• 10 Best Japanese Learning Books in 2022 (Japan Times, 3A Corporation, and More) 1
  • 10 Best Japanese Learning Books in 2022 (Japan Times, 3A Corporation, and More) 2
  • 10 Best Japanese Learning Books in 2022 (Japan Times, 3A Corporation, and More) 3
  • 10 Best Japanese Learning Books in 2022 (Japan Times, 3A Corporation, and More) 4
  • 10 Best Japanese Learning Books in 2022 (Japan Times, 3A Corporation, and More) 5

10 Best Japanese Learning Books in 2022 (Japan Times, 3A Corporation, and More)

Are you Interested in learning Japanese? Have you been studying the language for a while but want to brush up a bit? Yearning to move to the country but are unsure of the language barrier? Well, Japanese language books can help! 


Whether studying abroad, traveling, or watching anime or films, exposure to Japanese is more accessible than ever today. However, with so many books available, such as those that focus on helping you pass the JLPT test, phrasebooks, or even just books focused on grammar, as well as different levels, it can be difficult to know what books can help you learn the best.


To help you out, we've compiled a list of the ten best Japanese learning books and a buying guide to help you find the best Japanese language book.

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  • Last updated: 08-19-2022
Table of Contents

How to Choose a Japanese Learning Book- Buying Guide

Choosing the right Japanese learning book depends on your goals, current level, and preferred study method. Keep reading to learn more!

Determine Your Japanese Level

It's important to determine your level to choose the right language book. If you have no prior experience learning Japanese, look for books suited for beginners starting from zero. 

Start by Taking the JLPT Test

Start by Taking the JLPT Test

If you have experience, no matter how little, we recommend beginning by taking an online practice Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The JLPT is Japan's most widely accepted standard of language comprehension, starting at the easiest level of N5, and increasing in difficulty up to N1. 


N5 is considered beginner, while N1 is considered fluent. Alternatively, you can read the requirements for all levels to get a feel for where you fall. Knowing your level will help you find a book that best matches your proficiency. If you're considering working in Japan, be aware that Japanese companies often require candidates to have N2 or N1 proficiency when hiring!

Assess Your Knowledge of the Alphabets and Kanji

Assess Your Knowledge of the Alphabets and Kanji

The Japanese language uses two alphabets: hiragana and katakana. Some books assume that you have already learned one or both of these systems, so be sure to check that the book is suitable for your level of prior knowledge.


Japanese also uses kanji, or Chinese characters, for certain words. If you can't read any kanji, look for books that include hiragana readings of the characters, called furigana, to help you pronounce the characters.


Some beginner books have romaji, or English letters that represent Japanese phonetic sounds. If you can't read hiragana, consider a book that includes romaji or teaches you the two alphabets. 

Consider Your Purpose for Studying

Once you've figured out your proficiency level, next is to find a book that best suits your purpose. Japanese language books have different purposes or goals for studying, like passing the JLPT exam or simply traveling.

Comprehensive Books for Well-Rounded Learning

Comprehensive Books for Well-Rounded Learning

Comprehensive books should offer a little bit of everything, including reading, writing, speaking, grammar, and vocabulary. They are best for people just starting to study Japanese or who want a general understanding of the language instead of focusing entirely on specific aspects. Advanced learners may have a harder time finding general books that meet their level and match their study interests.


Comprehensive books often take a lot of time to master due to their broad focus, so think about the amount of time you can commit to studying every day or every week. To help you learn, make sure these books offer a variety of exercises and listening drills.

Keigo is Important for Business

Keigo is Important for Business

Business-focused books focus on vocabulary and sentence structures useful in professional settings. For example, they cover keigo, an honorific speech style used in many professional situations. 


Additionally, when conversing in Japanese, keigo is the default speech style that most people use when speaking to someone for the first time, regardless of social status or age.  If you want to live in Japan or work with a Japanese company, this focus is likely the best for you!

Phrasebooks for Travel or Just for Fun

Phrasebooks for Travel or Just for Fun

If you are planning to travel to Japan, a basic phrase and vocabulary book will be the most useful. These books teach you how to communicate in everyday scenarios at supermarkets, restaurants, train stations, and more. 


Some phrasebooks may focus on unique topics meant more for reference, like manga or anime. These can be fun to flip through for casual learners!

Think About the Areas You Want To Improve

Sometimes there's a particular area of Japanese you want to focus on or strengthen, like speaking, reading, or grammar.

