The Tobira Thread

[Edit: changed the name of this thread to be more general because I like the idea of a place where people working through Tobira can go to discuss it]

Getting ready to start Tobira and wanted to ask: for those of you who have gone all the way through it self-studying, what methods emerged for how best to tackle each chapter and retain the material?

I’m just generally interested in hearing literally anything about how people used the book. It took me most of the first book of Genki to get into a routine and I’d like to figure this book out faster if possible.

I’ve seen a lot in different threads about methods for using Genki: tips for getting through the books more effectively (i.e. people recommending learning the vocabulary a chapter or two ahead), what order people use, what to really focus on, what to skip, etc etc

But other than a little bit of convo here, I’m not finding much of the same about Tobira. I know it has a reputation for being less approachable than Genki and would love to hear anything that might give a head-start at… approaching it.

Side note, how I feel as I close Genki for the last time:


Personally, I probably use it the most backseat way.

I do the opening exercises and look up any words I have to during that time and write them down in my little word book. Then I go into the reading portion of the textbook, which I read and highlight/look up any words I don’t know. There is a vocabulary list at the end of each part but I find myself remembering it more if I look it up myself. Then I do any of the dialogue changing exercises and go into grammar. For the grammar, I read through it and if I don’t understand, I look it up in my dictionary of grammar or google (for example) '~ことになる grammar" and read extra explanations and put notes in my textbook next to the appropriate grammar. After that, I work in grammar workbook and try not to look in the textbook if I can help it. I also check my answers after completing the parts (usually the answers that don’t have any room for discrepancy. Such as, pick the correct particle, etc). Then after I do the workbook, I go back into the textbook and read the last “cultural note” before going into the next chapter.

Probably not the most effective way to use this book, but it works for me.


Have you tried to use the online materials at all?

The textbook itself lacks grammar exercises (you have to buy the supplemental grammar workbook, which is b.s.). So in order to actually learn the grammar it teaches I started writing my own 例文 (example sentences) for each grammar point. It’s helpful if you have someone fluent in Japanese (preferably a tutor or teacher) to check and help you correct any mistakes you make.


Write practice sentences and have them corrected by natives even if you can’t find a native near you.


Until lang8 stops being dicks and lets people sign up again we should probably stop recommending it all the time.

Literally no one new can signup (been this way for months now), its pretty lame.


While going through the textbook, the pre-reading activities involve going online. I have used some but not all. There was a video clip with Tezuka Osamu which I wasn’t able to watch at the time because I couldn’t make any noise where I was studying. A lot of the pre-reading activities that involve online resources can’t really be done without them. But there aren’t many online bits in the book I’ve found (I’m on chapter 8)

I didn’t know they were not having sign ups anymore. Is the hinative app also on the way out then?

They are trying to force everyone to use Hinative by not allowing signups to lang8…but they claim lang8 isnt going anywhere. It’s just weird.

Just by your wanikani level, I don’t see there being many vocab words you don’t know, the readings were pretty simple in that regard.

They provide enough information to get the grammar points across. The explanations are good and on top of the grammar already being used in the readings, they provide further example sentences.

Anyway, I did this: read all chapter readings and have general comprehension and then read through the grammar points at the end of the chapter. And then go through parts of the reading again if I need to see the grammar points in context again.

I’m not really a practicer, I usually get the point by then.

But, from the online materials, I really liked the audio that accompanies both the excerpts and the dialogue. It is a good pace and clarity for learning.


Tobira has online grammar practice worksheets that go along with chapters, and worksheets also to go along with their video content. At least they did when I last looked.

Hellotalk is also an app like lang8 and hinative that lets you post a few sentences and have them corrected by natives.

I like Tobira, but when I was studying for the JLPT, I was recommended the “新完全マスター” series, in particular the Grammar version. So, I went out and bought the Reading, Listening and Grammar versions of this. It helped immensely.

Tobira is still good and its little articles are very informative about Japan and its culture. However, I feel you would get more out of 完全マスタ. All you really need is the Grammar books, which explain Grammar very well, and couple this with some native reading materials and you’re set.


Interesting idea, so you suggest the N3 kanzen after Genki?

It’s been a while since I finished the Genki series, so I can’t really say which N level to start from. I moved from Genki into a Japanese major at university, and after finishing I was upper N3 level. (I could’ve been further if I dedicated more time into my Japanese study).

