How To Find Memory Palaces


In this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast, you’ll learn how to find more Memory Palaces, even if you live in a small town and …

… don’t want to appear creepy to the locals.

You can use the Method of Loci anywhere for language acquisition, and yet, what if you don’t have access to a big city? What if you live in the boondocks? What if you’re a prisoner and haven’t seen daylight for a hundred thousand hours?

Well, I haven’t got answers for all of these questions, but as I talk about in this episode, often the questions are more important anyway.


Because questions open up the mind. Questions trigger the search for solutions. Throw experimentation into the mix and the next thing you know, life changes. And usually for the better.

That’s why I especially admired this recent letter I received from a member of the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass. Give it a read as a supplement to this week’s episode, followed by a basic prose version of my answer. As always get in touch if you have any questions. I’d love to help you if I can. 🙂

The Magnetic Questions Of The Week

I’m going to apologize in advance, this email is going to be a bit long, and…I am very sorry for that. I would be, however, very grateful for your help.

I have to say this… I watched a lot of your videos, listened to a lot of podcasts, and…I honestly am pumped to get started really seriously learning Japanese vocabulary.


At the risk or sounding like I’m obfuscating things…I just have a few quick and simple questions, involving the “Art of Association” itself, so to speak.

Should one prefer memory palaces, or images?

If you have looked at Japanese before, you probably have noticed that its spelling is in no way similar to western languages, so I came up with two possible ways to memorize vocabulary, but, I’d rather do things the right way, the easier and more efficient way, right from the get-go. So, in idea one, I thought of treating each kana as a sentinel, to give each one a specific image that will be tied to vocabulary. I’d create 26 memory palaces, a-z, and store words based on their first letter when transliterated. Then tie the actual first kana image, to the rest of the word. That way I can have words like yasai and yokoshiro in the same palace, with distinct “sentinel” images attached to them, to give away the first kana itself. This idea uses less palaces, but more images. And is, as I think of it, “Palace-Conservative”.

The second idea, (Don’t worry,there is only two), is “Image-Conservative”, and, the general idea, is to use a single palace for each kana. Now, there are variations to this, really, in variation 1, I only looked at the hiragana, (because katakana uses the same sounds but different symbols), and would store words based solely on the first kana in the word. (no transliteration). Including the Datuken, I would require 70 palaces. If I included “Combo-Hiragana”, I’d require 106. (Roughly). To blow this up even more, in variation 2, if I were to treat the katakana and hiragana separately, to remember the proper spelling of words (Like, which kana syllabary to use), I’d need roughly 212 palaces.

I’m brand new to memory palaces, and the magnetic memory method, and really, the “Palace Conservative” idea sounds more intuitive to me, but, haha, this is coming from a guy who thought rote learning and spaced repetition systems like Anki were the only way to go. And I really, really didn’t like them.

Memory Palace Acquisition, a problem?

For me, yes. Let me explain: I’m 21 years old. I live in a town of 5000 people. Nearest town has maybe 500 people. Nearest city, of 250,000, is 400km away. I have no car. I have no drivers license. I also have a night job, and sleep during the day. I have spent 13 years of my life here, about 8 years of my life in that small nearby town, and 4 months in Barrie. I don’t remember those 4 months very well, I was only 7, and…well, I was extremely depressed, and in short, that’s the reason I ended up back in this town to begin with.

Anyways…during the Palace Recitation exercise I was only able to come up with about 60 palaces. And I really thought about this,  with a lot of time and effort. Occasionally, 1 more might pop up, but…I believe I have pretty much maxed out now. And I really don’t want to sound pessimistic, I love this method thus far, and I can see myself using it forever, and ever…and ever. But, until I’m able to move out to a city, where I can actually just “go memory palace hunting” so to speak, I’m stumped about what to do. I don’t know if you ever lived in a small town before, but just going out and getting new friends and doing all that, is really…it’s very hard to do. For example I can’t just, you know, burst into the little high school we have and start socializing with a bunch of the kids there. It’d be…inappropriate, to say the least.

I played one of my favourite video games, Ocarina of Time, as remade for the 3DS back in 2011, and spent about an hour, really visualizing and exploring one of the “Dungeons” in the game, both as a visualization exercise, and because I may use it as an imagined memory palace. I was thinking of using many, many more buildings I have found in video games as well, but…recalling these structures adds a layer of complexity on top of storing the images…so, I wanted to know how “practical” it would be, in general, to save up a bunch of imagined memory palaces?

What about large imagined memory palaces?

Okay, so, recalling large, real buildings, is fairly easy. Our brains are tuned for that. But what about…large, imaginary buildings? I know it sounds like a no-brainer, like, “it’s imagined and it’s large and so there’s more to try and remember about the layout, so of course it’ll be harder to remember!” But, I was wondering if it’d be more practical to memorize a large imaginary palace, (Take Ocarina of Time’s Shadow Temple or Spirit Temple for example), versus, trying to memorize the layouts of say, ten or fifteen small or medium sized imaginary buildings? I suppose it depends on the volume of related information I’d want to store in it, but…if I wanted to learn about multi-threaded programming, and store it all in imagined palaces, should I store all the info across several imagined palaces, or contain it in a single, large one?