Passages to Improve Reading

Passages to Improve Reading

If you want to improve your reading, pick text-heavy books that have passages and stories for you to study. This is a great way to expand your vocabulary and learn more kanji. 


Most text-based books are sorted by level so that you can easily find a book that includes vocabulary and kanji within your comprehension. If you are a visual learner, another great way to improve your casual reading skills is to pick up a Japanese manga or children's book.

Rules and Sentence Structure to Study Grammar

Rules and Sentence Structure to Study Grammar

Grammar and syntax are arguably the most difficult parts of learning Japanese, so many books exist to help deepen your understanding. They cover conjugations, tenses, and sentence structures to ensure that your writing or speaking is correct.  


Grammar is especially useful in academic and technical contexts. If you're planning to write papers or read formal texts, these books will help you polish your skills. 

Word Lists Expand Your Vocabulary

Word Lists Expand Your Vocabulary

The number of words you know in Japanese will either limit or expand the quality of your writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills. Once you have a grasp on grammar, increasing your word bank will allow you to be more detailed and specific when you communicate.


Some books cover essential words and phrases for beginners, like the 500 most common kanji. Others cover the words found in each level of JLPT. However, you can also find options that focus on vocabulary related to travel, business, or pop culture. 

Everyday Speech for Practical Conversational Skills

Everyday Speech for Practical Conversational Skills

Speaking books often focus on specific vocabulary and easy sentences that are useful when conveying yourself in everyday situations. Some may concentrate more on life in Japan, while others are geared towards travel.

 

These books can help you introduce yourself, open up a bank account, or get around town using the appropriate politeness level. If you are hesitant about learning Japanese, these types of books are a great place to start exploring the language. However, they may not always offer in-depth grammar explanations. 

Choose a Style of Book That Supports Your Learning Needs

Not all Japanese learning books are the same! Be sure to pick one that works the best for you and your Japanese learning goals. 

Reference Books for Serious Learners

Reference Books for Serious Learners

Reference books are extremely helpful in Japanese learning. They contain concise information that's easy to refer to, making them ideal to use alongside other learning materials such as books, audio, or videos. They tend to be small and compact, which is excellent for those learning on the go!

Textbooks for an Academic Approach

Textbooks for an Academic Approach

Textbooks are the most common type of book used in Japanese learning. Japanese textbooks usually cover all of the important points of language, including drills, exercises, and conversations for practice. Separate workbooks may be required to complete these exercises. 


Textbooks can be used for self-study or with the guidance of a class or tutor. However, some textbooks may be geared more towards classroom use, making them more challenging to use as a solo learner.

Story Books or Manga for Contextual Learning

Story Books or Manga for Contextual Learning

For those who want to practice reading and comprehension, storybooks are a solid choice. They test your knowledge of kanji, phrases, and understanding. Storybooks are often focused on beginner, intermediate, or advanced levels.  


Storybooks specifically made for Japanese learners usually have translations, explanations, and follow-up questions. Manga is also a fun option for testing your reading comprehension. 

Casual Learning Books for Specific Interest or Culture

Casual Learning Books for Specific Interest or Culture

These types of books tend to be more fun, focusing on unique topics or a smaller scope of words. They are often meant to flip through and don't offer practice exercises or in-depth explanations. 


For example, casual Japanese language books for travel may teach you a few phrases and offer cultural insights. Or, you can find fun books focusing on specific topics in Japanese, like anime, pop culture, or food.

Consider Useful Extra Features Like CDs, Accompanying Apps, or Websites

Consider Useful Extra Features Like CDs, Accompanying Apps, or Websites

Extra features can help you immerse yourself and study more efficiently. Many language books include an accompanying CD, smartphone application, or website. These usually include writing and listening exercises to help you practice. Or, they may have instructional videos, vocabulary lists, and more. 


Some also come with audio programs, including podcasts, to help you increase listening comprehension by hearing different voices and speeds of speech. 


Books may also offer physical extras, like transparency sheets to test yourself and cover answers on the pages. Or, they may have reference sheets for easy referencing. Sometimes there are additional downloadable resources like flashcards or activity sheets.

10 Best Japanese Learning Books

Here are our picks for the 10 best Japanese learning books. Keep the points in our buying guide in mind to help you choose!

