I am new to learning Japanese. I am also a librarian by trade and avid reader. I have tried and failed to find something at my current VERY beginner level to read independently and for leisure. My grasp of grammar is pretty rudimentary (です anyone? HAH!), so something with simple a repetitive patterns would be great! Websites, books, manga…give me alllll the recommendations!
Satori Reader is a good resource if you’re just trying to see words on a page and understand them. It’s Graded Reader material so it can be stale. If theres something you dont understand they annotate everything. So I highly recommend if your you are REALLY beginner level but have reasonable expectations.
There is a website that collects links to all free Graded readers and very easy material here : N5 .
As a side note it is just so funny to think of the impact I have had (without doing much) on the diffusion of Japanese Graded Readers. Have you ever read this big 900 pages PDF of Graded Readers. Someone’s made it after I shared on reddit the websites where you can download the originals. The JRPG sakura that are mentioned in the Tofugu article were posted on reddit and got mostly ignored with something like 12 upvotes. I noticed them and shared them a lot afterwards. They are now part of the mainstream Graded reader pack. Maybe I shall start a Youtube channel lol.
I would also like to recommend graded readers. I’m in a similar boat with reading, so these have been helpful to me.
Another thing I’ve done is try reading a children’s book (most recently, “わんわん探偵団”; which I haven’t finished, but recommend!), even if it’s too advanced for me, and just look up the vocabulary and grammar I don’t recognize along the way (usually about 75-80% of it ). To do this I use sites like jisho.org, Kanji alive Web Application, kanji.sljfaq.org for kanji and vocab, and bunpro for grammar, and they’re all free. You can pay for Bunpro to use the flashcard system, but all the grammar explanations are free.
I know how frustrating it can be to find good reading content as a fellow beginner, so I hope you find what you’re looking for!
Natively has quite a few community graded N5 level resources, see here. The Tadoku series is freely available and seems quite popular given the number of people reading them (I see it in the global feed).
I actually got the level 0 first set and man is it humbling But I am going to struggle bus my way through using my pictures clues for context! I was an elementary school reading teacher for years, so using the same strategies I taught my students has been a hoot!
I recommend Crystal Hunters. The story is good, and it’s really satisfying to read a whole manga. But, it’s definitely easier than native material… the language is simpler, with two versions (roughly N5 and N4), they give you a page-by-page vocab list, and I like that it has an English version to check your reading against. The first volume is free on the creators’ website, and the others occasionally go on sale for free at the Amazon Kindle store, though if you liked the first one, they’re worth it even at regular price.
My own reading trajectory went from starting with two volumes of children’s manga with furigana to… a manga featuring the same cast without furigana, aimed for a much older audience, and then before I finished that, with around N5 grammar, I committed to a massive translation project attempting to translate pro wrestling show recaps intended for adult native speakers . So I’m not exactly the best at advising how to start with simple reading material. But, well, you’ll be surprised at how motivated you feel when it’s something you really want to read that would be otherwise completely inaccessible to you.
I can say, though, that when you start to feel like you have a basic handle on things, definitely try out the absolute beginners book club here! That was how I was able to read manga at all at the beginning. It’s fun, and the community is very helpful!
Nothing from me but words of encouragement, I’m afraid. The posts above list some AMAZING resources that simply weren’t available when I was first starting.
There are now so many resources available on the internet that the difficulty has become choosing from the best rather than finding anything at all. Trust me, there has never been a better time to learn this or any language.
Tofugu is particularly awesome, but I’m also a big fan of Cure Dolly and other video series on YouTube (Cure Dolly is painfully weird at first, but the information is worth its weight in gold, and I’m horribly saddened that she’s passed).
Don’t be afraid to tackle stuff that’s beyond your current abilities. Ornery persistence and finding an instructional style that works for you is more important than matching levels. You’ve already discovered the most vital resource.
It’s a super popular children’s book series.
There’s pictures on every page, there aren’t many kanji but when there is, there’s always furigana, and the stories are cute and funny and just a little immature (gives me Captain Underpants vibes).
There’s a bunch of books for it so plenty of reading material, and there’s also an anime, too if you want to get some listening practice in!
I’m pretty sure you can get the books on Amazon or Rakuten Marketplace - they might be on Kindle, too!
Tadoku website has level 0 books and they teach us beginners how to read them. Some has audio as well and they all have pictures. After I realize that I am not ready for Satori Reader and a lot of other graded readers, this was recommended and it works best.