Just made level 60 and failed N1 a second time

Why did you decide to reset?

The book is intended for younger audiences, so it doesn’t use complex kanji. If a word is normally written with more advanced kanji, the author just uses kana instead, which is unfortunate. It would have been better if they had just used furigana, because it’s actually harder to read in kana. It’s still good for practicing grammar and reading comprehension, just not good for practicing kanji and normal word recognition.

I felt rusty on the early content and it seemed like it would be beneficial. I think it has been.


I feel you there. I work in an Japanese only environment so I totally understand not being able to get my words out so that my coworkers can understand what I’m trying to say. Although having a Japanese girlfriend is great, it can also be a trap (not in the sense of getting pushed toward marriage either, haha) in the sense that you get used to one style/register of speech. The longer you’re with people the able they are to interpret your mistakes, but with other people to speak with regularly, it will also help force you to different speaking styles and registers. In my case, I regularly speak with four different people: two older and two younger. This forces me to use both polite and casual speech, not to mention listen to more dated expressions as well as more colloquial expressions. Since you live in Japan, your opportunity to come across new speakers is much more robust than those who live abroad.


Reference: I got the N1 two years ago with 51/60 in reading.

And yeah, the trick was indeed to read. A lot. Looking at my reading list, I was going through a novel every 10~14 days in the months before I passed the N1.

@seanblue got you covered on most of what I would say, but just one extra thing about the wall of text and

Well, the thing is that manga usually have much smaller chunks of texts at a time, compared to novels. Illustrations also help a lot your understanding. Mango are basically training wheels for reading comprehension. Since it’s about training, I feel like you don’t really have to love it, just to not totally hate it. You can stop when you’re ready for the next stage :woman_shrugging:

Also, if you pick a slice of life manga, you’ll notice that the language is fairly normal, so you don’t have to worry about the stylized language.

As an intermediate step between manga and novels, blogs online are pretty nice. There’s enough diversity to find something you like, and you get practice on an actual wall of text, but a short one. My experience with reading Japanese is that it’s pretty much endurance-based. It’s very satisfying to be able to get to the end of a text, giving you that extra motivation boost to come back for more.


And regarding slice of life manga, we’re starting のんのんびより on September 1st in our book club. It can’t hurt for you to try it out.


Dude, you just need like an extra 30% or so to pass. It didn’t wreck you at all lol. Only lived in Japan two years and took N1 and didn’t get a zero? How about all the people who lived here 10 years + and couldn’t pass N5 lol. Seriously, fam. You put yourself on the line, it’s better than not trying it all. Better luck next time, dawg.


I’ve recently been watching NHK breakfast news via an Australian broadcaster. I would recommend something like this for the following reasons:

  1. They put headlines up in text on the screen and also talk about the same thing, so you get to see the kanji in context without having to read a great deal (but you do need to read reasonably quickly) and it’s backed up with the audio.
  2. Stories tend to carry on over several days, so you get revision of topic material rather than just seeing it the once.
  3. There’s a wide variety of material covered, including “higher level” topics such as international politics, economic factors, etc.
  4. The visuals help reinforce the vocab.

Good luck!


I just started reading this mystery novel and it’s pretty satisfyingly understandable for me so far. The text is also full of dialogue and short paragraphs, so it might be a helpful way to work up to the big wall of text.


寝台急行「天の川」殺人事件 十津川警部クラシックス

I’m a fan of pulpy mystery novels when you’re learning (Japanese is my fourth language) because there’s that suspense to carry you through and some payoff in finding out whodunnit even if you don’t understand every single thing


When I have forced myself to finish certain news articles I have felt that exact motivational dopamine boost you mentioned. I will look to “addict” myself to that feeling. Thank you for pointing these things out.


Something that has been very helpful for me in establishing a reading habit is that I decided to read at least two pages every single day.

I find this is little enough that I can make myself do it (go with less if not), but enough that once the ball gets rolling I usually read at least a few pages more and sometimes spend hours reading. Even though I initially just thought “Yeah, better get the reading done today”.

Also, I think it’s good to come into it with realistic demands on yourself. I sometimes feel like I suck when several sentences in a row make no sense, but then I try to focus on the bigger picture and realize that if someone were to ask me what’s happening in the story in general right now, I’d have no trouble answering.


