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33 Best Japanese Learning Books for Beginners, JLPT Study and More (Tried and Tested)

It’s one of the most important Japanese learning decisions you’ll ever make.

Which Japanese textbook should you get?

Whether you’re a complete beginner to learning Japanese or you’ve got your sights set on taking the JLPT this year , it’s crucial that you find the right textbook for you.

In this post, I’ll give you the inside scoop on the best Japanese learning books for all levels and goals.

Best Beginner Japanese Learning Books

1. “genki”, 2. “japanese from zero”, 3. “living language japanese”, 4. “pimsleur japanese”, 5. “minna no nihongo”, best intermediate japanese textbooks , 6. “tobira”, 7. “japanese for busy people ii”.

  • 8. “Yookoso! Continuing with Contemporary Japanese”

Best Books for Speaking Japanese

9. “shadowing: let’s speak japanese”, 10. “nihongo active talk”, 11. “new nihongo keigo training”, best japanese grammar books, 12. “practice makes perfect”, 13. “a guide to japanese grammar”, 14. “japanese verbs & essentials of grammar”, 15. “all about particles”, best books to pass the jlpt, 16. “new kanzen master jlpt n4: grammar”, 17. “try” jlpt series, best books to learn japanese vocabulary, 18. “the handbook of japanese verbs”, 19. “japanese vocabulary”, 20. “jazz up your japanese with onomatopoeia”, best japanese dictionaries, 21. “kodansha’s furigana dictionary”, 22. “kenkyusha’s new japanese-english dictionary”, 23. “a dictionary of basic japanese grammar”, 24. “the kodansha kanji learner’s dictionary”, 25. “common japanese collocations”, 26. “sanseido japanese dictionary”, best books to learn kanji, 27. “new nelson japanese-english character dictionary”, 28. “remembering the kanji”, 29. “basic kanji book, vol. 1”, 30. “the kodansha kanji learner’s course”, best bilingual and parallel japanese-english books, 31. “japanese short stories for beginners”, 32. “short stories in japanese: new penguin parallel text”, 33. “japanese stories for language learners”, where to buy japanese textbooks, physical stores, online stores, and one more thing....

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"Genki"

Check availability on: OMGJapan

Probably the most popular beginner option for learning Japanese, “Genki” books I and II have been around for years and are firm favorites in college “Introduction to Japanese” courses. There’s a good reason for the enduring popularity of this series: They’re well-written, easy to understand, affordable and comprehensive.

  • The series is popular, so there are lots of online posts and user experiences about them.
  • Some extra materials online  are free to use.
  • Workbooks are available and are really useful for helping to consolidate learning without costing an arm and a leg.
  • They’re meant to be taught by a Japanese teacher in class and have many pair-work exercises, so they’re not always great for self-study.
  • Answers are sold separately in an additional book and are all-Japanese with no translation available.

"Japanese from Zero!"

Offering a less intimidating entry point to teaching yourself Japanese, this series has become really popular since its first publication in 2006.

Unlike most textbooks, no teacher is required and an active online community awaits those who want a more interactive approach. The series was written by a native English speaker and a native Japanese speaker, which means that different ways of thinking about language acquisition are considered.

  • The books are designed for self-study
  • The interface of the books and web materials is intuitive and visually appealing.
  • Supplementary materials are available to registered users on the YesJapan site .
  • The cost point is significantly lower than a lot of alternatives.
  • No audio is included in the textbook, though there’s some in the  supplementary materials you can view online.
  • You have to pay extra to access some web content.
  • The slower pace may frustrate busy adult learners with limited time.
  • It’s less comprehensive than some of its counterparts.

Living Language Japanese, Complete Edition: Beginner through advanced course, including 3 coursebooks, 9 audio CDs, Japanese reading & writing guide, and free online learning

Check availability on: Amazon

In this Japanese series, traditional textbooks are combined with a set of audio CDs and online resources to create a comprehensive experience for learning all the basics of Japanese. The Living Language program prides itself on teaching adults new languages through in-depth instruction. 

This is done through vocabulary lists, sample dialogues, lots of chances to practice as well as in-depth grammar explanations that don’t shy away from tough topics. Focus is placed on the essentials of the language, meaning that the vocabulary and grammar you’ll encounter are the most common features of everyday Japanese conversation.

  • Textbooks include CDs for speaking and listening practice.
  • Price is reasonable considering the amount of material.
  • Works well as a stand-alone course for those not enrolled in a formal class.
  • Can seem dated, at times definitely showing its age.
  • Explanations and exercises are often dry.

Pimsleur Japanese Level 1 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Japanese with Pimsleur Language Programs (1) (Comprehensive)

Pimsleur is another well-respected language company that’s been around for years. Their method focuses on speaking and listening through audio, so it’s ideal for students who want to supplement other textbooks or coursework with extra listening and speaking practice.

By breaking down spoken Japanese syllable by syllable and providing authentic dialogue, you’ll get a feel for the natural flow of the language, enabling you to better understand and participate in Japanese conversation. The audio lessons give you a chance to speak out loud and actually use the language.

  • Excellent source of speaking and listening material for those who don’t have native Japanese speakers to practice with.
  • Students quickly gain confidence through speaking and comprehension exercises.
  • Level-specific packages or comprehensive sets are available.
  • On the more expensive side.
  • Since it’s entirely focused on audio, there’s no exposure to Japanese reading or writing.

"Minna no Nihongo"

Another major player for Japanese beginners is “Minna no Nihongo” (translated as “Japanese for Everyone”). This well-established textbook series has a really broad range of offerings.

The book introduces kanji from the beginning and although this may be a challenge, it pays great dividends and makes learning much faster as you move on. The all-Japanese format means that you’ll have to try harder to power through before checking the translation book, which will help you start thinking in Japanese sooner.

  • Answers to some activities are included in the back of the book.
  • Presented entirely in Japanese for true immersion.
  • The series has a very wide range of books, covering many skills like reading, writing, speaking and listening.
  • Because there are so many books, there are many opportunities to practice and focus on the skills you especially need to master.
  • Knowledge of hiragana and katakana is a must before beginning this textbook.
  • Intended to be used in a traditional classroom setting with a Japanese teacher guiding you.
  • You may need to buy additional translation and grammar notes to get past the all-Japanese instruction.
  • Multiple books for each level mean that buying the whole set of books can get quite expensive.

"Tobira"

Until “Tobira” was published in 2009 there hadn’t been a significant new textbook for intermediate learners for 15 years. The writers and publishers clearly worked hard to make a resource that was comprehensive, challenging and that supported learners trying to overcome the dreaded intermediate plateau .

Highly recommended by users for bridging the gap between low intermediate and advanced Japanese, this textbook covers all the language skills, including speaking and listening. The book introduces concepts in a thorough but approachable way, helping users to form an understanding of the language, rather than just memorize.

  • It’s comprehensive and logical in terms of contents and learning order.
  • All skills are covered together, including speaking and listening.
  • It’s designed for classroom usage but works well for independent learning, too.
  • It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the pace at which new kanji are introduced, especially when studying independently.
  • You’ll need additional grammar and kanji books to really get the full experience, so the series gets expensive quickly.
  • Big, heavy books make studying on the go impractical.

"Japanese for Busy People II"

There are two versions of this textbook: One is written in romaji while the other uses  kana .  The kana version also includes supplementary kanji lessons at the end. This may put off some students, as the kanji has not been properly integrated nor contextualized for the corresponding lesson, which can be especially problematic considering that Japanese is a high-context language and culture.

However, compared to some of the other books in this post, “JfBP” is relatively cheap. Therefore, if you choose this book, you’ll be getting a classically-renowned learning guide at a low cost.

  • Great for learning Japanese in a short amount of time, especially for a tourist situation
  • Teaches more complex grammar
  • Puts vocabulary in its proper context
  • You need to buy a separate workbook for more exercises.
  • It’s not as helpful for learning kanji .
  • There’s an emphasis on work-related vocabulary instead of being diverse.  

8. “ Yookoso! Continuing with Contemporary Japanese”

"Yookoso! Continuing with Contemporary Japanese"

A well-known text in the area of Japanese language education, “Yookoso! Continuing with Contemporary Japanese” is used in many university classrooms around the world . 

However, it’s not without its critics, especially of the newest 3rd edition. While updates include a supplementary CD and text written in softer font, others include dated pop culture references, and homework sections do not always correspond with the day’s lesson. On top of that, it’s quite expensive: a used book can run as high as $150. Many people suggest that an older edition will work just as well.

  • It takes an in-depth look at Japanese grammar. 
  • There are a lot of helpful cultural notes.
  • You’ll pick up vocabulary for daily life.
  • There aren’t as many exercises on speaking and writing. 
  • It’s pretty expensive, with a hardcover copy ranging from $70 to $150.
  • It covers less than 200  kanji.  

"Shadowing: Let's Speak Japanese!"

As the name implies, this resource uses the shadowing technique  to teach Japanese, which consists of speaking along with a native speaker and trying to match the speed, pitch and pronunciation.

These books’ main strength lies in their practicality: The example sentences contained in both are really useful in daily life. They’re great resources for perfecting pronunciation and learning to automatically speak common phrases in a natural way.

There are two main books available, covering beginner to intermediate and intermediate to advanced. In addition, a specialist book for job interviews  is also available.

  • The books are good quality, well organized and include native speaker audio.
  • The system promotes natural speed, rhythm, intonation and pronunciation.
  • You’ll start speaking from day one.
  • The technique employed yields excellent results compared to other speaking practice methods.
  • You need to speak out loud, so it’s not the best for studying in public.
  • These textbooks are only good for speaking and listening—the texts don’t support any reading or writing practice, or grammar learning.
  • Don’t monitor comprehension or place phrases in the context of longer speech.
  • There are no quizzes or review exercises.

"Nihongo Active Talk"

If your main goal is having conversations and making friends using Japanese , then “Nihongo Active Talk” may be just the ticket. It covers set phrases and beginner vocabulary and focuses on the application and comprehension of simple speaking and listening skills.

The book focuses on grasping grammar basics and applying them in conversation, helping learners study the concepts in context. And since it’s romaji-supported, you can dive right in even without any knowledge of Japanese reading.

  • Romaji-based instruction  makes reading easier.
  • Short and simple exercises mean you can quickly move on, keeping motivation up.
  • Useful vocabulary lists will help you pick up new words and review them easily.
  • Romaji may discourage kana acquisition, which is essential for moving forward in your learning.
  • The focus on conversational skills means it’s less comprehensive than other textbooks.

"New Nihongo Keigo Training"

Keigo , or honorific Japanese, is used to show respect and to indicate one’s place in a hierarchy. It’s an essential feature of Japanese and mastering keigo can mean the difference between being able to work using your Japanese and upsetting a client or failing an interview.

There aren’t many resources specifically dedicated to the topic of keigo, so “New Nihongo Keigo Training” was a welcome edition when it was published in 2014.

  • Furigana throughout means that you can learn to communicate politely without Japanese kanji knowledge.
  • It’s succinct—this book gets straight down to business!
  • There’s a CD included and an audio download is available on the publisher’s page.
  • The minimal English explanations mean this book may not be appropriate for those totally unfamiliar with keigo.
  • There’s limited assistance for speaking.
  • Open-ended practice exercises may make it hard to assess the accuracy of your own answers.
  • Pair work activities aren’t well-suited for solo learners.

Practice Makes Perfect Basic Japanese

As the name suggests, this is a practice-based book. Students learn grammar through a series of interactive lessons that teach all the essentials.

Explanations of verb types, particles, clause modification and more are laid out plain and simple for the beginner. You’ll be able to work right in the book as you go through short lessons and exercises, perfect for even the most time-crunched language learners.

  • Suitable for beginners, easy to get yourself started and easy to understand.
  • Exercises also cover phonetics, writing and other often-neglected areas of language learning.
  • Usage dictionary included.
  • Exercise-based approach helps students internalize grammar.
  • Kanji is introduced quickly and uses only romaji translations, not furigana, making it difficult to associate the kanji with the right sounds.
  • Longer explanations for tougher topics could do with having more exercises.

A Guide to Japanese Grammar: A Japanese approach to learning Japanese grammar

This book covers all of the essentials of Japanese grammar in explicit detail, from basic sentence enders to advanced topics like negative volitionals.

The prime focus of this book is to give the learner building blocks that they can use to create a solid foundation in their knowledge of all things Japanese grammar.  Instead of starting from stock sentences using formal constructs and working backward (like most textbooks), Tae Kim presents Japanese grammar from the bottom up. This means you’ll learn the individual elements of grammar, as well as how to put them together to form more natural sentences than traditional textbooks teach. 

  • Extremely detailed and comprehensive: covers grammar, writing, phonetics and more, with plenty of support and examples.
  • Includes examples and vocabulary used by Japanese in the real world today, such as casual speech and slang.
  • Great for checking grammar rules, this textbook can be used as a beginner reference guide as well as a textbook to work through from start to finish.
  • There are no listening exercises or audio support
  • Practice exercises are open-ended questions, so they require someone with better Japanese than you to check for errors

Japanese Verbs and Essentials of Grammar

This book covers all the essentials in 160 pages. It’s organized logically for easy reference and offers a good way for beginners to get up and running quickly.

Part 1 focuses on Japanese verbs, explaining their endings and forms, how to modify them and more. You’ll also get lessons on those pesky て and た forms, which are essential to advancing through Japanese grammar.

Part 2 explains various Japanese grammar points from the basics, such as particles, counters and conjugations.

  • Short yet comprehensive: all major grammatical concepts are included and explained, without the fluff.
  • Suitable as a reference and includes tables that aid quick assimilation.
  • Bonus audio material can be accessed online.
  • Has section with cultural information.
  • The sheer amount of information can be overwhelming for beginners, so this is best used to reinforce learning.
  • The book only uses romaji, no kana or kanji.

All About Particles: A Handbook of Japanese Function Words

Though Japanese particles can be rather tricky to master, they’re far from impossible to learn. All that’s required is a clear, concise guide to learn from—and that’s where this book is here to help.

This book offers thorough explanations on nearly 70 particles in the Japanese language, from basics like は and が to more complicated ones like だの and すら. Plenty of example sentences are provided to account for a variety of circumstances in which particles may appear.

  • Uses cross-references to explain when multiple particles can be used in the same situation.
  • Good for all levels of Japanese learners.
  • Focuses on building comprehension through context to allow for thorough understanding.
  • This is strictly a reference book, so there aren’t any exercises.

New Kanzen Master Jlpt Grammar Bunpo Japanese Language Proficiency Test N4

One of a huge series aimed at those studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), this is an undoubtedly valuable resource for anyone studying Japanese grammar. The levels of these books correspond to the JLPT levels, ranging from N5 (easiest) to N1 (hardest).

I personally used the N2 version of this grammar book to study for the JLPT, and I was blown away by how thorough and easy to understand it was. Each grammar point is given a comprehensive explanation, detailing usage and limits for the terms.

  • Series available for all levels, beginners to advanced (JLPT N4~N1).
  • Plenty of practice exercises with mock tests.
  • Explains distinctions between similar grammatical phrases.
  • The JLPT focus means this is more of a review than a place to learn new grammar points.
  • Explanations sometimes don’t go in-depth about each topic

"Try!" JLPT series

The “Try!” series is specifically focused on students who intend to take the JLPT exam. The books strike a good balance between instruction, application and review of grammar and new vocabulary.

I found their grammar explanations to be sufficient without being so complex that I had trouble memorizing the main points. Plus, the examples are pretty close to what you might encounter in the real world, making it a valuable resource for seeing the application of the concepts you’re learning. The series worked well during lessons, as well as when I studied independently.

  • The fast “a to b” style is perfect for the JLPT, covering the basics in a succinct fashion.
  • Contain good, simple grammar explanations with some examples as well as exercises and listening quizzes.
  • The answers are included for easy self-assessment.
  • The books come with accompanying CDs.
  • You may need further examples to get a sense of how to use grammar that doesn’t have an equivalent in English.
  • Some grammar concepts are glossed over with brief explanations.

A vocabulary book is not the same as a dictionary. Understanding when and how to write, spell and speak Japanese vocabulary is a complex thing, so vocabulary books exist to hold your hand a bit more than a dictionary would while learning.

Vocabulary books are meant to give you a good grasp of the words they teach, but to be able to actually use the words in conversations, you’ll have to take your learning beyond the book. Try to find real-world examples of the words in movies, shows and books and any other authentic Japanese content that you consume.

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The Handbook of Japanese Verbs (Kodansha Dictionary)

The Japanese language revolves around verbs—their conjugations, modifications and placement within a sentence. As such, a book like this focused on verbs and their usage will come in great handy.

The book explains how verbs work and how they conjugate and relies heavily on exercises to ensure that students understand the material as they progress.

After breaking down Japanese verbs into their parts, you’re shown how they get mixed and matched with helping elements to convey a wide variety of meanings. Next, it shows how these verbs function in real Japanese sentences, with plenty of examples and practice questions to make sure that the meaning of each term is understood.

  • Excellent for beginners and intermediate students who want a solid understanding of verbs.
  • Exercise-oriented approach makes it ideal for self-study or students who want hands-on practice.
  • Book includes several appendices and methods for looking up verbs.
  • None, as far as I can tell!

Japanese Vocabulary (Barron's Vocabulary Series)

This book organizes thousands of common Japanese words into categories. From basics like greetings and numbers to more specific terms like travel and shopping, it’s easy to create a study plan from this book, or focus on what’s relevant to you.

This resource is excellent for beginner and intermediate students who wish to focus on specific areas or supplement their own studies with vocabulary.

The pronunciation is given for every word, and if you need to find a certain word fast, there’s an easy-to-navigate section that lets you pick out the term you want, showing both English and Japanese meanings.

  • Very reasonable price.
  • Small yet comprehensive.
  • Topical organization lets students focus on particular areas as needed.
  • There’s no kanji or kana used in this book.
  • Some of the words included are impractical for everyday use.