But yeah, I think moving from Genki and into Kanzen would be good. (maybe N4 or N3?).

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I loved Tobira and used it a lot last year. I started by focusing on the big readings and conversations - using the vocab index to check words I didn’t know - but mainly just aiming to get the gist. I might listen to the audio once or twice while reading as well. After a couple of read-throughs, I’d start on the Anki decks for that chapter and read through all the grammar points a couple of times. Then I’d go back to try the readings and conversations again trying to spot the grammar points I’d just learned.

When I felt I was able to read through everything in a chapter without too much difficulty, I’d start the next one. However, while repeating the above for the next chapter, I would intersperse that with going back through the previous chapter and would listen to the audios while commuting without looking at the book.

Took me a good six months or more to go through the book like that and I still find it great to go back to now. I think the listenings are pretty tough. Wouldn’t say they’re anywhere close to native speed but they’re long and relentless so - even if you’ve read the passages already - you really need to be focused to get everything.

Sometimes I’d use the questions section as prompts for my conversation exchange and sometimes I’d try answering the writing questions and have them checked on Lang-8 or by my teacher. Other than that, I didn’t use the communicative sections very much and barely touched the other online resources.

Have you already got the book? I can’t recommend it highly enough. I like the Kanzen series too, but Tobira is the best all in one book for me. It’s not aimed at JLPT, but I’d say for that pre-intermediate to intermediate level (I don’t know who they think they’re kidding by saying it’s ‘Gateway to Advanced’) it’s very comprehensive. Like I said, I’m still going back to it now and I must have had it for a year and a half at least.


Hey, If you still want to do tobira, I’m still on Chapter 1 right now, do you want to do the role playing exercises together?

Anyway This how I’ve decided to do it:

Before the cycle, Do the pre-reading for the first chapter. Then either do day 1 that day or the next day,

Day 1: Read the main articles and Dialogues, then listen to the audio, then read with audio, then shadow. This is more for the reading practice than it is for the listening practice. Then do the questions that go with them.

Day 2: Listen to the smaller practice dialogues until you can understand it, without looking at the text. After a few go arounds pick out the words you don’t know, look them up and write them down, still with out looking at the text and trying your best to make since of it on your own as if there were no text. Then read them and do the fill work for it.

Day 3: Read the grammar notes, re-read article and dialogues, and then do the role playing.

Day 4: Work book pages.

Day 5: They have video materials online, so I figured I could watch the video for listening practice and do the same thing I did with the mini dialogues. There are no transcripts for it(that I know of) so you kinda have no choice. So after I do that, then I’d do the pre-reading for the next chapter.

Right now I’m on ‘day 4’ of chapter one, I thought of it after going through chapter 1. And I think judging how much time I spent doing each one, that this is a good way to break up the work. Also I wanted a good balance of reading and listening practice I figure this way is good because the article is titled “reading” and it is a bit long for listening practice, while the mini dialogues are about a minute and the video is about 5 I think. Which is still kinda long, but you do need long listening practice, and like I said you don’t have a choice for this one.


I’m also about to start Tobira! Well, as soon as I finish Kanzen N3, but I’ll have that done within the month.

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Haven’t actually bought it yet but I keep thumbing through every time I’m in Kinokuniya. I told myself that I would only purchase it once I got a couple other things underway (the dogen phonetics course for one).

The beginning is always the hardest with new materials because in addition to learning you have to teach yourself how to learn. I enjoy that process a lot though. By the end of Genki I had the roadmap through each chapter completely mapped out. I’m hoping to get there with Tobira quicker than I did with Genki.

Did anyone write the exercises out by hand? I did that with everything for Genki starting at chapter 6 and found it a) immensely helpful but b) MUCH more time consuming. It also meant that if I want to post something to lang-8 to get it checked I then have to transcribe it again, which most of the time I didn’t bother doing. But with the answer key in Genki it wasn’t as necessary as I feel like it will be with Tobira.

I wonder if that’s the best strategy since I’m actually planning to go through both (and take N3 again in Dec). Seems like Tobira will be even more fun to use once Kanzen N3 is under one’s belt.

I have no idea which order might be better. Bought them at the same time and decided to start with Kanzen since it was thinner, which I took to be a sign it offered a more basic coverage on which Tobira could expand if needed.