Textbooks that Use Kanji?

Hi all,

I’ve mastered my hiragana, my katakana, and, bit by bit, am learning Kanji through WaniKani, and am very aware that it’s teaching me Kanji, not “how to speak the Japanese language” so I apparently need one more resource, which is likely a textbook (or I’m open to online instruction, paid or otherwise).

My primary desire is to have this resource actually USE the Kanji I’m learning. I’m more of a reader than a speaker, and my goal isn’t to approach Japanese speakers and natter at them in bad Japanese–I want to be able to read Japanese when I encounter it. So I’d like a textbook that presents the information in the way it is ordinarily found in Japanese, not in romanji, but in whatever combination of hiragana, katakana, and Kanji would be normally used. (I don’t mind if the romanji is included to the side for the benefit of pronunciation, but I don’t want only romanji or only hiragan).

I read through Tofugu’s list and only “Elementary Japanese” appeared to do what I’m hoping for. Can anyone confirm or deny, or offer an alternative? I don’t care if it’s steered towards business people, manga lovers, children, academics, visual learners, etc., so long as what I’m studying is spelled the same way as I’ll get in the real world.

Hopefully the request makes sense! I know there are lots of discussions about textbooks, but I couldn’t see this exact question anywhere …

1 Like

I’d say BunPro might be worth having a look at. ^^ It’s a paid-for grammar learning site, started in part by some level 60 WK users. They give overviews of grammar points, link to outside resources for you to read about the finer details, and then you SRS grammar like you SRS WK stuff. All in glorious kanji. ^^ It can even synch with you WK account - I believe that gives you the option of adding furigana for words above your WK level? Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

For other vocab learning needs, I use Torii - a free piece of SRS software, available as Android app and on desktop.

Others will have plenty of suggestions, I’m sure. Good look searching around for the method that clicks! :smiley:


Genki uses kanji and so does Japanese for Busy People once you get to the second volume. Those are two I have direct experience with.


Btw, this is spelled romaji, not romanji.

1 Like

Thank you–I keep thinking “roman letters, must be romanji”

1 Like

Yeah, the Japanese tend to just paste things together as they are. Rome is ローマ in Japanese, and so roman letters end up being just ローマ字.


Join one of the books clubs here? :slightly_smiling_face:

Rome is “Roma” in Italian, so perhaps it helps to think of it that way.


みんなの日本語 uses kanji. A lot of people don’t like it so you might want to look up comparisons between it and Genki. Genki seems to be the most popular from what I gathered when researching a textbook, but I chose みんなの日本語 anyway. When I was looking for an online tutor, it seemed most of them used one of these two books as well.


This is true, but it’s indeed Roma not Rōma, so I’m not sure where Japanese people took the ー from

1 Like

At least in Spanish, Roma is “grave”, which means it’'s like there’s an accent in Róma (but it’s not written), and Japan usually translates those accents as an emphasis on the letter, in this case: ローマ. :slight_smile:

Source: Me.

1 Like

It’s never 100% exact. It’s like how Lucy is ルーシィ.

It’s an approximation of a foreign word.


Or like with gemination, where butter is バター, but batter is バッター. Who knows why.


To be honest I’ve gone light years past my classmates in Kanji by buying Japanese children’s books and diving right in and translating - then I make up random sentences which what I’ve learned, do my shopping lists etc… then run 'em past 先生 for correction.
Just using it is the best way, and kid’s books like short story collections for older-than-toddler kids are pretty good. You have to judge the level for yourself, though. They have the readings in small type, so you get a sense of ‘which reading where’ anyway. They have common use phrases and so on.
hope that helps.


I should have added that I use Yomiwa mostly for translations, and as it gives you a handwritten stroke order example, you can see the difference between written, and the god-awful fonts that are used.

Minna no Nihongo has a Japanese workbook and an English companion book that works very well for beginners. It’s what I used when I started learning the language.

Some might suggest Genki. I haven’t tried that one but it is the more popular option.

1 Like

The outer island of Miyako in Okinawa has the word “bata”, which means stomach.
沖縄県の離島の宮古島の方言:“バタ” → お腹

Here in Okinawa language…the local specialty pork is “aguu”.
But in the language of the outer island of Miyako “agu” means friend.

沖縄の方言にも= 黒豚 → “アグー”
沖縄の宮古島の方言=友達 → “アグ”


みんなの日本語 is great for picking up patterns and drilling them in many different scenarios. I like the fact that the main textbook has no English in it at all - it really forces use of Japanese more than other texts. I like that it does a lot of “fill in the blank” type of drills to make you think. Some might argue that it is a bit dry and that it is really intended for classroom usage, but I think it is a great self-study resource and can augment other texts.

