Can I learn good enough Japanese to live there within ~9 months, as well as how can I learn to speak and listen to Japanese

Howdy partners, I was looking up information on the JLPT and saw that having an N1 or N2 level certificate would suffice instead of taking a language exam for people entering the country. I currently am at the level of a natural born Japanese 3rd grader (maybe even less), meaning I know hiragana and katakana to a level where I recognize the kana within one maybe two seconds. I also have just started learning the first and most basic kanji on here. My questions are if I would be able to self educate myself to a position of high enough proficiency to live in Japan by roughly May 2022 or so (possibly summer as well). It’s not so much as a “Should I or Might I” as a “Can I” question because long story short my sister offered to let me move with her one she finishes her current year of college so I don’t exactly have a way to ‘extend’ and learn more beyond that time (other than just living there and picking it up there too).

I also don’t particularly know how to understand and create words in Japanese, be it hiragana or katakana or sort of kanji but I know that kanji are already words, but I was wondering when (if on wanikani) or where I could learn that (all within the time span of the previous question too).

P.S. I also am a senior in high school currently without a job so expensive tutoring is out of the question as well as spending 24/7 on it, but I still am trying to grind it out as much as I can. I also will still be learning as much in Japan as I can but I would need a job and I can’t really get any jobs such as retail or sales without knowing a good amount of knowledge.

EDIT: Thanks just SO much for everyone who replied to this whether with advice on moving, learning, not moving, how stupid an idea it is, and all of that! The perspectives and individual ideas and opinions help me learn so much and plan a better future for this road I’m trying to take so I really do appreciate everyone’s two cents, they’re far more valuable than just two cents! That being said, a lot of people said I might be getting ahead of myself, which I’m sure happens a lot with people wanting to move but I can assure you that the details of moving is something I’m going to spend a lot of time on planning and thinking about. With everyone’s input on the thread I can formulate a better idea as to what I should do and all. Also I’ve been trying to make sure everyone gets replied to so I really apologize if I missed someone, this post got a LOT more response than I every could’ve expected. This community is super helpful and kind and I’ll be sure to ask or update on what happens! Thanks to everyone :smiley:

Second Edit: I actually cannot physically respond to everyone who responded which makes me feel super guilty but there are just so many people who commented and I’ve talked with and had whole minithreads on and oh god it’s just a bit too much for me though. I’ll still be going through and picking out all the information that I can use but there’s a long list of replies which couldn’t make me happier, even if some comments are fully against it. It allows me to take in another perspective. So just, again thanks to everyone who checks this post out, for anyone else who has a similar situation or even just wants to know what they need to move to Japan, come read this because holy is there a lot of incredible and diverse information for anyone and everyone to use.


Welcome to the site.

I’m a little confused by some of the things you mentioned.

A native Japanese 3rd grader has a level of Japanese that exceeds that of someone with N1 in some ways, particularly in speaking ability, in all likelihood. They’d know about half the number of kanji though. So having that level of Japanese would mean you are at quite a high level. But it doesn’t sound like it’s been long since you began learning. Can you clarify more how long you’ve studied Japanese?

Second, there isn’t really any level of Japanese needed to live in Japan. Many foreigners come to Japan with almost no Japanese ability at all. Mostly they are English teachers. If you want to do something other than teach English, then yes you need Japanese, but there’s no real shortcut to it other than just putting in the work.

Of course, planning to go to Japan in the current covid environment seems pretty risky. I’m not sure when they’ll allow people to come for work in large numbers.


Thanks! Also sorry for the confusion, I was looking up online when a native japanese person learns hiragana and katakana so I could crack some jokes with my friends and most sites said around that grade level, apologies for the misunderstanding.

I actually started learning around two weeks ago, but I’m a pretty quick learner so I’ve just been curious what I can be doing in the meantime while learning lessons on wanikani.

Also, I’m really good with English however I’d probably be a terrible teacher, plus I’ve heard they had a lot of English teachers being laid off and such (not sure if that’s true or not though). But I’d ideally work at a tech store or perhaps groceries or even clothing stores. Since I’d be living with someone I wouldn’t be needing a large income so these basic (unless different in Japan?) jobs that require little to no speaking but still understanding would be best.

Plus I know that Japan is still way more locked down than America but I can get all my vaccines if needed and such, it’s just an opportunity I cannot pass up seeing as how my home is somewhat turbulent and staying there for more than a year is not ideal anyways.


Okay… They learn hiragana and katakana in first grade, basically as soon as they start elementary school. They also learn 80 kanji in first grade. So by the time they leave first grade they have all the tools to be able to write Japanese, just without many kanji.

