I also suggest using Genki I and JTest4U, the most popular textbook for beginner Japanese that I mentioned earlier. It has a section in the back dedicated to learning kanji and reading practice that uses those kanji. It helps reinforce what you’re learning, at your level, without being incredibly tiresome.

And honestly, the sooner you knock out kanji, the better. Kanji helps you memorize vocab better, read with ease (making learning through native resources much easier), and have a deeper understanding of how the language works. And if you knock out these 100 kanji quickly, you can move on to focusing on the truly difficult parts of the test — like listening comprehension.

It may seem impossible to memorize the kanji quickly, but you will get there.

Drill. Everyday. Rinse and repeat until the test!

Of course, there are other methods or apps you can use to learn the kanji. But this is how I learned, and how many others have learned with success.

頑張って、皆さん! (Good luck, Everyone!)

Don’t let the JLPT N5 test intimidate you — you’ve got this! The best advice I have? Try to relax and keep calm. If you go in stressed and nervous, you may struggle to focus, especially when listening.

What are your best tips for learning the kanji? Are there other methods or apps that have helped you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

And most importantly, 頑張って、皆さん! (2)

Caitlin Sacasas

Content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months

Caitlin is a content creator, fitness trainer, zero waster, language lover, and Star Wars nerd. She blogs about fitness and sustainability at Rebel Heart Beauty.

Speaks: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish

View all posts by Caitlin Sacasas

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