Reading in Japanese

Hello everyone, I am new here and I have never posted anything in the forum before. I am soon in level 10 and I would like to know whether I should start with reading or not. I recognise kanji, but it takes some time till I remember the reading. I also pracrice writing Kanji and I learn grammar. I saw some reading club threads, but there was so much info, I was a bit overwhelmed. It is nice that those threads reccomend books, but I sadly cannot afford buying new books every time. Could you recommend something for free or maybe a kind of online library for japanese books?
I appreciate your help​:heart_hands::sparkling_heart:


When I’m asked to recommend Japanese reading resources, I always recommend the following:

A very good free resource with books separated into grades.

Easy to read Japanese news – also free.

A great reading resource that also teaches grammar. Unfortunately, it’s not free, but afaik first two articles in every section are free, so you can try it for free and decide if it’s worth it. In my opinion, it is.


There is the Aozora Bunko you could try, but 2 problems - the books are old and likely to contain difficult kanji. You can try this reference, though: Here, Have a List of Aozora Books by WK Level

Otherwise, I would second @trunklayer 's suggestion of NHK WEB EASY news.


I started reading first time at level 30, and i still struggled. i think level 10 is little too early. But that depends on what you want to read.


I produce the content I wish was available when I was at your level and publish it on my website.
You might want to give it a try (it’s free) :


My biggest regret is probably not seriously working on reading earlier (I didn’t seriously start until level 20), but it is hard at first. And finding level appropriate reading material can be really difficult when you are in that very beginner stage. For that, I would really recommend using to at least try to broadly gauge the difficulty of what you are looking at reading.

A lot of good stuff shared here already that I’ve seen people have success with, but if you are looking for free things, you can also try making an account on and following the The BookWalker Freebies Thread. You can get a lot of free or extremely cheap volumes (mostly manga), some are only free for a time window, but some you get to keep forever!

Most series also have between a 30 and 50 page free preview, which when you are first starting out can be a ton of reading material, if you don’t mind chapters getting cut off sometimes and skipping around between multiple series a bunch.


Thank you everyone for taking your time and helping me. I appreciate it a lot💖


Last year Satori had a summer sale in August (and a black friday sale in November.) So if you do decide to subscribe, maybe wait a little bit.

But going back to free suggestions … If you live in Canada or the US you can sign up for an online library card:


oh I completely forgot about the JF library cards! that’s a great resource


IMO it’s never too early. Take a manga or video game you already know well and use that for practice.

At level 10 you will almost certainly be unable to read most of it. It’s fine. You will be able to recognize words and kanji all over the place however. That’s good practice. It’ll make these words and kanji fell more “real” and you’ll be able to attach real-world context to them. Look up kanji that you don’t know and see when you’ll learn them on WK, that’s good motivation to keep leveling up too! I just reached 緒 at level 38, a kanji I remember encountering for the first time in the intro sequence of Final Fantasy VII when I was around your level.

I think it’s great because it makes you practice, it lets you gauge your progress (try reading something now, then try again in a few levels and see the difference!) and it’ll get you used to dealing with Japanese in the wild.

People make too big of a deal of starting to read native content IMO. I think some people refuse to start doing it unless they feel like they can understand most of what they read without needing a dictionary. I think that’s just setting yourself up for failure and cheating you of a lot of good practice, transitioning from “textbook” Japanese to real Japanese is always going to be difficult and painful, but it’s a step that you have to take eventually so you might as well remove the drama from it and start as early as you want.

Don’t set your hopes too high, find a good dictionary, be patient and get started!


I tried reading when I was at level 20, then again at 50, and both times I didn’t understand enough words for reading to be anything but boredom and struggle.

Now I focus on remembering as many words as I can through . I noticed that, where I used to forget words all the time, now I don’t, and words I learn just stay with me. I think it’s because I learned enough of how it’s all put together, how broad basic rules of categorising words work.

I’ll go back to reading when I can read almost everything, otherwise it’s just not an efficient use of my time.


It’s certainly a struggle early on but reading stuff I actually care about is worth it for me. I tried graded readers and the like from Satori Reader and others but I always find that, while it’s much easier to read, it’s also very bland and boring usually which I find demotivating in the long run.

That’s also why I think visual media like manga and videogames work better because you can use the visual element to help you through, and it’s not nearly as dense as a novel (both in amount of text and broadness of vocabulary).