Jazz Up Your Japanese with Onomatopoeia: For All Levels

Onomatopoeia is a huge part of Japanese but isn’t often covered in textbooks. This is really a shame, because Japanese onomatopoeia can be used to express all sorts of concepts, feelings, sounds and more that English doesn’t have words for—but I sure wish it did!

This book contains a huge variety of onomatopoeia, getting into the details of everyday Japanese so you sound more like a native. To help readers learn how they’re used in sentences, sample dialogues are provided in Japanese, with transcriptions in romaji and English translations.

  • Explains symbolism between sound and meanings of onomatopoeia.
  • Written in casual, everyday Japanese to give an accurate sense of daily conversations.
  • Offers cultural notes on certain nuanced points.
  • The Japanese and its romaji depictions are on different pages (instead of following each sentence), forcing you to keep looking back.

Kodansha's Furigana Japanese Dictionary (Kodansha Dictionaries)

This dictionary includes furigana—small hiragana written above kanji—to help students know how to pronounce words. This is a fantastic feature, as many dictionaries do not include the furigana readings of kanji. Students can learn kanji readings through the furigana as they navigate this dictionary, giving them a leg up in their studies.

Like the Random House dictionary, it’s divided into a Japanese-English and an English-Japanese section. The Japanese-English section is written in Japanese kana, not romaji. There are also notes on words that may be vague in meaning, with example sentences that show them in their correct contexts.

  • The Japanese-English section, ordered by kana, helps students learn the native Japanese kana order.
  • Suitable for beginner and intermediate students.
  • Example sentences are included with each entry.
  • Compact and portable.
  • There’s no romaji at all, so no support for new learners.
  • The furigana is in a very small font, making it difficult to read at times.

Kenkyusha's New Japanese - English Dictionary, 4th Edition (English and Japanese Edition)

This heavy-duty dictionary is the most thorough, in-depth dictionary on the market, packing a whopping 290,000 words.

Many entries have multiple sub-entries, allowing for precise definitions that allow you to understand the exact meaning of each word. Example sentences and detailed explanations abound, so that you’re fully informed as to what each word means, including ones that lack English equivalents.

What’s more, this is the dictionary used by translators and professionals, making it indispensable if you hope to get into that field yourself.

  • The go-to dictionary for students who plan to study Japanese for many years to come.
  • Suitable for intermediate students, advanced students and translators.
  • Later editions include more entries and more modernized terms than previous ones.
  • It’s very expensive, especially if you want to buy it new.

A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar for Learning Language 3- BOOK Bundle Set , Basic , Intermediate , Advanced - Japan Import

Many Japanese teachers recommend this book to their students, and for good reason. This one-stop shop for all things Japanese grammar covers 600+ basic grammar points and gives in-depth explanations on every possible usage of each term.

Aimed at beginning Japanese students, this book provides definitions of each grammatical point and the particular characteristics it possesses. Several example sentences are provided for every entry, broken down into parts that show how the grammar functions in a Japanese sentence.

  • Part of a three-book series of basic, intermediate and advanced grammar.
  • Organized in alphabetical order for easy access.
  • Example sentences break down the usage of grammar points for easy study.
  • Relies heavily on romaji.
  • Explanations can get technical

The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Dictionary: Revised and Expanded

Made to be used with “The Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Course,” this comprehensive kanji dictionary features 3,000 characters. Basically, all the kanji you could ever want to know are bound in one convenient spot.

Meanings are given in order of importance and provide plenty of example words that contain the kanji. Some kanji serve as prefixes and suffixes, and this dictionary goes into how those are used as well.

Its most noteworthy feature is its unique system called SKIP (System of Kanji Indexing by Patterns), which organizes kanji based on patterns, rather than radicals. This makes it easy to accurately look up the character you’re searching for.

  • Beginner-friendly index that allows for kanji to be quickly looked up.
  • Detailed descriptions of characters and includes examples of compound words to demonstrate meaning.
  • Color-coded entries to focus on core meanings and important characters.
  • Shows detailed stroke orders for each kanji.
  • The non-standard SKIP lookup method can backfire and make it more difficult to find what you’re looking for.

Common Japanese Collocations: A Learner's Guide to Frequent Word Pairings [Paperback] [2010] (Author) Kakuko Shoji

“Collocations” are words or phrases that are often used together, in a way that sounds natural to native speakers. I guarantee you have a few in your native language!

This book features such words found in the Japanese language and showcases how they’re used in everyday life. Divided into incredibly detailed categories and sub-sections, you’ll find common phrases for every situation imaginable.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a dictionary in the traditional sense—it’s more like a guide for sounding more natural in Japanese.

  • Goes into abstract phrases that may not be covered by most textbooks.
  • Organizes phrases based on one word/kanji, creating an easy index for learners to study from.
  • Provides notes on common usage errors.
  • A lack of an index makes it difficult to find specific entries.

新レインボー小学国語辞典 改訂第6版 小型版(オールカラー) (小学生向辞典・事典)

If you want to look up Japanese the way Japanese children do, why not try a Japanese-Japanese dictionary?

There’s actually great value in studying Japanese  in  Japanese, as you’ll reinforce the terms you already know as well as learn how Japanese people define their own language—in other words, you’re seeing the words in their native contexts.

All of the definitions in this colorfully illustrated book are written in easy-to-understand Japanese, making it a valuable tool for intermediate learners looking to reinforce their Japanese.

  • Designed for children, so it’s good for intermediate learners.
  • Indexed in kana order, with kanji labeled based on grade level.
  • Provides illustrations to reinforce the meaning of words.
  • The selection of words is very basic—this is by no means a comprehensive dictionary.

The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary

This dictionary has been the industry standard kanji dictionary for years.

The Nelson dictionary boasts that it includes every kanji used in modern Japanese (over 7,000!). Kanji can be looked up by radical, pronunciation, stroke count and more.

There’s also plenty of additional information included, like an index of radicals, historical and geographical kanji and other useful bits of information.

  • Excellent for students of any level.
  • Each kanji includes a long list of vocabulary words.
  • Includes a variety of appendices and indexes for additional look-up methods.
  • Doesn’t show stroke order.
  • Uses romaji, not kana, for kanji readings.
  • It’s an old book (from 1997) so some information may be dated.

Remembering the Kanji 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters

This book offers a different, story-based approach to learning 2,200 kanji. Unlike the previous book, which is all about the history of each kanji, this reference book leans heavily into the “how to memorize” aspect of kanji learning.

Each kanji element is associated with a story element, which is then used as a mnemonic device to aid memorization. For example, to remember the kanji 貝 (かい, shellfish), readers are encouraged to picture a giant clam with a big eye right in its middle running around on the beach terrorizing the beachgoers.

The basic stroke order is included for each kanji, as is information on the different elements and radicals that make up the character.

  • Ideal for students who want a unique, systematic way to remember kanji and their meanings.
  • Focused exclusively on memorizing meaning, as opposed to pronunciation, vocabulary and so forth.
  • No readings are provided for the kanji.

Basic Kanji Book, Vol. 1

This first book in a two-part course aims to teach beginners basic kanji and covers 250 characters. I fondly recall using this book and its second volume in my kanji classes years ago, working through the writing games and reading exercises along with my classmates.

Each lesson begins with a lesson on kanji as a whole, such as how radicals are composed, how kanji functions in the Japanese language and even common kanji in family names. Every lesson covers 10 kanji apiece, breaking them into their stroke orders and meanings, with reading and writing exercises in easy Japanese.

It also offers fun games after each activity to test what you’ve learned, such as  Concentration, navigating shopping centers and even figuring out features in real apartment advertisements! Those real-world moments (including a whole TV guide in volume 2) are definitely my favorite parts of this series.

  • Targeted at beginner-level students.
  • Focuses on building reading comprehension and writing skills.
  • Provides lessons on kanji structure to gain intimacy with kanji from its very foundations.
  • There’s no answer key, so there’s no real way to gauge progress without a teacher.

The Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course: A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering 2300 Characters

This book aims to give its readers a solid foundation of kanji by taking them on a step-by-step journey through 2,300 characters. Kanji are organized by Kodansha’s own system, grouping them based on difficulty and shared meanings, making it easy to build an effective study plan.

Every single kanji is explained in great detail, including stroke order, definition, readings and more. My favorite part has got to be the mnemonic guides for remembering characters—not only do they tell logical stories based on the kanji’s radicals, but some of them have made me double over in laughter.

  • Kanji is arranged based on shared units to maximize learning efficiency.
  • Allows cross-referencing between similar-looking characters to learn the difference between them.
  • Explains abstract concepts behind kanji with fun, easy-to-remember mnemonics.
  • Contains an index that allows kanji to be looked up based on radicals, readings and more.
  • The order of the kanji means that often, more obscure words are taught before common kanji.

You can study all the textbooks you want, but at the end of the day, you’re going to need to reinforce that study with real-world Japanese.

Here’s where bilingual and parallel books come in handy.

Written in both Japanese and English, they’re designed to help Japanese learners take the step from formal studies to authentic Japanese. Reading Japanese stories allows you to explore ways of thinking that you may have never considered before, making for a wonderfully captivating experience.

Not only that, you’re being exposed to Japanese as it was meant to be experienced by native speakers, and with an English translation right alongside the Japanese text, you’ll be able to keep your momentum going.

Japanese Short Stories for Beginners: 20 Captivating Short Stories to Learn Japanese & Grow Your Vocabulary the Fun Way! (Easy Japanese Stories)

Designed for newcomers to written Japanese, this book has 20 Japanese short stories that feature paragraph-by-paragraph translations to guide you through your first foray into Japan’s world of literature.

Translations are provided line by line, meaning that you get a line of Japanese followed by a line of English underneath. At the end of each story, you’re provided with a summary of the material, a vocabulary list and questions to check your comprehension.

If you’re new to reading stories in Japanese, this book should be on the top of your list.

  • Engaging stories that provide repeated exposure to new vocabulary words.
  • Provides quizzes at the end of each story to check your understanding.
  • Though it’s marketed to beginners, some vocabulary used is on the more advanced side.

Short Stories in Japanese: New Penguin Parallel Text (Japanese Edition)

This book features eight short stories by famous as well as up-and-coming Japanese authors like Banana Yoshimoto, Kasushige Abe and Hiromi Kawakami. Three of these stories have never been published in English before—making for brand new material that you can enjoy!

With stories that cover a variety of themes and page-by-page parallel translations in English, engaging literature in the Japanese language is right at your fingertips.

This book is an extremely flexible tool for those with a bit more Japanese knowledge under their belts. If you want to test yourself, it’s easy to cover the English translation and read the Japanese alone, or you can use it as a reference point as you work through the text.

  • Provides notes and annotations for smooth comprehension.
  • Aimed at intermediate to advanced learners.
  • Kindle and paperback editions available.
  • Would really benefit from a glossary.

Japanese Stories for Language Learners: Bilingual Stories in Japanese and English (MP3 Audio disc included)

This book features classic Japanese stories that focus on Japanese culture and literary tradition. If you ever wanted to read famed stories like “Kumo no Ito” or “ Yuki Onna” in their original Japanese, these entries with parallel English translations are the perfect chance to take a crack at it.

Designed for intermediate and advanced students, these stories are laid out in a way that enables you to study from them. After the page-by-page parallel translations, you’ll find a vocabulary list and a list of translator’s notes that explain certain complex passages and justify certain decisions for the English translation. Finally, you’ll get a quiz that allows you to check your comprehension of the new terms you’ve learned from the story.

  • Comes with MP3 CD containing recordings of each story.
  • Vocabulary lists, discussion questions and quizzes to check comprehension.
  • Features translator’s notes to increase understanding of terms difficult to translate into English.
  • Contains some archaic kanji, due to the age of the stories.
  • Furigana is a bit small and cramped in the small space between the lines.

While Amazon may be where most books are purchased these days—and their “look inside” feature can be really helpful—there’s a lot to be said for considering other places to buy. Here are a few options:

Traditional brick-and-mortar stores can offer a chance to really look through a book and compare several side-by-side. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a college campus bookstore, then it could be well worth your time to take a trip to check out their Japanese section.

Flagship stores in larger cities also have more stock and you may find staff who are really familiar with the language sections and can assist you.

OMG Japan has a good selection of Japanese textbooks and reference books. They’re well organized and very easy to navigate by level, skill or series. The staff are professional, have expertise in this specific area and will help answer your questions.

Of course, Amazon offers free shipping on many items and rock-bottom prices. The “used books” selection is also worth considering if you’re on a tight budget (especially for reference books, as textbooks may have problems filled in already).

Pro tip: Intermediate and advanced learners can check selections on the (all Japanese) Amazon Japan website, as they have a far wider selection than most English-speaking countries’ local Amazon sites.

Find the book that you want, note the ISBN , then search by typing the ISBN directly into the search bar of your local Amazon site to see if there’s a copy available. Ordering directly from Japanese Amazon is possible, but may have expensive shipping.

No matter which resource you choose, remember to think about your personal learning goals.

Whatever your motivation for learning is, one of these top Japanese books will help get you there.

If you love learning Japanese with authentic materials, then I should also tell you more about FluentU .

FluentU naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You'll learn real Japanese as it's spoken in real life.

FluentU has a broad range of contemporary videos as you'll see below:

learn-japanese-with-videos

FluentU makes these native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.

learn-japanese-with-songs

All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Japanese learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

learn-japanese-with-movies

And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.

practice-japanese-with-adaptive-quizzes

The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

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practice book japan

Learn Languages From Home

12 Best Japanese Workbooks for Language Learners

This article may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For full information, please see the disclaimer  here .

So, you’ve got yourself a Japanese textbook . Maybe you’ve even decided to master the notoriously challenging parts of the language by using a Japanese grammar book . What’s next?

For a truly holistic approach to using Japanese learning books , I recommend getting your hands on Japanese workbooks . Regardless of which language competency you want to improve on — writing kanji or mastering Japanese verbs — using workbooks can give you the practice you need.

Boy writing Japanese characters in a workbook

Why use Japanese workbooks

Any language learner will agree that being able to read and understand what you hear in another language is a glorious feeling.

I feel proud when I watch a Korean show and I understand bits and pieces of what’s going on. I got the same feeling when I understood the label “thé vert” in French tea packaging. I’m sure you have those moments where you feel you’re progressing in your learning journey. It feels good, doesn’t it?

Reading and listening are receptive skills, however, and they’re only half the battle. Mastery of a language requires productive skills, which are writing and speaking.

Most people have higher receptive skills and lower productive skills . It’s possible for someone to be able to finish reading a manga in Japanese and have trouble writing in kana or kanji even after years of learning the language.

stack of Japanese workbooks on top of Japanese language proficiency test paper

Enter Japanese workbooks. These materials provide more interactive learning compared to regular textbooks. Japanese workbooks allow you to test yourself and apply what you learned. They can reveal your progress and show areas that need improvement.

This list of Japanese workbooks includes textbooks that have huge chunks of activity sections, textbook accompaniments, and whole books dedicated to just practicing Japanese handwriting. Take your pick below!

Best Japanese workbooks and textbook accompaniments

1. yookoso: an invitation to contemporary japanese workbook.

Workbook/Laboratory Manual to accompany Yookoso!: An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese

  • Tohsaku, Yasu-Hiko (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages – 04/12/2006 (Publication Date) – McGraw Hill (Publisher)

One of our recommended books to learn Japanese , Yookoso! is known for teaching Japanese grammar in a contextualized format. Explanations in the textbook are brief but comprehensive.

The Yookoso! workbook contains exercises that complement the textbook. Over 30 illustrations provide attractive context for understanding the lessons. You will be tested on both vocabulary and grammar as well as reading comprehension, hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

This workbook is best for :

  • Beginners to intermediate learners
  • Testing yourself on practical grammar
  • Reading practice

2. NihonGO NOW!: Performing Japanese Culture – Level 1 Volume 1 Textbook and Activity Book

日本語NOW! NihonGO NOW!: Performing Japanese Culture - Level 1 Volume 1 Textbook and Activity Book (Now! Nihongo Now!, 1)

  • Noda, Mari (Author)
  • 664 Pages – 09/17/2020 (Publication Date) – Routledge (Publisher)

NihonGO NOW! is also on our list of Japanese textbooks , and that’s partly because it comes with a great activity book that contains challenging and thorough exercises.

This book teaches context-sensitive and culturally coherent Japanese. You get a lot of sample sentences in both formal and informal speech to keep the lessons as authentic as possible. Grammar is also taught without intimidating jargon.

As for the activities, you’ll get a good balance of vocabulary and grammar tests. What’s more, the publisher has audio materials on its site for listening and speaking practice!

  • Learning Japanese with cultural context and authentic speech
  • A variety of exercises to test reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills
  • An abundance of supplementary materials from the publisher’s site

3. Genki Workbook Volume 1 (3rd edition)

Genki Workbook Volume 1, 3rd edition (Genki (1)) (Multilingual Edition) (Japanese Edition)

  • Banno, Eri (Author)
  • Japanese (Publication Language)
  • 152 Pages – 02/01/2020 (Publication Date) – Japan Times (Publisher)

If you’ve been learning Japanese for quite some time, you’ve likely heard of Genki. This series of books is among the most popular Japanese textbooks.

Needless to say, Genki’s exercise book is one of the most well-known Japanese workbooks on the market. This workbook contains exercises from the 12 lessons that correspond to the grammatical contents of the textbook. It also includes exercises for practicing hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

Each page of the book can be cut off and used as a homework sheet. If you plan on traveling somewhere and want to do some exercises but don’t feel like bringing the whole book, you can just tear off a few pages!

  • Testing yourself on the Japanese writing system, conversations, reading, and writing
  • Improving your Japanese grammar knowledge
  • JLPT N5 takers

4. Adventures in Japanese Volume 1 Workbook (4th Edition)

Adventures in Japanese 4th Edition, Volume 1 workbook (Japanese Edition)

  • Hiromi Peterson (Author)
  • 07/31/2014 (Publication Date) – Cheng & Tsui (Publisher)

A companion to the Adventures in Japanese Volume 1 textbook, this Japanese workbook for beginners contains a variety of exercises that will test you on all core language skills.

