Best Books To Learn Japanese – A Detailed Recommendation

Japanese is one of the most difficult language to learn in the world. Therefore, if you want to be fluent in it or master it you need to find the right materials that will assist you to gain your goals. Perhaps, you have got a lot of suggestions on books which will help you to learn Japanese from different people as well as different groups on social networks, but you are still wondering which books you should use and keep looking for them. That will not work and will surely waste your time and delay your learning Japanese. So, the valuable advice here is that you should stop searching and dive in learning right now because you will receive a very detailed recommendation on best books to learn Japanese from this blog. Read it carefully and you will find how helpful it is!

Best Books To Learn Japanese

There is a wide range of Japanese learning books that are suitable for different learners at different levels.

1. Japanese Books For Beginners

  • Japanese From Zero

Despite being quite new among best books to learn Japanese, the Japanese From Zero books have gained in popularity thanks to their easy-to-follow style. Because these books are new, all of the examples and vocabulary are modern and up-to-date.

best books to learn Japanese

Japanese From Zero are very easy to follow with up-to-date vocabulary and examples

There are four books in the series. The first book is a bit slower paced than the other ones as it only introduces hiragana (one of the Japanese writing systems) slowly with a few characters per chapter. Additionally, there’s a combination of hiragana and romaji (English letters) in the sample texts in the book so that learners can understand easily. Therefore, this book is suitable for absolute beginners. Katakana and Kanji are not introduced until later books.

Some of you may find Japanese From Zero moves too slowly if you have known some Japanese characters. However, if you prefer to learn Japanese slowly, Japanese From Zero is absolutely a great option for you. Besides, this book is also a good Japanese language book for children and homeschooling.

  • Genki

Genki is another Japanese textbook which should be on the list of best books for learning Japanese. Like Japanese From Zero series, the Genki series are also easy to use and follow with cute and clear illustrations.

The books were designed for use in classrooms and aimed at university students, so most of the terminology and dialogue are related to the college demographic. Also, Genki includes some exercises such as group discussions which can be hard for you to put into practice if you are a self-learner. But don’t worry! These exercises are just additional parts to help you boost your Japanese skills. The grammar, vocabulary and other sections in Genki are still easy to follow by yourself.

With cute illustrations, the Genki series will keep you entertained

There are two books in the series and each book comes with a CD for listening practice and a workbook for extra practice. Absolute beginners will find the first book useful for them. When they finish it, the second book will take them up to lower intermediate level.

  • Minna No Nihongo

Minna No Nihongo is a very good series of textbooks for those who take learning Japanese serious.

best books to learn Japanese

Minna No Nihongo is absolutely a good series for serious Japanese learners


This series are all in Japanese, so they can be a big challenge if you are a complete beginner. However, this can help you learn Japanese faster as you are immersed in Japanese from the very beginning.

You can buy an English companion book and look at it whenever you need a translation, but it’s better to read and try to understand in Japanese first.

Alongside improving your reading skills, Minna No Nihongo will give you in-depth grammar explanations and teach you vocabulary, listening as well as conversation.

Before starting this book, you should be familiar with hiragana and katakana so that you will not be overwhelmed and the knowledge will go into your mind more easily and smoothly.

  • Japanese For Busy People

This book is one of the popular books to learn Japanese that you are looking for. The title ‘Japanese For Busy People’ may reveal something about the content of the book. Unlike Genki, this textbook aims at professionals. Thus, you will learn a lot of vocabulary related to business situations.

There are two versions of the book: romaji and kana. While the romaji version uses all English characters, the kana version uses hiragana and katakana for the Japanese texts. One interesting thing about Japanese For Busy People is that there’s no kanji in it.

Each chapter of the book introduces target grammar and vocabulary gradually and at the end of each chapter, there’s quiz for you to evaluate yourself. After doing every quiz, you can check your answers with the keys at the back of the book. It also contains a CD for listening practice.

If you are busy with your work and don’t have much time to learn Japanese, Japanese For Busy People is really a perfect choice for you.

best books to learn Japanese

Like its name, Japanese For Busy People is a perfect choice for busy people

2. Best Intermediate Japanese Textbook

  • Minna No Nihongo

You are wondering why Minna No Nihongo appears here, right?

Well, Minna No Nihongo is repeated because there are four books in the series that will take you up to a genuine intermediate level.

Chukyu 1 and Chukyu 2 are two books at the intermediate level. Chukyu 1 is lower intermediate and Chukyu 2 takes you up to the level of JLPT N2.

best books to learn Japanese

Minna No Nihongo, with two books Chukyu 1 and Chukyu 2, is also among best Japanese books for intermediate Japanese learners

All Minna No Nihongo books are written in Japanese, so you can buy a companion book with translations and notes in English or other language which is your native language to help you understand them more (Minna No Nihongo books are now translated in 13 other languages).

With a large number of Japanese texts, Minna No Nihongo will help to improve your reading skills significantly. Besides, these books also have a very thorough grammar explanations and give you solid knowledge of Japanese.

