Annotated Literature Readers?

When I was studying Ancient Greek, I really enjoyed sitting down with Steadman’s annotated readers (books that look like this, where the full Greek text of literature has assistive vocab in the footnotes and explanations of irregular grammar). It basically allowed you to read the original text without needing to stop and page through your dictionary, grammar book and text commentary every other sentence.

Is there something similar for Japanese? I know there are kids’ readers and easy newsletters designed for language learners, but I’d like to read literature. The closest thing I could find mentioned on the forums was the Soseki Project which seems pretty cool.Unfortunately, I like to have a physical text to take notes and highlight stuff – and it seems like while I can download the text from TSP, the study guides are only available online and not as a single, formatted book. Any ideas or recommendations?

There are two really good Kodansha pocket readers- Read Real Japanese (short stories edited by Michael Emmerich) and Read Real Japanese Essays edited by Janet Ashby. Both have CDs with audio. Both feature contemporary writers you’e heard of (Banana Yoshimoto, say).

There is also Breaking into Japanese Literature (edited by Giles Murray) with texts by Natsume Soseki et al. arranged in order of difficulty, Author’s site here with audio downloads as stuff falls into public domain. I think he has another one but I’ve not used it.

The lodestone is A Japanese Reader ed. by Roy Andrew Miller. It’s short but legendarily complete, an old book that a couple generations of Japanese learners based their mastery on. It’s a graded reader that starts from zero and gets you to Tanizaki in 120 pages. Highly, highly recommended.


Thank you!

I hear you on having a text in physical form to annotate. I see UCLA’s Michael Emmerich as’s biggest competitor for the moment. His books are excellent.

I created with the goal for readers to read authentic Japanese without having to break too long to look up vocabulary, grammar, etc. So I see a lot of similarities in our approach to literature and I would love to connect. Being able to take notes is something that has been mentioned by a few people and I would love to build that feature. Do you have some time to chat in person? You can reach me at


There’s also “Learn Japanese With Stories” by Clay and Yumi Boutwell. There are several books available on various levels. They include Japanese folktales with grammar and vocabulary notes. The stories are in Japanese, then English, as you are supposed to try the Japanese first before reading the English. I love them!


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