Tobira vs. Genki - Which is Best?

Hi everyone!

I’m sure this has been a question that’s been asked multiple times, but I wasn’t sure where to exactly look for it. Anyways, as the title suggests, I wanted to know the pros and cons of both Tobira and Genki—and the overall preference for you guys?

I own the Genki textbook, but as a self-learner I’m finding it hard to focus on the material being taught. I saw threads promoting Tobira, but I’m unsure if it’s a good resource for a beginner and what it even entails. Is there a better resource out there instead of the two?

Sorry in advance for a most likely repetitive question in this forum lol


Tobira is an intermediate level textbook, so they’re not really interchangeable. There are other beginner level textbooks or online resources if Genki isn’t working for you.


Oh, that makes a lot of sense since I never saw the two being compared. Do you have any beginner recommendations?

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I used the first three books of Japanese From Zero. It’s very slow, but the slow pace worked well for me personally. It’s designed specifically for self study, so there shouldn’t be partner-style exercises that assume you’re in a classroom.


genki is designed to be taught by a teacher. It’s hard to use for self study cause it isn’t designed for it.

I also use Japanese from Zero. Even if you don’t want to buy the books, there are youtube videos going over the contents of the books on their youtube channel. I found the videos to be very useful, though I mostly listen to them like a podcast while I am at work.


+1 for this. The JFZ series is designed for self-learners, instead of a classroom environment, and the author covers all the content for free on YouTube. I personally learned a lot from them.


I also find it difficult to go through Genki. It’s a pretty slow and painful process so I might just drop the books entirely, only having finished the first 4 chapters/lessons.

I’m going through this video now and it’s much more enjoyable and efficient. The best way to really grasp grammar is probably just immersion (listening/watching/reading as much as you can) though. Depending on how committed you are to learning and whether or not immersing appeals to you you might want to look into it. I’m not really speaking from experience though, just going on what I’ve learned from people online.

Anyway this video is great although even I can tell the guy’s accent is very “gaijin.”


Tobira has always been known for their Intermediate book. It seems to be the default answer to “What textbook comes after Genki 2?” But just a few months ago they released a brand new “Tobira Beginning Japanese” book.

And here is a comparison video on YouTube



Whoa this is cool!!

Tobira was a great intermediate textbook for me. Though I haven’t tried this beginner one, if it’s designed with the same philosophy as the intermediate original then I imagine it would be very practically useful.


For up to N3 all you’ll ever need is:

(1) WaniKani as top priority, making sure you don’t spend more than 2 weeks on each level.
(2) This amazing book with all Japanese grammar you’ll ever need, everything super structured and systematized, and tons of practice sentences (all with audio): Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar:

(3) watching movies / anime in Japanese, also radio broadcasts (radio hosts usually have remarkable articulation) - you won’t understand much, BUT you’ll be learning how to distinguish sounds and words, and generally work on the listening comprehension.

Self-study books and 99.9% of other books for studying Japanese are useless and are time-wasters.


Interesting, didn’t know this existed. I’m also curious what book 2 would be like.

Getting back to Genki and the OP: Do you like studying with a textbook or would you rather try an alternative? Knowing this might help with more tailored recommendations. There are many options and opinions out there on this topic and “better” is subjective here in terms of legit resources.


While I haven’t really tried another textbook, I still feel like I have to defend Genki in this thread. I am using it for self study and most of it works very well.

The workbook is essential for me though. I really like the exercises, they are simple but challenging (at least for me), and while the textbook is kinda classroom-y, the workbook is not.

(In the textbook I just chance the classroom exercises into something that works for me. Either invent some classmates or asking a friend and translating their answers.)

But yeah, I can’t really compare since I haven’t tried another book.


Yeah, Tobira is basically Genki 3

edit: or was

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Same. I even did the pair and group exercises myself. Amazing what one can do when one imagines oneself as multiple people :stuck_out_tongue: .

