Are the genki books actually any good?

This is a pretty random one, but I’ve been looking for some material to supplement my Japanese studies, because like everything else in my life, it’s lacking…

And then of course the first thing that came to my mind were the famous genki series, and when I went on Amazon to see if there’s a haloween sale, I realized how expensive they were…
And then I looked at some of the pictures of the pages inside and they didn’t really seem worth the price to me at least…

The info was pretty basic and the price seems too high compared to the info inside… Are they actually worth it though? I know you can also get the workbooks to practice what you e learned, but they don’t seem promising either…

Are the marugoto books any good? I saw them duringy trip to Hungary but they were all on Hungarian, so it wasn’t really an option for me either, but I did see one on Amazon for a pretty good price, so just wanted to heart what other people think about them!


Well, where are you at right now? When you say “supplement”, I assume that means you’ve studied some already - since Genki is intended for someone starting Japanese from the beginning, with no prior knowledge at all, then yeah it’s probably a bit too basic for you. But you might need to let us know what you’ve done so far before we can suggest something.


Oh, that makes a lot more sense now, since I’ve been studying for a while and they’re for people just starting to learn!

I’d say I’m pre- intermediate or the latter end of JLPT N5


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I’d say Genki 2 (covering roughly 1700 vocab and 300 kanji) is around N4 level (1500 vocab, 300 kanji). I went through both Genki 1 and 2 in a university setting before going on foreign exchange to Japan. At that point we were using “An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese”, which I thought was good.

As a side note I’ll recommend the Shin Kanzen Master series for N4-N1 (they don’t have N5). They are crafted specifically to prepare you for the JLPT but I think they’re great in general. I personally ignored their Kanji book, but the other four (Vocab, Grammar, Listening, Reading) are amazing. The vocab book in particular was very thorough, focusing a lot on what vocab fits in which setting and nuances between similar vocab. (I can only vouch for the N2 versions but I imagine they’re all roughly the same).


I used both of the genki books, they are good for beginners, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to use them only. The kanji learning is pretty bad imo, but you already use wk so it’s fine. I did them in parallel with Tokini Andy videos I think they are great and helped a ton. You can probably just watch the videos without the book and still do fine. I think it’s worth to give the books a shot see if you like them.


I personally think the Minna no Nihongo books are superior to Genki in many respects (though not in all)

These are published by the same publisher as Minna no Nihongo, and although they have a ‘test prep’ focus, they seem to be good for general Japanese as well.

I think so too having only gone through the second one a little. I’m not an expert on either book though. I learned from the Japanese for Busy People series which used to be top rated, but seem to have gone out of fashion.

I’d say you can learn a lot from either genki, minna or busy, just get the cheapest one if moneys an issue.

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when in a classrom with many students, it’s great

alone? boring af

First time I went to Japan to study japanese at the university it was really nice with classmates.

When I got back to my home country and tried using the book, I quit completely for many years.

Only WK made me go back studying japanese. :smiley:

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I throw the Try! series in here just for completion :smiley:

Perhaps the Beginner Tobira textbooks could be more helpful-it’s a bit more dense, and could challenge someone who has already studied Japanese a bit further.

If you’re latter end of N5, I think Genki 2 is still more or less new information. Calling 1 N5 and 2 N4 is probably oversimplifying, but they’re somewhere around that. As foundational grammar guides and a chunk of starting vocabulary, they’re perfectly usable if you are someone who can stick with a textbook and not despise it. You could probably find something faster if you’re particularly highly motivated, and certainly cheaper since there are actually quite a few decent free resources. But if it’s a direction you feel drawn toward, it’s more than sufficient. I’ve moved onto “real Japanese” quite well following Genki.

