Textbook reviews

From Akita Wiki

This is a list of Japanese textbook reviews.
Most books can be purchased from Amazon. The site has purchasing directions in English. Many of these books are at the bookstore called "Junkudo", on the 6th floor of FORUS, a mall near Akita Station.
Also, Google Books has previews of some of these books that Amazon does not.

Beginner Textbooks

Minna No Nihongo

I and II and their English Translation for I and II can be purchased for about $60 used on Amazon.jp. The English Translation is good for vocab lists from the main text and extra vocab that isn't included in the main text. The English Translation I doesn't have Kanji, but English Translation II does. There are many other supplemental study materials you can get with this series but it will become expensive and isn't necessary. The Kanji Guide only has about 200 kanji, but those are in the regular lessons, and the Kanji in the textbook build well on each other. This textbook is slow paced, but if you are learning the Kanji with the grammar a lesson a week is plenty. The grammar and Kanji are both useful in daily life.

"Minna No Nihongo"
Text I ISBN: 4883191028
English Translation I ISBN: 4883191656
Text II ISBN: 4883191031
English Translation II ISBN: 4883191086

This beginner book is an alternative to Minna No Nihongo above. Completing both Genki I and Genki II will give you a solid enough grasp of Japanese to have a basic conversation. Some of the activities listed in the book assume a classroom setting for learning Japanese, which may not fit a self-study style. Nevertheless, the material is well organized, and the accompanying workbooks can provide practice.

Genki I Textbook ISBN : 4789014401
Genki I Workbook ISBN : 478901441X
Genki II Textbook ISBN: 4789014436
Genki II Workbook ISBN: 4789014444

Japanese the Spoken Language
Some people find the linguistics explanations incomprehensible. The whole series is in romaji, which can be fast at first but will slow you down later. The upside of these textbooks are the numerous and effective drills. The CDs and videos are also available on various websites for free. The teacher's edition is in Japanese, which is useful.
Additional material can be found on their website, [1].

"Japanese the Spoken language"
Text I ISBN  : 0300038348 
Text II ISBN : 0300041888
Text III ISBN: 0300041918

新完全マスター (Shin-Kanzen Master)
The Shin-Kanzen Master is a series of textbooks for the JLPT. There is a corresponding Shin-Kanzen Master book for each section (grammar, kanji, vocabulary, reading, listening) of each level (N5 ~ N1) of the JLPT. At the beginner level, N5 or N4 books would be recommended. The quizzes are easy so I recommend a workbook that breaks down your weak points to go along with this book.
(Other Shin-Kanzen Master books are listed in the Advanced section)

ISBN-10: 4883193543

Intermediate Textbooks

An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese
An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, or just "IJ" for short, is the continuation of the Genki series beginner-level textbooks. It is often called "Genki III." Students who have completed Genki will feel at home with IJ. IJ includes more and longer reading passages and, unlike Genki, many of the instructions are given in Japanese. Most of the example dialogs include scenes where characters don't understand or misuse certain Japanese phrases and have to ask about them to clarify. In this sense, unlike Genki, IJ is focused on developing students' ability to learn Japanese through Japanese (rather than through English).

"An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese"
Textbook ISBN: 4789013073
Workbook ISBN: 4789013081

Donna toki dou tsukau nihongo hyougen bunkei 500
Great book that covers all the grammar you need to know for JLPT 1 and 2(also one for levels 1-4). The great thing about this book is that it highlights the differences between similar grammar. This text has a lot of furigana to help you fly through the kanji and focus on the grammar. Highly recommended.
Also check out the どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型辞典, which seems like a text and workbook together.

日本語表現文型500 ISBN:4757412355
日本語表現文型辞典  ISBN:4757412355 

This book is small size, A5? It has explanation for the Japanese in four languages . With four languages on each page, it can be a bit hard to read.

ISBN: 9784384055702

This seemed like a decent textbook. The readings appeared pretty easy to me. Good for learning, but not challenging? Comes with a CD.

ISBN: 4883193276

Recommends 300 hours of study before starting. Focuses on reading and writing. Available in different languages. English, Chinese....

ISBN: 4883190447

Recommends 400 hours of study before starting. Focuses on reading, writing, and speaking. Available in different languages. English, Chinese.... These books do not try to cram every language into one text book, but instead one language and Japanese. Furigana is used when JLPT level 2 kanji are used the first time per reading. Downside, 2900yen and the CD, although not necessary, is sold separately for around 3500yen.


Advanced Textbooks

Shin-Kanzen Master offers a book each on grammar, reading, kanji, vocabulary, and listening.
The grammar book is very systematically laid out with each grammar point, its meaning, how to use it, and a few example sentences.
Also, the hardest part on the JLPT N1 and N2 is arguably the reading section. You are required to speed read and not to mention, this section is worth a lot. The Kanzen Master will help you prepare for this. Warning: There is hardly any furigana so you need to have a strong grasp of kanji to get through this text (Or a kanji translation device of some sort).
These books are highly recommended as study materials for the advanced JLPT levels.

