Top Books To Learn Japanese For Beginners

10 Best Books To Learn Japanese For Beginners 2024

12 May 2024Shopify API

Looking for the best Japanese books to learn Japanese for beginners? Well, check out this curated list of Japanese textbooks for learners. Read further to find out more about them.

The Japanese language has earned the title of “one of the most difficult languages to learn” and for good reason. What makes it so difficult is that there are three forms- hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

Which is the Best Book to Learn Japanese for Beginners?

We tested 30+ books to learn Japanese on the basis of content, explanations, as well as clarity. We found Genki to be the best Japanese book to learn for beginners.

Genki is the most popular Japanese book series for beginners to learn Japanese vocabulary and grammar. The instructions are delivered clearly and it makes the learning process fun. Genki also has exercise work books and CDs for better understanding. It also covers the Japanese Language Proficiency Examination (JLPT) level N5. It’s available to buy on Amazon. 

Best Japanese Books to Learn for Beginners: Quick Summary

Best Japanese Books to Learn for Beginners Best For
Genki Grammar and vocabulary
A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar Grammar
Remembering the Kana: A Guide to Reading and Writing the Japanese Syllabaries in 3 Hours Each to recognise hiragana and katakana
Japanese from Zero! Hiragana writing
Minna No Nihongo  Japanese translations
Japanese for Busy People Katakana writing
A Guide to Japanese Grammar Understanding the language
Elementary Japanese  Grammar and conversations
Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: Workbook and Practice Sheets Hiragana and Katakana vocabulary
Yookoso! An Invitation to contemporary Japanese Learning Japanese culture

Best Books To Learn Japanese For Beginners

A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar

Best Japanese Grammar Book To Learn Japanese

When it comes to finding the best books to learn Japanese for beginners, few titles are as well-known as A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar (often referred to as the “Yellow Book” or “The Bible” among Japan expats). 

Written by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui, the piece is the go-to best Japanese learning resource for both newcomers and pros alike.

Long considered the ultimate reference book for Japanese learners, this edition of A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar offers thorough and comprehensive explanations for grammar points characterized by their clarity and simplicity. 

Each entry begins with a clear definition of the grammar point followed by great example sentences to help readers quickly understand the how and why of each grammar provision. 

Though the book appears intimidating at first glance, it is extremely accessible and straightforward. 

Featuring an easy-to-navigate layout and hand-drawn illustrations, the dictionary is a joy to use. In fact, it is so user-friendly that even readers who are completely new to the language can understand the explanations without relying on external help.

To use this book to its fullest potential, it is essential to practice each of the grammar points that are introduced. 

This can be done by copying example sentences into a journal or writing your own based on the grammar rules. With enough practice and repetition, learners will soon start to recognize patterns and discover their own ways of using this grammar in daily life.

Additionally, the book also offers tips on how to further improve your Japanese skills and offers plenty of wise advice for mastering the language. 

It's clear that the authors, who both hold doctorates in Japanese language education, have put great effort into making sure the book offers the best, most up-to-date information possible.

In conclusion, those looking for an authoritative source to learn Japanese grammar can find no better resource than A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar by Seiichi Makino and Michio Tsutsui. 

 Highly recommended for anyone wanting to study Japanese, the book is not only comprehensive and thorough but also easy to use. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, you’ll find plenty of invaluable tips and lessons within this indispensable guide.

Pros

  • Comprehensive
  • Clear Understanding of grammar
  • Lots of example sentences
  • Understanding the difference between similar grammar points

Cons

  • Not exactly a textbook. It's more like a dictionary

Genki

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Vocabulary and Grammar

This is probably the most popular series of books for beginners who are learning Japanese. 

Genki is designed in a way that makes it perfect for beginners and is easy to follow. It targets vocabulary and grammar and delivers instructions clearly.