One of the most engaging Japanese workbooks on this list, this book covers exercises on 12 topics including Japanese greetings, hobbies, shopping, and food. You’ll be tested on vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension.

The book also includes exercises on hiragana, katakana, and kanji. What’s great is that there are also lots of open-ended questions that require creativity and critical thinking.

  • A variety of engaging lessons that include multiple choices and open-ended responses
  • Numerous writing exercises
  • Challenging tests on reading comprehension

5. Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Japanese Grammar (Premium Second Edition)

Practice Makes Perfect: Complete Japanese Grammar, Premium Second Edition

  • Sato, Eriko (Author)
  • 312 Pages – 05/21/2021 (Publication Date) – McGraw Hill (Publisher)

Practice Makes Perfect is not only a comprehensive grammar guide. It’s also one of the most robust Japanese workbooks to date.

The Japanese grammar workbook contains 200 exercises in 15 units covering various grammar concepts. Perfect for beginners and early intermediate learners, sample sentences and exercises are written in Japanese script and romaji for pronunciation help.

Aside from the exercises in the book, the answers to more than 100 exercises have also been recorded and available on the accompanying app. Depending on your device’s capabilities, you can also record your own answers for speaking practice!

  • A plethora of exercises to test your reading, writing, and grammar knowledge
  • Grammar usage in everyday life
  • Varied activities also available on its app

6. Beginning Japanese Workbook (Revised Edition)

Beginning Japanese Workbook: Revised Edition: Practice Conversational Japanese, Grammar, Kanji & Kana (Online Audio for Listening Practice)

  • Kluemper, Michael L. (Author)
  • 192 Pages – 06/21/2016 (Publication Date) – Tuttle Publishing (Publisher)

If you’re looking for dynamic Japanese workbooks, Beginning Japanese should be on your list. Developed by Japanese language experts and experienced teachers, it has every kind of useful test a learner needs.

This workbook includes dialogues for contextual learning and practice, translation exercises to reinforce kanji and kana knowledge, and tests for comprehension, vocab, and grammar. All these are interspersed with an engaging story about Kiara, an American exchange student who lives in Japan, and her time-traveling friends.

While most textbook accompaniments are designed to be used solely for their main textbooks, Beginning Japanese can be used for its main textbook but also independently or with another Japanese textbook. Pretty convenient, isn’t it?

  • Well-rounded exercises that target all core language skills
  • Practicing Japanese script
  • A fun storyline that encourages regular practice

7. Intermediate Japanese Workbook

Intermediate Japanese Workbook: Activities and Exercises to Help You Improve Your Japanese!

  • 160 Pages – 02/02/2016 (Publication Date) – Tuttle Publishing (Publisher)

The Intermediate Japanese textbook picks up where Beginning Japanese left off, with Kiara and her friends continuing their time-traveling adventures. This story is made even more interesting and interactive in the Intermediate Japanese workbook .

Just like the previous workbook, this one uses a context-based method of testing your knowledge of Japanese vocabulary, grammar, kana, and kanji. What’s great is that the exercises also include dialogues and images from Kiara’s story.

This book also comes with free online audio resources to reinforce your pronunciation and listening skills.

  • Learners who previously used the Beginning Japanese textbook and workbook
  • Mastering more complex grammar concepts and kanji
  • Context-based learning

Best Japanese workbooks for writing kana and kanji

8. learning japanese workbook for beginners: hiragana katakana and kanji.

Learning Japanese Workbook for Beginners: Hiragana Katakana And Kanji - Quick and Easy Way to Learn the Basic Japanese Up-to 300 Pages (EXPANDED EDITION)

  • Learning Japanese Workbook for Beginners: Hiragana Katakana And Kanji Quick and Easy Way to Learn the Basic Japanese Upto 300 Pages
  • Independently published
  • Reality, Just (Author)

Anyone who’s had to struggle while learning all three Japanese writing systems will know just how important Japanese workbooks are. Learning Japanese Workbook for Beginner aids with this through exercises that test handwriting.

With this book, you’ll learn stroke order for Japanese scripts. You’ll also be able to read simple texts in Japanese, write using hiragana, katakana, and kanji, and understand basic vocabulary words that you can use in everyday situations and words that you’ll need for JLPT N5.

  • Learning how to write Japanese scripts
  • Building practical vocabulary

9. 3-in-1 Hiragana and Katakana Workbook

3-in-1 Hiragana and Katakana Workbook: Japanese hiragana and katakana writing practice, JLPT Level N5 vocabulary and cut-out hiragana and katakana flash cards (Japanese Writing Workbooks)

  • Lingvo, Lilas (Author)
  • 194 Pages – 05/08/2020 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)

If you’re looking for fun Japanese workbooks to learn hiragana and katakana, this is not it.

You will probably not have fun doing the writing drills in 3-in-1 Hiragana and Katakana where you’d have to write each character about a hundred times. But is there a better way to master the characters?

This Japanese learning book contains hundreds of writing practice sheets that you can cut out and duplicate using the copy machine. It also features all the words you need to memorize should you want to take the JLPT level N5, with cut-out hiragana and katakana flash cards to aid memorization.

  • Learning Japanese script in the most straightforward way
  • Memorizing JLPT N5 vocabulary
  • Beginners who want to master writing quickly

10. Japanese Writing Practice Book

Japanese Writing Practice Book: Master HIRAGANA & KATAKANA Alphabet with JLPT N5 Words - Powerful Handwriting Practice & Vocabulary Building Workbook for Beginners to Learn Japanese Characters & Words

  • Pal Press, Nihongo (Author)
  • 128 Pages – 07/09/2021 (Publication Date) – Independently published (Publisher)

Nihongo Pal Press’ Japanese Writing Practice Book is for serious learners of hiragana and katakana.

Unlike the previous Japanese workbooks for writing practice on this list, this book’s sole purpose is to get you to practice writing Japanese characters. You’ll learn stroke orders using the guided squares.

Ideal for JLPT N5 test takers, this workbook also contains a set of words used in the N5 level test, complete with the English meaning, pronunciation, and kanji form of the word. You also get additional katakana words for practice.

  • Writing practice for hiragana, and katakana
  • Great for vocabulary building
  • Extra help for JLPT N5 test

11. Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self-Study

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self-Study

  • Henshall, Kenneth G. (Author)
  • 128 Pages – 08/05/2014 (Publication Date) – Tuttle Publishing (Publisher)

Perfect for self-study or classroom use, Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana is one of the most systematic Japanese workbooks for writing practice.

This beginner-friendly workbook not only gives writing drills but also provides a comprehensive introduction to the origin, primary function, pronunciation, and usage of each character. Knowing all these gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the script.

A huge chunk of the book is dedicated to learning stroke order for each character. Words are formed progressively, so you build vocabulary along the way.

  • Detailed learning of each Japanese character
  • Writing drills and learning stroke order
  • Expanding vocabulary

12. Japanese Language Writing Practice Book

Japanese Language Writing Practice Book: Learn to Write Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji - Character Handwriting Sheets with Square Grids (Ideal for JLPT and AP Exam Prep)

  • 128 Pages – 10/27/2020 (Publication Date) – Tuttle Publishing (Publisher)

Japanese Language Writing Practice Book is one of the best Japanese workbooks for beginners or those who want to improve their writing skills.

Each double-page spread in this workbook has square grids on the right-hand side, where you can practice writing kana and kanji. On the left side, there’s lined paper that you can use for note-taking.

This workbook also includes a ten-page reference section for hiragana, katakana, and kanji charts. You also get a list of common kanji, key vocabulary, and a handy list of Japanese plain verbs.

  • Practicing and memorizing Japanese script
  • Building basic vocabulary
  • Some grammar practice focused on Japanese verbs

Writing in a Japanese workbook

And there you have it! I hope this list of Japanese workbooks encourages you to go out there and keep practicing until you’ve mastered the language.

In between drills, you can also explore apps to learn Japanese . And if you feel like it’s time to get extra help from a native speaker or professional teacher, do consider finding Japanese tutors online . Happy learning!

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How To Say "If" In Mandarin Chinese (Conditionals)

Learning Japanese? Here Are 12 Books I Highly Recommend

Ichika Yamamoto

  • Read time 11 mins

Learning Japanese? Here Are 12 Books I Highly Recommend

Looking for the best books to learn Japanese?

With so many apps , programs, and online resources out there to learn Japanese, you might be forgetting one of the best and simplest resources to either begin or continue your progress in learning the language: books! 😊

Nothing beats having a solid Japanese textbook or a dictionary you can reference and take notes in.

In the age of technology, learners often forget that a good old-fashioned book usually has much more to it than simple apps.

Editors and experts put these books together, standing the test of time, and hundreds of thousands of copies have been sold, making them a sure-fire way to improve your Japanese. Don’t forget, people have been learning this language with books for hundreds of years.

But there are so many books to choose from, where do you start?

In this list, I’ve put together 12 books to help you along your Japanese journey, for beginners up to advanced learners.

  • Minna no Nihongo
  • Basic Kanji Book
  • A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar
  • Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese
  • Common Japanese Collocations
  • Japanese Graded Readers
  • New Kanzen Master
  • Magic Treehouse
  • Read Real Japanese
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service

UPDATE: A lot of people ask for our best online Japanese course recommendation. Here it is for those interested:

Best books and textbooks to learn Japanese

Learning a new language can be daunting.

Even just a quick google search about “how to learn Japanese ” can be incredibly overwhelming, with an endless amount of resources to choose from. But if you want somewhere to start, there is nothing better than a beginner’s textbook.

A solid textbook has everything you need to get started in learning Japanese.

It goes over the writing systems, tells you how to introduce yourself, and goes over basic sentence structure so you can start forming sentences of your own. All this comes in an easy to learn from, single package.

Here are some recommendations:

There are a few great beginner textbooks, but the most highly recommended is definitely the Genki series, which comes with two textbooks Genki I and Genki II, as well as paired workbooks.

The Genki series has simple explanations, adorable illustrations, and a ton of information that makes a great beginner’s foundation.

After learning everything from Genki I and II, you should be prepared for about N4 level on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test ( JLPT ).

2. Minna no Nihongo

Minna no Nihongo, which means “Japanese for Everyone” is another great all-encompassing textbook.

It covers essential grammar, vocabulary, listening, and even speaking practice. Minna no Nihongo can really prepare you to study entirely in Japanese, as it has much less English than other beginner textbooks.

Once you get the foundation down for learning Japanese, in Japanese, this becomes a huge leg up in your studies.

Like the Genki textbooks, Minna no Nihongo has two textbooks, volumes 1 and 2.

Once you complete volume 2 and internalize all of the lessons, you should be able to pass the N4 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

3. Basic Kanji Book

One of the biggest hurdles for Westerners learning Japanese is kanji.

I am sure you have heard many horror stories about how many kanji you will have to learn, and how difficult it is.

But this is just not true!

Kanji takes a lot of time, sure, but there is nothing hard about it. The Basic Kanji Book has the most useful 500 kanji in two volumes. This book really highlights each of the kanji, with all the readings, meanings, and words they are used in, so you can focus on learning them individually.

The book includes how to write each kanji with specific stroke order exercises, so you can practice writing them. It also covers the kanji radicals, which will allow you to deduce the meanings of other kanji you learn going forward.

It is a complete text to help you get started with the first 500 kanji, and give you tools to learn more kanji as you continue to study!

4. A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar

When it comes to learning Japanese grammar, this book and the subsequent books in the series would be my number one pick for anyone learning Japanese.

Each volume is huge, with a tremendous amount of grammar points that covers everything you will need to start constructing proper sentences in Japanese.

The book introduces grammar points in alphabetical order and gives a definition, translations, example sentences, explanatory notes, and references to similar entries.

In the beginning, it also has a helpful section on “Characteristics of Japanese Grammar” and Appendices and Indices at the end for more clarity.

The second and third books in the series, “A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar” and “A Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar” respectively, continue with the same format, allowing you to learn virtually everything you need to know about Japanese grammar.

5. Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese

One of the most common questions I get from Japanese learners online is:

“I finished Genki (or a similar beginner’s textbook), what next?”

And my answer is always the same: Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese is a perfect textbook that bridges the gap between beginner and advanced learners.

It continues with a familiar textbook format, with each chapter having a reading section, vocabulary list, grammar explanations, and various exercises and questions for a more complete understanding.

This book is not for beginners though, from page one they expect you to be able to read and understand Japanese at a basic level, using no romaji at all.

It is ideal for a self-learner that is progressing and wants to take their Japanese to the next level.

6. Common Japanese Collocations

Once you have progressed in Japanese a bit more, you might want to delve into making your Japanese sounds more natural, or being able to understand basic idioms and phrases that often get lost in context.

This is where Common Japanese Collocations come in.

Collocations refer to how words go together or form fixed relationships. For example, in English, we say “turn the volume up” more often than “turn the volume higher” so the first represents a strong collocation between the words “volume” and “up.”

When you learn a new language, learning collocations like this can make a huge difference in the fluency of your Japanese.

Common Japanese Collocations list hundreds of examples, organized by themes like “cooking” or “travel.”

It is a great book to help you transition from awkward English translations to more natural Japanese.

7. Yostubato

After you have progressed through some beginner material, and have a solid foundation of Japanese grammar as well as some vocabulary under your belt, you are ready to start reading native Japanese materials!

Japanese is a little different than other languages because of the high bar you need to pass before starting with native materials, mostly due to the complex writing systems.

But when you are ready, I have the perfect manga for you to start with.

Yotsubato is for children, so it’s a perfect start to reading in Japanese.

Because it is a manga, seeing the pictures in context will help you if you get lost. It follows the everyday adventures of a young girl trying to navigate the world with her adoptive father.

It is a slice-of-life manga, so it doesn’t have any difficult words or concepts, it’s a great introduction to native Japanese materials!

8. Japanese Graded Readers

As I have said before, starting to read native Japanese material can be pretty difficult, due to the complex writing systems.

But thankfully, there are some great resources to help you break into reading Japanese.

The Japanese Graded Readers series has quite a few books to choose from at varying levels.

Each level comes in a package with about six different stories and a CD with the audio files. You should have basic knowledge of Japanese to delve into these short stories, but they are easy enough for you to continue to learn new vocabulary and concepts while you read.

The stories are all relevant to daily life in Japan, so they are a perfect way to break into being able to read real Japanese.

9. New Kanzen Master

When you are ready to study for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), these are the books for you.

The New Kanzen Master Series has five books for levels N4-N1 of JLPT.

The books included in each set cover kanji, grammar, vocabulary, listening, and reading comprehension.

Of course, you can just buy one book in the set, which makes these perfect for learners who know their weak spots, and what they need to focus on to pass the JLPT.

They are more technical books than some of the previous texts listed, focusing on certain questions and patterns to help you pass the JLPT, but even if you aren’t taking the test, these books can be incredibly helpful, with plenty of detailed explanations and exercises that will help you improve all parts of your Japanese.

10. Magic Treehouse

It’s time to get into Japanese novels, and the Magic Treehouse Series is my favorite to recommend to new Japanese readers.

Of course, we have to start simple, so these are children’s stories, but each one is a proper 100-200 page chapter book that you will be proud of reading when you finish!

The stories follow siblings that venture off into the worlds of different books. Whether it is a prehistoric dinosaur world or outer space, you are sure to find something that interests you.

They are translated from English to Japanese , so the language is very simple and easy to understand.

The best part about these books is that the main character often takes “notes” about things they encounter on their adventures, so if a word comes up that you aren’t familiar with, it is explained in detail.

I can’t recommend these fun reads enough!

11. Read Real Japanese

Read Real Japanese is another unique book that will help you bridge the gap to reading more native Japanese material.

The book is filled with Japanese short stories entirely in Japanese.

But the best thing is, the next page has the English translations for the most important words on that page.

It also has an index in the back of the book, with several examples to help you understand the meaning of these words. This allows you to read a real Japanese story without having to stop and look up words you might not be familiar with.

And seeing these words in context will help you remember them.

For those that are pretty advanced in their Japanese, but are still not very comfortable reading native materials, these are perfect for you!

12. Kiki’s Delivery Service

Lastly, the book that inspired the Ghibli movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service, is a fantastic read for those that want to read a Japanese novel.

The treasured children’s story centers around Kiki, a young witch who must venture out on her own for a year, to a town without any other witches. The chapter book is an easy read with simple language and a fun story that will keep you engaged to the very end.

It is a great book for those that liked the film, or those that want an exciting story to read in Japanese!

Other Japanese resources, courses and alternatives to books

Of course, there are so many great alternative resources for learning Japanese.

You can head over to the Japanese resource page for starters, but if you’re looking for a few quick ideas, here are a couple of great ones:

JapanesePod101 : For the podcast learner ( review ).

JapanesePod101 (part of the Innovative series) is one of the most popular platforms for learning Japanese these days.

It has a massive library of lesson content for Japanese learners.

Rocket Japanese : Probably the most comprehensive online course for Japanese covering multiple levels ( review ).

Rocket has a very structured, linear format taking you through each lesson from start to finish. For someone brand new to Japanese and an inexperienced language learner, it’s perfect.

More expensive definitely but a lot more overall value and long-term use.

italki : This should be part of every Japanese student’s toolkit ( review ).

It eliminates the need to travel to Japan. You can book an inexpensive voice or video lesson through italki (many are less than $10 per hour).

Glossika Japanese : This is a very unique platform that teaches Japanese fluency through spaced-repetition of sentences ( review ).

Any Japanese books or resources I should add here?

Comment below!

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So true books is the go to source for learning, about to start my journey into this beautiful language wish me luck

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こんにちは, kon’nichiwa, hello! If you’re interested in studying Japanese, you might be searching for the right tool to help you become fluent. There are many options available and finding one that fits your learning style can be difficult. If you enjoy learning with books, you’re in the right place! This article shows some of the best books to learn Japanese. No matter what your level is or why you’re learning Japanese, there’s something for you on this list.

