Any reading advice or experiences for a newcomer ? :)

Hi there,

I’ve recently started my journey in wanikani and just reached level 8. So far, I’m enjoying it but I understood that it will become more and more challenging as I cruise down the Styx river of Wanikani’s levels.

Now that I approach level 10, I really want to include more reading into my routine to consolidate my Kanji knowledge as it is very different to encounter them on Wanikani and in the wild. So I would be grateful to have some insights from you guys about your experience, tips and tricks !

From my understanding of reading in a foreign language I differenciate three approach.

Extensive Reading : Read through the book without stopping to check an unknown word or piece of grammar and rely on context to let your brain sort out the missing links. It’s often said that you need to choose content where you understand at least 80% of what you’re reading for it to be effective.


  • I would say, it consolidate Kanji that you already know very well
  • Increase speed and fluency of reading
  • Fast Reading


  • Hard to find the content that is within your reach but not to easy either so that you have some gains
  • Can be frustrating when not understanding what’s going on.

Intensive Reading: Read everything carefully and check every word and piece of grammar you don’t know.

Pros :

  • Learning a lot of new words in context
  • Feeling of accomplishment by understanding content


  • Very slow

Bilingual Reading : Content with the text in both you’re target language and a language you master.
It’s a middle ground between intensive and extensive, however it’s harder to come by such material.

I think I will use all this approach in my upcoming journey, However, As a beginner I’m struggling with finding suitable content. I’ve looked up book for childrens, however I found that there is often no Kanji at all, which first of all doesn’t help me consolidate what I learn on Wanikani and second of all, I find it super hard to differentiate the words and their functionality in a phrase.
Obviously I also found books with Kanji but no Furigana which implies that it will take me a lot more time to check them up.

Ideally I’m looking for material with a reasonable amount of kanji and/or Furigana to help my first steps. That is for physical books. If I’m reading on the internet I have Yomichan so that’s less of an issue.

Also I see that there are some books club which I am very interrested in to join but I don’t know how to get my hand on the material whithout spending an absurd amount of money to import it.

I’m used to brut force my way into my target language, so far it worked well with language whom I shared a common writing system with. However it doesn’t seems to work with Japanese for obvious reasons.

So what is your experience with reading, how and when did you start ? Any thoughts, advice or experiences welcome ! :slight_smile:


Paul Nation - who is one of the leading researchers on this topic - actually puts the percentage around 93-97% for extensive reading. I forget the percentage for intensive reading, which would be where you stop and look up content and really study.

Personally, I’ve recently picked up Furigana Japan’s Long-ago Stories of Japan and another book called Reading Road. The companion to Minna no Nihongo called Miller-san is also occasionally useful (but I’ve lost motivation with it recently. I also have the manga Major, which I keep meaning to return to…


For your level 1-10 you are going to need targeted materials. I found

can help you get into reading. It’s designed with pictures so you can figure out difficult words with pictures, starting from absolute beginner.


The website Satori Reader is a great resource. It will adapt the kanji usage to your level, and you can easily toggle between kanji and hiragana as you read, hover over unfamiliar words to get a definition immediately without clicking through to another page, hear words and/or entire sentences from the text read aloud. It’s also great for learning practical vocabulary (e.g., checking into a hotel, asking for directions, etc.) but also offers storylines. I like it a lot.


Hello :slight_smile: Personally I found children’s material or graded readers too hard to stay interested in, even if the content was more accessible. But certainly content that’s much too difficult is also a no-go. For me, intensive reading on really tough content became exhausting and unsustainable. That 80% rule is about right I think, then you can intensively study the 20% you don’t understand but you are getting the gist and can move through the content at a reasonable pace.