Jokes aside, yes, the Genki series is not designed for self-study. For that Tae Kim’s guide seems reasonable as long as it’s supplemented with level-appropriate reading, listening or exercises for practice. It might also be a personal thing, but to me knowing grammar and being able to use it effectively were two different things :smiley: .

Tobira’s format is also vastly different from Genki. The main book focuses on reading comprehension with some grammar and speaking practice, contrary to how Genki is designed.


I saw this but wouldn’t recommend it. Only because N5 content doesn’t take long to get through and the currently released book is only 1 of 4 that are supposed to be released. Currently, iirc, the workbook for this one, book 2, and its workbook are all slated for release at some point in 2022. Even if book 1 is N5 and book 2 is N4 (possible), without the workbook, I probably wouldn’t use it.

Hot take on a forum where most people appear to be self-learners successfully using the “time-wasters”. I hate Genki, but I can’t imagine it being useless what with so many people having used it successfully.

@seanblue, @jneapan, JFZ seemed like a great idea, but I was having a really hard time seeing passed the romaji when I had picked it up. How did you do it? Does it phase out and into N5 Kanji fairly quick?

@momomiruku, Bunpro + DOJG + Japanese Ammo seem to be working for me for the moment. The part I love most about Bunpro is that you can add all the N5 grammar points at your own pace, in any order you like and as you progress, you can see the results of your effort in other resources. Try this: do a bunch of N5 stuff on Bunpro and then open Tae Kim. You’ll realize that you’ve made much quicker progress on Bunpro than you would have by reading Tae Kim. That’s because Bunpro makes it fun and keeps it bite-sized. Additional resources are great for expounding on Bunpro’s sparing explanations.


It is a “from zero” experience, but it teaches hiragana along the way. When it gives you vocab it’ll show you both the “progressive” version (in which the words will show up in a combination of romaji and the hiragana it already taught you), and the normal version of it. In any case, 2/3 of the way in, the hiragana lessons are over and it doesn’t show romaji anymore.

As for kanji, it doesn’t specifically teach you any until the 3rd volume (1st is hiragana, 2nd is katakana), but it does show you the kanji when teaching vocab along the way, like in the picture above.

So to answer your question, yes, the romaji is phased out pretty quickly, but even with the romaji it still shows you the full Japanese version of the words (with kanji where available, even if it doesn’t teach you the kanji explicitly). But kanji lessons don’t start until the 3rd volume so you might think that’s too slow.

Btw, the first book’s course should be available for free on their website and IIRC you can select there if you want to start with romaji or hiragana (or at least you could when I did it some years ago).


I might give it another look and if possible, ignore the Progressive stuff and kana lessons. Thanks!

The textbooks also have integrated workbook material too at the end of each chapter so that’s a plus over Genki. I think that’s why it seems on the surface that it might cover less than Genki, because the content is spread over a few books with the integrated workbook practice and hiragana/katakana/kanji lessons and drills.

That said, all the grammar points are covered for free on the YouTube channel so you can just check that out directly if that’s a better learning tool for you.


Yeah, I really don’t get books that don’t have practice material in them. Internalizing grammar without practice is extremely difficult. And for self-learning, group or “make your own” activities are quite pointless, which is why I don’t like Genki.

Thanks for the pointers :+1:


You are missing the point. An effective self-study relies on QUALITY, not quantity, and Wanikani is a perfect example of this. Surrounding yourself with a lot of Japanese study material is unrelated to a positive result, right the opposite - LESS IS MORE and focus is precious. The more material you are trying to integrate into your self-study, the more it backfires as you get confused, frustrated and overwhelmed, and as a result you start losing your motivation.

I’ve been living and working in Japan for years and use the language at work on daily basis, and have learned the hard way about self-study books, they were all pretty much completely useless.

Came across Wanikani as I’ve been working on my N2 test, and am now going at a 10-day-per-level speed, while running a company and raising kids. If someone is a student with too much free time and IN ADDITION to Wanikani they use Genki, Tobira or something else from mainstream with all time in the world to spend, I guess it won’t hurt, but for those who have limed time and either study diligently or work, self-study books like Genki is a shameful waste of time.