How to Read Visual Novels in Japanese in 2 years time (or 1 year if you are fast) ― learn to read through VN or anime

How to Read Visual Novels in Japanese in 2 years time (step by step guide). Learn to read visual novels through reading visual novels or watching anime.

Nowadays learning Japanese has become much easier thanks to the advent of text-hooking software. ITH (Interactive Text Hooker V3) can extract the Japanese text displayed in the game and copy it in real-time onto your clipboard. Then using software like Translation Aggregator you can parse this text through an electronic dictionary or Google translate. The meanings of the words pop up on the screen as soon as they appear in the game. No need to go looking up physical dictionaries (No need to Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V either). JParser highlights syntax for you, a huge reading advantage for beginners. Most dialogue in visual novels are voiced. This is a great to those people who grew up watching fansubbed Anime.

Learn to read by watching Anime
In fact ITH is not limited to just visual novels. You can use it for Anime with Japanese subtitles too! (or even Jdrama + movies) Unfortunately very few anime released in Japan on DVD or Blu-ray come with a subtitles option (although funny enough it is available when it’s being aired on TV). Please see step 4 – anime alternative.


The Kanji Factor (the greatest challenge)
If you want to learn to read Japanese, you must tackle 2000 Kanji. (updated to 2136 kanji in Nov 2010.) To do this – use Heisig’s Remember The Kanji method, the single most effective method in existence. (see The mechanic is: Mnemonics + SRS but the true challenge is your discipline.

Note: The methods documented in this article only teach you how to read. It does almost nothing for your hearing, speaking or listening skills. The objective is to fast-track your reading skills, enabling you to enjoy over 90% of all video games produced in Japan.


Step One
1) Learn 46 Hiragana and 50 Katakana. Use mnemonics. This will take 7 to 21 days.

Step Two 2) Learn 2000 2136 Kanji. This will take 100 to 365 days

  • 2A) Download Anki
  • Notice that there are two versions, Anki 1 and Anki 2, Anki 2 is better but smartphone versions are not 100% complete yet. If it’s important for you to have the phone app, I would suggest using anki 1 and updating later.
  • 2B) (Anki 1) Open it up, click on File > Download > Shared Deck. Or (Anki 2) Open it up, click Shared decks (this will open your browser)
  • 2C) Search “Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji 1+3 with 2010 joyo kanji”, select it and click OK (This deck contains the right order with the new 2010 kanji, you have to use RTK and the RTK supplement pdf with it.) The kanji from the supplement in the deck comes with the
    letter A beside the kanji number. Like: 45A instead of 45.
  • 2C2) (Anki 2) After downloading it, open the file (If it didn’t do so automatically) click Add deck.

Depending on which version you choose, you have to edit the deck slighty differently. Follow the guide to the appropriate version you chose. For Anki 1.2.8

  • 2D) Open the deck then click Settings > Deck Properties > then press the Edit button > then Card Layout.
  • 2E) Delete the contents of the top box (the question box), Copy paste This into it:
  • <span style=”font-family: Arial; font-size: 20px; color: #000000; white-space: pre-wrap;”>{{Kanji}}</span>
  • 2F)Delete the contents of the bottom box (the answer box), copy paste this into it:
  • <span style=”font-family: Arial; font-size: 20px; color: #000000; white-space: pre-wrap;”><a href=”{{text:HeisigNumber}}”>{{{Keyword}}}</a></span> <br>Nr: {{{HeisigNumber}}}</span>
  • 2G) The deck is now ready. well done.

For Anki 2

  • 2D) Open the deck, click >Browse>Current deck>Cards…
  • 2E) Delete the contents of the Top box (The front template) and paste this into the Top box:
  • <span style=”font-family: Arial; font-size: 100px; color: #000000; white-space: pre-wrap;”>{{Kanji}}</span>

  • 2F)Delete the contents of the last box (The back template) and paste this into the last box:
  • <span style=”font-family: Arial; font-size: 20px; color: #000000; white-space: pre-wrap;”><a href=”{{text:HeisigNumber}}”>{{{Keyword}}}</a></span> <br>Nr: {{{HeisigNumber}}}</span>
  • 2G) The deck is now ready. well done.