For content, I waited until my WK level and grammar level from Minna no Nihongo was high enough to consume two beginner podcasts/youtube channels: Japanese with Shun, and Bite Size Japanese. The content is short, simple, slow and Shun also does a vocab check at the end. They both do transcripts for Patreon supporters and I use to help me with furigana, grammar patterns I don’t recognise, translation when I want to check my understanding etc. Language Reactor’s Chrome extension is also useful here. Seeing the presenter and their stories, hearing the words spoken, and reading the transcript at the same time, really keeps me entertained and motivated to continue.

If you did just want to stick to purely to books though, I’ve enjoyed “Japanese Stories for Language Learners” which has furigana, the stories are short and interesting enough for adults, and provides individual word/pattern translations on top of the full English version.

Hope that helps, good luck!


You can read most books in digital form. This also has the advantage that you can look up words with a built-in dictionary (for books, but not for manga). There are a number of options for buying digital books. The Resources for Starting to Read Japanese Content page has an overview of the most popular options, as well as a ton of other advice for getting into reading.

For BookWalker, they frequently offer free manga, and this way you can try out whether you like their service at all (like all the other options, you are locked in to their app or website, and this way you can see whether you get along with it well). You can check out the currently free offers in the The BookWalker Freebies Thread .

If you want to get an impression on the difficulty of a given book or manga, you can have a look at (you should be aware that the levels are based off of a crowdsourced grading so in my experience they may be inaccurate at times). For books (not manga), you can also have a look at which calculates the difficulty off of the text (grammar and vocab) so this feels more reliable to me.

Other than that, like the others said, the best thing is just to get started! Pick something that you might be interested in and see how it goes. If it’s way too hard, you can always get back to it later. If it’s slightly too hard, you might want to tackle the challenge! If it’s just right, then enjoy the ride :upside_down_face:


So, everybody’s financial situation and tolerance for spending money on what for most of us is a hobby is going to be different. And e-books have serious advantages especially for a beginner, as noted above. But if you do want to price up the import-a-paper-book route, the two places I would check are and cdjapan. They both have English-language interfaces, will ship abroad without having to involve an intermediate dropshipper, and have a shipping-cost calculator. (For amazon, you need to go to the checkout to find the shipping cost.) Generally shipping for a single book is rather pricy and you want to look at buying 5 to 10 at a time to keep the costs down. Whether cdjapan or amazon is cheaper seems to vary by country – I wrote up the costs for various book quantities for UK shipping in this post, and found Amazon notably cheaper; @seanblue did the same for the US and cdjapan was slightly cheaper.


i started reading at about WK level 14 or 15, with one of the WK bookclubs. and i’ve got to admit that i was in way over my head. my grammar was badly lacking, and even with furigana throughout, my kanji knowledge/vocabulary was way too low for what i was reading. nonetheless i persevered, finished the first volume with the bookclub, and later read (and enjoyed) the rest of the series.

what i did wrong:

  • i went in too deep. of everything i’ve read, it’s still ranked the second-highest (most difficult) on learnnatively.
  • my grammar was entirely lacking. nobody has mentioned it yet, but it’s possible to feel very comfy with your WK level, and be entirely bad at grammar. but for reading, you definitely need grammar.

what i did right:

  • i picked a book-club! reading along with other allowed me to see what everybody else was struggling with, and many of my questions were asked and answered before i ever could get to it.
  • i picked a book (manga) i actually wanted to read. as i struggled almost sentence by sentence (in the beginning) to understand the text, wanting to be reading this story was a huge motivator.
  • i picked a story with an anime based on it, and had watched the anime. that was a huge help, as i knew many of the story beats, and it helped with understanding the text.
  • i persevered! i looked up as many kanji as i needed to, i learned more grammar, i got better.

i do think manga (or other heavily illustrated work) is good for beginning. there’s an extra difficulty as you can’t just click on a word to see it in the dictionary, and if it doesn’t have a lot of furigana you also have to learn how to look up kanji. but you get a lot more story for the amount of text you read, which helps to keep you (or me, at least) motivated.

edit: also, if costs for books is a concern, go digital. for, you need to set up an account with a japanese shipping address (which took me a while to figure out). with bookwalker i think you don’t have that hassle? a volume of manga rarely costs more than 700-800 yen, and both platforms have extensive temporary and permanent freebies.