Your biggest issue would be getting a visa so you can stay for longer than just vacation length. Usually you get that through your employer. I’m not sure any retail stores are going to bother trying to get visas for foreign employees, so you’d need some other way to get a visa that you can legally work on.

Most employment visas require a bachelor’s degree as well.


To live there? Absolutely!

However, I’d also like to say that most people I know who have been learning Japanese and been fortunate enough to stay in the country say that the most significant improvement to their language ability actually happened when they were in Japanese.

That of course does not mean you shouldn’t start right away! On the contrary, if you have any intention of being able to converse with people upon your arrival, I would say you’re cutting it close in terms of time. :sweat_smile:

I would also suggest that it would probably be best to set realistic expectations: N1/N2 is going to be an incredible push, and there is just a very small chance you’ll be able to reach that level within a nine month period whilst managing the already busy schedule of a high school senior. I’d say that N3 is a good point to aim for. (If you want perspective though: I’m N3ish moving onto N2 and I’ve been studying for 3 years now, (studying more seriously for about half that) and I am also a senior school student (in the UK)).

Of course, if you still want to aim for N1, I wouldn’t stop you. My attitude is, if you aim high, even if you fall short, you’ll fall less far than if you were aiming more modestly to begin with. :wink: (Just don’t be disappointed if you do fall short, because, in my experience, it happens more often than not :sweat_smile:).

Here are what would be my ‘top tips and stuff I wish I’d known from the start’:

  1. (Especially given your tight time limit) Skip convoluted books like Genki and Minna no Nihongo. I especially commend Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide as it was the thing that literally skyrocketed my learning.

  2. Stop comparing Japanese to English. (This is especially to do with grammar. Once I did this, things got a lot easier and more fun and interesting).

  3. Start WaniKani as quickly as possible. (Seriously, later on, reading is great for learning new vocabulary, kanji, etc. but for that bedrock, WaniKani is fantastic (ugh, should’ve used it when I started… :persevere:)).

Other great resources include:
Maggie Sensei
JLPT Sensei (great for checking your level too :wink:)
Cure Dolly (creepy, but good :laughing:)

More advanced stuff like Tobira is great, but keep that in the back catalogue for now. :wink:

Anyway, that’s about all the advice I’ve got. :sweat_smile:
Just remember, continuing is more than most people do! Do that, and you’ll ultimately achieve your goal. Good luck!


You seem really excited for this idea to be living in Japan with your sister, and you’re really young so I feel like you’re jumping the gun on a lot of things here. To be proficient in Japanese, it will take at least a year if not longer. You could MAYBE cut this time down if you dedicated all your free hours and took lessons with a tutor (which you cant do). You don’t need to know Japanese to live there, but…how exactly ARE you going to live there?

I’ll let others focus on the learning the language part, but I kind of want to know how you will be staying there without a visa.

Without a visa you can only stay for 90 days at a time and you’ll have to leave and re-enter the country with the temporary visa on your passport. How is your sister moving there? Without a job or school sponsoring her, she most likely will not be able to get a visa to be there also for over 90 days. If she gets a visa and you dont, that will be an issue. If she is getting sponsored, unless you’re married or her legal dependent, I dont think her visa will apply to you.

To be employed through a job in Japan that isnt a Japanese company, you will almost always need a bachelor’s degree. If you want to work for a Japanese company, you will need to pass N1 or N2 and probably have a degree from a Japanese college or a bachelor’s degree from America.

Part time work wont be as hard to get…but Japan isnt like living in America at all. You cant just show up and expect to live there lol


Ya bud you got this, wanikani and bunpro and you’ll be fine. Or at least a lot closer to being able to pretend well enough to get in


Thanks a ton! I already know Spanish so trust me I know just how different Japanese is compared to English (or any latin based language), I have absolutely no clue how far I’ll be able to get by the time I get to Japan in terms of N1-5 but I know that anything above N3 will be quite impossible for me, even N3 is pushing the limit.

I’ll be sure to check out Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide, I’ve heard the name a lot but not been sure if I’d check it out but I’ll be sure to start looking right away. And I have been on WaniKani for roughly 3 days I think? It’s been agonizingly slow but I know it’s just to help cement the radicals and kanji into my brain. I was wondering though if there are any pre-set materials like the tofugu hiragana/katakana quiz site because that would be SO helpful for hammering down on the vocab.

I appreciate all the help and the kind words, I’ll be sure to do my best. Who knows maybe I’ll be N1 by the time I arrive, a national prodigy lol.


Yeah. Doing something like N2 or N1 in under a year is a massive challenge, but we’ve seen people do that by basically doing nothing but Japanese studying for that time.

Getting a visa and job seems like the bigger challenge.

