Trickily Similar Kanji [141/365]

This morning I was doing my online spaced-repetition kanji practice and it demonstrated to me that there are four kanji I really get confused over (still!).

flat, level, even; calm, peaceful, quiet

half, semi-, hemi-, halfway

rice; America; United States; continent of America

come, coming, arrive, come to

So the theory is that by posting those four here in full I will better remember them! THE THEORY.

When double checking the information above, my resources came up with other kanji that some learners find visually similar and therefore confusing, like I did with my four! Here is the first related branch I ran into.

cow, ox, cattle, bull, beef


Those two were specifically mentioned as kanji of possible confusion with the 平半米来 set but then once I looked into 牛午 I of course found other kanji that people confuse with those two (!). I’m not going to go too far down this rabbit hole but here is what I consider to be the most easy kanji to confuse with 牛午.



Another branch of confusion that some people seem to have is with the diagonal little jabby bits that 平半米来 all share. There was a particular kanji given as a possible red herring:

light, glow, shine, glitter, sparkle

And, as with 牛午, researching that kanji then leads to more suggestions for ones that may be visually confused. Again, I won’t delve too deep into thar caverns but here are a couple:

origin, beginning, element

ahead, before, previous, precede

I have a feeling this won’t be the last time I post on here about visually-similar kanji – there are oodles of ’em!

When coming up with the title for this one Priya said “trickily similar is so appropriate for today!” because…today is Halloween 😉

This is ノンちゃん, the Goto Family Cat. Rie (my old boss / host mother) sent me this picture today. I am happy that ノンちゃん is still 元気 but I can tell that she is not too happy about her seasonal apparel (!).


  1. Yeay, a post not about micro seasons! (:

    Ironically, most of the kanji sets you mentioned in this article never confused me before (I hadn’t noticed their similarity) but when you group them together like this it does seem really confusing.

    This reminds me of my theory about similar-sounding words, which I think I’ve written about before (

    Basically, when learning similar-sounding words, it is best to get comfortable with only one of them, use it, and then only once there is good familiarity a similar word should be introduced. I find this makes it easier to avoid confusion. Think of remembering the difference between a guy named John you just met with your best friend also named John. Then contrast that with remembering two different guys named John you just met.

    I think this principle also applies to learning (and teaching) similar kanji.

    Having said that, it’s fun––and easy––to write articles about this stuff, so I admit that I do it one in awhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is absolutely excellent advice. I think of it a bit like having an “anchor” character (or word) that the others can be contrasted with. When learning with self-constructed lists I generally follow the method you describe, but on WaniKani I don’t have that control and have to somewhat mentally override it if they decide for some reason to introduce similar-looking or similar-sounding units too closely together.


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