Japanese is one of the most spoken languages in the world with over 125 million speakers. It can also be a complicated language to learn because it uses 3 different writing systems. Hiragana and katakana are native to Japan and help show the pronunciation of words, while kanji is taken from Chinese characters. A sentence in Japanese may involve 2 or 3 different writing styles! But no need to fear. The books on this list will not only help you master Japanese writing, but also speaking, listening, reading, and more.

How Long Will It Take You To Learn Japanese?​

What is your current level, what level do you want to reach, how many hours will you study each day, how we picked the best japanese books.

For any language learning products we’ve tested or researched, we follow a strict testing methodology to make sure our experts make the same considerations. Here are the factors we looked at when testing Japanese learning books specifically:

  • Structure and Topics: We not only considered the layout and organization of the books, but we also examined which topics each book covered and how in-depth and accurate the explanations were.
  • Quality of Content: We read several chapters of each book to gauge the quality of the content, including the example texts, exercises, and explanations. It’s important that each book contains clear and easy-to-understand content.
  • Value for Money: We took the two previous factors and compared them to the price of the book to determine if it offers a good value for the cost. 

Our Top Picks to Improve Your Japanese

In the table below, you’ll find 9 of the best books to learn Japanese. Scroll down to learn more about each option:

Best Overall Japanese Book

Genki is the best Japanese book overall because it’s comprehensive in what it covers and it can improve your communication skills if you read the chapters in order. It provides a decent amount of detail, but I enjoyed it because the details didn’t feel overwhelming. I especially noticed this when it introduced two of the writing systems early on. Genki is used as a textbook in a lot of university courses, which proves how helpful it is. However, it’s also a high-quality choice for self-study because of its audio files and practice exercises.

The main reason I recommend Genki is because it provides just enough detail to help you understand grammar concepts, but it doesn’t bore you or confuse you by going too deep. It’s also packed with a lot of useful vocabulary, like school and university, items around the house, and workplace phrases. The sheer amount of vocabulary you’ll learn is enough to justify the cost of the entire book! It also comes with a free companion app to practice your writing skills. True to Genki’s reputation, I found the app to be well-built and thoroughly helpful. You can find the book here .

Key Benefits

  • Completing the practice exercises can improve all your communication skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking)
  • It discusses grammar in an approachable and straightforward way to help you accurately learn and remember common rules
  • You can build a solid foundation in Japanese before continuing to more advanced resources

Japanese for Dummies

Best for beginners.

Japanese for Dummies is the best choice for complete beginners because it covers the basics of Japanese grammar and vocabulary. I especially like how the book begins because it takes a different approach than most others. While most start with basic words and phrases to memorize, Japanese for Dummies introduces you to the unique and interesting aspects of the language. These include the sounds and scripts, super simple grammar concepts, and a general overview of the language itself. I found that to be really motivating!

The book features real-life phrases that Japanese speakers actually use, and there are a lot of exercises you can complete to practice them yourself. One section I thought was particularly interesting was “The Part of Tens.” This is another section I haven’t seen in other books. It has ten ways to learn Japanese quickly, ten things to never say in Japanese, ten useful Japanese expressions, and ten phrases to sound more fluent. Overall, I recommend this book especially for beginners because it teaches you the language and also helps you stay motivated. You can learn more about the book here .

  • You learn conversational Japanese and expressions that native speakers actually use
  • The practice exercises teach you to navigate everyday situations with ease
  • The audio component improves your listening and speaking skills on top of writing and reading

Japanese from Zero! 1

Best for self-study.

Japanese from Zero! 1 is the most useful book on this list if you’re studying Japanese by yourself because it’s much more than a book. While you can reach a conversational level with the other books we chose, Japanese from Zero! allows you to completely immerse yourself in Japanese. Through its supplemental resources, you can also connect with other Japanese learners. The supplemental resources include YouTube videos, activities, and quizzes on the book’s website, and a Discord server. But since this article is about the best books to learn Japanese, I’ll focus on the book itself.

The content is organized in a way that’s logical and focuses on the most important skills for beginners like punctuation, syllables vs sounds, and the writing systems. This book is also a bit less formal than ordinary Japanese textbooks, and I think that’s a positive thing. The authors took the time to understand the difficult aspects of Japanese, and this book kind of functions like a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) based on those difficulties. It’s intuitive and genuinely addresses the needs of people learning Japanese. You can see if Japanese from Zero! is right for you here .

  • The library of resources available lets you practice a lot of Japanese skills to learn quickly
  • The focus on students’ pain points means your questions will be answered in a straightforward way
  • This book also teaches you about the Japanese culture, which helps you communicate naturally and politely with native speakers

Minna No Nihongo

Best for immersive learning.

Minna No Nihongo is one of the most widely used books for learning Japanese, and in my opinion, it’s the best book for immersion. That’s because the whole book is in Japanese, but you can get an accompanying book of grammar notes in your native language to better understand the explanations. It’s definitely not for complete beginners, but if you know some Japanese already, it can be a valuable resource. This book doesn’t gently ease you in with English translations; it forces you to figure out what you’re reading from the start. This approach may not be for everyone, but for those who truly want to become fluent in Japanese, it’s the most effective one.

I was surprised at how early on this book started using Kanji. Most resources wait until much later to teach Kanji because it’s difficult to learn. Overall, I think early exposure to it makes learning it a smoother process. Based on its price, Minna No Nihongo offers a huge amount of value. It’s one of the only books that teaches through complete immersion. You can learn more about the book here .

  • Actively and passively learn the Japanese language through immersion
  • Grammar notes available in your native language can support you as you learn
  • The practice exercises increase your fluency quickly

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana

Best for writing kana.

Hiragana and katakana are the two phonetic systems used to write Japanese. Some experts recommend learning these two scripts (collectively called “kana”) before learning the more advanced kanji characters. If that’s what you’re trying to achieve, Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana is the best book for it. The book focuses exclusively on the two scripts, and there’s a section dedicated to each one. The chapters cover important topics like voiced and half-voiced sounds, double vowels and consonants, and combined sounds. The book includes creative ways to practice. For example, you review Hiragana by practicing Japanese historical periods and you review Katakana through continent and country names.

This book covers all 92 symbols of the two writing systems and teaches you how to write them in the correct stroke order. There’s also space to practice each one, although you might want to get a blank notebook for additional practice. The final section of the book has DIY Kana charts you can fill in, as well as word searches, quizzes, and practice grids. I recommend Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana because it motivates you to master the two scripts. You can order your copy here .

  • The detailed explanations and abundance of practice activities make writing in Japanese become second nature
  • Helpful lessons on stroke order ensure you learn how to write the characters correctly
  • The practice exercises are fun and motivate you to continue practicing your writing skills

Basic Kanji Book

Best for learning kanji.

The title of this book, Basic Kanji Book, says it all. It’s a no-frills way to learn and practice 250 of the most common kanji characters. Some other kanji books focus too much on theory and abstract teaching methods, but the Basic Kanji Book is practical and actionable. That’s why I chose it as the best book for learning Kanji. Each chapter teaches 10 different Kanji characters, and there’s a quiz at the end of each section to help you practice using them in different situations. It’s a very visual book and includes a lot of pictures. I find this to be a more effective way to learn (especially Kanji) than memorizing direct translations.

One interesting aspect of this book is that it also differentiates between the Japanese and Chinese characters. In addition to that, it teaches you the origin of the characters, which is useful for improving your pronunciation and helps you remember the meaning more effectively. Despite the book looking like an old-school textbook, its content is far superior to other Kanji books. You can check out the book here .

  • This straightforward book teaches useful Kanji in a systematic way to help you learn them fast
  • The explanations of the characters and visual aspects of the book are effective for active learning
  • Kanji can be difficult to write, but this book has plenty of practice activities that will commit the characters to your muscle memory

Fluent Japanese from Anime and Manga

Best for learning japanese with anime.

To be clear, Fluent Japanese from Anime and Manga is not meant to be a comprehensive textbook. However, I recommend it because it has one of the most interesting approaches to Japanese learning I’ve seen. That’s what this book focuses on – the approach to learning. It doesn’t teach you groups of vocabulary words or contain chapters that explain grammar rules. Instead, it’s a guide that shows you how you can learn Japanese by watching anime, reading manga novels, and enjoying any other content produced in the Japanese language.

It’s a unique concept, as anime and manga are growing in popularity around the world. And those who enjoy watching/reading it can use it to learn a language at the same time. When comparing the quality of this book’s content to its price, it’s a no-brainer to buy it. The strategies you learn, like how to effectively use Anki , are invaluable and will help to in your language learning journey no matter which resources you use in the future. See if this book is right for you here .

  • The strategies you learn are applicable for learning any language
  • You’ll understand how to use any resource in Japanese, like anime, manga, movies, and more, to improve all of your communication skills
  • The roadmap guides you to learn the language in a way that achieves your personal goals

Japanese Stories for Language Learners

Best for reading practice.

Japanese Stories for Language Learners is a compilation of 5 short stories that have Japanese and English translations on side-by-side pages. I think it’s the best book for improving your Japanese reading skills because it doesn’t just have random stories that practice vocabulary and grammar. Two of the stories in the book are traditional Japanese folktales and the others are more modern stories from 20th-century authors who are well-known in Japan. After you finish reading the stories, you can go through detailed notes from the translator, vocabulary lists, and practice questions to enhance your comprehension.

This book is more helpful for intermediate and advanced learners, but it can also help ambitious beginners reach an intermediate level. The stories include quite a bit of Kanji, but they also include the Hiragana pronunciation alongside it. One reason I thought this book was particularly useful was the audio it includes. You can hear each story read aloud by a native Japanese speaker, which will improve your own pronunciation. You won’t find detailed explanations because this book is strictly for reading practice, but that’s a good thing. This approach helps you learn words and phrases in a natural context, and you’ll also read popular Japanese stories that you can talk about next time you meet a native speaker. Learn more about Japanese Stories for Language Learners here .

Key Features

  • Absorb the Japanese language and culture through the power of stories
  • The notes, practice questions, and audio help you think in Japanese instead of translating in your head
  • The folktales and stories are well-known in Japan, and you can discuss them with native speakers to improve your communication skills

2000 Most Common Japanese Words in Context

Best for japanese vocabulary.

As the title explains, 2000 Most Common Japanese Words in Context will help you learn the most frequently used vocabulary words in Japanese. According to the book, understanding these 2,000 words will help you understand 92% of Japanese speech. That fact alone is worth checking out this book. However, the reason I wanted to include it as the best book to learn vocabulary in Japanese is because it goes beyond basic words. It teaches you common interjections (like “wow,” “hmmm,” and “umm”) in Japanese, as well as important cultural words like Hinamatsuri and Koinobori.

I recommend this book for all levels of Japanese learner because of its unique vocabulary. It can help you fill in vocabulary gaps even if you’re an advanced learner. The presentation and organization of the book are simple, which makes it a solid reference guide. Because of the concise explanations and cultural elements, I also suggest this book as a supplemental resource for people studying for the JLPT exam. You can find the book here .

  • Learn common vocabulary words and see how they’re used naturally in example sentences
  • Understand words specific to Japanese culture and integrate more easily with native speakers
  • Practice how foreign borrowed words are pronounced (these are an essential aspect of daily Japanese life)

Other Japanese Books We Researched

While we tested the Japanese books on this list, we researched a handful more. Here are a few other options I looked at that didn’t quite make the final list:

  • Japanese Kanji Made Easy : While you can learn some essential Kanji with this book, there are some inconsistencies that are a little concerning. The most blatant one being that it teaches some Kanji characters using the Chinese stroke order, not the Japanese stroke order.
  • Japanese Grammar for Beginners : Before I even researched this book, I saw something I didn’t like: Leaving a review is required to access the bonus audio content. The book does have quality content, but it’s not always organized in a useful or efficient way.
  • I’m Learning Japanese : This book teaches Japanese in a fun and light-hearted way (it’s meant mostly for kids, after all), but the vocabulary index has some misspellings that incorrectly teach the words. The content is also a little light, so adults who use the book won’t learn too much.
  • Japanese Picture Dictionary Coloring Book : This book is an excellent resource for visual learners who want to learn more Japanese vocabulary. However, I didn’t include it in the list because spending time coloring in the pictures uses up a lot of study time that could be spent learning how to use the vocabulary words in actual conversation.

Why You Should Use Books To Learn Japanese

Using a book is an effective and detailed way to learn Japanese. Books provide in-depth explanations and many have practice questions that help you check your understanding of the material. Books are also an inexpensive option when compared to other learning methods and are portable so you can learn almost anywhere.

How To Use Books To Learn Japanese

Using a book is one of the best ways to learn Japanese. The most effective way to use a book is to study on a frequent basis. Creating and sticking to a language learning routine is important if you want to see continuous improvement. It’s best to study every day, or at least a few times a week if you want to learn and retain information.

It’s also a good idea to use a book in addition to another Japanese language resource, such as a Japanese language app or a Japanese online course . Books are a useful tool for learning vocabulary and grammar, but an app or course might help you improve your speaking and listening more.

Best Books To Learn Japanese: Final Thoughts

I hope this article has helped you find a book that can help you on your Japanese language learning journey. It’s a difficult language to learn, but it can be a rewarding and fun experience. Finding a book, or another resource, that fits your learning style and budget can make studying a breeze. Before buying a book, be sure to read user reviews to see if it’s a good fit for you. Whichever book you choose from this list, you’re sure to understand Japanese quickly!

Best Books To Learn Japanese: FAQ

Genki is the best book to learn Japanese because it is comprehensive and teaches all language skills like reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It’s commonly used as a textbook in college-level classrooms. It’s so popular that there’s even the option to rent the book for a semester at a reduced cost. The book includes detailed explanations, practice questions, and an audio CD.

To reach a conversational level of Japanese, you will probably need more than one year of study. According to the US Department of State , it takes 88 weeks (or 2200 class hours) to learn Japanese. This number is an estimate. You can learn Japanese faster if you have a natural ability to acquire languages or speak a related language like Korean or Chinese. To see how long it will take you to learn Japanese, check out this fluency calculator .

The best way to learn Japanese for beginners depends on how you prefer to learn, but using a comprehensive Japanese textbook is an excellent way to begin learning Japanese. Books are useful because they have in-depth explanations and examples that many language apps don’t have. Taking online classes or a course is another effective way for beginners to learn, but often comes at a more expensive price than a book.

You definitely can learn Japanese by yourself! While you may not become 100% fluent, you can reach a good level of speaking and understanding through independent practice. You can use one of the books on this list to help you learn basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary. Other popular learning methods include using an app, like Rocket Japanese or Mondly, and taking a comprehensive online course.

Kelsey Wetherbee

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Table of Contents

practice book japan

EDOPEN Japan

  • Learn Japanese
  • For Japanese teacher(日本語)

Learn Japanese 2022.08.31 2023.12.12 Koji Sudo

10 Most Powerful & Popular Textbooks to Pass JLPT N3

10 Most Powerful & Popular Textbooks to Pass JLPT N3 - EDOPEN Japan

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test provides legal recognition, official certification, and even qualification recognition of a non-native speaker’s Japanese language proficiency. To excel in the JLPT, you must comprehend the nature and execution of this language proficiency test.

In this article, we will review the top 10 textbooks to successfully pass the JLPT N3 exam. Before proceeding, please click the button below to discover the textbooks that are recommended for passing the JLPT N5 and N4 exams.

We encourage you to explore additional articles to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the JLPT. Following your reading of this article, we welcome your feedback and thoughts in the comment section below. To broaden your understanding and knowledge of JLPT, please take a look at our recommended reading below! Thank you and let’s begin!

JLPT: A Complete Guide to the Differences Between Levels N1-N5 - EDOPEN Japan

JLPT: A Complete Guide to the Differences Between Levels N1-N5

Read also: Get Ready for JLPT N3: 100 Kanji List JLPT N3 Vocabulary | The Most Complete Lists

About JLPT N3

Grammar drill textbooks for jlpt n3, kanji & vocabulary drill textbooks for jlpt n3, practice jlpt n3 exam with complete set textbooks.

About JLPT N3 - EDOPEN Japan

The JLPT N3 is the intermediate tier of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Successfully completing the JLPT N3 exam confirms proficiency in Japanese at an intermediate level, serving as ample evidence of Japanese proficiency for academic and occupational spheres.

Companies and educational institutions commonly require the JLPT N3 exam as a minimum prerequisite. The JLPT N3 assesses learners’ knowledge in five distinct areas, akin to the JLPT N5 and N4 as follows!

The JLPT N3 examination comprises three sections: language knowledge (vocabulary) in 30 minutes, language knowledge (grammar) & reading in 70 minutes and listening in 40 minutes.

1. Language knowledge (Vocabulary) – 30 minutes

What are the components of each section of the JLPT N3 exam? Each section of the exam has a specific component that is tested with its specified goal of measuring each individual’s ability. For language knowledge or skills, please read tWhat are the components of each section of the JLPT N3 exam? Each section of the exam has a designated component, which aims to assess individual abilities. To evaluate language knowledge or skills, please refer to the following 5 items below:

2. Language Knowledge (Grammar) & Reading – 70 minutes

On the other hand, for the language knowledge or Grammar and reading, please read the 7 important items as follows:

3. Listening – 40 minutes

Further, for the listening comprehension, please read the following items:

Grammar Drill Textbooks for JLPT N3 - EDOPEN Japan

The aim of the JLPT N3 grammar exam is to comprehend a minimum of 150-180 Japanese grammar points, covering aspects of both everyday life and the workplace. Specifically, at the N3 level, some examples of grammar points include:

Please read the following three books to assist you in preparing for the JLPT N3 grammar!

