Anyone have any textbook recommendations?

I’m currently looking for a good textbook/series of textbooks to use for learning Japanese. I’ve heard good things about Genki and Minna no Nihongo, but I also know that there are a lot of other good textbooks that I can use. I don’t want to spend a lot of money buying textbooks only to realize I don’t like them.
Here are some other things:

  • I’m a beginner, so I know roughly 70-100 words. I also know basic grammar rules.
  • I’m looking for a textbook that’s ideal for self-study.
  • I don’t have that much time so I can spend around 0.5-1 hour a day.
  • I like textbooks that move slower so that I don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Preferably not too expensive? lol
  • Also it would be nice if it had quizzes and stuff inside of the book, but not necessary if it has another book that you can get with them.

So does anyone have any good ideas? What textbooks did you guys use at a beginner level, and what do you like/dislike about them?

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:


I used Genki 1 and am currently working through Genki 2. The most important thing when choosing a grammar resource is to stick with it, not jump around between resources. Every resource will teach you something eventually, so just choose one.

Genki is most suited for classroom use but it’s totally fine for self study. Since it’s so popular, there are a lot of tools that have been made to go along with it; I’ve found a lot of use in Tokini Andy’s youtube series:

He explains each lesson in Genki one by one. Afterwards, you can do the textbook exercises online at this website:


If you’re looking for free material there are two online textbooks I can recommend you :

  • Irodori : It’s the textbook I use (with an italki native teacher though).
  • Marugoto : I know less about this one but I’ve tried it on one chapter and it seems appealing.

The two of them are very clear and allow to practice reading, hearing, talking, and teach grammar and vocabulary.


I did Marugoto e-learning for my first 3 months of Japanese before Japanese from Zero 1 and it was a good introduction. Just enough to give you some confidence before diving into a textbook like JFZ, Genki or Tobira Beginning Japanese.


Tobira Beginning Japanese
Sample: PDF


I picked Panorama after browsing through many self-study books in the big Maruzen store in Osaka, and I really like it. It focuses on grammar and introduces vocabulary by the way, so to broaden your vocabulary you should complement it with other learning tools. It has very good explanations of the grammar targeted at adults starting language learning from scratch.
Every concept and every word are introduced gradually. There are exercises inside the book. I like the meticulous cross-references between the grammar part, the practice part and the website. You can listen to every one of the example sentences online and there are further listening comprehension exercises.

I’m currently at 40% of the book and I’m very happy with it.


I think so too! Although, if you can, maybe try to look at how different textbooks explain the same grammar point to see which is the most logical for you. For example, I started with the Tobira Beginner Textbook but I found their way of explaining very hard to grasp and convoluted, so I checked out Genki and everything clicked almost instantly for me compared to Tobira. I compared how they explain the “の” grammar point (which happens pretty early on, so you can probably look at it in even more textbooks if you want) and I found it so much more understandable in Genki.


My favorite is 80/20 Japanese. It was written specifically for western self-studiers, and teaches grammar in a more top-down way compared to many other textbooks. He has anki decks, including audio.

This is an example of what I mean about top-down:


I really like Minna no Nihongo, but Genki has become the de facto standard so I think you’d need a specific reason not to use it (if for no other reason, it has more supporting materials as mentioned above).

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Let me give you a sort of unanswer, so you know what to avoid.

I used Nakama when I took Japanese at my university. (Using Google Books, its own issue sigh, because I refuse to give Cengage clicks – textbooks are a racket). While I enjoyed it well enough and it helped me get a solid foundation in the grammar and listening (and don’t let me discount how great my sensei was!), I probably would not use Nakama to selfstudy. Partially because I have major issues with the business of textbook publication and specifically companies like Cengage, but also because there’s not a lot of community support for the textbook. Selfstudiers are not there to help since many are using Genki, and Cengage just wants to drive you to use their pay-for online services. I don’t have access to the listening exercises anymore because instead of shipping a CD, they direct you to their online learning platform – you’re only ever leasing material from them. Many of my peers don’t even have the books to review with because they chose to use the eBook variant instead, which also had a short window of access. Try to own the products you purchase.

Real disappointed the university I work at has partnered with companies like this. Now they opt students into an eBook version of their textbooks that they have to specifically opt out of.

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I found a textbook called Yookoso! An invitation to contemporary Japanese (i think that’s what it was called), but I didn’t like their method of not really explaining the particles and hoping you’ll figure it out by reading example sentences. Does anyone know if it’s good though? because if I already have a good textbook better to use it than buy a new one.

This textbook is so old, it’s no longer ‘contemporary’.

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For beginner textbooks I used:

  • Japanese for Busy People - easy to acquire structure and vocabulary. The chapters are a perfect length for self-study. The number of practices exercises is just right.
  • Genk 1 - the 3rd edition might be better, but the 2nd edition was disorganized and messy, and hard to use for self-study. Very frustrating as a textbook, for me. What’s good is a) the kanji, b) the listening and reading scripts, and c) the back of the book.
  • Minna no Nihongo 1 - The organization is fantastic. And it actually teaches you how to read and understand Japanese. The drawbacks are that it can feel intimidating at first and it has a little to much -mas form. The listening and mini quizzes are great. Use the Answer Key that comes with it and the Grammar/Vocabulary explanation book.

Japanese from Zero
Tae Kim’s guide
Online resources