I chose a few textbooks. Which textbooks do you recommend?

I studied Genki 1 and 2. I memorized 2,200 常用 kanji characters and hundreds of japanese words in Anki. After learning Genki, I wasn’t able to consume native materials. I had been studying Tobira for a while. Tobira was doable because I already had some vocabulary.

I didn’t know what to learn next after Tobira. Thus, I started searching for a comprehensive learning plan.

Genki 1 and 2 cover JLPT N5 and N4.
Tobira seems to cover N4 and N3.
Nihongo So-Matome seems to be good for reviews
New Kanzen Master looks good for learning advanced japanese

I constructed a few learning paths.

  1. Genki 1 & 2 → Tobira → New Kanzen Master N2 and N1
  2. Genki 1 & 2 → Tobira → Nihongo So-matome N3, N2, and N1
  3. Genki 1 & 2 → Nihongo So-matome N3, N2, and N1
  4. Genki 1 & 2 → Tobira → Nihongo So-Matome N3 → New Kanzen Master N2 and N1
  5. Genki 1 & 2 → Nihongo So-Matome N3 → New Kanzen Master N2 and N1

Which one do you recommend?


I’d be curious to hear what people have to say about your path #3 (Genki → So-matome) - at least as far as through N3. I was just reading a review of So-matome on a different site where the blogger said they thought it was a bit weak.

After spending a long time reviewing and focusing on kanji (via WK), I’m looking to dive into N3 prep, so I don’t have much to recommend myself.

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I’ve been following the Genki 1 & 2 → Tobira path, though I don’t know where to go after Tobira, or even if I’m going to keep at textbooks. I’ve been thinking about following your learning path #1, though. I’ve heard New Kanzen Master is a good choice after Tobira.

I also couldn’t do much with native material right after Genki, but I feel Tobira really gave me a push. It teaches you just enough beyond the absolute basics covered in Genki that you don’t have to scratch your head at almost every grammar construct you come across. Since starting Tobira, I’m also better able to identify grammar points I don’t know and look them up.

That’s why I don’t feel it’s absolutely necessary to go find another textbook after Tobira if you just want to consume native material. I feel it gives you enough that you can do the rest yourself. Though you can always go all the way with the texbooks if that’s your thing (or if you want to study for the JLPT). But as I said, I can’t help beyond that because I’m not there yet.


I’d recommend learning path 1, only because it’s pretty much what I did. You can replace Tobira with Kanzen Master N3, or you can do it after Tobira if you want to be thorough. In any case, you don’t need N1 to consume most native material (unless you’re reading very hard stuff). A very solid knowledge of N3 and N2 grammar is the most important. Instances for usage of N1 grammar are few and far apart.


Shouldn’t the ratio go in the opposite direction? Sounds like you learned a lot of kanji characters in isolation, so it’s not surprising you couldn’t make use of them.


I started with Hacking Japanese Supercourse before learning Genki. The course recommended that I memorize and keep reviewing 2,200 常用 kanji characters and 2,000 japanese words in Anki. I still review kanji and japanese words on Anki everyday.

The theory is that once I get kanji out of the way as quickly as possible, I can focus on grammar and vocabulary. The theory worked in my case. I’m not afraid of kanji. It took me 111 days to traverse 2,200 常用 kanji characters on Anki. After that, reviewing kanji characters has been increasingly easier.

Define very hard stuff. Is it japanese novels like 1Q84?

How effective was path 1?

When you say you learned those kanji, what exactly did you learn for each one?

Anything on the more difficult end of light novels as well as actual literature novels.

As for how effective the path has been. General overview is that I did Tobira → Kanzen N3 → Kanzen N2 over six-seven months. I nearly passed N2 after that but failed because my reading speed wasn’t fast enough. After that I just did some reading and then passed it the next time around.

I mostly just do reading now. With N2 grammar out of the way 90% of my problems are vocabulary-related.