I don’t know how Genki’s prices compare to the average for beginner Japanese textbooks, but I know that Minna no Nihongo and Genki (which are the two most famous ones) cost about the same. Are they worth that price? Depends on what your criteria are, but they’re popular and recommended by both teachers and quite a few learners, so I guess people do feel they’re worth it? However, as people have mentioned above, the first volumes of each of those two courses are definitely meant for complete beginners, so it’s not surprising if you found the Genki I disappointing or seemingly too simple. You probably know quite of bit of the content already. It might still be worthwhile to check out Genki II though, price notwithstanding.

If you want a textbook that’s efficient (in my opinion, given how I enjoy learning languages – i.e. with lots of context, detailed breakdowns of sentence structure, and with as few grammar-only study sections as possible) and costs less than possibly even just one volume of Genki or MnN, I’ve got a recommendation for you – the textbook I used. Granted, I think MnN or Genki might cover slightly more grammar points overall, but I don’t think the difference is significant enough to matter. Also, there’s definitely an overlap between the grammar my book covered and the first few chapters of Tobira, which is an intermediate textbook, so it’s no slouch either. It uses around 930 kanji across 98 lessons, and the grammar covered is roughly N5-N4, maybe with a little bit of N3 grammar mixed in. It exists as an e-course in English. There may be some paper copies floating around online on second-hand book sites/Amazon, but those are the previous edition. The latest English edition only exists as that digital course; the French original also exists as a paperback, if you happen to speak French. Anyway, enough blabbering from me. Here’s a link:

This course used to be called ‘Japanese with Ease’. I don’t know if the official title has been changed, but you can try using that to find reviews or more information if you want. Creating an account and downloading the programme will allow you to try the first seven lessons (almost definitely too simple for you if you find Genki too simple) for free so you can see how their lessons work.

By the way, going back to price for a second: I understand that Genki and MnN both cost roughly €60 per volume. That means that to get to around a full N4 as a complete beginner, you’d have to fork over €120 for the two relevant volumes with either course. Assimil’s course costs €50 as an e-course, and it also covers enough to reach about N4. Plus, I think it’s more efficient for self-study than either Genki or MnN, so why pay their price?

If you want a detailed breakdown of why I like the course, along with a picture of part of lesson 45 of 98 so you can see what ‘midway through’ looks like, here’s an old post from me. I start with the flaws, and then go into what’s I think makes it great:

As you’ll see in the photo, every single lesson comes with full parallel translations of what’s written in Japanese, and the earliest lessons will also come with full literal translations so you know what the Japanese sentence literally says and can compare it with the natural translation they offer. There are also footnotes pointing out important details that pepper the course. (If you’re interested and need me to translate the footnotes into English, just ask. Shouldn’t take me too long.)

EDIT: OK, turns out they’ve got a PDF online with sample lessons for the French edition, namely lessons 1, 50 and 97. Take a look if you want. At the least, you’ll be able to see what the Japanese is like at the end of the course too:

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In order of recommendation:

Beginner to Lower Intermediate

  1. Tobira: Beginning Japanese (sample chapter)
  2. Minna no Nihongo (sample pages)
  3. Genki (sample pages)

Intermediate to Advanced

  1. Tobira: A Gateway to Advanced Japanese (sample chapter)
  2. Quartet: Intermediate Japanese (sample pages)

What I like about Tobira is that is not about characters from school (Genki) or about characters from a company (Minna). It is all about different aspects of Japan: food, traditional culture, religion, technology, geography, history, pop culture, among other things. Chapters are dense with tons of content and detailed grammar explanations. It includes media such as real pictures and even manga to help with comprehension. Tobira Beginning Japanese specifically is in full color and very modern.


I liked Japanese for Busy People. The first volume helped me get acquainted with the basic structure and vocabulary of Japanese. I used the other books to help solidify, clarify, expand, and add kanji to my understanding.

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It can depend on the type of learner you are if youll like genki or not, but personally it just didnt work for me. I thought it was a little too “textbooky” japanese for lack of a better term, and also the grammar didnt really stick with me. What worked was me was channels on youtube like “Japanese Ammo with Misa” or the “Japanese from Zero” video series. It depends if you prefer someone talking and teaching you or if you learn better from textbooks.

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