Ideas of beginners books to buy in Japan

Hi y’all,

I’ll be visiting Japan in a couple of days (after 1,5 years in the planning). I wanted to buy some basic (very beginners) level books while over there. I tried going thru the threads but I am unsure if I should try to follow the book clubs or something else…

My current plan is to get to lvl 20 in WK and then restart with Grammar from the Minna book (only did the first 2 chapters, then realized I rather know more Kanji first). I want to complement this with some reading material.

Thank you in advance for any tips!


The reading clubs are a great idea. You can pick up copies of よつばと in Akihabara for around 400 yen.


My tip: buy something for beginners, sure, but also buy something you really want to read as well. Gives you a goal to aim for. :slightly_smiling_face:

Also, send us photos of your vacation. :grin:


Good idea! However, I am not sure what I want to read >.>'…
I am not a huge fan of anything that is why I was hoping for some suggestion on what is an easy read.

I’ll be sure to post some photos, I have some friend already over there, and the 花見 season has already started.


What is よつばと ? Is it a manga correct, about a 5 year old?

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Pretty much. It seems to be the one and only book (wanikani) Japanese learners ever read judging by how often it’s recommended.


Correct. But more notably, it’s an easily digestible work for a new reader. Lots of common, every day vocabulary.

Great! Sounds like what I need :smiley:

I’ll try to also pick up チーズスイートホーム as it is the next book listed for the Absolute Beginner Book Club

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Not sure I agree with that. It has a large amount of slang, which can actually make it quite hard for a beginner.


Fair point!

I’ve been enjoying that aspect of it since I figured I’d need to learn that stuff sooner or later and probably not in a textbook, but it is tricky.

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This may make it hard to recommend things…usually people seem to have an easier time reading something they enjoy.

But the good news is that there’s text everywhere. If you pick up free magazines, maps, and brochures, you can have plenty of material to go through at your leisure after you get home from your trip.

However, if you really want to buy something, how about graded readers? Either the ones written for Japanese learners or for native-speaking kids. The ones for Japanese learners will start with very simple grammar, while the ones aimed at particular 小学 grade levels may use more advanced grammar and few kanji.

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Hi Saruko, graded readers sound like a good idea. I would like something with Kanji. Any specific example on how to recognize those books?

Uploading: IMG_20190402_220034.jpg…

I hope you can see them. Himeji Castle and a little street in Osaka


Sorry for jumping in there - if you’re going for graded readers for Japanese kids, they’re usually aimed at specific grades which they’ll showcase on the book, from what I’ve seen. Depending on the book it may not be sealed, but there’s usually something that you can open to get a look at the general level it’s aimed at.

Judging solely by Kanji, you should know most of the ones for up to 3rd grade and most of the ones for grade 4, so I guess it depends how much you mind looking up Kanji readings.

The grammar and sentence complexity will also ride with grade though, so it might be a good idea to get a variety?

Aah, Himeji Castle is beautiful! :blush:


Love Himeji Castle. :slightly_smiling_face:

Second image doesn’t seem to have loaded, though…

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for kids:
Look for the grade level on the cover of the book. As an example, here’s a book that one of the book clubs here read recently. On Amazon there are some pictures of inside pages so you can see the kanji usage (fairly minimal, at this grade level).

for language learners:
This thread has a list and cover pictures of common graded readers for learners of Japanese (there are not as many as there are for Japanese kids):

日本語多読 means extensive reading in Japanese, so a lot of these books will have that on the cover somewhere.

Sorry, I can’t help you with what section to find them in the bookstore because I’ve only bought books online. Maybe somebody else has more information on that…?


So… regarding Yotsuba&, there is an important distinction to make. It is extremely easy to READ but it is not necessarily equally easy to UNDERSTAND.

My skills are limited, but I can read Yotsuba& quite well. On the other hand, there is a large amount of colloquial dialogue in it which requires me to stop to look up exactly what does the dialogue mean.

At the point where I am, I get the gist of what is going on, it is really funny nonetheless, and I am not bothering myself with understanding every single detail.

I do know that there are some people for which this approach is unsatisfactory, but it works for me.

And by the way, yeah I picked it up last time I was in Japan :wink:


I think this is why it gets recommended so much. You can get enjoyment and a sense of fulfillment from it (“Look ma, I’m reading Japanese!”) relatively early on and feel like you understand the broad strokes of it. At the beginner level, you’re going to find reading any native material to be full of a bunch of things you don’t understand and that’s okay! Even when you don’t fully understand it, you do learn a lot by reading and start to fill in more and more gaps over time. Chi’s Sweet Home and Shirokuma Cafe are two other series that I see mentioned for beginners, but I haven’t tried them myself.

For those who are tackling Yotsubato and want some help with the more casual speech, I’d highly recommend the book Japanese the Manga Way. Since it’s based around reading actual speech used in manga, it explains these aspects of the language that textbooks often neglect to mention.

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The graded collections for school kids are nice. I would totally go with those again! (I’m reading still the last 2 volumes of 10分で読める伝記) Only thing I would do differently been in Japan, since they are books aimed at natives, you can find the entire collection at BookOff for a price that’s a steal!! :wink:


I was there last year walking around the garden that surrounds the castle admiring the sakura when I got to a somewhat secluded spot and paused for a moment to take a break and then heard a cat quietly meowing. It got louder and then out of the bushes one cat appeared, then another, and then another. They were all walking around the clearing and being quite vocal. I was wondering what was going on but then a few minutes later a Japanese girl appeared with cat snacks to feed them. So that day I learned that the Himeji castle park has a secret entrance to にゃんこ王国

Anyway, back to the original topic, my recommendation would be volumes of Aria: the Masterpiece, or volumes of Aria / Aqua.