Anyone else used "Situational Functional Japanese"?

I’ve started drilling with this textbook on the advice of some friends who used it in class. Both had very good mileage with it in terms of learning to speak; the first was able to 翻訳する passably in Tokyo despite having a single year of classroom experience and barely any kanji knowledge, and the other is a near-native-level fluent speaker who moved to Japan. Obviously this isn’t solely because of the textbook they used, but it’s evidence it’s not useless at least.

It’s an older textbook (mid-90s) and even relies on cassette tapes (fortunately, someone has uploaded mp3s of them online). Older means cheaper too, as a tiny bonus; like $10 per volume used on Amazon.

So far I’ve found it’s covered a lot of things very quickly and very straightforwardly that other resources I’ve found didn’t explain very well, and its focus on speaking is really useful – it feels very much built around the idea that the only way you’ll ever get to speak this language is by forcing the words out, constantly, for hours, training your brain to build everyday sentences in a natural fashion.

I know it may not be the approach a lot of wanikani users are looking for, since it’s focused around everyday speech rather than reading/writing, but I’m curious if anyone has used this textbook and what luck they’ve had with it, especially outside of a classroom environment. It seems like the textbook is almost unknown these days – I’ve almost never seen it mentioned in 2019-era communities and it’s never on lists of recommendations, not even as an “avoid this book” note either.


I used the yellow/black ones (volume 3?) back in the 300 level Japanese courses I took about 11 years ago. I don’t recall them being terrible, but they are dated. I might go flip through them along with the Tobira books I got not too long ago to see how they differ.

How’s the romaji/kana/kanji situation? Romaji just in the beginning until you learn proper kana, or romaji throughout?

It sounds like a fantastic resource! However, when I went to peruse the listings on Amazon and Ebay, I did not find that older means cheaper. Also, you mentioned mp3 drills available online; where did you find those? Could you link that?

Amazon is really annoying in that they don’t actually list the cheapest used price on the main listing… you have to go to the separate “list all used copies” and buy there. This normally isn’t a problem but can give really inflated prices for old books.

The site with the mp3s from the tapes is here:

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It starts with romaji + kana, but explains kana very early (complete with some aspects of it that some other books omit, like the differences between handwritten and block print kana, as well as extended katakana and general rules used for converting loanwords to katakana, etc). I think it switches to pure-kana a few chapters in.

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you are a goddess :3

I used the drills and notes version of volume 1-3. It certainly covers a lot, but I felt its grammar explanations were often lacking. As you mentioned, some of the content is a little dated. I think this book is best used with a good instructor. Here is my quick review:


  • good dialogues
  • lots of vocab
  • lots of grammar presented in the book
  • kanji/kana are used extensively


  • grammar explanations are lacking - one instructor told me that although it is in english, it was written in a way for any language learned to use it…i.e. some of the grammar explanations intentionally do not use an english context
  • dated material (I’m probably not going to be giving some one a stevie wonder casette to cheer them up in the hospital)
  • the dialogues use grammar that has not been presented yet (this is not a total negative…while it is frustrating from a comprehension, it also means that if you memorize it before you understand the grammar, you are memorizing usable Japanese)
  • The layout of the book is miserable with cross references between sections and books
  • while kanji is used in the book, it is not taught or is there a clear progression through the series (but if you are using wanikani, who cares)

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