I honestly would not rate 1Q84 as “very hard stuff”. Murakami’s writing style is very nice and clear.
Reading experience (and a large vocab, I guess?) is necessary, but a solid N2 would get you through it effortlessly.

(Source: I read it at the time I attempted the N1 the first time, and failed by a 3 points margin, which I would argue is a solid N2)


Each anki deck contains a kanji character and a story for “one” meaning of the kanji character.
Because I am going to learn kanji readings through words, I didn’t focus on memorizing kanji reading.

As time passed, I put scenes from anime, drama, and movie into kanji decks so that I can memorize a meaning of a kanji character more effortlessly. Now, every kanji deck contains images and a story to describe the images. Images symbolize each constituent of a kanji character in some way.

It’s my own version of memory palace technique.

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Would the transition between Tobira and New Kanzen Master N2 be smooth?

Kind of. Kanzen Master N2 obviously draws from an N2 pool of vocabulary and kanji which might make transitioning for you difficult (it seems you don’t have a huge vocabulary?). But I don’t think that doing Kanzen N3 before would help you as far as that’s concerned. Overall, I’d say that it’s not such a rough transition that you wouldn’t be able to do it with a dictionary and some effort.

Transitioning from Genki 2 to Tobira was ok because I already reviewed 2,200 常用 kanji characters and a few hundreds of japanese words several times on Anki by the time I finished Genki 2.

Would the transition from Tobira to New Kanzen Master N2 be like transition from Genki 2 to Tobira?

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It will be more difficult. Kanzen Master N2 is in pure Japanese, Kanzen Master N3 is multi-language. Additionally, it’ll draw from N2’s pool of words which is twice as large as N3’s.

The biggest issue is just transitioning from English + Japanese to pure Japanese. It’s more intimidating than it is hard, but you’ll definitely need some perseverance. It sounds like you’re pretty committed in that department though so I think you’ll make it.

People on Kanzen N3 or Tobira say Tobira is better than New Kanzen Master N3.

Perhaps, are there better books for N2 and N1 than New Kanzen Master?

As far as Kanzen N3 vs Tobira, it’s 100% up to you. I say that Kanzen is short, to-the-point, and teaches you to the test better. Tobira teaches a lot of Japanese grammar that is just useful, but not necessarily going to get you a certificate. The choice depends on if you want to pass benchmarks or to get better at Japanese.

No idea. I believe the competition at the N2/N1 level is between the Nihongo Sou Matome series and the Kanzen Master series. Maybe someone who’s used the the former can chime in. I’ve never used it.

The goal is to get better at japanese in terms of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I am not interested in passing the tests, but I use them as a measuring standard.

Reading, vocabulary, and grammar are going to be covered by textbooks for a while.

I have been practicing japanese phonetics with japanese drama and Dogen’s japanese phonetics course.

I have no definite plan for listening comprehension and speaking. Perhaps, I will try language exchange.
I have no definite plan for writing, either.

Do you recognize any good resource for N2 and N1 in the “Advanced” section on https://www.reddit.com/r/LearnJapanese/wiki/index/resources/textbooks? Perhaps, New Kanzen Master N2 and N1 are good for just learning japanese, too?

Do you think Tobira could feel weird for someone who didn’t use Genki (I used Japanese from Zero)? Is it more classroom style like I hear Genki is?

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Oh definitely. They’re designed to help you pass the tests specifically, but the tests are still a measure of proficiency. Passing the tests doesn’t necessarily mean you’re proficient but it’s a good indicator that you’re getting somewhere.

Aside from Kanzen Master and Aozora, I’m not familiar with a lot of the resources. I generally take r/learnJapanese’s advice with a grain of salt. Although it does have some N3/N2 learners, it’s generally full of people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

It’s 100% usable by yourself. I ignored all the exercises and still got a lot out of it. It’s a huge book, so even though parts of it are dedicated to classroom exercises there’s still a ton that… isn’t classroom exercises.