1. Speed Master JLPT N3 Grammar

practice book japan

To successfully pass the JLPT N3, preparation is key. An important aspect to master is N3 grammar. Master – Quick Mastery of N3 Grammar is a recommended resource. The book comprises three sections, which outline:

2. Mimi Kara Oboeru: Mastering Grammar

practice book japan

Are you someone who learns best by listening? If so, this book is ideal for JLPT N3 exam preparation. Titled “Mimi Kara Oboeru: Mastering Grammar through Auditory Learning – New JLPT N3!”, it boasts audio-centric learning in grammar mastery. As the title implies, this book boasts three significant advantages as follows:

This book enables natural mastery of grammar concepts and features numerous practice questions, increasing the likelihood of achieving fluency in the JLPT N3 exam within a short timeframe.

3. Dictionary of Japanese Grammar Series

practice book japan

One of the essential resources for any Japanese language learner, particularly those seeking success at all levels of the JLPT exam, is a Japanese dictionary. This dictionary, the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar, is essential for your JLPT N3 exam preparation. A companion for intermediate and advanced levels is a necessity.

The Intermediate Dictionary’s second edition has undergone extensive reviews and is now known as the most inclusive reference for Japanese grammar to date. The material has been elaborately explained, encompassing around 200 Japanese grammatical concepts.

You need not fret about encountering challenging words anymore. Employ this dictionary as an aid for your JLPT N3 exam readiness.

Kanji & Vocabulary Drill Textbooks for JLPT N3 - EDOPEN Japan

To successfully complete the JLPT N3, a comprehensive understanding of approximately 3,750 Japanese vocabulary words and 650 kanji characters is required. The 3,750 vocabularies on the JLPT N3 include nouns, verbs, adjectives, and foreign language absorptions words in Katakana.

In addition, the 650 kanji tested cover a wider range of topics and levels than in the JLPT N4 level. Most of these kanji are very common in daily life, both in the workplace and in schools or universities in Japan. Therefore, the JLPT N3 level is frequently utilized as the minimum requirement for entry into universities and corporations in Japan.

1. Kanji Master JLPT N3

practice book japan

The Kanji Master JLPT N3 book is highly popular due to its comprehensive and extensive series. Kanji Master JLPT N3 has:

2. 2000 Essential Vocabulary for the JLPT N3

practice book japan

This book is highly sought-after, particularly for those studying for the JLPT N3 exam. It covers a diverse range of 2000 commonly-used vocabulary words featured in the JLPT, alongside everyday life contexts, presented in an engaging manner. With clear topics, illustrative sentences, and translations in English and Vietnamese, any reader can effortlessly learn new words while picturing their practical usage.

In addition, the 2000 Essential Vocabulary for JLPT N3 comprises the subsequent components:

Practice JLPT N3 Exam with Complete Set Textbooks - EDOPEN Japan

To successfully pass the JLPT N3 assessment, diligent and regular practice is imperative. Solving a plethora of questions and persistently attempting the exam will facilitate a higher degree of familiarity and thus, elevate your chances of success.

Below, we recommend a book that provides a comprehensive set for JLPT N3 preparation. Each set typically covers every competency tested in the JLPT in great detail. Each book in the set provides comprehensive coverage of vocabulary, grammar, kanji, reading, and listening comprehension – encompassing a wide range. Please choose one of the complete sets of your JLPT N4 preparation book below!

1. New Kanzen Master JLPT N3

practice book japan

The New Kanzen Master JLPT N3 textbook proves highly sought-after among learners preparing for the JLPT N3 exam, as well as those studying at other levels. Each set comprises five books:

2. JLPT N3 Points and Practice

practice book japan

This series on JLPT N3 Points & Practice is certainly fascinating for many Japanese learners. Its uniqueness lies in its inclusion of tactful questions and helpful hints aimed at aiding your success in the JLPT N3 exam. In one complete set of the JLPT N3 Points and Practice series, you will receive three books, as outlined below:

Furthermore, all answers and explanations have been comprehensively listed in three languages – English, Chinese, and Vietnamese, accompanied by visually appealing illustrations. The book is highly suitable for self-study purposes.

3. Nihongo So-Matome JLPT N3

practice book japan

The Nihongo So-Matome book consistently ranks among the most coveted resources sought by those preparing for JLPT. Nihongo So-Matome offers the entire range of JLPT prep materials for every level. For instance, for those studying for JLPT N3, there is a complete set comprising five books. The books available in a complete set of Nihongo So-Matome JLPT N3 comprise the following:

4. Try! Japanese Language Proficiency Test N3

practice book japan

The guidebook for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N3, Try!, is an ideal resource for those on a budget who wish to master all the concepts examined in the assessment with just one book. Positive feedback from multiple JLPT N3 participants confirms its effectiveness.

Furthermore, it features 11 chapters that encompass a broad spectrum of everyday themes that may arise in JLPT N3 assessments. With only one book, you can acquire grammar, kanji, vocabulary, reading and listening skills, thanks to the Audio CD that is included.

5. Drill and Drill JLPT N3

practice book japan

The JLPT N3 Drill and Drill book is the ideal resource if you aim to master questions that resemble those in the actual JLPT N3 test. In fact, the team responsible for this book conducted thorough research to evaluate and refine the material to best reflect the JLPT N3 exam. In one set of JLPT N3 Drill and Drill book, you will receive three books as outlined below:

All answers are accompanied by comprehensive explanations and extremely helpful answer for all learners in English.

Please review the listed textbooks to ace JLPT N3 in 2023 below!

We welcome feedback and suggestions for our improvement. We hope you pass JLPT N3 successfully!

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Since the 2010 revision of the test, the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Official Practice Workbooks have been released in 2 volumes.

The Official Practice Workbook published in 2012 and the Official Practice Workbook Vol.2 released in 2018 each contains, for all levels, almost the same number of questions as an actual  test, with questions selected from among those used in tests since the 2010 revision.

※The Official Practice Workbook published in 2012 and the Official Practice Workbook Vol. 2 are sold by Bonjinsha. See here for more details.

JLPT Official Practice Workbook Vol. 2 (published 2018)

※The Official Practice Workbook Vol. 2 is sold by Bonjinsha. See here for more details.

About the Copyright

If all or part of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test Official Practice Workbooks offered on this site are to be used in reproduction, copy, adaptation, translation, etc., you must observe and comply with “ 1. Copyright ” of the Site Policy , ※Among sample questions under Grammar and Reading for N1 and N2 of the Test Items, questions from specified sources (following questions) and all of the Listening audio files for N1 through N5 contain works by third-party authors and copyright holders, so please be aware that, except for those cases for which “1. Copyright” (1)~(3) of the Site Policy apply, reprint and reproduction of the questions and works are prohibited without permission. If the contact information of the authors or copyright holders is unknown, please contact the organisers.

N1: Q7, Q8 (1)(3)(4), Q9 (1)-(3), Q10, Q11, Q12 N2: Q10 (1)(3)(5), Q11(1)-(3), Q13

※N1 and N2 have two test sections: Language Knowledge (Vocabulary/Grammar)・Reading; and Listening. The Vocabulary and Listening sections begin with a sample cover page of the test booklet.

※N3, N4 and N5 have three test sections: Language Knowledge (Vocabulary); Language Knowledge (Grammar)・Reading; and Listening. Each of these three sections begins with a sample cover page of the test booklet.

Listening audio files

※Test item types marked with "-" are not included in the level.

JLPT Official Practice Workbook (published 2012)

The Official Practice Workbook published in 2012 is sold by Bonjinsha. See here for more details.

N1: Q7, Q8 (1)-(3), Q9 (1)-(3), Q10, Q11, Q12 N2: Q10 (3)-(5), Q11 (1)-(3), Q13

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The 12 Best Books To Learn Japanese

(Updated April 5, 2021)

Japanese language students are incredibly lucky: There’s so much competition for Japanese learning materials that the quality of Japanese textbooks out there are extremely high compared to some other less-pursued languages (even compared to Korean textbooks for example).

In the 12+ years I’ve been studying Japanese, I have bought piles and piles of Japanese language books, always with the idea of looking for the one to rule them all.

In the end, no textbook is perfect: all have their strengths and weaknesses, but there are clearly some that are exceptionally well thought out, and will help you get you the best ‘bang for your buck’ in your Japanese study.

Without further ado, here are the 12 best Japanese textbooks we’ve found for self-study.

The 12 Best Books to Learn Japanese

1. genki i: an integrated course in elementary japanese.

Genki Textbook 3rd Edition

Published by the Japan Times , the Genki series is currently in its 3rd edition print run (2020 edition) and has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide.

There are no shortcuts with this textbook — you have to put in the time to learn and absorb the material. If you can work through to the end of this textbook, you’ll the necessary foundations of vocabulary, grammar, hiragana, katakana, and some basic kanji to build on.

The book is divided into 2 sections:

Conversation / Grammar focuses on learning vocabulary, sentence structure and culturally useful expressions via studying dialogues.

Reading / Writing focuses on teaching you kanji and reading comprehension via lessons that correspond to the Conversation part of the book.

Overall, while the Genki series still has some flaws that other textbooks have (for example, it teaches ‘Sayonara’ for ‘goodbye’, which isn’t very commonly used day-to-day in Japan), it’s still the best book out there to start learning Japanese on your own.

  • Accompanying CD for practicing pronunciation
  • Lots of exercises to practice at the end of each chapter
  • If you finish this textbook, you’ll have a fairly large vocabulary (about 50 words per chapter)
  • Unusual standard of romanization: ie. kiree instead of kirei
  • Doesn’t include the stroke order for kanji
  • Sometimes not 100% logical in its presentation (ie. teaching 5 color words, but then skipping the rest)
  • If you get Genki, we also recommend you get the workbook too.

2. A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar

practice book japan

  • Comprehensive and thorough
  • Grammar points are explained clearly and with helpful examples
  • Learn the difference between similar and often confused grammar points
  • This book is not a textbook — think of it as a dictionary of grammar (as the title says)

3. Remembering the Kana: A Guide to Reading and Writing the Japanese Syllabaries in 3 Hours Each

practice book japan

  • Mnemonics that really help to remember each character
  • Can teach you how to recognize hiragana and katakana in 3 hours each
  • If you already know kana, skip this one and jump ahead to Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji book
  • If you’ve learned some kana without much difficulty, you may find this book ‘overcomplicates’ the learning

4. Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary

practice book japan

  • Great section on how to conjugate regular and irregular Japanese verbs
  • Example sentences to show how words are often used
  • If anything, it’s not big enough for some more intermediate or advanced users
  • No information on intonation
  • Organized alphabetically by kana, not the roman alphabet
  • No romaji, all furigana

5. Remembering the Kanji, Volume 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters

practice book japan

My personal anecdote about this book: I struggled terribly with remembering Kanji before I came across this book years ago, and it helped me immensely. Although I’ve forgotten many of the mnemonic ‘stories’ I first learned, I still remember the meanings of most kanji.

  • Learn the ‘parts’ that make up a kanji
  • Teaches you how to remember the meanings of hundreds of characters
  • Some of the keywords chosen in the book are ambiguous or strange (ie. rarely-used English words instead of its regular-use equivalent)
  • You’ll only learn the basic ‘meaning’ of the kanji, so without further study you won’t be able to ‘read’ Japanese kanji or compound words
  • Some people report not being able to view kanji stroke order on the kindle version. Buyer beware!
  • Most people pair this book with Anki flashcard software. I did this and 100% recommend it

6. Kanji in Context

practice book japan

  • Over 150 lessons that teach kanji within the context of writings
  • Might be hard to find or expensive outside of Japan
  • Not for beginners — more intermediate to advanced

7. The Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary

practice book japan

  • A visually appealing, well layed-out dictionary
  • The ‘SKIP’ method used to look up kanji is quite ingenious
  • Up to date, reliable definitions and examples
  • Some people find the lookup method unintuitive (however I think this is rare)

8. JLPT Study Guide: The Comprehensive Guide to the JLPT Level N5 Exam

practice book japan

If you’re just starting to learn Japanese , and are aiming to take the N5 test (or even if you’re in need of a refresher), I highly recommend this book. It has an easy to follow layout, great illustrations, and covers each topic at a good pace.

One of the best ways to prepare for the JLPT test is doing actual practice questions, which this book has plenty of. The practice sections include all the different types of questions that you’ll see on the actual test (kanji, grammar, reading and listening), so you’ll know which areas you’re prepared for, and which need more work.

If you’re working towards N5, this is the book for you!

  • More than 300 JLPT N5 practice questions included
  • 3 printable N5 practice tests
  • Accompanying audio for listening comprehension
  • Printable flash cards for kana and N5 kanji
  • Fun illustrations and dialogues
  • Ideal for students wanting to go from zero to N5 in a short amount of time.

9. How to Sound Intelligent in Japanese: A Vocabulary Builder

practice book japan

  • Good structure and categorization
  • Fun learning for advanced students
  • Often vocabulary is quite specialized and difficult to use
  • Recommended for N3 or above (not lower).

10. Read Real Japanese

practice book japan

I enjoyed studying with this book except for the author’s inexplicable usage of romaji in the vocabulary explanations. Why would an advanced learner still be using romaji? Anyway, it is an interesting read and you should be able to find it used for cheap on Amazon.

  • Helpful in making the difficult jump from textbooks to reading “real” Japanese
  • Momoko Sakura
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Banana Yoshimoto
  • The use of romaji in a book for advanced students is a questionable and unfortunate design choice
  • Lack of sentence-by-sentence translation

11. Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors

practice book japan

  • Notes that explain cultural contexts and usage
  • Narrated CD comes with the book
  • Murakami Haruki
  • Yoshimoto Banana
  • Hirano Keiichiro
  • For intermediate students (if you’ve finished the Genki series, you could try this out)

12. Read Real Japanese Fiction

practice book japan

  • Kawakami Hiromi
  • Ishii Shinji
  • Kitamura Kaoru
  • Tawada Yoko
  • Helpful notes in the back of the book
  • Doesn’t include complete translations of all sentences
  • Furigana next to every new kanji (could be a plus, depending on your level)
  • Not organized by level of difficulty (the first story is harder than the second for example)

Honorable Mentions That Didn’t Quite Make the List

Nihongo through newspaper articles.

practice book japan

A solid offering from the Japan Times for building up your Japanese vocabulary. Each lesson presents a new article with vocabulary and exercises. There’s also two audio CDs included. A lesson a day will quickly improve your reading comprehension.

  • Comes with 2 CDs
  • Great for building vocabulary to eventually read the newspaper
  • Difficult to find outside of Japan — it’s available to buy, but can be quite expensive! Recommended you search second hand.
  • For intermediate to advanced

Pimsleur Japanese

practice book japan

Not strictly a book, but it’s a great audio course for starting out in Japanese. Gets a bit too corporate for my liking towards the end of the 3rd series, but you will remember and be able to use what you learn with Pimsleur. You can sample Pimsleur Japanese for free with a Audible 30 day trial. Download the taster course here.

  • A lot of people hate on Pimsleur (Why???), but it’s really good for beginners to get you speaking. Try it out if you’re just starting Japanese!

Making Out in Japanese

practice book japan

  • Fun and entertaining (and possibly useful, if you end up single in Japan!)
  • You might consider the phrases ‘too lame’ to use in real situations
  • Contains language not suitable for younger readers

Kanji Study Cards

practice book japan

  • Very helpful if you’re using Heisig’s method for learning the kanji
  • Expensive and difficult to find (used to be $100 on Amazon, now difficult to find retail)
  • Only useful in conjunction with the Remembering the Kanji book
  • Cards haven’t been laminated so you can write your own notes on the cards. The downside of this is they can become ‘ boro-boro ‘ quite easily

So there you have it. There are probably more (I have spent a lot of money on Japanese books over the years) but those are — in my opinion — the best books to learn Japanese. Enjoy!

Michael

Michael has lived in Japan on and off for almost 10 years. He loves studying Japanese, and is currently working on going from N2 to N1 on the JLPT.

20 thoughts on “The 12 Best Books To Learn Japanese”

practice book japan

I think ‘Human Japanese’ is wonderful. Yes, I agree with you self-learning with determination is more effective. To learn good at a language is to spend time and engage in yourself in the environment, listen, speak and read whenever you can. At best is to know a friend of that country, or go there!!!

practice book japan

Thank you for the comment Wingman! I’ve never heard of “Human Japanese” before. What is good about it?

practice book japan

Human Japanese is not a book but more of an interactive tool for learning that can be downloaded to your smart phone or tablet. I not having a credit card only have access to the demo but through that I’ve easily been able to get through the first two writing systems and some basic vocabulary. It is written in an extremely interesting and accessible manner and seems to have a very everyone can learn Japanese attitude. If you have a smart phone it’s definitely has my recontamination, and when I get my credit working again I will be running straight back to it.

practice book japan

I think that “Basic kanji book” is also a great thing! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever seen 🙂

practice book japan

What about Genki? I swear it’s the best Japanese textbook ever created to go along with its workbook. I have been learning from Genki for about 2- 3 years now and I really enjoy it. It covers from basic Japanese grammar and vocab and kanji all the way up to complicated compounds and keigo. I really enjoy it and I have been learning Japanese since about 5 years ago and it is byfar the best textbook I’ve ever used for grammar and vocab. However, if a person wanted to work a lot further on their kanji and get a good grip on onyomi and kunyomi (different readings of kanji – Japanese origin readings and Chinese origin readings) I recommend the Basic Kanji book. It teaches around 500 kanji per book and has great work book pages and teaches radicals. I find it to be my number one supplimentive pick for kanji.

practice book japan

I was wondering if out of these books which ones do you really need? I am on a budget which books are best to start with? Thank you.

practice book japan

Remembering the Kanji is an amazing book, I used it way back to learn the meaning of the Jouyou in about two months, and I managed to preserve above 95% accuracy for quite some time (until I stopped with my Japanese studying). It’s really a one-of-a-kind, so different and so much more efficient than other Kanji-books I’ve tried to learn from.