Not crossing your path, and long hallways…

On the note of not crossing your own path in memory palaces. During my “Virtual tour” of the “Shadow Temple” in ocarina of time, I realized there are many hallways and, “leaf” rooms. Or, really, a hallway that leads to a room, and that room leads to 5 more connected rooms, but the only way to get back, is to go down that hallway again. Does that…count as crossing my path? Or does it only really count, if there are stations in that hallway?

Okay I’m done bombarding you with questions for now! I hope you can answer, and…I hope they are good questions (Well, there’s no such thing as a bad question, really) but, I hope they are at least…entertaining questions or…something positive. I love you videos, your method, your website, (I also love that it is mobile-friendly), and your podcasts. I listen to them while I’m at work!

Prose Version Of My Answer

Thanks for your questions!

First off, I apologize for the lateness in my response. I was on a research trip in Italy so that I can bring more valuable ideas to the Masterclass and Mastermind. Do you know of Giordano Bruno? He had some great memory systems and I’ve been able to look at some archival documents and will be putting together something special over the coming year based on his work.

But I also fell ill and should have seen a doctor while I was there. So I am on a lot of antiobiotics now and haven’t really been able to get to the computer until yesterday and am struggling to catch up. I had seen your email and apologize for not answering it, but I was shivering in bed with fever and all manner of nastiness and really could only do the minimum. I haven’t even had a podcast up for almost three weeks and though I’ve been blessed by having lots of emails asking if I’m okay, I feel terrible about getting behind. This is my biggest passion in life and it sucks to get ill. Maybe one day I’ll have an assistant who can at least send out an email that I have to be away. But hopefully I won’t get this sick again, and no matter where I might be in the world, I will make sure to see a doctor one way or the other.

All that said, I’ll do my best to address your questions with respect to using Memory Palaces for language acquisition and we can carry forward from there if you have any more. I really appreciate them and am dedicated to helping you in every possible.
It’s great to hear that you’re excited for learning Japanese. And I like what you’re thinking.

The honest answer is that you should try both. At first glance, I think your sentinel idea is going to work better, but I still think the only way to know is to at least give a percentage of the 212 Memory Palace version you are thinking of a try.


Because it might open the floodgates in your mind in a way that will never happen if you opt for just the one. I’m going through the same experimentation phase with Kanji and I simply have to do the extra steps of trying different approaches I come up with or risk never knowing what will

a) Work best
b) Stimulate new ideas and results I could not anticipate without at least giving it a try

There’s a third way, however, and one that I don’t think you should take because you’re obviously advanced enough not to need it. And that’s to either use Romanji or the principle of homophonic transliteration to create your own Romanji. Ultimately, this can create more problems than it solves and I only recommend it to people who need to get their foot in the door in order to at least have speech recognition and the ability to speak, but since you want to read, spell and have such a high order of thinking already working for you, go with these two options and settle on the one you like best. You’ll figure it out in short order.

With respect to life north of Barrie, Ontario, I lived in Toronto for 10 years, so know your neck of the woods quite well. I’ve driven through at least 5 times throughout my life. I’ve also lived in places smaller than you, though admittedly Silver Creek is within 20 minutes of Salmon Arm by car. Of course, I had to hitchhike a lot to get there, but it was still not that big of a deal and I did wind up walking more than a few times too.

In other words, I think I understand your situation and have to say that 60 is an impressive number given the circumstances. But I think you can probably stretch it out further.

About using the school you mentioned, often schools have evening programs and public events. It’s Christmas time, so maybe you can go to the Christmas concert or take a one-day seminar. There’s probably a community events calendar available online that you can look into.

Failing that, you could just go to the principal’s office during the day, tell him about the Magnetic Memory Method and say that you need a new Memory Palace. Tell him that you know it sounds creepy, but if you could make an appointment a 4 or 4:30 after you’ve woken up and all the students are gone home to have a guided tour, that would be great. If you’re upfront with people, they’re usually very helpful, no matter how strange your story may be.

Have you tried the local hospital? You should be able to walk around in there without anybody even asking about your presence and get lots and lots of stations.

I don’t know if you’re a religious person or not, but there are often tasty snacks after the Sunday service and churches make for great Memory Palaces. I have several.

Have you covered the gas stations and restaurants? Admittedly, these aren’t the greatest, but a gas station with a restaurant can work wonders just by sitting for a cup of coffee.

Finally, when I used to walk those long stretches, I encountered many barns and I can still remember them. Even without seeing the inside of them, I know that they all have four corners and have used these corners to memorize information.

About virtual Memory Palaces, I really don’t find them practical for most things for the precise reason you’ve expressed: they add a layer of complexity. More than that, you have to rebuild them while you’re staging and decoding the associative-imagery. It makes no sense in most cases.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with it. You most certainly should. I’ve had some interesting successes with them, especially with memorizing poetry and other verbatim texts. This is because the text itself serves as a kind of aid to memory because it’s a chain. So one thing you can do is practice Virtual Memory Palaces based on video games using poetry first and then adapt them for other purposes such as vocabulary.