Hey bomaran,
you already got yourself some pretty decent tips :wink: but I also want to add my two cents. Not really for the N1 (I’m far from that, so I’m not really sure if I’m able to give tips) but on the spoken Japanese and comprehension part.

Back when I was in Japan I went to the local community center called SPIRA (Saga Prefecture International Relations Association) and they had evening classes where retired people spend their time to talk to foreigner ins Japanese and help them when they had troubles understanding.
I’m not sure where you live but probably your prefecture will also have a similar thing. It’s cheap (500 JPY) and it’s awesome opportunity to just practice speaking about basically everything you can think off.


I agree with this assessment.

Frankly, by level 60 (although it may not be the best to say here) you should be phasing out WK as a primary learning source and switching to practical, real world experience.

By now, any kanji list will have diminishing returns. Increasingly obscure kanji will matter less than understanding kanji in their natural habitats.


Although I’m not at your level (finishing up N2 study material as far as vocab and grammar, and then I still have a ways to go with practice before expecting to pass the test), the one of the things that has rocketed up my reading (and even speaking, to some extent) ability over the past year in Japan, and helped avoid “walls of kanji” is … just reading. A lot of manga, easy news, hard news, work documents, recently prose fiction (which is unbearably slow, but so was manga at first); basically whatever I can get my hands on. I’ve done some amateur translation too, which forces a different mindset than just “I can scrape by on general meaning.”

And even though I’m not big on anime generally, I’ve been picking shows to watch recently just for listening practice. You’ll find something you can tolerate. The language is all stylized, but you’ll still be surprised at how it helps drive home basic, or non-basic, constructions. If you can keep up with it, pick something live-action instead. Anything, so long as you’re enjoying it enough that it doesn’t completely feel like study.

If you got N2 without interacting with media, you’ll probably crush N1 next time if you build in some dedicated time for it. Only way through the type of wall you’re saying you’re facing is exposure.

I also would probably recommend additional dedicated vocab resources at this point, or just making sure you’re taking notes from whatever it is you’re reading.

And make it regular too: Like, just call it study time that you’re going to watch one episode of ____, or read a chapter of _____, or _____ number of pages, each day.


Thanks for the message Ian. You make some great points.

I do interact with some media but yeah it wasn’t focused on consistent. I mostly just work with Japanese people and listen to them talk. I also did do mock tests.

How did you get into amateur translating? I want to do this too. Is there a website where we can advertise this service? I’ll do it for free for businesses I don’t care I just want exp.

I agree. I feel like I should have begun phasing WK out or at least upping native reading significantly around level 40.

Haha, no, nothing that formal. I just wound up taking on some scanlation projects for untranslated manga I enjoyed since other people offered to typeset.

But even if there weren’t an audience for it, it’d be a great experience just for study, so I’d recommend just hauling out a text you like and trying it anyway. Bonus points if it is untranslated, as you might be able to find an audience for it at some point. I know there are professional translators who have gotten their feet wet by translating something already in print in English, then comparing theirs to the official version every few pages, and while that was specifically for practicing the craft of translation rather than language study, I’d imagine it’d be just as interesting for language study too.

1 Like

lol so true.

Then for the other issues, for me what really helped with the weak fundamentals was hearing explanations instead of looking for it myself. So what might help is nihongonomori on youtube. Hearing them explain and having that ‘ah, I see!’ moment does so much for comprehension. It has subtitles too if I’m correct, so you’ll get more used to reading Japanese while listening to it, too. Listening to stupid songs like vocaloid (I like them a lot actually haha hmm) makes you notice the grammar and vocabulary too. You can link the readings to the kanji and reading lyrics with the song increases reading speed as well.

Secondly, I also have problems with actually reading a novel, but just reading subtitles or lyrics helps overcome the ‘mental wall’.

As others have been saying, at some point there is no other way but to really push yourself to finally read something… maybe blogs on the internet are better?

Anyway, good luck!! I can’t even think of N1 so for that I admire you!!

what have you used to study outside tae kim and wanikani?

Ah I forgot, but some textbooks made for practicing reading might also help a lot!! Just go to your local bookstore and check out the japanese books for practicing reading haha. Go a few levels below N1 and build up from there. Texts are short and have some questions to check whether you got it

(shinkanzen master is good I think??)