2H) Register a new account at the Koohii website. This site lets you read other people’s mnemonics! Absolutely indispensable.
2I) Find yourself a copy of Heisig Remember the Kanji 1. (Try this copy on or here or here) then
2J) Read the Introduction (you must read the introduction!).
2K) Start reviewing. I recommend using the definitions provided on and the user generated mnemonics over Heisig’s because some of Heisig’s definitions are obsolete or incorrect. If you select 20 new Kanji cards per day, it will take you over 100 days to memorize all 2200 kanji. Adjust the speed of your learning to your own preference. You cannot take breaks. If you do, you will have wasted all your time. You must review at least once a day. When you reach 2200 Kanji, stop (but keep reviewing).

Step Three 3) Read all of Tae Kim’s Japanese Grammar guide. This will take about 2~ weeks.

Step Four 4) Start reading visual novels. Reading is ongoing. This will take the rest of your life.

  • 4A) Pick a visual novel with extremely simple language such as anything developed by Union Shift: Blossom (i.e. Flyable Heart, Nanatsuiro Drops, Da Capo I to III). Visual Novels by Language Difficulty Start with something that has been fan translated and the English scripts have been made available somewhere online (such as on TLWiki). Alternatively if you have two computers, you can install one copy on each, one that has been English-patched, the other in raw Japanese.
    Next, Acquire the game and install it. Try searching on or Make sure you set your PC to Japanese Locale. The ones on fuwanovel are pre-patched, so you are better off looking for a shared .ISO of the original game. See this post on Bishoujo Project.
  • 4B) Download ITH (Link)
  • Hook the visual novel up to ITH.
  • 4C) Download Translation Aggregator (Link)
  • Set up JParser. (See instructions here)
  • 4D) Create a new deck in Anki and give it a name.
  • 4E) Start reading and everytime you come across a word you don’t know, add it to Anki. (Which should basically be every single word when you first start)

Step Four Anime Alternative
4) Alternatively, you can start reading your Anime. There are four ways to acquire Japanese subtitles for anime.
4A)  First download ITH (Link).
4B)  Then download Translation Aggregator (Link).
4C)  Set up JParser. (See instructions here)

  • Method 1
    Visit and search for a series you are interested in.
    – Look for a group that fansubbed it into Japanese. For example, Lucky Star had 4 groups that releases their anime with Japanese subtitles in it. (or use the Advanced search feature and indicate Japanese fan-subtitled shows only)
    – Download the anime via torrent ( or or or DDL (
  • Method 2
    - Visit
    – Look for a .srt or .ass for a title you are interested in. (limited selection)
    – Download the corresponding anime in raw or fansubbed (doesn’t matter as long as it is not hardsubbed)
    – File > Load Subtitle.
    – If the subtitle is mistimed, use Aegisub.
  • Method 3
    – Visit
    – This is a database of all DVDs and Blu-rays that have Japanese subtitles.
    – Search for a title that you are interested in. For example, Clannad Blu-ray box has Japanese subtitles.
    – Acquire the title.
  • Method 4
    – See this incredible list of JP subtitle files:

And Finally:
4D) Open ITH.
4E) Make sure: Options > Auto copy to clipboard is ticked.
4F) Process > choose: mpc-hc.exe > Attach > OK  (using media player classic).
4G) Run the video player until the first one/two lines of Japanese text has appeared.
4H) Click the large dropdown bar that should say OxFFFFFFFF:ConsoleOutput and change it to TextOutW.
Every time you come across a word you don’t know, add it to Anki. For JDrama with Japanese subtitles, visit

Summary This guide is designed to fast-track you to a point where you can read a game. Reading is important. If you have 30 minutes of study time, I would prioritize reading over anything else. If Anki is taking too much time I would suggest cutting back on adding new words and just go read. Read and read and read until the cows come home! In 2 years time (or 1 year if you are fast), you should be able to understand 90% of what is being said in a simple visual novel. You won’t be able to read everything. You won’t be able to read Rui wa Tomo or Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa nai for example. Also, you will reach a certain point where reading will grant you diminishing returns. Unfortunately Tae Kim’s will only take you so far. From here on you will need to find your own way to acquire more grammar. and are places I found quite useful. Also scurry through all the resource found on Koohii forums. Good English explanations for all particles here.
FINAL NOTE It doesn’t matter what age you are, as long as you can understand how to use this guide and can understand how to use mnemonics you will do fine. It only takes a person to be a human being in order to learn how to read Japanese. There are no other requirements.

Update: For the 2136 Kanji RTK method, the reason why we do it this way with mnemonics is because it is the most efficient way to learn 10,000+ odd bits of very simple pieces of information. The Heisig method follows two golden rules: 1. Simple is key (easy to remember) 2. It gets SRS’d  (it goes into long-term memory)  Feel free to suggest anything else you have found helpful.