Non-Fiction Reading Recommendations

Hi, all.

I’m finding NHK’s News Web Easy articles are becoming much easier to read while I advance through WK and build up my grammar through regular classes (and A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar). I read two articles today – one about an upcoming departure tax to be imposed on people exiting Japan that is expected to raise ¥40 billion, another about the construction of an electric subway in the Indonesian capital by a Japanese firm – and I’m sure I’ll continue reading it for a long time to come (particularly if I misunderstood either of those).

I do, however, want to ask for some non-fiction reading recommendations.

I enjoy reading opinion pieces and analyses on economics, foreign policy, history and social issues. I will soon start using NHK News Web Easy articles as a model for my own small pieces of Japanese writing on topics of interest, but it would be great to know what publications are available out there.



What level are you by chance? Because if you can, you can just start trying out the adult news section of NHK. Looking at various websites like Amazonjp and NicoNico might help with familiarizing certain types of vocab. Also, some articles in Tobira might be worth looking at.

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In addition to what @xyzbuster said, are you looking for stuff online or books?

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I am happy to consider books, online resources, print subscriptions, anything really.

I’m on Level 12 at the moment. A user’s current level shows next to their profile picture, and I can see you’re currently on Level 53. Do you read the regular NHK News? I had a quick look just before, using the TangoRisto app – I was surprised to find I can make sense of some of the headlines, and I notice there are ‘Society’ and ‘Politics’ sub-sections, too, which is great.

I had never heard of Tobira before, but that might be a good idea as I progress, too.

Tobira is a textbook. It has several articles about various topics including culture, societal norms, and politics. It’s made for people at the intermediate level (around N3) to prepare them for advanced Japanese. It can teach you grammar, some vocab, and how to read long passages.

I can use regular NHK with varying success. Some stuff like natural disaster and culture news I can read very easily. Politics and the economy use a bunch of terms I’m not that familiar with, some even in my own language. (Especially the economics). Last time I tried they were talking about semiconductors and a type of merger or whatnot. If I were to spend more time reading these articles though I would likely be fine. It’s just nowadays I spend most of my time absorbing fiction, saving the news for whenever I finish WaniKani and obtain those fancy words and kanji they like to use.

You can honestly start using the news, the easier bits anyways, at around the intermediate level. Just make sure to stay away from the harder parts you find on the website: talking about ratification, prenups, strange acronym filled merger things, etc.

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Well, what matters is your actual Japanese level rather than you WK level.
I’m level 18 on WK, but I have the N1 already, for instance.

Anyway, as for recommendations, I really enjoyed reading オカマだけどOLやってます.
I think it’s a nice read, even if you are not LGBT. (It’s about the day to day life of a transgender woman, and how she went through her transition, including the fact that she started working as an OL while still being legally a man and how she could hide her gender, etc)

Other than that, I have read a bunch of non-fiction, but nothing that really left much an impression. It was kinda cool to read 敬語入門, especially seeing that even native Japanese people suck at it.

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That’s true as well, Nath probably knows a fair bit more than me despite a near 35 level gap between us.

I think Tobira sounds like a good resource, thanks for recommending it. I would definitely find those topics interesting, and it sounds like excellent material for someone at my level. I’m booked in for the N4 in July, which I expect to pass given my background studies in Japanese, but it’s the N3 in December that will need a bit of work. I’ll look into purchasing the Tobira set. :slight_smile:

Using regular NHK is impressive, too, nice work. What sort of fiction are you reading? I specified non-fiction because this would be the easiest “on-ramp” for me to develop my vocabulary and stay motivated, but I’d like to keep an open mind. I’ll continue with NHK News Web Easy and start dipping my toes into the regular news, too.

[I replied to xyzbuster by mistake before.]

Wow, N1. Very impressed, that’s commitment – can I ask why you’re using WaniKani, if you’re already reading at quite an advanced level?

I’m currently working on 第37課 in みんなの日本語, and I’m finding it valuable but not too challenging. Learning the 受け身 form of the verb, building vocabulary, and working toward a comfortable N4 (hopefully) in July.

I’m open to LGBTQI+ reading, absolutely. If you have any other fiction readings that you think I might find valuable, please don’t hesitate to share. I mentioned non-fiction because that’s my normal preference, but I can happily broaden my horizons.