日本語能力試験 文法 問題対策 ISBN: 9784883190881
日本語能力試験 読解 問題対策 ISBN: 784883194032

Daigaku de Manabu Tame no Nihongo Writing is a textbook filled with all kinds of writing prompts. These prompts start very short (a few sentences) and end very long (essays). The prompts come in a variety of flavors too, from the aforementioned essays, to emails, etc. Each prompt gives you hints and instructions on how to structure your writing. This book is excellent if you have acquired intermediate to advanced level grammar and vocabulary, and are looking for a way to put it into use.

ISBN: 4789012212

News de Fuyasu Jokyu he no Goi/Hyougen is an advanced-level textbook which uses passages lifted from actual newspapers as learning material. This textbook was released in 2007, so the subject matter may be dated. However the textbook does a good job of breaking down the vocabulary (and providing furigana) of printed Japanese used in the real world. This is a good stepping stone if you're struggling to make the leap into 生の日本語.

ISBN: 4757413300

Shigoto no Nihongo is a series of four books which cover how to use business Japanese in a professional setting. The four books in the series are: Business Manners, Email Writing, Phone Calls, IT Work.

ビジネスマナー編 ISBN: 4757414676
メールの書き方編 ISBN: 4757413688
電話応対 基礎編 ISBN: 4757413319
IT業務編    ISBN: 4757414773

Kanji Textbooks

A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters
This highly-recommended (yet unoriginally-titled) book written by Kenneth Henshall has an entry for each one of the 常用漢字 (common use kanji). Under each entry Henshall lists the reading, meaning, and example compounds with that character. What makes this title stand out from other books which all do exactly the same thing, is that Henshall is well-versed in kanji etymology, and for every single character he provides an authoritative insight into its history and formation. Sometimes the formation of a kanji is simple, and other times the kanji has changed its shape over history. Henshall details the story behind each character and constantly references them against other characters in the book, thus promoting a latticework-understanding of kanji as a whole. This textbook can be used as A) a textbook for learning kanji, B) a reference guide for looking up kanji, or C) reading material for those interested in kanji history.

"A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters"
ISBN: 0804820384

Heisig Method
"A magnificent, inspirational, must-read introduction that gives the hope of achieving literacy to both Nihongo novices and Nihongo old-timers tired of constantly re-learning and forgetting kanji." - Laurence M. Wiig (Quote Taken From James Heisig's Website)

Kanji ABC
This book groups 1,945 Kanji by similar parts. It breaks down all the Kanji into parts with a meaning. For example "手" origination is from a hand and means hand. But also "投”the kanji for throw has a small version of "手” or hand in it. Kanji can be looked up by matching the main part of the Kanji with the charts from Chapter 1. There are many great books like this for Kanji and hopefully others will add them here. There is now a website by the same writers. Kanji ABC

"Kanji ABC"
ISBN-10: 0804819572

Kanji Dictionary
For advanced learners, or those really curious and strong willed. A Junior High Kanji Dictionary has an index of readings, so you can look up Kanji by pronunciation. It has Kunyomi (Japanese pronunciation) in hiragana and Onyomi (Chinese Pronunciation) in Katakana. They also come Japanese style, reading from right to left, top to bottom. All definitions are in Japanese.

Kanji Writing order dictionary
漢字書き順字典 There are many similar books and dictionaries. I found practicing stroke order and good handwriting helped me remember kanji, and it make practice more fun. I have only seen these types of books in Japanese.

Test books / Workbooks

Giant test book. No practice or explanation. Good for review. Japanese only.


This one is vocab, and there is also a grammar. I loved the grammar book. Lots of tests. After a test, the questions are broken down into what grammar point they were covering, so you can go back to your textbook and review it.


日本語総まとめ問題集 [2級語彙編]
This is the Vocab book. There are actually four books in this set. English 日本語総まとめ問題集 [2級語彙編] vocab 日本語総まとめ問題集 [2級文法編] grammar (Highly not recommended) 日本語総まとめ問題集 [2級漢字編] kanji 日本語総まとめ問題集 [2級読解編] reading

ISBN: 4872176162

Supplementary Material

A Dictionary of Japanese Grammar
This is a series of three books which are invaluable to the student of Japanese at any level. There is a Dictionary of Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Japanese Grammar. If you are brand-new to Japanese, you can't go wrong with the yellow (Basic Grammar) dictionary!

"A Dictionary of...
... Basic Japanese Grammar"        ISBN: 4789004546
... Intermediate Japanese Grammar" ISBN: 4789007758
... Advanced Japanese Grammar"     ISBN: 4789012956

Your local library
Elementary school books on Kanji can be really helpful. An elementary school level Kanji dictionary has 1006 kanji. It introduces them in grade level order so you can start from the easiest, and it gives fun memory tips. ”正座して、 星座をみたい。” ”せいざして、せいざをみたい。” "I want to look at the constellations while sitting seiza." These books can also be purchased at bookstores.

Example: Elementary School Kanji Dictionary

English Grammar for Students of Japanese
Not an English major? You can learn a lot about English and Japanese grammar through comparison. This book is an easy and fun read.

"English Grammar for Students of Japanese"
ISBN-10: 0934034168

501 Japanese Verbs
The new version of this book has Kanji and Hiragana. This book is helpful but can be used as a crutch just as much as a learning resource. It is a fun book, and you can do a lot with verbs in Japanese. You can see a sample page on Amazon.

"501 Japanese Verbs"
ISBN-10: 0764137492
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