EDIT: As an aside, the JLPT is offered only once a year in America (you said you’re American?) and twice a year in some other countries.

So actually you have just about 3 months to prepare for the next one in December, or 15 months for the one after that in December 2022. If you have a way to take it in one of the countries that offer it twice a year, then you can go for the 11 month away one in July 2022. That’s just the logistics of the JLPT.


One word (or is it two?? :thinking:): Userscripts

Check out this thread:

I’ll let others name names (I don’t actually use them often), but I think there is one that allows you to quiz yourself outside of reviews and you can set it only to test you on certain categories like only n levels, or only vocabulary, etc. Sorry I can’t remember the name. :sweat_smile:

I’d also recommend taking advantage of the third-party phone applications. I do 95% of my reviews on Tsurukame (Flaming Durtles before I switched to IOS) and I could not live without them.

Especially with school, it’s incredibly helpful to be able to do reviews where ever and whenever.

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Well I think I’m rightfully excited, who wouldn’t want to live in Japan especially at such a young age? Home is kind of a hell for me and also my sister so we both want to move, she wants to get a job in game design or coding which is very prominent in Japan and I want to go because I mean it’d be awesome, like being a foreign exchange student but without any of the fees (school fees not visa fees).

As for the visa I’m leaving a lot of the official stuff to her seeing as how she’s the one who invited me to go with her, but I still looked into it and it doesn’t seem nearly as hard as you say to get a visa. We’d probably both be getting multiple entry visas, I’ll probably be attending a school there (not quite sure how that works yet but I’ll get things straightened out later) and she might too, but we don’t have plans for that so it’d probably be some type of visa.

From what I learned on the official JLPT website, an N1 or N2 certificate is really only required for jobs revolving around the medical field, but I don’t have any plans to do that at all. Sure having a higher certificate of the language would help with other jobs and such but I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all if other users are correct with my ability to cram a lot before I move. Plus I know Japan isn’t like living in America, that’s why I want to move there lol.

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In addition to the youtube channels Maulrus mentioned, I would add Japanese Ammo with Misa - too slow to be the main source of learning, but some videos are really useful, such as the one that teaches sentences commonly used in restaurants, and other topics that are hard to find in an organized manner elsewhere


You’re not supposed to work if you have a student visa. I’m not sure what you mean by “a long term residence type of visa.” If it were that simple, people would just show up and live here… which is not something you can do.


Alright dude i get it. You’re an expert on all things living in Japan and working in Japan as a 17 year old who has been studying for two weeks.

You’re excited I get it, but don’t try to talk to me like im the idiot. Good luck.


I… wasn’t. Apologies if I somehow said something that hurt your feelings. I don’t know practically anything about what life in Japan is even like, but that’s the fun of it right? Gotta live a little, I might never get the chance again.


no need upset


It’s great to be excited about a dream, and I’m not trying to rain on your parade, but at the same time you have to be realistic.

Going to school in Japan sounds like a great idea! You can look into the MEXT scholarship program for your undergrad degree, or you could enroll in a language school to focus on Japanese.

HOWEVER, due to the pandemic, the Japanese borders are closed. The only people allowed in are those with jobs offers whose companies applied to for a special exemption. No international students are being allowed in. No tourists are being allowed in. There are students who have been waiting to enter Japan for over 18 months now.

It’s possible this situation could change by May 2022, but there’s no guarantee. The Japanese government has made it pretty clear that international students and foreign workers are not a huge priority for them. I would not put all your eggs in the “coming to Japan” basket until there’s been a definite improvement in the immigration situation.


Ooh this reminds me, @McYodo mentioned they’re in high school, which of course makes college an option to go to Japan if they can fulfill the requirements

Gonna tag @wwwwwwwvvwwwwwww here so he can give some pointers


Yeah, the visa fees shouldn’t be a problem as well as the paperwork. Plus I highly doubt my sister would’ve invited me to move with her if she didn’t have any idea on how we’d move there so even if I don’t know the exacts on getting visas she probably does.

Also I do live in America (an annoyingly long distance from the nearest N5 or N4 testing center though). Plus, correct me if I’m mistaken, which I probably am, but doesn’t the immigration testing/official something give the test? It’s just having an N1 or N2 certificate waives the need for taking the test, though I probably need something around N3 by the time I leave.


Visa… fees? I mean, there might be some kind of fee involved… but it’s not clear to me that you have a solid grasp on what a visa is. Not trying to be insulting, but it would be a good idea to really read up on it.

There’s no immigration language test an American needs to pass to go to Japan. If an employer wants to hire you without any language ability, they can. The JLPT is just run by an organization that does the test for people who want certificates for other reasons.