How Many Kanji Do You Need to Learn to Live in Japan?

How many kanji do you need to learn to live in Japan or do you need to enter to Japan? The answer is “No”, you don’t need to know a single kanji to enter or live in Japan.

Many expatriates in Japan are often worried about their poor skill to remember kanji. Kanji is complicated and difficult to distinguish for expats from Non-kanji countries.

As per rules, expatriates do not need to learn any kanji to live in Japan. The Japanese government does not force foreigners to learn Kanji, but knowing the kanji will make the life easier. After landing in Japan, my target for the first one year was to learn 100 most used Kanji.

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) lists 2136 kanji, known as Joyo kanji.
Level N5 – 80 Kanji
Level N4 – 170 Kanji
Level N3 – 370 Kanji
Level N2 – 380 Kanji
Level N1 – 1136 Kanji

The Japan Industrial Standard, shortly known as JIS lists out more than 6,000 kanji. This could be the highest level of kajni usage in Japan. Majority of Japanese people do not even use fifty percent of these kanji. Japanese newspapers and magazines make use of approximately 3,300 kanji. Since more frequently used kanji will be encountered repeatedly in the printed media, we can achieve an great deal with a limited number of kanji.

Most frequent 500 kanji should cover about eighty percent of the kanji being used in the printed media. If you master 1,000 kanji you could easily manage around ninety four percentage of that appear in the printed media.

I don’t exactly remembr, but the first 100 plus kanji I tried to remember are listed below. Apart from the listed kanji, I learned some complex ones that I encountered in daily work and life.

Kanji list for JLPT N5 level japanese study


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