Image
Japan Times Genki I 1

Japan Times

3A Corporation Minna No Nihongo 1

3A Corporation

3A Corporation New Kanzen Master JLPT Grammar N4 1

3A Corporation

Learn From Zero Japanese From Zero! 1 1

Learn From Zero

For Dummies  Japanese For Dummies 1

For Dummies

Kurosio Publishers  Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese 1

Kurosio Publishers

Periplus Editions Beginning Japanese 1

Periplus Editions

Ask Publishing Co New Japanese Honorific Language Training 1

Ask Publishing Co

Lingo Mastery Japanese Short Stories for Beginners 1

Lingo Mastery

Kodansha International All About Particles  1

Kodansha International

Name

Genki I

Minna No Nihongo

New Kanzen Master JLPT Grammar N4

Japanese From Zero! 1

Japanese For Dummies

Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese

Beginning Japanese

New Japanese Honorific Language Training

Japanese Short Stories for Beginners

All About Particles

Features

Best for Self-Motivated Learners

Best at Immersing Yourself in Japanese

Best for Grammar Learners That Have Mastered N5

Best for Those With Zero Prior Knowledge

Best for Those Beginning to Study Japanese Seriously

Best for Intermediate Learners Who Want to Take It to the Next Level

Best Manga With a Fun Story

Best for Studying Business Language and Keigo

Best for Practicing Reading Comprehension

Best for Perfecting Your Grammar

Price$41.16$30.46$17.99$29.95$14.99$39.36$24.08$33.99$14.95$13.99
Publication year2020199820142014201820092016201420202012
Available formatsPaperbackPaperback, audio CDPaperbackPaperback, ebookPaperback, eBookPaperbackPaperback, hardcoverPaperbackPaperback, eBook, audiobookPaperback, eBook
Page count384310138329416403384208221160
eBook price$49--$9.25$21.03---$4.99$9.99
DifficultyBeginnerBeginner Advanced beginnerBeginner Beginner Intermediate Beginner Advanced Upper-beginner Upper-beginner
TypeComprehensive Comprehensive JLPTComprehensive, phrasebookComprehensive, phrasebookComprehensive Comprehensive, AP testBusiness StorybookGrammar
FocusComprehensive Comprehensive Grammar Comprehensive Comprehensive, vocabularyComprehensive Comprehensive Keigo, PhrasebookReading Particles
StyleTextbookTextbookReferenceTextbookTextbookTextbookTextbook, storybookTextbookStorybookReference
ExtrasMobile applicationCD, streamable and downloadable exercises-Web series, online quizzes, teacher help, Discord community Online audio tracksOnline resources CD2 audio CDs--
Link
Publication year2020
Available formatsPaperback
Page count384
eBook price$49
DifficultyBeginner
TypeComprehensive
FocusComprehensive
StyleTextbook
ExtrasMobile application
Publication year1998
Available formatsPaperback, audio CD
Page count310
eBook price-
DifficultyBeginner
TypeComprehensive
FocusComprehensive
StyleTextbook
ExtrasCD, streamable and downloadable exercises
Publication year2014
Available formatsPaperback
Page count138
eBook price-
DifficultyAdvanced beginner
TypeJLPT
FocusGrammar
StyleReference
Extras-
Publication year2014
Available formatsPaperback, ebook
Page count329
eBook price$9.25
DifficultyBeginner
TypeComprehensive, phrasebook
FocusComprehensive
StyleTextbook
ExtrasWeb series, online quizzes, teacher help, Discord community
Publication year2018
Available formatsPaperback, eBook
Page count416
eBook price$21.03
DifficultyBeginner
TypeComprehensive, phrasebook
FocusComprehensive, vocabulary
StyleTextbook
ExtrasOnline audio tracks
Publication year2009
Available formatsPaperback
Page count403
eBook price-
DifficultyIntermediate
TypeComprehensive
FocusComprehensive
StyleTextbook
ExtrasOnline resources
Publication year2016
Available formatsPaperback, hardcover
Page count384
eBook price-
DifficultyBeginner
TypeComprehensive, AP test
FocusComprehensive
StyleTextbook, storybook
ExtrasCD
Publication year2014
Available formatsPaperback
Page count208
eBook price-
DifficultyAdvanced
TypeBusiness
FocusKeigo, Phrasebook
StyleTextbook
Extras2 audio CDs
Publication year2020
Available formatsPaperback, eBook, audiobook
Page count221
eBook price$4.99
DifficultyUpper-beginner
TypeStorybook
FocusReading
StyleStorybook
Extras-
Publication year2012
Available formatsPaperback, eBook
Page count160
eBook price$9.99
DifficultyUpper-beginner
TypeGrammar
FocusParticles
StyleReference
Extras-

Looking for More Japanese Language Resources?

Learning a new language is hard! You can never have too much help- check out our other articles about language learning below. 

Author: Sydney Franz 


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