  • Read Real Japanese

The Read Real Japanese books are an excellent choice for Japanese learners at the intermediate level as they contain authentic Japanese texts written for Japanese people. Reading those books will help you boost your reading speed and solidify your knowledge of Japanese vocabulary and grammar.

The structure of Read Real Japanese is very easy to see. On one side of the page is the original Japanese text and on the facing page, you will find notes in English.

There are two books which are fiction and essays in the series. If you buy both, you’ll cover a wide range of different texts.

Buying both fiction and essays in the series will help you cover lots of different texts

CDs also come with those books for listening practice.

3. Best Japanese Textbooks For The JLPT

  • New Kanzen Master

The New Kanzen Master books cover levels N4 to N1. All of them are very thorough with lots of material, practice questions, good explanations and a mock test in the same format as the JLPT exams.

best books to learn Japanese

New Kanzen Master is a good prep series for JLPT exams

There are five books covering five different aspects in Japanese: grammar, vocabulary, kanji, reading and listening. You can buy all five books as a set or just the books you need to work on; however, you should buy grammar and vocabulary books because they are essential. You can practise and improve your reading and listening skills in other ways.

A disadvantage of New Kanzen Master is that they are a bit dry with no pictures and funny cartoons, which can sometimes make you feel bored.

All the books at N2 and N1 levels are completely in Japanese.

  • Nihongo So-Matome

Nihongo So-Matome is an excellent book series among best books to learn Japanese for all levels, from N5 to N1.

best books to learn Japanese

Nihongo So-Matome is an excellent book series for all levels from N5 to N1

From N3 to N1, there are five books for each category: grammar, vocabulary, kanji, reading and listening. There’s only one book for N5 and two books for N4.

One striking feature of Nihongo So-Matome is that they are divided into an eight-week study plan, which is extremely suitable for those who want an action plan and are ready to study every day. Each double-page spread is one day’s lesson, which introduces new points and includes some exercises for practice. There is new material six days a week and on the seventh day comes a review.

The books are fun and easy to follow with brief explanatory notes in English, Chinese and Korean (all three languages are in one book). In addition, on each page, there are pictures to illustrate the key point.

Other Recommended Books

Beside best books for learning Japanese mentioned above, these four following books are also very useful for you. Let’s check them out!

1. Japanese For Everyone

Japanese For Everyone covers much of the knowledge as the Genki series, but there is no audio exercise in this book. The grammar explanations are brief, so you may need outside supplements.

One great feature of this book is that it teaches grammar through real-life situations and expressions, which is not commonly seen in other textbooks. Moreover, Japanese For Everyone brings more natural Japanese into the dialogues.

best books to learn Japanese

You’ll immersed into natural Japanese with Japanese For Everyone

Kanji are not used often in the book, which may be its drawback. However, this is not really a problem for those who do not want to learn kanji immediately. You can get familiar with some common kanji through Japanese For Everyone and after finishing this book you can find other materials to learn more kanji.

2. Adventures In Japanese

Adventures In Japanese is another Japanese textbook that you can consider buying to learn Japanese. The book is mainly for junior high and high school learners. It is not as comprehensive as other books, but this is not a bad thing at all. The simple explanations will help you understand Japanese right away.

A special thing about this book is that it has a lesson review at the end of each chapter. You cannot find this in other books. In the review, there are grammar exercises that test your knowledge on key concepts from the chapter and a checklist of things you “can do” with your new knowledge. If you don’t pass the review quiz or can’t check off an item in the checklist, you will know exactly what you need to study before moving on.

With a lesson review at the end of each chapter, Adventures In Japanese really stand out among other textbooks

3. Japanese: The Spoken Language

Japanese: The Spoken Language was written by two linguists, so it is very reliable. If you really dive in this book, you’ll gain excellent grammar knowledge as the grammar explanations are extremely deep.

This book is all in romaji, so some of you can find it not good to learn Japanese at first. However, it can help you a lot with your Japanese pronunciation with its special phonetic script written by the authors.

All in romaji, Japanese: The Spoken Language will help you a lot with your Japanese pronunciation

Japanese: The Spoken Language has audio materials as a companion. It is suggested that you should practice and memorize the audio first and after that you go to the book for explanation.

4. Elementary Japanese

The textbook is for classrooms and self-learners. The grammar explanations are thorough, but conversational. Therefore, you will never find them hard for you to understand or confusing.

Romaji sticks around the book until page 100 where it is dropped completely, so this may be one drawback of Elementary Japanese. Also, the design is so plain, which makes it difficult to identify different sections like grammar explanations, dialogues and exercises.

For self-learners on a tight budget, Elementary Japanese is a great choice as it costs only $30. You will not regret purchasing it even when you realize this book is not your favorite.

best books to learn Japanese

Elementary Japanese is a great option for self-learners


Above all, you have been given the names as well as the description of several best books to learn Japanese. Hopefully, you’ll find out the textbooks that are the most suitable for you from this blog. However, choosing the exactly perfect book is not as important as just getting started. The sooner you study, the sooner you can speak or use Japanese. Japanse textbooks are necessary for learning Japanese, but the learners’ attitude is also important. It is advisable to stick to books that you choose to learn Japanese so that you’ll achieve your dream of Japanese language proficiency.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.