The Most Difficult Kanji: Unraveling the Challenging Characters

Choose the Kanji you think is the most difficult!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Mar 1, 2024 05:38
Dive into the intricate world of Kanji and put your skills to the ultimate test with our latest ranking on StrawPoll, "What is the most difficult Kanji?"! Join thousands of language enthusiasts, scholars, and learners as we explore the depths of these fascinating characters that beautifully meld meaning and form. Cast your vote for the most mind-bogglingly complex Kanji that has ever graced your eyes or challenged your writing abilities. Don't see your nemesis on the list? Fear not! You can suggest a missing option and let fellow Kanji warriors join you in facing the ultimate linguistic trial. So, are you ready to embark on this remarkable journey and discover the most enigmatic Kanji together? Head on over to StrawPoll and let the Kanji showdown begin!

What Is the Most Difficult Kanji?

  1. 1
    This kanji has 14 strokes, and it's commonly used in words related to language, such as 言語 (gengo, language) or 日本語 (nihongo, Japanese language).
    The kanji 語 (Go, language) is a complex character that consists of 14 strokes. It is derived from the combination of two radicals: 言 (gen, meaning speech) and 吾 (go, meaning I or my). This kanji represents the concept of language or words.
    • Stroke Count: 14
    • Radicals: 言 (gen) and 吾 (go)
    • Meaning: Language
    • Pronunciation: Go
    • Grade Level: 3rd grade
  2. 2
    This kanji has 29 strokes, and it's used to describe a feeling of sadness or melancholy.
    鬱 (Utsu, depression) is a complex and visually intricate Kanji character used to depict the state of depression or melancholy. It is composed of 29 strokes, making it one of the most difficult Kanji to write and recognize. The character is known for its convoluted elements and intricate composition.
    • Stroke Count: 29
    • Radical: 鬯 (chàng)
    • Pronunciation: Utsu
    • Meaning: Depression, melancholy
    • Complexity: High
  3. 3
    This kanji has 14 strokes, and it's used in words related to textile or fabric design, such as 綾織り (ayaori, twill weaving).
    綾 (Aya, design) is a complex and intricate Kanji character that represents the concept of 'design' or 'pattern'. It is composed of ten strokes and is known for its visual beauty and its challenging nature to write correctly. The character includes various elements such as horizontal and vertical lines, curves, and intersecting strokes, making it a difficult Kanji to master.
    • Number of strokes: 10
    • Radical: 糸 (Thread)
    • Meaning: Design, pattern
    • Readings: Aya
    • JLPT Level: N2
  4. 4
    This kanji has 20 strokes, and it's used to describe a sound or a feeling that reverberates or resonates.
    響 (Hibiki, echo) is a complex Kanji character used in Japanese writing system. It depicts the concept of sound resonating or echoing.
    • Stroke Count: 20
    • Radical: 音 (oto, sound)
    • Readings: Hibiki, kyo
    • Meanings: Echo, sound, resonance
    • On'yomi: キョウ (kyou)
  5. 5
    This kanji has 10 strokes, and it's used to represent the mythical creature known as a dragon.
    竜 (Ryuu) is a Kanji character that represents the concept of a dragon in Japanese. It is a complex and visually appealing character that is often considered one of the most difficult Kanji to write and remember due to its intricate strokes and components.
    • Stroke count: 10
    • Radical: ⺌ (left-side radical)
    • Components: 龙 (dragon) + 少 (few)
    • Meaning: Dragon
    • Pronunciation: Ryuu
  6. 6
    This kanji has 15 strokes, and it's used to describe a connection or a bond between people or things.
    The Kanji 縁 (En) is a complex character that represents the concept of fate or an enduring bond between people or things. It carries deep cultural and philosophical significance in Japanese language and society.
    • Stroke Count: 14
    • Radical: 糸 (いと, ito) - meaning thread
    • Components: 糸 (いと, ito) - meaning thread + 艮 (こん, kon) - a phonetic component
    • Meaning: Fate, destiny, bond
    • Pronunciation: En
  7. 7
    This kanji has 14 strokes, and it's used to represent the color green.
    The kanji 緑 (Midori, green) is a complex character in the Japanese writing system. It is composed of 18 strokes and belongs to the Jouyou Kanji level, which represents the most commonly used kanji in Japan. This character is commonly used to denote the color green and is an essential kanji in various contexts, including nature, plants, and environmental discussions.
    • Stroke Count: 18
    • Reading: Midori
    • Meaning: Green
    • Jouyou Kanji Level: 1
    • Commonly Used: Yes
  8. 8
    This kanji has 21 strokes, and it's used to describe a lively or energetic movement, such as dancing or jumping.
    The Kanji 躍 (Odoru, dance) is a complex character that portrays the action of leaping or dancing. It consists of 21 strokes and is considered one of the most difficult Kanji characters to write and remember. It is commonly used to represent the concept of lively movement or energetic dancing.
    • Meaning: Dance/leap
    • Readings: Odoru
    • Strokes: 21
    • Radical: 足 (ashi, foot)
    • Components: 足 (foot) + 豕 (pig)
  9. 9
    This kanji has 20 strokes, and it's used to describe the extent or limits of something, such as a range or a scope.
    範囲 (Han'iki) is a complex Kanji that represents the concept of 'scope' or 'range'. It is composed of two radicals: 竹 (take, meaning 'bamboo') and 象 (zō, meaning 'elephant'). Together, these radicals form a character that visually represents the boundaries of a range or space.
    • Number of Strokes: 15
    • Radicals: 竹 (take) and 象 (zō)
    • Radical Meanings: '竹' means 'bamboo' and '象' means 'elephant'
    • Radical Positions: '竹' is located on the left side and '象' is located on the right side
    • Reading Pronunciations: Han'iki
  10. 10
    This kanji compound has 17 strokes, and it's used to describe an error or a misunderstanding.
    錯誤 (Sakugo) is a complex Kanji meaning 'mistake' in Japanese. It consists of two components, 錯 (saku) and 誤 (go).
    • Meaning: Mistake
    • Components: 錯 (saku) + 誤 (go)
    • Stroke Count: 16 strokes
    • Radical: 金 (metal)
    • Grade: Jinmeiyou (Non-Jōyō)