It depends on what genres you like and what you can tolerate language wise. While I can certainly grind my teeth against more challenging though provoking novels using a dictionary, I don’t really feel like that is a good idea now. I want to spend most of my time near the end of WaniKani and some few months after that readings works that review what I know rather than challenge me greatly. As such, I’ve been basically doing nothing but reading slife of life, comedic moege. I find them a blast, but they’re definitely not for everyone.

What genre do you want? Slice of life manga? Darker visual novels? Comedic light novels? Romantic fantasy? Moege? Otome? I can probably recommend at least something if you have a preference. Also, how much can you bear with language wise?

Comedic light novels sound like a good idea, and I have to admit I don’t really know what moege, otome and slice-of-life manga are. I have never read manga before, either, I read Maus, Persepolis and Garth Ennis’ The Boys in English and I read short comics in Indonesian, too.

(I know I’m not being helpful. I have found all of this advice very helpful, however – Tobira, NHK News after feeling more comfortable with NHK News Web Easy, plus other sites like Matcha JP, and then perhaps light novels and fiction materials.)

Ah, sorry. Used to just throwing out anime terms left and right. I’ll try listing some terms in case you ever are interested.

Moege- Visual novels associated with moe. A lot have comedic moments too and focus on the romance and interactions between characters.

Otome- Type of visual novel aimed towards female audience. Basically the same as moege, except the genders are reversed.

Slife-of-life: stories centered on the everyday lives of its characters. Spans multiple mediums. Stories range from everyday lives of people in high school to everyday lives of space janitors.

Visual novel primer by the way:

Also, in terms of comedic light novels I would recommend Konosuba. A lot of it has yet to be translated into anime, so it would be a not bad choice. You can also see the anime so you can familiarize yourself with the setting, characters, terms, etc.

Judging from these works, it’s hard to find similar works subject wise and tone wise that has easy enough language and can still be interesting. My immediate thought would be 20th Century Boy by Naoki Urasawa or Akira manga, as manga generallly have easier language that light novels or visual novels.

Also, Bradherley Coach comes to mind as a manga having similarities to the material you discussed. I think it uses a lot of roundabout language, so finding a Japanese copy might be good practice. It looks pretty dark, forewarned though.

Well, the short answer is that I want to iron out the many problems I still have with kanjis, such as which sounds are long and which sounds are short. Ex 組 そ (short) vs 相 そう/しょう (long) (also, I used to confuse those two kanjis)

But it’s really hard to do it on my own, since when I go through the list of 常用漢字it’s really easy to convince myself that “sure, I knew it”. WK does not give me that leeway.

Just to be sure, I want to say my recommendation was non-fiction :slight_smile: the same author has a few more books on similar themes, but they are more specific (such as about her time in Thailand to get SRS… sex reassignment surgery, not spaced repetition system) and some stuff not related at all (like on weird expressions in the Japanese language). They are okay, but not as good (or fun) than the one I recommended.

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My recommendation is to make separate mnemonics for similar readings. Like ぼ would be Bozo the clown while ぼう would be a bow. So long as you stick with one and don’t suddenly using stuff like Bozo for ぼう, it’s not as difficult as it appears.

Ah, also mnemonics is a thing I started to use with WK :slight_smile:

I’m enjoying Read Real Japanese, which has essays from Japanese authors and provides direct English translations on the opposite page. There’s two different volumes, one with essays and the other with fictional short stories. It includes a handy glossary and a lot of notes about idiomatic/confusing phrases found in each essay.

Also, based on your taste in graphic novels, you might like My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (さびしすぎてレズ風俗に行きましたレポ) by Kabi Nagata. It’s autobiographical and it reminds me of more “Western” graphic novels rather than most other manga. So far I’ve only read it in English but I’d love to read it in Japanese.

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I used to own a copy of Breaking Into Japanese Literature: Seven Modern Classics in Parallel Text, which sounds quite similar to that first book you’re describing – I’ll have to see if I can find it. I think the essay version you mentioned would also suit what I was originally looking for, so thank you for that, too.

As for the graphic novel, it sounds like an interesting read. Who knew I’d come away from this thread with some great LGBTQI+ literature to add to my reading list? :blush:


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