Ah yes you are correct, I didn’t exactly remember the percentage. I think 80% comes from someone else who would argue that 97% does’nt yield much gains in terms of vocabulary. However as someone else pointed out, 80% turns into a mixed between intensive and extensive as understanding 4/5 of a book is probably not enough !

Thank you for the recommandation, I’ve taken note of them, I might pick them up at a later point as I’m interrested in reading material related to classic japanese tales and cultures !

1 Like

Thanks for that ! I have a permanent link to Tadoku website on my phone that I sometimes read on the way to work. Really a good way to begins with as it is not daunting ! Your PDF file might come in handy when I loose connection due to being underground haha :slight_smile:

Yes children stories are feeling oddly difficult for the amount of interest they provide. I feel like if I’m going to struggle I might as well punch a bit above my height !

Thank you for the podcast recommandation. Reading will just be a part and I’m planning to listen to a lot of content too ! I’ve heard of those podcast but never tried them untill now. So I’m definetely checking that out.


Thank you for those link to 2 thread, I will check them out, it seems like there is a lot of interesting information there.
Also I’ve never heard of those site for grading books and manga, it could help a lot to choose. I’m writing them down. It’s crazy how much good content and tools we have at our disposal nowadays !

You’ve said it all. At the end of the day, we have to stop making excuses and take the plundge because we will never feel ready for it !

1 Like

Interesting, I didn’t know about cdjapan. I’m in Europe so I’m guessing if Amazon is cheaper for UK, it might be similar for France.

I also try to check some local japanese Libraries for buying or renting but they are rather scarce !

i’ve been delaying with all sorts of excuses until now so I think you are right when you say that picking a book club was a right thing to do ! Maybe it will feel more encouraging if I read along with other people ! I’m sure my grammar will be lacking but I’m hoping to fix it in the process !

I will try to buy digital books. It’s probably the best compromise and one book should last a fair amount of time for me to go through !


Also not related to my post, but thank you everyone for answering. It’s very refreshing to see an active community taking the time to give advices.
Learning Japanese can be a lonely adventure and seeing fellow learners helping each other out is highly motivating. I think it makes the journey even more so worthwhile !

1 Like

for now, yeah… but later on it gets scary, how fast one can munch through manga :sweat_smile:

1 Like

I look forward to this day =D

1 Like

Yeah, I think that’s why around 93-94% is probably better for most.

Remember that you’re not only looking for new vocabulary but also increasing your fluency and acquiring that vocabulary you may recognize but not know how to use.


My experience is that if I could do it, so can you. :muscle:

1 Like

Besides the graded readers series and such that people have mentioned, I know of several bilingual book that range in difficulty from beginner through intermediate/ advanced levels depending on the books as well as some graded reader style books that use vocabulary and questions to help you understand the grammar:

Short stories for beginners books one and two

Intermediate short stories

Japanese reader (beginner to advanced and beyond)

There’s also Clay and Yumi’s book series: two in this series and 16 books in this one

Read real Japanese fiction and Essays (two books in this series - native level content explained in detail for anything that isn’t basic grammar)

There’s also kanji graded readers to go with the kanji learners course but if you’re learning kanji here then it’s still relevant just might not be in the same order you’re learning (9 in this set)

Olly richards intermediate short stories

Olly richards “in 30 days” series - 5 books that cover a variety of things but each book deals with one subject and you read a chapter a day for 30 days,

And also these three with an N5/ N4 level, N4 level and N3 level graded readers which have both bilingual stories and also explanations for the more complex grammar that builds on the previous stories/ books. I’ve found these ones very similar to how Read read Japanese explains things but the explanations are definitely useful.

Those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head that I’ve seen, though there will be more. My access to bilingual books is limited where I am.

NB: forgot about the penguin bilingual short stories book as well. It’s a parallel text one.