Users of this book can also refer to the exercise and work books and CDs that are available. Another plus point of this user-friendly book is that it also covers the Japanese Language Proficiency Examination (JLPT) level N5.

The book includes little illustrations and dialogues that keep the reader engaged and makes learning a fun activity. It’s one of the best Japanese books to learn for beginners in pdf.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Well structured lessons
  • Audio CDs and workbooks are available

Cons:

  • May need a teacher

Related: Best Japanese Novels

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

Japanese is one of the world's most difficult languages to learn. Fortunately, there are certain books that can help even a beginner learn the basics of hiragana and katakana, the two foundational components of the written language. One such book is Remembering the Kana by James Heisig.

This book tackles the daunting challenge of learning the Kana, which are the basic characters of the Japanese language, by using fairly simple but clever mnemonics that really help one to remember each character. 

Through these clever mnemonics, Heisig leads the reader step-by-step through the fundamentals of Japanese characters for both hiragana and katakana.

The book also offers hints, tips and strategies that can help the beginner to make the most of their efforts. 

For instance, Heisig encourages the reader to not simply rely on the mnemonics he presents, but to also create their own which will help them even more intently grasp a Kana and truly commit it to memory.

What makes this book even more helpful is that it is based on a logical system that Heisig created called the "Natural Method." 

This means that the mnemonics follow the natural order of how Japanese characters are formed and how they are written. This makes it much easier for the reader to comprehend and remember the Kana.

Further, the book, being a part of Heisig's Remembering the Kanji series, also offers additional helpful insights such as useful phrases, grammatical features and other useful information. 

As such, Heisig's work has become a must-have for anyone wishing to learn the complex kanji characters of the Japanese language.

Remembering the Kana by James Heisig is thus a great help to those seeking to learn the basics of the Japanese language, especially to those who might be starting off as complete beginners. 

Not only does it remind us that with a bit of effort and patience, we can truly learn this otherwise intimidating language, but also teaches us how to better remember and recognize hiragana and katakana as we go along.

Pros

  • Mnemonics to help you remember the characters
  • You’ll learn how to identify and differentiate between hiragana and katakana

Japanese from Zero! 

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Hiragana Writing

Another popular book to learn Japanese is Japanese from Zero! The book is perfectly designed for children and absolute beginners. 

The series has four books. The first book introduces the hiragana writing system alongside basic grammar, vocabulary and pronunciations.

The book doesn’t require a teacher and is great for self study. It consists mordern, up to date and relevant examples and vocabulary. 

It doesn’t come with a CD, but extra supplements can be taken from the official website, some free of cost and some chargeable. It’s one of the good japanese books for beginners.

The slow pace of the exercises and lessons makes this book perfect for anyone without prior knowledge of the language. 

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Suitable for absolute beginners
  • Easy to understand
  • Can be used for self study

Cons:

  • No audio CD attached to book
  • Have to pay extra for certain content
  • Very slow paced

Related: Best Japanese Crime Mystery Novels

Minna No Nihongo 

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Japanese translations

“Minna No Nihongo” translates to “Japanese for Everyone”. This is a textbook series written in Japanese. While this may seem difficult, it is actually a great way to pick up the language since learners are exposed to the language from the very beginning.

If you require translations and extra notes, you can buy a companion book that is available in English and 14 other languages. 

Minna No Nihongo is written by Japanese teachers who are top names in their respective fields. It’s no wonder that this book is so highly rated and known for helping its readers achieve a high level of Japanese. 

Pros:

  • Helps the learner pick up the language faster
  • Introduces kanji at the beginning
  • In depth exposure to grammar

Cons:

  • Written in Japanese
  • May require another book for translation
  • Slightly more expensive

Related: Best Japanese Children Books in English 2021

Japanese for Busy People

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Katakana writing

The title says it all! This book is designed specifically keeping in mind working individuals. It’s amongst the best books to learn the Japanese language.

Ideal for self study, Japanese for Busy People comes in two versions- romaji version and kana version. The romaji version uses English characters while the kana version uses hiragana and katakana. 

