Difficulty reading easier content?

Hey y’all, been a while since I was on these forums.

I’ve recently jumped back into the reading grind, and I’ve been following some of the book club stuff. I’m finding that “easier content” such as 時をかける少女 is particularly hard to read due to the lack of Kanji.

This is my first light novel, so I was expecting it to be challenging…however I’m finding that words that I know such as 不思議 are written in hiragana, so it’s making the sentences quite long winded and confusing to read. Is this a normal thing for light novels?

Surely Japanese natives wouldn’t struggle in this instance, which makes me wonder if I perhaps just don’t know the words as well as I thought, and I am too dependent on kanji for reading? Would you recommend just trying to plough on with the book, or to maybe try something a bit harder that potentially has more kanji to break up the sentences?

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There is certainly a cutoff point when everything is in hiragana where reading it really becomes anoying. Not having read the novel myself I can’t comment to much on how annoying the novel is haveing that many words in kana only. Generally I would say it depends on what you want to achieve. If your only goal is reading in Japanese it might be okay to just skip more kana heavy books and jump into slightly more difficult material.

You need to be aware though that even words that are “normally” written in Kanji can appear in kana from time to time. So if you want to have a good grasp on the language you should at least be able to pick out what the word means in these cases too. It should be pretty simple since you have the whole sentence as context clue which word makes sense in that position.

Another consideration is that if you can’t understand it in kana only within the context of the sentence you would probably also not be able to understand it if you would listen to the material. I think if your goal is overall fluency you should therefore keep going and try to work on getting more used to the words appearing in kana only.

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Every Japanese learner suffers through this at least once. It’s the two phases of learning kanji: phase one is “why are there so many kanji?”, and then phase two is “why are there so FEW kanji?” :slightly_smiling_face:

Well, it’s possible. Native speakers learn the words first and then the kanji later, while we learn the kanji first and the words later. I’d like to think they’d still struggle with homophones at least a bit, but the fact that books intended for kids in the なぜ?どうして? series and the like are written almost entirely in kana would tend to suggest otherwise.

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Part of the problem here is that 時をかける少女 isn’t a light novel. I don’t think it’s technically a kids book, but it’s much closer to a kids book than an adult-targeted novel or light novel in terms of kanji usage. I think what you’re experiencing is pretty normal and I’d guess that most Japanese learners who learn a lot of kanji experience this at some point. That said, I agree with @downtimes that reading words in kana “simulates” listening practice in a sense, so if you can’t recognize a word in kana it probably means you don’t know the word well enough. But if you want to read a book with more “normal” kanji usage, you’re definitely better off reading an adult-targeted novel or an actual light novel.

Specifically, if you want to read a standalone novel I’d recommend かがみの孤城. It has normal kanji usage but is on the easier side, so I think it’ll be good for a first book (or second if you finish 時をかける少女). There’s a book club which is currently about halfway done the book (which was split into two parts, so we’re nearly done the first part). I already finished the whole book and loved it. かがみの孤城 (Kagami no Kojou) Book Club

If you want to check out a longer light novel series I’d recommend 本好きの下剋上. I think this is also on the easier side, but it’s slightly harder than かがみの孤城 in virtually every aspect of the language. There was also a book club for this for the first three books, along with a discussion topic for subsequent volumes. I’ve read the first 14 books so far and it’s very consistently enjoyable. 本好きの下剋上 home thread

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It actually is! It started as a periodical publication in a magazine titled 中学三年コース. Like, it was literally supposed to be textbook-type reading material for middle schoolers :rofl:

That really depends on the author, but I feel like light novel authors tend to be more showoff-y with their kanji usage. The most “normal” kanji usage I have seen was in non-fiction books… but I guess that might not spark OP’s interest.

As much as I would always recommend 本好き, I feel like trying to read it as my first novel would have broken my spirit, hopes, and dreams. That being said, the first volume is sometime free to grab on Bookwalker/booklive, and anyway the unedited webnovel is available for free, so there’s nothing to lose for checking it…


Speaking of recommendations, here are a few:

Checking scores on Natively, the easiest novels/light novels I have read are:

  • くまクマ熊ベアー (light novel; female protagonist; isekai) Fairly easy to read indeed, but not the most fun series.
  • 悪夢のエレベーター (novel? comedy). Part of the 悪夢の〇〇 series. Each book is an independent story with different protagonists stuck in a completely absurd situation. As the title implies, the characters are stuck in an elevator in this case… but that’s not the main issue.
    Since the situation is easy to grasp and they are all using everyday speech patterns, it’s a very easy read. I’m not a fan of that kind of story, though, and honestly only read it since it was recommended on the Jalup website as an easy novel. I think it was the third or fourth novel I ever read in Japanese.

Additionally, based on my own experience, despite the higher expected difficulty on Natively, I would also say that the following two novels are easy to read:

  • 虹 (novel; romance) It’s actually part 4 of the 世界の旅 series by 吉本 ばなな, but all books are unrelated (instead, the concept is that the author found inspiration for each book by traveling to a different location). Both everyday situation and everyday speech patterns, so I feel like it’s an easy read. Also, I liked the story even though it’s fairly standard as a romance story (the protagonist falls in love with an older married man; there are some twists, but that’s the gist).
  • 忍者だけど、OLやってます (novel, although it feels close to a light novel; mystery? also comedy and a bit of romance). The main protagonist was born in a ninja clan, but wants to live a normal life instead, so she cut her ties with her family and became an OL instead. However, things do not go as she hoped and she has to use her skills for spoiler reasons.

Additionally, there’s also コンビニ人間, that has a book club. I thought it was overall easy, but maybe not the most interesting read (although I liked it).

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I was partly going based on the “I’m finding that “easier content” such as 時をかける少女 is particularly hard to read” part of the OP. I get what you’re saying though since I definitely couldn’t have read 本好き as my first book either. But I also was only level 40 on WK and didn’t even know all the N4 grammar when I started my first book, so maybe OP’s situation is different. It really depends on what OP has studied and already read I suppose, but assuming “first light novel” really meant “first book of any kind” then yeah, it’s probably not a good pick. I also seem to be an outlier who finds 本好き easier than most people (based on Natively comparisons), so maybe I’m a bad judge…

コンビニ人間 is also a good first/second book recommendation I think. It is definitely on the easier side. And although you say it may not be the most interesting read, I think most people (on the WK forums at least) enjoyed it, including me. It’s one of those situations where it was much more interesting than I would have expected based on the premise.

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