September 3

How We Made the JLPT Kanji Poster Set


Sometimes, a kanji poster is exactly what you need.

If you're looking at over 2000 kanji you need to learn and you're feeling a bit overwhelmed, don't worry – you're not alone!

Kanji is a bit of a mountain for all Japanese learners. How you climb this mountain is totally up to you, and no one method is totally foolproof for everyone. For instance, I heard so many people online raving about the "Heisig Method" and I went out and bought the book. Didn't work for me.

I was in school and taking an introductory Japanese class at the time, and we had plenty of opportunities to see how well (or poorly) we were remembering our kanji. Turns out, you can't really "cram" for kanji tests – either you know them or you don't. Never mind the multiple readings for each character...

So this was my experience learning kanji.

Flashcards, tests, hyped books, and generally just stress. I felt like a sieve; every time I learned some new kanji, I would forget a handful from the previous semester. I found myself wondering, "why can't there be a simple chart, like with hiragana and katakana?"

This is why we created the JLPT Kanji Poster Set.

All the kanji

Looking at the kanji-learning market, there were actually a few poster solutions out there. Basically some small posters for Japanese children, and a few posters aimed at total beginners with between 50-300 kanji. While those are certainly great in some situations, we really wanted to develop a kanji poster that people could use throughout their entire Japanese-study journey. So, we decided to go all in and develop a set with all the JLPT kanji, including multiple readings and English translations for each.

Being in university at the time, and working full time jobs, this work happened in the evenings. Weeks of sorting kanji, pouring over readings for the most useful, and comparing dictionaries for the most true-to-use English translations. Finally, after months of work, we had our list.

Example of some of the kanji information on our posters

From list to kanji poster

So now we had this massive list of kanji, it was time to get it designed into a poster. 

We recruited friends, family, loan sharks, and anyone else we could get to help us pay for a professional designer. Eventually we found someone online who was willing to take on this task and we pooled our collective money and sent it off into the unknown to see what this person could do for us (keep in mind, this was before online freelancing had really taken off!).

There was a ton of miscommunication about how kanji should be spaced, what fonts were appropriate, and actually about the design fee itself! It was a bigger task than anyone involved had truly realized, but once we were committed, that was it. Ride or die, right?

Eventually we received the final files, and it was time for our biggest investment – printing and ordering shipping tubes, and getting our website up and designed.

In all, we each put ourselves in the hole financially and spent many sleepless nights to make the kanji poster set come together as a product. We're very proud of it, and we hope you like it, too.

Using your kanji poster

Just like a hiragana or katakana chart, the kanji poster set can be pinned up on the wall in your study area. Every day, you get to see all the kanji, and honestly, it makes it feel manageable. You can track your progress with a marker, and you're never too far away from the first kanji you mastered, so you don't have to worry about forgetting them!

I put mine up over my bed, and when I couldn't sleep I'd stare up and see some new kanji. Other customers have put theirs:

  • On their bathroom walls
  • In the garage
  • Classrooms
  • Framed them and put them on living room walls

The options are limitless! Put your kanji poster somewhere you will see it often, and you'll be surprised how quickly you get used to them. Kanji are no longer some terrible task, but it really starts to become a reachable goal.

The options are limitless! 

Put your kanji poster somewhere you will see it often, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you get used to them. Kanji are no longer some terrible task, but rather it really starts to become a reachable goal.

If you are studying Japanese, or you know someone who is, please check out our kanji poster set. A lot of love went into making it, and we’re sure you’ll love yours too.

If you have any questions or comments, please drop a comment in the section below, or hit us up on the contact page.

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