JLPT N1 preparation resources (vocab & reading)

Hi everyone,

this winter I take JLPT N1 and for the purpose of preparation I am searching specifically for book and podcast recommendations, but also for other materials like videos if you have some.
I took and passed N2 this summer without problems (over 80%). Recently I took an old N1 test and also passed, but there were still some weak parts I want to tackle now.

In particular, there was still a lot of vocabulary I didn’t know, and I struggled a bit with the reading comprehension.

For the vocabulary I look for all kinds of books and podcasts which use a lot of advanced vocabulary spanning a wide range of topics. I don’t like using vocabulary lists and prefer context if possible.

For the reading comprehension I look for books and other materials which have this essayistic style of writing and are not as straightforward as, say, news or Murakami Haruki. I consider purchasing the Nihongo So-Matome N1 Reading Comprehension volume.

Currently I am in Europe and not in Japan and therefore limited in purchasing physical copies, which I prefer if possible (oh I wish there was a bookoff somewhere). Of course any digital resources are welcome too.

Do you have some recommendations? What did you find most helpful for preparation (and learning in the long term)?
Thanks for all your help!


Have you listened to Coten Radio before? It’s a history podcast, so obviously it’ll lean a little heavier into historical terms, but it’s aimed a general audience, so it uses a lot of what I think of as “general smart people words.”

One of the guys from Coten Radio also makes another podcast called A Scope that deals more with idk, the philosophy of learning? I’ve only listened to the first couple episodes, but he seems interested in talking about how we can approach issues from a variety of academic backgrounds to reach new conclusions. Very liberal arts-y. He seems to plan to invite guests with a wide range of academic backgrounds so you’ll get a wide range of vocabulary from that.


Have you considered ordering books from Amazon Japan? They ship books internationally, if I am not mistaken. So, even if there isn’t any bookstore that sells japanese books in your country, you can get those pretty easily importing, if you are okay with that.

I’m not on the N1 level yet, so I cannot recommend a lot of stuff, but how about the Shin Kanzen Master series? From what I heard, they are a little bit more demanding than the Sou Matome ones. I’m doing the N3 reading compreension and grammar books and I’m enjoying them so far, they of course have materials for the N1 level too.

Yes I know Coten Radio and listen from time to time. I didn’t the A Scope, that sounds interesting. Thank you for the recommendation! Actually I heard another podcast by that guy ( 深井龍之介), called 超相対性理論, which also covers a lot of topics. Liked it a lot, but I found the background music to be distracting and somehow stopped hearing to it.
Just for reference, one podcast I adore is 心理学ニュース. As the name says, it is about psychology. They present a new topic/academic paper every time and discuss it. Sounds difficult, but actually it is easy to follow and one of the few podcasts that make me want to listen more. Often enough my interest just fades away, but not here.

Amazon Japan is an option, yes. The shipping is just a little expensive.
The Shin Kanzen Master series is interesting too! Thank you.
Also I did not state it clearly, but I don’t just search for books which were directly made for the JLPT, but also normal books. As an example, I read a book about writing essays, which I found very interesting and helpful (the summary is that most Japanese essays out there are badly written).

I’m only studying for N2 right now so I can’t judge if this is helpful for N1 or not but this newsletter covers an excerpt from a Japanese novel per weekday and comes with a vocabulary list. There’s also a paid version but I haven’t checked it out yet. The excerpts all seem to be on the more literary side so maybe this is helpful for finding advanced vocabulary and practicing more literary grammar points.

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Subscribed! Looks promising, thank you.

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Oh, I didn’t know about his other podcast (how many podcasts does this man have? lol)! I’ll definitely check that one and the psychology one out! Thanks for the recommendation! I also get annoyed at the background music. Sometimes I want to play the podcast at a slower speed since they talk so fast, but that fucks up the background music in a way that’s really distracting.

Concerning the psychology one, if I recall correctly the quality of the first few episodes is rather poor. You can turn up the volume though, it is still no problem to understand it. After a few episodes it gets a lot better. Just don’t abandon it due to the quality, if you have a problem with it just skip some episodes.

I’m studying for N2 too. Bunsuke’s Newsletter comes in handy!

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I would also recommend checking the Migaku Plug-ins for Anki.

Personal taste, but I simply don’t like Anki. Tried it several times but could never stick with it. Thank you for the recommendation though!

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in their Japanese translations are actually fantastic N1 study material, as so much of the grammar is of that level.


Natively has a couple books listed at the N1 level. Might be worth a glance.

More users are lower levels, so not as many N1 books have been submitted. But I’m sure it’ll expand in the future. :slight_smile:

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The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in their Japanese translations are actually fantastic N1 study material, as so much of the grammar is of that level.

Looks like a fantastic site, thank you! A lot of the books are available via aozora, that is very handy.

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Thanks @conan for linking the site (I run it :slight_smile:)! I just want to add the caveat that the JLPT approximations from the levels are of course very approximate! The difficulty levels do mark relative difficulty well, but as one advanced user told me, the N1 exam is probably more about reading a lvl 34 book at a good speed without a dictionary than it is about being able to read something like 雪国.

I just mention this because I’m in the process of rethinking the JLPT approximations for upper N3, N2 & N1. They’re probably a little too hard :upside_down_face:.


That’s a great point. @Madao I generally don’t think the Aozora Bunko are that great learning material; all the texts are almost a hundred years old and the language has changed pretty drastically. It’s not gonna reflect well on the test, even if a lot of the grammar points found are on some “N1 grammar” list.

I always thought the gradings on Natively were more like “you should be at this level to attempt this” than “this is good learning material for this test”. But maybe that’s good to clarify.

I remember this blog post about the topic. Aozora Bunko for Japanese Reading Practice: Is It Worth It? - Box of Manga (although I realized they are trying to sell their product, but the points are still valid).

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Yes, that is a good point! Thank you. I think many Japanese learners tend to confuse it (including myself to be honest), so it is good to have as reference. I wonder if there are some books in aozora that are still ‘useful’ though.

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(Japanese is my 4th language, and I’m now studying for JLPT N2.)

From my experience, the best reading practice comes from books translated into Japanese from their original language written exceptionally well. Check out various English books first, especially the ones you like, and see which are outstanding in stylistic, vocabulary and covered subjects. Their Japanese versions are most likely consistent with this. There are very few cases when a translation of some famous book was done poorly, as publishing houses always hire experienced professional translators that take their job very seriously.

Original Japanese books may contain slang, old words, speeches in dialect, etc., while translated books go through a double filter / double quality control: not only the general original editing, but also the translator’s personal quality control. (Did you hear translated Trump’s speeches on Japanese TV news? They were always very concise and straight to the point, which is not the case with his very specific speaking style.)

The same with movies and TV series - go with the translated ones for studying purposes! This is true also due to voice actors having an exceptional articulation, as their voice is the only thing they get paid for.

Original Japanese books and movies are good just as a supplemental study tool.