I’d also suggest the Japanese For Busy People series (the kana versions), which I used to get started. If you go through all three books, you’ll have a strong foundation to build on, both in terms of grammar and vocabulary.

practice book japan

Hey, I have heard a lot about the Genki books and I was thinking of getting them but since there SOOOOOO expensive, I was wondering if there are any books that might be just as good but a cheaper alternative, or at least any book that would be good to get as well as Genki? please answer soon 🙂

practice book japan

do you know any places where you can Buy the books. Everyone says that all the books are good but I want to know where you can get them, other than amazon though.

practice book japan

The dictionary of basic japanese grammar is a great book. Helped me a ton in understanding it. Also japanese the manga way is a great read for anyone who gets bored reading traditional books

practice book japan

Thanks for commenting. We plan to review Japanese The Manga Way in the near future!

practice book japan

The Basic Japanese Grammar (and intermediate) book and Remembering the Kana were great resources for me as well. I also found Remembering the Kanji to be great, although even after finishing it the road to truly learning kanji is a looong one.

Please take a look at my website about Japanese NOVELS for Japanese learners if you get the chance. I would love feedback on it from another Japanese learner (and writer focusing on Japanese learners). Thanks!

Hi Andy. Thanks for commenting! Your site looks interesting. Are those books that you have had produced yourself or are you just organizing them in a logical way for learners?

Thanks for the response, and taking a look at the site. While I have hopes of eventually producing books aimed at learners of Japanese, this site is, a you put it so well, organizing Japanese novels, etc in a logical way for learners. =)

practice book japan

I’m learning Chinese at the moment, but I hope to learn Japanese at some point in the future. If I already am learning Hanzi is it okay to skip learning Kanji or should I still study it?

practice book japan

A fair few of the Handzi have changed or mean something different in Kanji so I wouldn’t recomend skipping it.Though you could probably get away with it if you really wanted.

practice book japan

I have to learn Spanish and A bit of Chinese for my job, so I need good books. The best book to learn Spanish in all the lists seems to be: A Good Spanish Book! (University Academic Editions), but I am totally lost for Chinese… there are no rankings… any suggestions?

practice book japan

I think that “Basic kanji book” is also a great thing! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever seen

practice book japan

I was watching Youtuber Yuta Aoki’s video about “How To Really Make a Japanese Sentence” then noticed that he implies this book having ‘unnatural language’ errors; the Genki one. I think it does make sense what he was saying; what do you guys think?

practice book japan

I would like to buy study book in Japanese . for me is very important that I will learn how to peanuts words in Japanese . and to learn the a.b.c of Japanese .

what kind of books you can offer me ?

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practice book japan

Best Books to Prepare the JLPT

The 5 best JLPT textbooks

Best Books to Prepare the JLPT

The goal of most Japanese students is to pass one of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test or JLPT levels. For those who don’t know it, the JLPT (Nihongo noryoku shiken a.k.a Noken in Japanese) is the official Japanese level exam, like the TOEFL or the First Certificate in English. It’s basically the title that you’re going to be asked to opt for many job interviews in Japan or in Japanese companies where language is a requirement.

It takes place twice a year, in July and December and has 5 levels, with 5 being the lowest and 1 being the highest. It’s considered that, in order to work in a Japanese company, you must to have an N2. The exam consists of three parts: kanji and vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension and listening.

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

Skills required for each level

If your first time facing a JLPT, you may be lost about the skills you need for each level and you’re wondering which one you should try. Hens a synthesis from the official requirements.

  • Reading: The person is able to read complex writings   and deep contents on various topics such as newspaper editorials and critiques, and comprehend their structures.
  • Listening: The person is able to understand conversations, news reports, and lectures, spoken at natural speed and grasp details such as the relationships amongst the people involved.
  • Reading: The person is able to read materials written on a variety of topics, such as articles in newspapers and magazines as well as simple critiques, and understand the contents and the intent of the writer.
  • Listening: The person is able to comprehend conversations and news reports, spoken at nearly natural speed in everyday situations, as well as understand the relationships amongst the people involved.
  • Reading: The person is able to read and understand written materials with specific contents concerning everyday topics. Also, one has the ability to read and understand information as newspapers headlines and read slightly difficult writings.
  • Listening: The person is able comprehend coherent conversations in everyday situations, spoken at almost natural speed, and grasp the relationships amongst the people involved.
  • Reading:   The person is able to read and understand small texts about familiar daily topics written in basic vocabulary and kanji .
  • Listening: The person is able to listen and comprehend daily life conversations if they are spoken slowly.
  • Reading: The person is able to read and understand typical expressions and sentences written in hiragana , katakana , and basic kanji .
  • Listening: The person is able to listen and comprehend conversations about daily life topics and classroom situations, and is able to pick up necessary information from short conversations spoken slowly.

Books to Prepare the JLPT

In another article I wrote about the best books to study Japanese, but the JLPT has a certain structure and specific characteristics, so in addition to the books used in academies to study Japanese, many students decide to buy extra books to prepare for the exam. These books aren’t designed to teach Japanese, but to help you to be ready for the test, therefore they follow different methodologies.

Most JLPT preparation books start at level 3, some at level 4, but almost none at level 5, since it’s a fairly basic level that can be achieved with normal books for studying Japanese.

New Kanzen Master

New Kanzen Master

New Kanzen Master is the big favorite for most of Japanese language students when preparing the JLPT, especially in higher levels such as N2 and N1. It’s without a doubt the most complete book (and also the thickest) of those on the market, although it’s not actually a book, but up to five (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension). But if you can’t buy all five, the grammar book is a must.

In the first part of the book, you can find a review of all the grammar that goes into the exam and then goes deeper into some grammar points. But surely if something differentiates this book from the others it’s that it also includes strategies for the exam. Finally, something common in the JLPT preparation books, includes exam simulations to practice and prove your level.

The books are available here:

New Kanzen Master JLPT Level N1 – 5 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

New Kanzen Master Grammar JLPT Level N1

New Kanzen Master JLPT Level N2 – 5 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

New Kanzen Master Grammar JLPT Level N2

New Kanzen Master JLPT Level N3 – 5 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

New Kanzen Master Grammar JLPT Level N3

New Kanzen Master JLPT Level N4 – 4 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

New Kanzen Master Grammar JLPT Level N4

Nihongo So-matome

Nihongo So-matome

So-matome is the other big favorite for the students who are going to take the JLPT. Some say that it’s more practical and simpler than the Kanzen Master serie, but that for higher levels (N2-N1) it’s not enough. However, it can come in handy for a first contact, and then dig deeper with the Kanzen Master. As with the Kanzen Master, there are about 5 books per level (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension), and then they also have a book only with questions to prepare for the exam.

The dynamics of the books is quite simple. In each lesson you have an explanation of a specific topic (for example, in the grammar book, of certain grammatical forms) and then at the end of the lesson you have some example exercises simulating a JLPT exam.

Nihongo So-matome JLPT level N1 – 5 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

Nihongo So-matome 500 Practice Questions for the JLPT level N1

Nihongo So-matome JLPT level N2 – 5 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

Nihongo So-matome 500 Practice Questions for the JLPT level N2

Nihongo So-matome JLPT level N3 – 5 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

Nihongo So-matome 500 Practice Questions for the JLPT level N3

Nihongo So-matome JLPT level N4 – 2 Books Set (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

Nihongo So-matome JLPT level N5 – 1 Books (Kanji, Grammar, Vocabulary, Listening & Reading Comprehension)

Nihongo So-matome 500 Practice Questions for the JLPT level N4-N5

Kanji Master

Kanji Master

One of the most difficult parts of studying Japanese is the kanji. And from level 3 of the JLPT to level 2 there is a very big difference regarding the number of kanjis you have to know. In Japanese schools to teach kanjis up to N3 they use the kanji books of Minna no Nihongo (I wrote about those books here ) but when it comes to preparing for N2 or N1 you need a higher level. That’s when students begin to use the Kanji Master books. These books are very complete and well designed, and aren’t only for JLPT but for the study of Japanese in general. So although it’s especially recommended from N2 onwards, if you are still at lower levels but want to learn kanji more deeply, I recommend buying the Kanji Master from the other levels as well.

Kanji Master N1

Kanji Master N2

Kanji Master N3

Kanji Master N4

Kanji Master N5

JLPT Official Practice Workbook

JLPT Official Practice Workbook

The JLPT is organised worldwide by two organisations, the Japan Foundation and JEES (Japan Educational Exchanges and Services). As the name implies, this book is an official book published by these organisations. However, these books are not used to study the syllabus that will enter the exam, but rather to carry out test exams. It contains questions that have been asked in previous exams, since 2010. It can come in handy as an extra support for studying and to see what these exams are like and if you can reach the required level.

JLPT Official Practice Workbook N1

JLPT Official Practice Workbook N2

JLPT Official Practice Workbook N3

JLPT Official Practice Workbook N4

JLPT Official Practice Workbook N5

A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar

A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar

They work as other dictionaries: they present the information in alphabetical order, but instead of meanings they show the reader the different grammar points of the Japanese language. Grammar is presented in a very detailed way: every entry includes a translation into English, similar structures in Japanese or related expressions and much more.

3 Book Bundle Set (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced)

Basic level

Intermediate level

Advanced  level

How were my 5 best books to prepare the JLPT? Has it been useful to you? If at the moment you are still starting to study Japanese or you want to start and you aren’t interested in JLPT but learning the language, I recommend these other articles for Japanese language students!

5 Best Books to Learn Japanese for Beginners

▽Check out these recommended Japanese schools to learn Japanese efficiently!▽

10 Best Japanese Schools in Tokyo

Learning Japanese by textbooks is not the only way but the essential way to learn Japanese correctly. If you want to learn Japanese in a different way, it is also recommended to use mobile apps or read manga in Japanese!

Best Apps to Learn Japanese for Beginners

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15 JLPT N2 Books for Advanced Japanese Learners

practice book japan

The JLPT N2 is considered the benchmark for professional Japanese fluency. Having the certificate shows that you can communicate and understand conversations with business colleagues and clients at a deeper level. 

In other words, the N2 is the level set as the “bare minimum” if you want to build a scalable career in Japan. 

However, the gap between one JLPT level with the other gets progressively bigger — likewise, N3 to N2. The JLPT N2 is divided into three sections: language knowledge, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. Each section is scored out of 60 marks, and to pass you need at least 30 marks in each section.

The vocabulary list for the N2 consists of roughly 6,000 words – around 2,500 more than the N3 — but the vocabulary isn’t the only challenge. A lot of test-takers fail at reading sections. Why? Because you are expected to understand the contents of newspapers, magazines or research papers filled with industry-specific vocabularies. 

If you’re looking for the right study materials to ace the exam, we recommend these 15 JLPT N2 books. It will be a mix of vocabulary books, workbooks and textbooks.  

If you want to increase your success rate and achieve the test score you want, we can help you. Check out our in-person or online JLPT prep course .  We also online  JLPT self-study courses  for motivated individuals to help them pass the exam. By subscribing at 900 JPY a month (around 8 USD), you’ll get full access to all our JLPT self-study bundles.

JLPT N2 Bundles or All-in-One Study Book: Which is Right For Me?

Some books cover all aspects of the test, while there will be books that focus on certain areas (like reading or kanji), so it’s good to think about your study plan first before finding a good mix of materials  — you can’t rely on one book alone.

Buying a JLPT N2 book series will be more expensive, where each test section is made into individual parts instead of being compiled into one giant textbook, but you’ll get the complete study material because you will have more chance to dive deep into each test element (for example, there’s a book dedicated to just kanji, or grammar, or reading). On the other hand, it’s easy to feel disorganized with so many things to keep track of.

One textbook or workbook that contains all JLPT sections might be a good match. It’s also cheaper, but because it tries to cover everything within one book, you’re more likely to receive fewer mock questions and detailed explanations.

A good tip is to rely on a mix of books. For example, if you’re good at kanji, you don’t necessarily need to buy a textbook dedicated to it. You can instead buy a grammar-focused N2 book. At the same time, buy an all-around JLPT guide. You can’t depend on one book or one source alone.

In the meantime, check out one of our students’ experiences in passing the JLPT N2 .

  • Try! JLPT N2 Grammar
  • Goukaku Dekiru JLPT N2
  • Shinkanzen Master JLPT N 2

Nihongo Power Drill N2

  • Nihongo Sou Matome N2

Shin Nihongo 500 Mon JLPT N2

  • Intro to JLPT N2 Practice Tests 
  • JLPT Official Practice Workbook N2
  • Pattern-Betsu Tettei Drill JLPT N2)

2500 Essential Vocabulary for the JLPT N2

  • JLPT N2 Questions Speed Master
  • JLPT N1 and N2 Shiken Ni Deru
  • Drill and Drill JLPT N2 
  • Last-minute Preparations JLPT N2

The Best Practice Tests for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N2

Try 日本語能力試験 n2 文法から伸ばす日本語 改訂版 (try jlpt n2 grammar).

try jlpt n2 grammar book

The Try ! textbook series is a popular grammar book among JLPT students. We’ve seen a lot of great reviews that complement the book’s well-designed structure. The book provides brief grammar explanations in both Japanese and English. It’s designed to teach you all the N2-level grammar within listening, speaking, reading and writing. Technically speaking, it is a grammar book, but you will also practice reading and listening comprehension through the questions — talk about killing two (actually, make that four) birds with one stone.

A unique selling point is the “When-to-Use” marks, which explain when to use certain expressions in real life. There are 14 chapters in total, each focusing on communication in practical situations. You’ll also get a booklet for answer keys and listening scripts.

There’s a downside, though. Because the book tries to keep the structure clean and simple, it summarizes only the essential points. Explanations are in-depth, but if you’re looking for quantity (because you can never be too careful with N2 grammars), we recommend pairing Try! N2 textbook with the Shinkanzen Master (more of that below), which is more comprehensive.  

Buy on Amazon (¥1,980 JPY) or OMG Japan ($21.70 USD)

合格できる日本語能力試験 N2 (Goukaku Dekiru JLPT N2)

goukaku dekiru jlpt n2 book

Besides the Try! JLPT N2 series, self-study learners will opt for the Goukaku Dekiru JLPT N2 book too. This book commits to all parts of the JLPT N2 level and includes two CDs for the listening section. This is a practice test book and not necessarily a study guide, so don’t expect to see a lot of explanations.

The main benefit of this book is that it’s a great way to find out your weak and strong points. The book provides a lot of practice questions, so over time, you’ll build confidence to practice. In total, the workbook consists of two parts for each test section: grammar, kanji, vocabulary, reading and listening comprehension Part one conditions you to get familiar with the JLPT through 663 problems in total. The second part is the review. You’ll receive answer keys and scripts, so don’t worry about feeling left behind.

This book is perfect for:

  • Students who want to focus on all JLPT N2 test sections, instead of just one
  • Students who want to self-study and get familiar with the general JLPT N2 structure. This book is a great starting point. It’s not too intimidating, but it doesn’t slack you off either.

Buy on Amazon (¥2,420 JPY) or Kinokuniya Web Store

新完全マスタ 日本語能力試験N2 (Shinkanzen Master JLPT N2)

shinkanzen master jlpt n2

If you’re the type who wants to get the highest JLPT N2 test score possible, choose the Shin Kanzen Masuta Bunpo Nihongo Noryoku Shiken N2. In fact, a lot of JLPT prep courses — including Coto Academy — use the Shin Kanzen Master JLPT N2. Why? Because the textbook covers a lot of grammar points. So many, in fact, that it can be too intense. The book has 37 lessons, divided into three structures: grammar questions and an overview of how to solve them; a series of exercises and more interesting questions; and a final mock test. 

For a start, there’s no English translation in the Shinkanzen Master JLPT N2 . Instead, new words come with a short phrase and explanation so you can learn them — in Japanese. You’re then conditioned to use these words with exercises and unique questions. 

Still, can be annoying and time-consuming to check all the new words. On the other hand, because it’s so packed, you’ll find the Shin Kanzen series introducing more words (around 2,200 new vocabularies). According to the publisher, it “ensures continued strengthening of the learner’s ability in grammar, but also his/her overall ability at the advanced level.”

Shinkanzen Master has four JLPT preparation textbooks, each focusing on different elements with the same intensity: reading (dokkai), listening (choukai), kanji and vocabulary (goi). 

This book is perfect if:

  • You are looking to study intensively. This book compiles everything you need to know for the JLPT N2, so it’s very comprehensive and effective.
  • You can dedicate more time to prepare for the test.

Available Shin Kanzen Master JLPT N2 books:

  • Shin Kanzen Master Bunpo JLPT N2 (Grammar)
  • Shin Kanzen Master Goi JLPT N2 (Vocabulary)
  • Shin Kanzen Master Dokkai JLPT N2 (Reading comprehension)
  • Shin Kanzen Master Choukai JLPT N2 (Listening comprehension)
  • Shin Kanzen Master Kanji JLPT N2 (Kanji)

You can buy the complete set on OMG Japan ($95 USD)

power drill n2 book

The Nihongo Power Drill N2 is designed for learners who need more grammar practice, with over 30 lessons that you must complete in 10 minutes (you’re supposed to time yourself) to reinforce you to answer the questions rapidly — something you must do in the real JLPT. There’s a total of 580 problems. 470 of them mimic the real JLPT exam, while the other 100 focus on building your grammar strength. 

This book is perfect:

  • If your study plan for the JLPT N2 is to go over bit by bit, instead of learning everything at once.
  • If you’re a busy person. The book only needs you to spare 10 minutes everyday.
  • The Nihongo Power Drill Nihongo sets daily and weekly learning target, which is perfect for individuals who still need more solid guides.

Available Nihongo Power Drill N2 books:

  • Nihongo Power Drill N2 Grammar (also available on OMG Japan at $15 USD)
  • Nihongo Power Drill N2 Vocabulary (also available on OMG Japan at $15 USD)

Psst… Hey! Quick reminder

Our JLPT N2 Kanji Course, Workbook and Cheatsheets are on sale for 50% ! You’ll get 55 lessons and writing exercises from our PDF workbook, as well as a printable sheet.

Nihongo Sou Matome N2 

sou matome jlpt n2 textbook series

The Nihongo Sou Matome is similar to the Shin Kanzen Master in terms of book structure. Each element of the JLPT (grammar, vocabulary, listening comprehension, kanji and reading) are broken down into individual books. But unlike Shinkanzen Master, Nihongo Sou Matome gives a friendlier vibe. You will learn 400 kanji and 1400 words through the provision of short sentences and illustrations. 