Missing your favorite Kanji?


Ranking factors for difficult Kanji

  1. Stroke count
    The number of strokes required to write a kanji character can significantly affect its difficulty. More complex kanji with a higher number of strokes are generally considered harder to remember and write correctly.
  2. Readings
    Each kanji usually has multiple readings (pronunciations) based on context. Some kanji may have only two or three readings, while others may have more than ten. The more readings a kanji has, the harder it is to remember and use in context.
  3. Meaning
    Some kanji have a single, clear meaning, while others have multiple meanings or abstract concepts that are difficult to grasp. A kanji's difficulty can be influenced by how easily one can understand its meaning(s).
  4. Radicals and components
    Some kanji are made up of several smaller parts, called radicals, which can often be seen in other kanji characters. The more radicals and components a kanji has or the more complex the radicals themselves are, the harder it generally is to remember and write.
  5. Similarity to other kanji
    Some kanji characters look very similar to others, with only small differences in strokes or radicals. This can make it more challenging to differentiate between them and remember which is which.
  6. Frequency of use
    Less commonly used kanji are often considered more difficult, as learners have fewer opportunities to see them in context and reinforce their memory. On the other hand, more frequently used kanji may be encountered early in textbooks and materials, allowing students more time and exposure to remember them.
  7. Learning order
    The order in which a kanji is introduced in learning materials or classes can affect its perceived difficulty. If a learner encounters more complex kanji too early in their studies, they may find it more difficult to understand, remember, and use.
  8. Personal interest and mnemonic devices
    Learners may find some kanji easier to remember and use if they have a personal interest in the meaning or if they develop mnemonic devices to help them remember the strokes, readings, or meanings. This factor is subjective and varies from person to person.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most difficult Kanji. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or Kanji is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 171 votes
  • 10 ranked items

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Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each Kanji once every 24 hours. The rank of each Kanji is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most difficult kanji

Kanji is a system of writing that originated in China and was later adopted by Japan. It consists of characters that represent words or ideas and is an integral part of the Japanese language. There are over 2,000 Kanji characters used in everyday Japanese, and each character has its own unique meaning and pronunciation. However, some Kanji characters are more difficult to learn and remember than others. Factors such as the number of strokes, complexity of the character, and the context in which it is used can make certain Kanji particularly challenging to master. So, what is the most difficult Kanji? Let's explore some of the contenders and their unique complexities.

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