See if you can find some sample material to tell if you like it. I’d only order the first book and English companion book before ordering the whole series. It should get you through a good chunk of N5. When I was studying for N5 it was almost single handedly responsible for me finishing the first two sections in about half the allotted time after completing book 1 of the beginner series. Not just for kanji, but it had me sight reading hiragana at natural speed due to excessive exposure.

There’s a remote chance I’m going to have a Tokyo trip next month - if so, I’ll likely pick up the intermediate copy of the book given the chance. Sadly it’s been over 4 years since my previous trip in 2015.


When I first read this post I kind of glossed over one part and I just want to respond to it because it’s something that I felt as well about a year ago but now I feel that it was a mistake. I might be reading way too much into one sentence, but I’ve been on this site for 1.5 years and never commented before today so I’ve had some things stewing in my brain.
I’m more of a reader than a speaker, and my goal isn’t to approach Japanese speakers and natter at them in bad Japanese–I want to be able to read Japanese when I encounter it.
A lot of people want to learn Japanese because they like Japanese things, but interacting with Japanese people is low priority for whatever reason. I love Japanese literature and I listen to Japanese music, so my biggest goals were to be able to read books and maybe also interviews with my favorite musicians. I’m very shy, and even when I get to know people I’m not very talkative, and Japan is really far away so I don’t encounter Japanese people very often. So after a ton of Japanese courses getting cancelled on me, I thought “ok, I just want to learn how read Japanese, that’s all” and I began my WaniKani journey.
But even if you prioritize reading, you can’t disconnect it from speaking, listening and writing. If you want to learn a language, I think you have to be committed to learning the language. Sometimes I’d ignore the audio exercises in みんなの日本語 because I was focusing on reading/writing and I could go through the chapters faster if I didn’t do them and I realized I was making a mistake. I also realized that I would get so much more out of the book if I had someone to go through it with me. So even before I knew I would be going to Japan, 0 interaction was not going to be an option if I wanted to read a Japanese novel someday.
Secondly, I really don’t think you should say things like “natter at [Japanese speakers] in bad Japanese”. Part of why I didn’t want to interact with Japanese people is because I didn’t want to force my bad Japanese upon them but I think this is detrimental. When I started on wanikani, I didn’t know if I would ever go to Japan but then I found out that a museum that I was really interested in was going to close so I booked a trip. I loved it so much that I can’t believe I was going to accept never going there. I didn’t really speak to people while I was there. But I went to a city outside of Tokyo that doesn’t get a ton of tourists because I wanted to see something in particular and the bus stop for it ended up not being very close at all. Nobody was around except for an old lady walking her dog and I didn’t want to ask her because my Japanese was so bad and I didn’t know if she was used to encountering confused foreigners but she was my only option. It was my first time using a full sentence in Japanese since I had been there so it barely came out but she was very nice and gave me directions, which I only kind of understood but I thanked her and was going to go on my way, but she said she’d take me there. She was very nice the entire time and I thanked her as well as I could. But I really wish I could have really responded when she pointed out things to me. A lot of people were really nice to me and I couldn’t really respond. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful when I thought “well I don’t need Japanese to interact with Japanese people” but the fact is that Japanese is a living language. I’m also just of the opinion that you shouldn’t call your skills “bad” when you’re just starting. I think it’s best if I don’t think about what I can’t do, but what I can do and how I can keep building upon that.
I apologize for this comment’s length and I hope someone reading found it helpful. I still think you should look up comparisons between Genki and Minna no Nihongo and decide which is better for you, and you might also want to look into a tutor if you have some extra money and time.


That’s a lovely story! I was a bit glib in my original post (to get to my main point quickly)–I undoubtedly will be trotting out my inferior Japanese a great deal in front of the locals during my big 10 day trip, much as I did in Holland, Italy, France, Germany (where they no doubt wondered why I was speaking bad Japanese to them, ba-dum tsh!) But my primary goal for now is to be able to read the menus, understand the signs, enter in the entrances and exit at the exits, etc. In my ordinary life at home I’m exposed to zillions of signs and actually very few people interactions (the barista. A woman walking her dog) so while speaking is terrific, for the sake of the short trip my focus is being able to read widely.

Then, just before I go, I’ll cram in any tourist Japanese that I haven’t picked up yet–for any visit I’ve done, if I can handle Where is X?, Please, Thank You, I Would Like X, Table for One, My Name is Ashley, I Don’t Need a Bag, and That Was Delicious, I’ve covered 99% of my speaking interactions.

If I were moving, staying with people, conducting business, etc., I’d learn more–but I have no reason to expect I’ll speak any more of the language when I’m there than I have done on other vacations to other places with other languages. My written comprehension of French and Italian is vastly better than my written comprehension of Japanese, so that’s what I’m focussing on for now.

Oh, and I looked at Genki and (especially since it drops the romaji after two chapters) it looks like a good pick for me–I’ve ordered it, and we’ll see how it goes.

For reading menus and signs, wanikani really was the resource that I found most useful.

1 Like