Nihongo Sou Matome programs learners to study the JLPT in 6 weeks. We recommend the Nihongo Sou Matome if you struggle in pacing your studies. Because you’re only expected to take one lesson a day, with each lesson ending with practice, you’re less likely to cram last minute and feel overwhelmed. Every week is a different ‘major’ topic, which is followed by weekly practice exercises that materials covered the last 7 days.  

You can buy the textbooks in bundles or individually. 

  • If you are just starting out studying for the N2. This is because the vocabulary used in that book is not all that challenging.
  • If you want to study for the JLPT N2 less intensively.

Available Nihongo Sou Matome N2 books:

  • Nihongo Sou Matome N2 Grammar
  • Nihongo Sou Matome N2 Vocabulary
  • Nihongo Sou Matome N2 Kanji
  • Nihongo Sou Matome N2 Reading Comprehension
  • Nihongo Sou Matome N2  Listening Comprehension

Complete st on OMG Japan ($93 USD)

shin nihongo 500 mon jlpt n2 textbook

You might notice that the book’s design is similar to the much-loved Nihongo Sou Matome book series. That’s because the book is under the same publisher. The Shin Nihongo 500 Mon JLPT N2 is an updated (hence, the shin, which means new) version of the 500 Questions workbook. There are 500 multiple-choice questions in total, designed to be taken gradually for 20 minutes every day for 4 weeks.

You’ll find 4 main chapters, corresponding to each week. Each day, you’ll do 15 questions: 5 kanji, 5 vocabulary and 5 grammar questions. The answers and explanations, provided on the reverse rise, are in English, Chinese and Vietnamese. You can track your progress by a weekly log and ‘check’ off the questions once you’ve mastered them.

Like the Nihongo Sou Matome , the book tries to make the entire study experience fun and engaging. Pages aren’t text-heavy (one page only fits 3 questions), so you’re less likely to feel burnt out. Lists for all kanji, vocabulary and grammatical structures are compiled in an appendix.

  • If you’re too busy to study the JLPT intensively. It’s great for busy people because you can always fit in a few exercises during your commute or lunch hour.
  • If you’re looking for a N2 workbook that doesn’t feel overwhelming.

Buy on Amazon (¥1,320 JPY) or OMG Japan ($18.50 USD)

Intro to JLPT N2 Practice Tests

practice book japan

This is the newer series from ASK Books, the same publisher behind Nihongo Sou Matome and Shin Nihongo 500 Mon. While N2 is considered the pre-advanced level (a lot of students who take N2 have usually taken other JLPTs in the past), the Intro to JLPT series is catered for individuals who are taking the test for the first time.

The first half of the book contains multiple practice questions. After that comes three mock test exams, before being followed by an answer and explanation key.

  • For those who want to take multiple practice tests before the actual exam to avoid getting shocked.

Buy on OMG Japan ($24.00 USD or ¥2,753 JPY)

Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken Koushiki Mondaishuu N2 (JLPT Official Practice Workbook N2)

practice book japan

How accurate are these mock questions and textbooks? If you want the ultimate credible textbook, you can consider the Offical JLPT Practice Workbook , which is published by the JLPT committee. The book covers almost the same number of questions as the actual test, with some of them even picked from previous tests. You’ll also receive an outline of the exam and relevant guidelines: certification guideline, scale score and FAQ. The book contains a listening CD and a script. If you want a sample, you can head to their official page here . 

It’s divided into three parts: “shiken mondai”, which is the example test question; answer key for questions and scripts for listening section; and explanation of the test structure and updated information about the JLPT.

  • If you have trust issues (which we totally get). We’ve seen people complaining about the accuracy of third-party textbooks. Some say they’re too hard than the actual JLPT. Some say they’re too easy, which causes a lot of students to downplay the test. The official practice workbook sets clear expectation.

Buy on Bojinsha (¥770 JPY)

パターン別徹底ドリル日本語能力試験N2 (Pattern-Betsu Tettei Drill JLPT N2)

pattern settei drill jlpt n2 book

If you’re looking for an N2 JLPT study book that’s more well-balanced, this is a perfect choice. The Pattern-Betsu Tettei Drill JLPT N2 specifically provides learners a complete preparation guide for all test sections of the JLPT. Naturally, the book is divided into four parts: vocabulary, listening, reading comprehension and grammar. Keep in mind that kanji is a part of the vocabulary section — but most textbook series separates them. The book tries to familiarize you with the real JLPT exam structures and exams. Through ‘drilling’ you with multiple questions and examples, you’re going to be able to recognize question patterns and find the best effective way to answer them correctly. Think of it as a comprehensive mock exam that fits everything you need to learn for the JLPT N2.

The book includes 2 CDs, but you won’t find any English translations.

Buy on Amazon (¥2,420 JPY)

n2 tango 2500 jlpt vocabulary book

2500 Essential Vocabulary for the JLPT N2 is a vocabulary resource by ASK to prepare for the JLPT N2. Included in this book is vocabulary found commonly on the JLPT and often used in daily life. In this book, you will find several sections with each section focusing on a specific topic. The structure is consistent throughout the whole book, so it is easy to get used to it. 2500 Essential Vocabulary for the JLPT N2 book structure: For each word, the book presents the following information: Part of speech, English and Vietnamese translation, Japanese example sentence with English and Vietnamese translation.

You can mark every word you learned with a tick, making it easy to find where you left off. The book is structured in 12 chapters. A red sheet to review and guess the missing words in the example sentences is included.

  • If you want to start of vocabulary first. It’s a small, practical and well-structured book. You can carry them anywhere — trains, work or cafes — and finish a chapter or section without feeling confused. All vocabularies are grouped based on context (like “emotions”, “household activities” and sports)

Buy on Amazon (¥1,760 JPY) or OMG Japan ($19.99 USD)

日本語能力試験問題集N2スピードマスタ (JLPT N2 Questions Speed Master)

n2 speed master supiido masutaa book

Like the Shinkanzen Master and Nihongo Sou Matome, the JLPT Speed Master is a JLPT study book series, rather than an all-in-one guide (again, this can be both a good and bad thing, depending on which type of Japanese learner you are). There are four books in total: JLPT N2 Questions Speedmaster on reading, listening, vocabulary and grammar.

It’ll be more a workbook than a textbook, as the book is designed to help you build an understanding of how to approach JLPT texts. You’ll find three sections. The first is the “warm-up”, which is an explanation of how JLPT test how to tackle them through analyzing relevant information on sentences. The second is “practice”, where you’ll encounter close-to-similar JLPT N2 texts (same vocabulary, grammar and expressions). Finally, the mock test — so you can see your progress and give you an idea if you’re ready for N2 or not (there are two mock tests).

Buy on Amazon (¥1,320 JPY) or OMG Japan ($16.50 USD)

JLPT N1 and N2 試験に出る (JLPT N1 and N2 Shiken Ni Deru)

jlpt n1 n2 shiken ni deru book

The Shiken ni Deru JLPT workbook combines two of the highest JLPT level: N1 and N2. There are four books in total: Shiken ni Deru Dokkai (reading), Shiken ni Deru Choukai (listening), Shiken ni Deru Bunpou to Hyougen (grammar and expression) and Shiken ni Deru Kanji to Goi (kanji and vocabulary).

Some people thought the series is a bit intimidating because it’s all in Japanese, but that’s actually one of its strengths. Each book consists of certain days of activities. For example, the reading workbook is meant to be completed for 40 days. The first 10 days go over the reading strategies, with the rest 30 days for activities. Finally, a mock test for each section. The grammar and expression N2 workbook is designed for 42 days, and the kanj and vocabulary for 28 days.

An important thing, though: these activities are split between N1 activities and N2 activities. So, it may seem like a steep price to pay for a book that only half the activities are for the test you are studying for but if you are hoping to take N1 sometime in the future it’s a pretty good buy.

  • If you’ve studied all the vocabulary for N2. In other words, those who fel like they’re ready to go into the test but still need a (more intensive) warm-up.
  • Learners who are planning to take the N1 in the future too.
  • Those who want to get a better feel of true N2 and N1 levels.

Available JLPT N1 and N2 Shiken Ni Deru book:

  • JLPT N1 and N2 Shiken Ni Deru Kanji to Goi ( ¥5,980)
  • JLPT N1 and N2 Shiken Ni Deru Choukai (¥7,018)
  • JLPT N1 and N2 Shiken Ni Deru Dokkai (¥3,259)
  • JLPT N1 and N2 Shiken Ni Deru Bunpou to Hyougen ( ¥4,980)

Drill and Drill JLPT N2

drill and drill n2 jlpt textbook nihongo nouryoku shiken

Drill and Drill is a three-part N2 JLPT book, each focusing on different sections: grammar, listening-reading and vocabulary. The format and style of the questions in this book are like real JLPT questions. True to its name, the focus of the Drill and Drill JLPT N2 is to gear you for the exam with a large number of questions. They’re accompanied by explanations of the answer and translations.

Available Drill and Drill N2 books:

  • Drill and Drill JLPT N2 Grammar ($18 USD)
  • Drill and Drill JLPT N2 Listening and Reading ($28 USD)
  • Drill and Drill JLPT N2 Vocabulary ($18 USD)

JLPT N2 Chokuzen-taisaku (Last-minute Preparations JLPT N2)

last minute n2 jlpt preparaiton

The Chokuzen-taisaku series contains fifteen tests modeled after JLPT N2, each modeled to be finished at 50 minutes (or under). It’s perfect for students who want to strengthen their test-taking skills specifically (instead of the overall Japanese language ability) and it’s a great last-minute confidence booster, too. There’s an attached appendix of verbs, adverbs, adjectives and vocabulary, and a separate booklet for explanations and answers.

  • For individuals who have 50 minutes to spare everyday. Think of this book as a final two-week JLPT preparation.
  • If you prefer timed sample test for self-study.

Buy on Amazon (¥1,540 JPY) or OMG Japan ($21 USD)

the best practice test jlpt n2

Fair warning: This book is not a learning material. It’s a practice book that contains three tests, created based on previous JLPT N2. The questions are all in Japanese, but if you’re feeling stuck, there are answer sheets with English translations and free audio downloads.

Buy on Amazon (¥2,090 JPY) or OMG Japan ($24 USD)

Not sure about your Japanese level? Take our free Japanese language assessment test

If you are planning to take the JLPT 2022 and would like help in mastering the JLPT from professional instructors, we recommend signing up for our upcoming online and in-person 2022 JLPT Prep course (Tokyo and Yokohama).

Want to take the 2022 JLPT but are not sure about your level? Get in touch with us and find out how we can help you achieve your Japanese language target. If you’re unsure where you are, we provide a  free Japanese level check.  You can also contact us at  [email protected]  for any questions about course options and details.

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo. We offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learners. If you are interested in our courses, please  visit our contact page .

How many words and kanji do you need for JLPT N2?

You’ll need roughly 5,000 to 6,000 words to at least be ready for JLPT N2 – around 2,500 more than the N3. In total, you need to know roughly 1000 kanji for the N2 (around 350 additional kanji after N3).

How hard is JLPT N2?

The N2 is the second hardest level of the JLPT. A lot of people who’s taken the test consider the reading section of N2 to be the hardest. This is because there are a lot of unfamiliar kanji and industry-specific words, so you must build a larger kanji and word vocabulary.

When and how do I sign up for the JLPT?

The JLPT is held twice a year, usually in July and December. If you’re outside, the test may be held only once a year, in July or December. Registration is usually open until mid-March (for July) and mid-August (for December)

What are some popular JLPT N2 textbooks?

It greatly depends. In classrooms and JLPT prep courses, you’ll notice the Shinkanzen textbook series are used the most. For those who are self-studying, the Try! JLPT N2, Nihongo Sou Matome and Goukaku Dekiru are popular choices — although it comes down to your preference.

Lastly, the 2500 Essential Vocabulary for the JLPT N2 is a great filler to get all vocabulary. It’s a small vocabulary book, so we see a lot of students bring it to their work, read it on trains or study it on their break.

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free websites for Japanese reading practice

FREE Websites for Japanese Reading Practice (At Every Level)

Want to get better at Japanese?

Reading is one of the best ways to improve your language skills.

It’s especially important to read a lot when you’re learning a language with a different writing system, like Japanese.

Hiragana, katakana and kanji can be overwhelming at first. But with enough reading practice, reading these characters will become natural!

Reading consolidates all that vocabulary and grammar you’ve spent all that time learning. When you come across new words in a story or article, it’s much easier to remember.

And best of all, it’s free!

So if you’re wondering how to learn Japanese effectively, I really do recommend making regular time to read.

Here’s a selection of great websites for completely free Japanese reading practice online , whatever your level:

Japanese reading practice for beginners

If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably want to stick to resources in hiragana only.

(Not sure what hiragana is? First check out my post on how to read Japanese for a quick introduction to the Japanese writing systems!)

Tadoku literally means ‘read a lot’, and the idea behind this site is that reading a lot is the best way to learn Japanese! Tadoku provides dozens of free, simple picture books for students of Japanese.

The site is all in Japanese, but don’t panic! It’s not hard to navigate. For beginner Japanese reading material, look for those marked with the blue ‘L0’ towards the top of the page. Click on a book cover that catches your attention. On the next page, click on the grey box labelled ‘READ FOR FREE’ (in English). Enjoy!

A screenshot from the Japanese website Tadoku, showing some of the free books you can download to practise reading in Japanese at the beginner level.

Hukumusume is a site full of traditional Japanese children’s stories.

It’s is an absolutely huge site and it is written for Japanese children (not language students), so it can be a bit confusing to navigate. I recommend that beginners start with this page which has four stories written in hiragana with English translations.

Once you’ve read those, you can explore the rest of the stories here . Most of them don’t have English translations, but they are written in very simple Japanese so you can have a go at translating them yourself!

This page lists the stories by Japanese school year. Start with 1ねんせい (1 st grade, which uses hiragana only) and work up to 6 th grade as you learn more kanji!

Many of the stories also have audio or video tracks.

Crunchy Nihongo’s hiragana stories

Here’s a very simple site for Japanese reading practice in hiragana only. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page and you will find links to several Japanese fairy tales, written in very simple Japanese. There is the option to show or hide romaji and English translation line by line.

EhonNavi is an amazing site that lets you read hundreds of different Japanese children’s picture books, all for free! Unlike the above sites, there are lots of modern books (not just traditional tales). You can browse books by age, from 0 up to 12. Yes, there are even books for babies with just one of two words per page, making this a great resource even for complete beginners!

The only downside is that you have to register. The whole site is in Japanese, so it’s a bit difficult for beginners. Here you can find fantastic instructions with screenshots to help you get set up.

CosCom News

It’s unusual to find reading materials for beginners that aren’t children’s books, but I managed it! This site publishes very short news articles in simple Japanese. You can click the buttons at the top to switch between romaji, hiragana, and full Japanese (with kanji). 

A screenshot of the CosCom site for learning Japanese, highlighting the buttons to change script.

You can also download a pdf of the article if you want to write notes. Key vocabulary is listed in English below.

The ‘Tenki Yohoo’ (weather forecast) and ‘Short News’ sections contain very short articles for beginners. The ‘Japan News and World News’ section has slightly longer articles. Only the most recent article in each section is available for free. You can also pay for membership to read the archives.

Easy Japanese Stories

The author of this site is a high school Japanese teacher who writes simple stories as Japanese reading practice for their students. There are some made up stories and also some traditional Japanese children’s stories, rewritten in simple Japanese. The stories contain some kanji with furigana (pronunciation guide in hiragana). Each story comes with a vocab list, a sound recording and a downloadable pdf. Thank you Matthew for sharing!

Another source for Japanese children’s picture books online. This site is not so user-friendly, but I included it as an extra resource in case you have problems with the above sites.

Just click on an image to go to the book. Then click the yellow ‘next’ button at the top to turn the pages.

A screenshot of the site E-hon for beginners Japanese reading practise with kids books.

One problem with this site is that the writing is an image file, so you can’t copy and paste words to look in a dictionary. You can increase the text size from the homepage.

Intermediate Japanese reading practice

At the intermediate level, you will be able to understand longer sentences and more difficult works. You can also read some kanji. You need some reading resources that introduce these features of the language, but you still need a bit of help understanding new words.

We have just the thing for you! Here are some sites for Japanese reading practice for intermediate students:

Hirogaru is a cute site for Japanese learners. It has short texts and videos on lots of different topics. In particular, it has a lot of articles on traditional Japanese culture, such as calligraphy, tea ceremony and martial arts. There are vocabulary lists (with English translations) of key words for each topic.

Matcha is a cool Japanese travel and culture magazine. It’s available in 10 different languages, including an easy Japanese version! (My link will take you directly to the ‘easy Japanese’ site.) It does use kanji but always with furigana (pronunciation guides) above.

Most of the articles are available in English too. You can read the English version afterwards to check your understanding (use the drop down bar at the bottom of the page to change the language). Be careful though, because the translations aren’t always the same word-for-word.

Watanoc is a ‘free web magazine in simple Japanese’. The name comes from ‘wa’ (Japanese) ‘tanoshii’ (fun). It has a lot of articles of different lengths and different levels, so it’s suitable from beginners to intermediate. The topics include food, culture, events and funny news. After each title, it tells you the approximate JLPT reading level (N5 is the easiest). Also, if you hover your mouse over a word, it will pop up with an explanation in English! Highly recommended for upper beginners and lower intermediate.

NHK News Web Easy

NHK is Japan’s national news service. On this site, you can read NHK’s top news stories each day in simple Japanese. It’s aimed at Japanese elementary school children, as well as foreigners learning Japanese.

The site has furigana on the kanji, and Japanese dictionary definitions that pop up when you hover over a word. Many of the stories have videos too.

You can toggle furigana on and off using the blue button at the top of each article labelled 感じの読み方を消す. And, if you’re feeling up for a challenge, you can view the original NHK version of the article by clicking the blue button at the bottom labelled 普通のニュウスを読む.