This represents an extra step, but I think you’ll find that it pays off in the long run. You get good with using Virtual Memory Palaces with something relatively trivial first and that lends itself to the practice and then switch the ability you’ve gained over to something more difficult. It’s kind of like how a baseball player practices swinging with 3 or 4 bats in hand so that they have more power and agility when they gear down to just one bat during the game.

About crossing your own path, the solution here is to not enter the rooms. Just glance into them. I call this at certain points in the Masterclass the “Peer vs. Enter” technique. And it literally is just that: peering in through the door and casting your mental eyes around either clockwise or counterclockwise depending on the nature of your journey and then moving on. It helps a lot of people a great deal.

The other alternative is not to travel your Memory Palace at all. You don’t have to be a figure that moves along the journey. You can be like a god who lifts up the roof and then peers down at the layout, looking from room to room and station to station. There will be path-crossing issues with this too, but it is another way to think about travelling through a Memory Palace.

Back to Virtual Memory Palaces – I do have a full video about this that I haven’t uploaded to the Masterclass yet. It goes through some of the more advanced techniques and will give you some ideas. Please extend me some patience with getting it in there. There are other videos coming too that I know you’re going to love.

And to thank you for your questions, I’m going to feature them on the podcast. With any luck, I’ll be able to get that out today. I’m really glad that you enjoy it and hope that you won’t mind that I make your letter and this response the basis for an episode. But I think it would be of tremendous value to people and maybe I’ll get some more ideas as I’m talking through the material.

You’ve also given me some ideas of illustrations that I can make to better demonstrate the Peer vs. Enter technique. As you know, using a Memory Palace with these optimized methods is one of the best memory care home solutions we’ve got, so I’ll work on these and make them exclusive to the Masterclass.

I hope that these notes answer your questions. Please do be in touch if you have any more and let me know when that something special I put into the mailbox for you the other day arrives.
Talk soon!



P.S. Visiting this dude nearly killed me. LOL!


Further Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Previous episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast: A Magnetic Little Tip On Memorizing Foreign Language Vocabulary.

Giordano Bruno on Wikipedia

Interview with Scott Gosnell about Bruno’s memory techniques

Scott Gosnell’s translation of Bruno’s De Umbris Idearum: On The Shadows Of Ideas.

Difference and Repetition by Gilles Deleuze

What is an Author? by Michel Foucault

4 Responses to " How To Find Memory Palaces "

  1. Keith Lane says:

    Interesting material on Palaces.
    Your illness was not good news. At least you had the satisfaction of beating it and appreciating your usual wellness.
    I find that by your leaving the subject of Palaces so wide open as to give me a chance to find my own way, is also basic to your work.
    About 40 years ago when I was 46 I spent some time memorizing a number code and found it far too cumbersome. Over the years I’ve dipped into and read and collected a library of the usual suspects who more or less advocate that system.
    About three years ago I conducted a memory class at our local U3A. Stands for University of the Third Age and it started off with about 15 people. At least five thought it might help their approaching Alzheimer’s two dropped out and about eight stuck with it. I had been teaching computer skills there for about 10 years and decided that too many people were dying around me and anyway I wanted to pursue my own course of study.
    That is mainly statistical and I have been studying mapping programs as an aid to learning. Over the years I have collected Buzan’s books and bought his program. I have found all of these programs great for organising material but they don’t work for my mental imagery or recal.
    Now I am studying the use of a program called Compendium that is the software aid to IBIS (Issue Based Information System ). My object at the moment is to see if I can also use Compendium nodes as memory places.
    This us a lot more than a comment, isn’t it?

    • I’m glad to hear that you’re able to find your way into Memory Palaces, Keith. That has been my hope by presenting a method rather than a system.

      Any chance that the class you gave was recorded?

      About being visual: If you have a look at the 4 free video series, you’ll find that the second video has exercises for improving visualization. One quick tip is to really analyze what “seeing” imagery in your mind means. It doesn’t have to be high-def television, for example. Often if you can just think of what the image would look like using words and maybe write that down, it will be more than enough. You can then associate the description with the location.

      For example, without actually mentally traveling to a Memory Palace I built long ago, I can tell you that Abraham Lincoln and Iggy Pop are doing something perverse to a painting that helps recall the sound and meaning of a German word. But the extent to which I have to “see” it is really small.

      Of course, developing visual abilities helps a great deal and I have come up with many ways to develop in this area (learning to draw, looking at paintings, certain meditation exercises), but still a lot can be achieved by simply by starting on the basis of a verbal and/or written description and linking that to stations in a Memory Palace.

      Thanks for the great comment and please let me know if you have any questions. And I’d love to hear more about the course you gave and your approach if you have a chance to stop by again and say a little about it. 🙂

  2. Lee says:

    Great tune at the end of the podcast

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