I'm finally in Japan! Absolute must-have textbooks?

So, I’ve been living in Japan for over a week now. I’m on an exchange year and my major back at home is Japanese studies (have been studying Japanese for almost 3 years).
My university’s bookstore has a vast collection of JLPT prep materials, and in general a good selection on textbooks for whatever skill you want to improve.

I was wondering, as an intermediate with def not 100% N3 mastery, are there any textbooks/series etc. you would highly recommend?

I’ve used some of the Sou Matome books before but somehow the Kanji and Vocabulary Books didn’t work for me too well. But I’d like to study a bit more outside of my language courses, and we don’t really use textbooks there.


I’ve been in Japan for 8 months (I had an N3 before coming here) and I find I have a lot of down time at my job, so I use a book a coworker gave me called:
留学生のための漢字の教科書 上級1000
【りゅうがくせいのためのかんじのきょうかしょ じょうきゅう1000】

This is the higher level book, as there are beginner and intermediate versions as well.

It has 1000 of the most useful kanji for foreign residents in Japan. Each chapter has ~30 kanji related to a certain topic pertaining to foreign resident life. The first couple of chapters are very dense, government related kanji and example words, but afterwards the topics open up to common historical knowledge, geography of Japan, etc. I guarantee if you think some of these kanji are random or obtuse, you may see it on a daily basis living in Japan.

That being said, using this book is best for pen-and-paper bookworms such as myself. Following the stroke order, I copy each kanji enough to fill a column in a gridline kanji book, then I copy each example word several times, and fill in the spaces with the appropriate onyomi (katakana) and kunyomi (hiragana) readings. Each chapter has two practice reading selections, which I use for reading fluency practice to conclude what I’ve learned.

If you are this kind of student, this is worth checking out. Here it is on Amazon for ~2000 yen.


I found graded readers the most valuable to balance out the textbook studying. My uni had an ample amount of them.

Not sure if they’d count as textbooks, but this series is solid:


The book series @ludovicus93 linked is a great supplement for a foreign student in Japan.

If you want a traditional textbook with workbooks for generalized grammar study, the Quartet series is popular.

If you want more immediate results for communicating right away, Japanese for Busy People and Pimsleur serve that function.

If you just want to hone in on JLPT readiness, the TRY!, Shin Kanzen Master, and the Speed Master series are specifically designed for that and they do it well.

More than likely, if you’re approaching N3 readiness, it’s a good time to take off the training wheels and just fully immerse, since, ya know, you’re THERE :slight_smile: Talk to a cubic boatload of people, making egregious amounts of conversational mistakes, read things that you have no clue what they mean, and in general just obstinately refuse to use English as a crutch, and if you see other English-speaking people, avoid them like they have Coronavirus! Don’t form little English-speaking cliques in Japan!


Thank you for your recommendations!

I’ve had 会話 classes for 2 years back home and of course attend language courses here daily. I’ve been trying to engage in some conversations with native speakers (it’s only been a week but I somehow got to stumble through 2 hours of conversation with 2 Japanese students planning to go on exchange to my home country). I just feel like I’m lacking a lot of Kanji and Vocabulary and I could really brush up on my Grammar :weary:

ahhh I can’t access the link for some reason :frowning:

so basically read read read a lot?

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close your eyes and imagine your exchange year is over, what will you regret? sitting in your room studying (you can do that anywhere). Yes there will be down time - and by all means use that to immerse in your Japanese studies. But… log out of WK and any English forum… turn off your computer, and…

BE in Japan. Eat meals with Japanese people, join clubs, discussion groups, hobby groups, sports activities. Ask questions (where appropriate) everywhere you go to spark conversations.

I’ve done an exchange year, I know this is hard and there might be a lot of tears every evening in the first 6 weeks. But if you can push through it the rest of the 46 weeks will be the best in your life.

I did my exchange year before I had my own laptop, and the above is exactly what a stranger told me at an internet cafe. It was an important wake-up call and changed my whole experience. So that’s what I’m nudging you to do. If you’re on here you’re not there. BE in Japan.


I appreciate your message, but I am well aware of this and I’m planning on prioritising social events and actual immersion over textbook studying.

I did not state anywhere in my original post that I want to solely rely on textbooks and study in my room maniacally while I pass on the opportunity of interacting with native speakers.

I appreciate the concern some people might have, but since I am already here and it is WAY easier and cheaper for me to buy good study resources in Japan than back at home I thought I’d ask for recommendations so I might get so materials I could take home with me once I return.

Immersion is ABSOLUTELY key to fluency, but I’d still like some additional materials to reinforce grammar rules and vocabulary to avoid fumbling around with faulty Japanese and having to unlearn these mistakes again later. Maybe I’m too strategic in that regard, but that’s who I am. :wink:


Quartet II is terrific but even if it is published in Japan, you can even by the Kindle Store at Amazon. Tobira is also a good one.

sorry, my message was a bit over the top, I see that now when I read it again, lol.

Have fun! I hope you find some good recommendations and enjoy your stay!


Sorry, that was on mobile. Let me try again from my PC:


It’s the Dictionary on Japanese Grammar series. If the link above still doesn’t work, just search Amazon or any bookstore for the author 牧野成一. There’s a Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced book, and you’ll probably only need the first book and maybe second book for up to N3.


For anyone that likes to recommend DoJG, I like to point out that for the Basic volume, there actually IS a lesser-known accompanying workbook: Amazon.co.jp: Multimedia Exercises for Basic Japanese Grammar マルチメディア日本語基本文法ワークブック : 筒井 通雄, 榊原 芳美, 渡会 尚子, 岡 まゆみ, 筒井 通雄: Japanese Books


100% also check out Book Off too! You may find the same textbooks there even cheaper :smiley: Along with a whole host of other materials and media. I hope you have fun!! x3


I did but my Book Off had a total of 2 books about, not for, the JLPT lmao. They didn’t even have Genki or Minna no Nihongo there (not that I was looking for them, but it surprised me that in a city with a heckton of foreign exchange students there are almost none Japanese language resources haha)

Maybe that is exactly why they didn’t have anything in book off.
everything they get is snatched up immediately by another foreign exchange student :wink:

I think you can search the book off website for specific books and even which store has a copy, but I could be mistaken :thinking:

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