The site has several new stories each day. If you enjoy reading about current affairs, this is a good site for you.

Short news articles, school lessons, games and bulletin boards in simple Japanese, aimed at elementary school kids. There is no furigana on the kanji so this might be a bit advanced for some users.

Hiragana Times

Hiragana Times is a magazine that publishes articles about Japan in simple Japanese with furigana, alongside an English translation. You have to subscribe for full access, but you can read selected sample articles on the main website here . You can toggle furigana, romaji and English on and off using the ‘あ’ button to the left hand side. You can also download a free sample magazine here .

Screenshot from the Hiragana Times website showing how to toggle furigana and English off and on.

Nippon Talk

This is a blog about many aspects of everyday life in Japan. Each paragraph is written in Japanese, with translation in English underneath. A small number of posts have French translations, too. You can choose to turn the furigana on or off. Unfortunately the blog is no longer updated, but there are several years of posts to read through.

Wasabi (Fairy Stories)

A small collection of Japanese fairy stories with furigana, audio, vocabulary lists and English translations. You can play the audio at different speeds, so this is also a useful site to practise reading aloud and work on your pronunciation! The Japanese texts contain kanji and a bit more advanced than the children’s stories in the beginner section above.

Wasabi (Manga)

This is from the same site as above but I wanted to list it separately because it’s so useful. If you dream of reading Japanese manga in the original, but you need some extra help, this is a great place to start. On this page you can read Give My Regards to Black Jack, a bestselling Japanese manga about a young doctor. Alongside the original manga, there is the Japanese script with English translation and language notes.

Bunsuke’s Newsletter

Bunsuke publishes short snippets from famous Japanese writers, together with a vocab list and translation. This is an excellent way for intermediate learners to dip their toes into reading Japanese literature in the original version, without overwhelm. You might even discover some favourite works to explore further! 

Previously, Bunsuke sent out his snippets every day in an email newsletter. The daily emails are paused for now, but you can read all previous newsletters in his Substack archive. He also runs occasional interactive reading challenges.

Advanced Japanese reading practice

If you are an advanced Japanese learner, I recommend using real Japanese materials as much as possible. By this I mean books and articles written for native Japanese speakers – not for language learners.

The ultimate goal is to speak fluent Japanese, the way native speakers do. You will learn the most natural language by using real life sources.

The good news is, it’s incredibly easy to find real life Japanese resources online! You can also find resources on literally any topics.

I recommend thinking about what you read in your native language for fun. What do you read in your spare time, just because you love it ? Find the Japanese version of that! This means you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Plus, you’ll learn new words specific to your hobbies and interests.

This is also a good time to change your phone, computer, Facebook settings into Japanese and create an immersion environment .

Here are a few websites to start you off. I tried to choose a selection of websites from different genres. Remember, this list is just to give you some ideas! When you know advanced Japanese, you can read whatever you want 🙂

NHK – the Japanese national broadcaster. As well as reading the news online, you can stream radio and watch some TV shows (might be blocked depending on location)

Yomiuri Shimbun – national newspaper (conservative)

Mainichi Shimbun – national newspaper (moderate/left leaning)

Asahi Shimbun – national newspaper (left leaning)

Aozora Bunko – free digital copies of books for which the copyright has expired

Project Gutenberg (Japanese) – another site for free out-of-copyright books

Shousetsuka ni narou – a site where budding authors publish their work online for free to get reviews

University of Virginia Japanese Text Initiative – a huge library of Japanese texts online, and you can even choose to read with furigana

Bookwalker – Bookwalker is a Japanese ebook store and app. They specialise in manga and light novels. Although you have to pay for most of the content, they have a large selection of volumes (mostly manga) that you can download for free. Just look for the section marked 無料.

Also, you can usually read several pages of other (paid) books on the site for free. This is good if you want to try out some Japanese reading materials in different styles or by different authors. Just look for the 試し読み button on the product page.

Note that there is an English version of the website, but this will only show you English language books. You need to navigate the website in Japanese to download Japanese books ( tutorial on how to sign up ).

Bauddha – This website publishes bilingual stories and excerpts from famous writings, political speeches and other sources. You can read the Japanese version alongside the English version. This website is actually for Japanese learners of English, not the other way around! The language level here is quite advanced because the writings are mostly literary classics.

A screenshot of the Bauddha Japanese website showing Japanese and English parallel versions of the opening lines of The Great Gatsby.

Comicwalker – free manga from the publisher Kadokawa. You can read the comics online, or there’s an app too. Look for the ones with the red ​​無料マンガ (free manga) triangle. From the same people as BookWalker above but it has some different content.

Shonen Jump – the best selling manga magazine in Japan. On their website you can read their latest manga instalments and also news articles about new releases and so on.

Sai Zen Sen – you can read some Japanese manga online for free

Comico – another site with some free Japanese manga to read online

Yahoo Questions – sure, Yahoo Questions has died out in the West but the Japanese version is still going strong – in fact, it’s one of the most popular forums on the Japanese internet. It’s a good way to get used to reading casual Japanese and hearing Japanese people’s viewpoints on all kinds of issues.

Oshiete! Goo – another popular forum for questions and answers.

Ameblo – a Japanese personal blogging platform similar to Blogspot or Livejournal. You can browse blogs and articles by topic.

Twitter – the biggest social media platform in Japan (after messaging app LINE). It’s a great way to get some reading practice in bite-sized chunks! You could start by following your favourite Japanese celebrities or search for your interests/interesting hashtags in Japanese. Or, check out the website Togetter , which rounds up popular threads and topics from Japanese Twitter.

Anonymous Diary – a simple bulletin board/forum where people can post anonymously. It’s a mixed bag – some posts are just random thoughts, but since it’s anonymous, there are lots of controversial takes and secret confessions too.

Girls Channel – a bulletin board, kind of like Reddit but just for girls. Good for learning internet slang and girls’ talk.

Mixi – a Japanese social network. You can read news articles and some public threads without signing up. There are communities on different topics similar to Reddit. It’s not as popular as it used to be but there is still plenty of content for free Japanese reading practise.

Magazines, lifestyle and more

Japanese magazine lists – This site and this one  have huge lists of popular Japanese magazines with links to their websites. They are mostly fashion magazines but there are some in other categories such as business, tech and travel. Note that the amount of free content varies by site; some have a lot of free articles online whereas others just want you to buy the print magazine.

Rocket News – short funny news articles on topics such as pop culture, viral content, new releases etc.

Hatena Bookmarking – a social bookmarking site. Users share interesting articles from around the web.

1000moji – user-submitted short stories in 1000 characters

Pouch – Pouch describe themselves as offering ‘cute, fun, weird’ content for women! It’s a round-up of content on popular culture, cute items, trending internet stuff, random blog articles and more.

Kinarino – women’s lifestyle blog covering food, fashion, travel, interiors and more

CanCam – a popular Japanese women’s fashion magazine

Lifehacker – interesting tips and tricks, and tech news

Toyo Keizai – a well-known business and finance magazine

BuzzFeed Japan – you probably know this one! Funny and interesting things from around the internet

The Rising Wasabi – satirical news site

Nippon.com – news about and from Japan. Many articles are also available in English (and other languages) so you can switch to check your comprehension.

Note – a Japanese magazine style site as recommended by our reader Erik. It covers lifestyle, education, culture, work and more. Content is user generated and very varied.

Orange Page – one of the biggest Japanese cooking sites. Love Japanese food? Why not kill two birds with one stone and learn to cook some Japanese dishes while you get your Japanese reading practise! In addition to recipes, they also publish some lifestyle articles.

VNs – VNs or Visual Novels are interactive games with lots of text. They are like a cross between novels and games. Personally I have never played one but I have heard some people swear by them to improve their Japanese reading, so I thought I’d give them a shout out here! Freem and Novel Game have lots of free Japanese VNs. Here is a blog all about learning Japanese with VNs.

Browser extensions for reading Japanese online

No doubt about it, learning to read in Japanese in slower than most other languages simply because of the Japanese writing system! I just wanted to finish off by sharing a few useful browser extensions that can help you read Japanese websites.

  • Rikaikun (for Chrome) – hover over any Japanese word and a dictionary box will pop up.
  • Yomichan (for Firefox) – same as above.
  • Furigana Extension (for Chrome) – adds furigana (pronunciation guide) to kanji.
  • Furigana (for Firefox) – same as above.

There are dozens of similar extensions out there but these are some of the top recommended!

More free resources to learn Japanese

And finally, if you enjoyed this list, please check out my other round-ups of free native materials to practise Japanese:

  • Best Japanese podcasts for listening practice
  • Best YouTube channels to learn Japanese
  • Japanese Writing Practice: Ultimate List of Resources for Every Level
  • Where to get Your Japanese Listening Practice: The Epic List of Resources!
  • 10+ Effective Ways to Get Japanese Speaking Practice (Even if You Study By Yourself!)

Do you know any other good sources for free Japanese reading practice online? Please share in the comments!

JapanesePod101

JapanesePod101 is our top recommendation to learn Japanese online. We love the fun, current audio lessons and interactive online tools. Sign up for your free lifetime account and see for yourself!

Looking for free Japanese reading practice online? Check out out monster list of websites and resources for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners!

Rebecca Shiraishi-Miles

Rebecca is the founder of Team Japanese. She spent two years teaching English in Ehime, Japan. Now back in the UK, she spends her time blogging, self-studying Japanese and wrangling a very genki toddler.

31 thoughts on “FREE Websites for Japanese Reading Practice (At Every Level)”

That’s wonderful! Thank you so much!

You’re welcome, Mario! I hope it’s useful for you 🙂

These are great resources! It’s hard to find good reading sources for intermediate level. If you’re interested, I’d like to reference your website on mine. I have a website for people learning any language and showing them ways to use their skills to help others, and I’m looking for good resources to share with them.

Let me know what you think! 頑張っって!!

Hi Keith! Thanks very much for your comment and sorry for the late reply! I’d be very happy for you to share my site with your readers 🙂 looks like your site is a great resource too!

I’d also recommend Nippon.com for advanced Japanese readers. No paywall, and an additional benefit is that much of the content gets translated into other languages (not always close line-for-line translations, but you can see what is being said in the Japanese). My disclaimer is that I work here and am in charge of the English-language edition.

Thank you!! Exactly what I’ve been looking for.

I would recommend https://www.kanshudo.com all the way through from beginners to very advanced Japanese learners. You can jump in at any level and it makes intelligent study recommendations to help improve your grammar, vocab and kanji. There are also lots of enjoyable games and challenges.

Kanshudo also has a very good dictionary with links to more context such as example sentences, etc.

I have gone from near beginner a few years ago, learning as a hobby (a few hours a week) to nearly reading newspapers, so highly recommended!

This is the best and most useful article I’ve ever seen in my entire life. All the information you give about the sites are so clear and detailed! Thank you so much, this is more than awesome! If I were to look for these sites, I wouldn’t have found anything … this really made my day! 🙂

Chiara, that is so nice to hear! I put a lot of effort into researching this article, so I’m glad you found it useful 🙂 thank you for your feedback!

Great post! Thank you! I already started using the advanced learner resources.

Thanks for your comment, Fumi! I hope you will enjoy the resources!

Thanks, this will be a great resource for my students. There is another site I don’t see on here though. http://www.easyjapanesestories.com

I hope that I can get more reading skill from your website. Thank you.

Thank you so much ! great material

Thank you so much! This is very helpful 🙂

One site I enjoy is https://note.com/ The reading experience is great thanks to the minimalistic design and there’s a lot of varied content.

for those who want to read manga in Japanese, I would recommend the combo: bilingualmanga.com + yomichan browser extension.

Thank you so much. You have done a great job by creating this information page. Really very useful.

This website is the most useful among all the things I’ve been searching. Thanks a lot for making it soo detailed, it is very helpful.

For those who want to learn the Japanese language through a private tutor, I recommend you visit the site of TUTOROO. They have great native Japanese tutors and speakers. TUTOROO can help you connect with them and you can even choose your own Japanese tutor from their website. You can view their tutors here: https://www.tutoroo.co/japanese-tutor Hope this helps!

some of them are currently showing error 404 . could u update the blog pls. thank u ! few of them really helped

Thanks for letting us know! Sad to see a couple of great sites have closed down. This page has been fully updated today with lots more resources! 🙂

My name is Maki and I am a writer/artist from North Carolina, USA (born and raised in Japan). My recent bilingual children’s book “What do you love to do?” was published by Mirai Publishing in Japan on 4/29/22 and is now available on amazon.co.jp ( https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/4434302612 ). My book won an award from Purple Dragonfly Book Contest in the USA.

I wrote this book to inspire children all over the world. On the back cover, I included some artwork drawn by a 11 year-old girl who loves to draw pictures to demonstrate a child “doing what she loves to do” and kids love it! If this book can help American children living in Japan, please share my amazon link information with their parents.

Thank you very much, I sincerely appreciate your consideration.

Maki Nishio Phipps

I want to learn japanese

a set of learning japanese method is useful for me.Thank you very much

You are such a life saver! I have been looking for such a page for months now and given up hope. And today it happen to be in my Pinterest proposed paged. THANK YOU SO MUCH! There ist nothing better to consolidate a new writing system in your mind than reading. Here you can finally find tonns of material. Great!

“There is nothing better to consolidate a new writing system in your mind than reading.” – I 100% agree! So glad you find it useful! 🙂

What a great website, thank you for putting this together, Im sure this is many many hours of work and for that we are all very grateful.

Your website has amazing resources! Thank you so much for sharing all these with us! YOU ARE THE BEST!

You’re welcome! Thank you for the feedback – I’m so glad it’s helpful!

I love using yomujp.com for reading practice. Especially when I was at N5/N4 level it can be hard to find reading material at that level.

Thanks for the suggestion! I will check that site out. It’s hard to find interesting resources at the beginner levels for sure!

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25+ Japanese Learning Books for Free! [PDF]

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Japanese Learning Books in PDF

Learning Japanese is one of the most enriching experiences with which not only you learn the language, but also its culture, fortunately in our website we have the solution to this problem, because with our books to learn Japanese in PDF format you can learn in the comfort of your home.

Learning the Japanese language may seem like a difficult task to many, however our team has prepared a selection of the most comprehensive and easy-to-learn Japanese books to ensure understanding of each content.

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Proof of this is the ease with which today we can get all kinds of material, content or resources to help us prepare intellectually in any area. Thus, it is no longer necessary to go to a bookstore and pay for a few books that often have outdated information.

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Japanese Grammar Books

Japanese grammar can be considered one of the most complex or particular grammars. For this reason, its study must be meticulous and very detailed.

To learn how to construct sentences, whether written or spoken, you must know each of the elements used in the Japanese language. This will also enable you to understand what others are saying in Japanese.

Japanese grammar books will help and guide you in mastering this aspect of the Japanese language learning process.

Japanese Grammar Guide

An Introduction to Japanese Syntax, Grammar and Language

Michiel Kamermans

Hacking Japanese Supercourse

Nikolai Walker

Easy Japanese

First Year Japanese I (Presentation)

Top 500 Japanese Verbs

LinguaJunkie.com

Intensive Japanese I, Grammar Lesson 1

80/20 Japanese.10 Steps to 500 Sentences (Presentation)

Richard Webb

English Loanwords in Japanese (Article)

Gillian Kay

Japanese Pronunciation Books

Knowing how to pronounce Japanese words is another phase you should cover during your Japanese language study period. In this aspect, continuous practice is really important.

Due to the difference that this language has with the most common languages such as English or Spanish, discipline and practice of pronunciation is vital.

To have the necessary support, you can make use of Japanese pronunciation books , where you will find all the information you need.

Introduction to the Transcription and Pronunciation of Contemporary Japanese

Rafael E. Beermann

Pronouncing Japanese! (Article)

Red Cedar Zen Community

Japanese Pronunciation Guide (Article)

Josh Little

Japanese Writing System Books

Japanese writing consists of three classical writing systems and a transcription system.

  • Kana: consists of Hiragana, which is the syllabary for words of Japanese origin, and Katakana for words of foreign origin.
  • Kanji: consists of Chinese characters.
  • Romaji: represents the Japanese language using the Latin alphabet. 

To learn more about these syllabaries and the Japanese writing system itself, you can make use of the books containing all the related information.  

Reading Japanese

VU University Amsterdam

The First 103 Kanji

Nihon Ichiban

Basic Kanji 120

Meguro Language Center

Hiragana and Katakana Worksheets

Japanese. Romanization System

Library of Congress

Introduction to the Japanese Writing System (Article)

Hiragana in Under 1 Hour. Part 1

Hiragana in Under 1 Hour. Part 2

The Japanese Syllabaries. Katakana

Table of Hiragana Letters

Japanese-lesson.com

English-Japanese Dictionary/Glossary:

To reinforce and complement your learning of the Japanese language, it is also very useful to make use of a dictionary or glossary. These books allow you to know the meaning of words in a practical way.

In case of doubt, you can refer to these texts and consult the word or words you want to know. In this way, you complement your practice and expand your vocabulary.

In addition, these texts also allow you to know examples of sentences containing the word, its synonyms and antonyms.

English-Japanese Dictionary

Germain Garand

Japanese English Dictionary

Other Books About Japanese Language

Beginning Japanese For Professionals: Book 1

Emiko Konomi

Beginning Japanese For Professionals: Book 2

Handbook of Learning Japanese and Life in Japan

Leiji Matsumoto

Introduction to Japanese Language and Culture (Presentation)

Chirag Bharadwaj

Here ends our selection of free Books to Learn Japanese in PDF format. We hope you liked it and already have your next book!

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    The JLPT Points & Practice Japanese N3 textbook is perfect for individuals who are seeking to only expand N3-level vocabulary knowledge. New Japanese words and kanji are broken down into 30 chapters, all sorted based on topics and relevant context. There are also mock-test questions that mimic the real JLPT text. Price: $16.99 (¥1,946 JPY)

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