But in general for me I consider that reading Japanese early on should be thought of as active practice must like SRS or textboox exercises. It’s not super fun and it’s quite difficult, but so is going through a stack of 100 flashcard reviews. I still find it very useful and rewarding, even if early on it would take me 10 minutes to get through one paragraph worth of text…


The problem with reading is that, unlike with SRS, very soon 99% of the words you read are the most commn 5% of words, which you already know very well. So, unless you are interested in the contents of the text you read, and you can’t get that content translated, you are essentially wasting big majority of the time on reading words you don’t need to learn, and words you need to learn are few and far between.


This is why I really recommend reading texts you are interested in. If you’re reading purely as an educational exercise in getting better at reading this is inevitably going to feel like more of a slog than if you can find something that’s not massively too high a difficulty level and which you are at least partly getting enjoyment out of.

Also, it’s not just about the vocabulary – you build up reinforcement in how sentences are put together, and what nouns and verbs fit together, and how people usually express something, and move your understanding of grammar from “I understand this if I think about it” to “I just know what this means without having to mentally translate it”. All that works best when most or all of the words in the sentence are words you already know.

“99% of the words you read are the most common 5% of words” is an over-estimate, incidentally (if it were true it would be much easier to get into reading at low ability levels). 20 years in I’m still having to learn words to get up to 95%+ coverage on the books I read…


Yeah, and it’s awesome. I mean I’ve read a lot of things and I still come across new words every few lines so I’d debate the efficiency thing even, but let’s put that aside. That kind of repetition is phenomenal in part for making you truly internalize a word, getting it to the point where you know it instantly and can use it yourself without the slightest pause. You really need those excessive volume repetitions.

In addition to bigger picture benefits @pm215 brings up, a word in a language isn’t just what a definition tells you. Doubly if it’s a translation because words rarely match 1:1, but even using Japanese definitions, it’s not the same. I’m paraphrasing this from a post that I saw long ago somewhere online (apologies for not citing but I can’t find it) – but you take any simple word like “birthday” and it’s not just the anniversary of the day someone was born. It’s a word that spirals into a million connotations, a special day for an individual with culturally-specific rituals, it evokes memories of your own, the weight of the importance of remembering it for others, etc. We don’t really consciously think about it, but every word is like this. You want to read them thousands, millions of times in every different context to actually “learn” them, not drill a simple definition.


Hello, does it mean that reading is not efficient on my level, because the vocabulary which I might already know can have various meanings depending on the context?

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Personally I always think the soonest someone can tolerate doing some level of reading, the better. A lot is going to trip you up for sure, and that might be one of those things, but I’ve seen enormous strides in my Japanese ability from just studying up to roughly N4 level and then moving to exclusively reading and listening (alongside Anki flashcards for new words I came across and doing most of the Wanikani levels). Learning exactly where a word is and isn’t naturally applied is actually exactly what reading will help you with, and you pick that stuff up unconsciously better than you might expect. Like, recently I saw someone on the forum use the grammar point べき in a way that I thought seemed off, double checked the internet to make sure I wasn’t misleading them, and turns out I was right, having never really studied it but just come across it in reading many times. There are common natural patterns and clusters words get used in so reading will expose you to those and make your understanding of the words you know right now wider and less hazy over time.

You’re just going to want to choose reading material appropriate to where you are (whether that’s graded readers right now, or low level manga, or whatever), learn about as many tools to make it less painful as you can, and also feel free to ask somewhere around here for help clearing stuff up. The book clubs are great for that, if you get the chance.


I mean surely you are learning Japanese because you are interested in some Japanese content? If you can’t find any challenging content that interests you then… congrats, you made it!

Also as I mentioned, understanding the vast majority of what you read is where you learn best, because you can focus your attention on the small percentage of things you don’t understand without it slowing you down too much. And practicing what you already know is also super important so that you don’t forget!

EDIT: oh actually I didn’t mention that, I was thinking of a different thread. But yeah understanding 95+% of what you read is usually optimal because it’s not too frustrating but you still get a lot of valuable input from it, plus you can use the context to guide you when you don’t understand something.


TBF, you might be interested in Japanese for non-written content, or for practical “I need this for my job” reasons, or the kind of content you like might just naturally not be available at lower levels (if you don’t like manga or typical light novel content and can’t bear reading books written for children it’s a long wait to get good enough to read adult detective novels or non-fiction). This forum tilts towards people with an interest in written material for obvious reasons but the language isn’t only that :slight_smile:


Thank you😊

Before using wanikani, I studied Kanji by writing a certain vocabulary many times, I still do use the method and at the same time wanikani. I must say wanikani helped me improve a lot. I also use Anki for memorizing words, but recently I have trouble remembering whose words when I need them or when I hear them it takes some time to remember what it means. I thought through reading my I might improve it. Do you have any other tipps on how to memorise new words? ( I am sorry for asking something off the topic)

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