To help with pronunciations, the book is accompanied by a free audio CD. The book also has a section at the end that answers all the quizzes in the book. This is one of the must-have japanese books for beginners in pdf.

Pros:

  • Dialogues are more relevant and suitable for business and daily conversations
  • Audio CD included 
  • Answer key to all quizzes are available at the back

Cons:

  • Kanji is not introduced

 

A Guide to Japanese Grammar

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Understanding the language

What is the point of learning a language if you don’t have a grasp of the grammar?

What makes this book so effective is that it is written by an English speaker who has mastered the Japanese language. 

The book aims at making the learner understand the language rather than making them memorize words and phrases. It’s amongst the best japanese learning books for self study.

Pros:

  • Easy to follow
  • Emphasis on grammar 
  • Many examples in English
  • Available online and as PDF free of cost

Cons:

  • No listening material

 

Elementary Japanese

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Grammar and Conversations

Another brilliant book for beginners is “Elementary Japanese”. The book includes grammar explanations that are thorough and revolve around basic vocabulary and conversations.

The book comes with a CD included that gives learners access to printable PDFs and MP3 audio files. 

Pros:

  • Budget friendly
  • Good option for self learners
  • CD include with printable PDFs and audio files

Cons:

  • The design may be little plain and cause confusion 

Related: Best Japanese History Books

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Hiragana and Katakana Vocabulary

Ideal for classroom settings and self study, “Learning Hiragana and Katakana” is the perfect way to learn to write the Japanese language.

The book offers many opportunities to practice and build vocabulary in hiragana and katakana. 

The workbook also consists of a reference section that explains the functions and combinations of kana. Learners can also access audio files to help with pronunciations.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Free audio to help with pronunciations

Cons:

  • None

Yookoso! An Invitation to contemporary Japanese

best Japanese books to learn for beginners: Learning Japanese Culture

For individuals who learn better with examples, Yookoso! is for you. This book is popular for its excellent explanations for grammar. 

The book also gives readers a brief introduction to contemporary and traditional Japanese culture. 

It includes relatable conversations that can be used in everyday life. You might find it as one of the best Japanese story books for beginners in pdf as the culture is explained in a way of story-telling.

Pros:

  • Brief but clear explanation of grammar
  • Use of real world conversations for examples

Cons:

  • More expensive than other books
  • May require a teacher


Where can you buy Japanese books to learn the Japanese language?

Nowadays everything is available with just the click of a button thanks to online stores. While Amazon offers its customers a chance to have a look at the books before purchasing them, here are some more places where you can make your purchase:

  • College campus bookstores
  • Traditional bookstores
  • Online store like OMG Japan
  • Amazon also has a used book section where you can make your purchase at a lower price. Amazon Japan has a larger selection of Japanese books than the local Amazon sites of English speaking countries.

What are some of the ways to learn Japanese?

Here are some ways to learn Japanese as a beginner:

  • Learn to read Hiragana
  • Become familiar with Katakana
  • Familiarise yourself with Kanji
  • Build a core vocabulary
  • Learn basic Japanese pronunciation
  • Get familiar with basic particles
  • Learn Japanese sentence structure
  • Learn basic greetings and expressions

What are some Japanese language learning materials?

Some Japanese language learning materials are:

  • Books
  • Subtitled movies
  • Japanese television
  • Memorization tools (like spaced repetition software and Mnemonics)
  • Conversations
  • Easy Japanese websites (like news websites)
  • Japanese learning communities
  • Online Japanese courses
  • Japanese podcasts

Best Books for Learning Japanese

Japanese books are a great way to learn the language if you’re someone who really wants to learn Japanese. You might seem a little lost in the beginning but eventually you’ll get the hang of it. 

Hope you love our suggestions for the best Japanese books to learn for beginners and it will help you learn the language smoothly. Cheers!

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