When to start tobira?

As the title suggests I’m not sure of when to start the tobira textbook. I’ve been studying for about 5 months and I recently completed genki 1+2 (including workbooks) and kanzen n4 grammar but I’ve taken a peek at the tobira textbook I’ve bough and the format is very different from these other textbooks.

I’m somewhat unsure of when to start to use it, as there seem to be alot of unknown vocab present so I’m not sure how I should go through the textbook. I was thinking of waiting until I have reached a higher level in wanikani (around 32 ish) so i know most of the n3 kanji meaning I would be able to focus more on the grammar but I’m unsure if this is just my laziness making me want to procrastinate for longer.
Do you think I should just start it now and if so how did you go through the books at a decent pace?
Thanks in advance

I think you should just go for it! At least try chapter one and see how it goes. I started on Tobira straight after Genki I+II and I started Wanikani maybe 2 weeks before beginning on Tobira and I haven’t had too many issues. I still feel a bit behind on kanji as I’m on chapter 9 now and only level 22 on Wanikani, but you won’t have that issue.

I think many people have their own ways of working through it, I just kind of adjusted a bit until I found something that I felt worked well for me. I like to try my hand at the main text, then read the grammar points and do the workbooks before going thoroughly through the readings for the whole chapter.

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What I’d suggest, especially since you’ve finished Genki 1 and 2, is to take a look at the first passage in Tobira and seeing how you find it. How much of what you see is new to you? After that, check the vocabulary list provided by the textbook: does it answer most of your questions? Are you able to understand the text with the help of the vocabulary list? Is there other stuff that you feel the need to look up, and are you willing to look all of that up, or is there too much for you? I think all these considerations will help you determine if you’re ready to start Tobira, or if, at the least, you are prepared to make the effort to start using it.

One thing I feel I have to make clear though: unless you’re really quite advanced in Japanese (e.g. you’re able to read newspaper articles comfortably without using a dictionary more than once or twice per article), I think it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to use Tobira without encountering any new vocabulary or kanji at all, especially since it uses quite a lot of domain-specific vocabulary that’s linked to traditional culture. For example, I think you’ll see 稲 in Tobira in a text about rice planting, but you won’t see it in WaniKani until level 39. You’ll also see some rare kanji in names very early on, like in 白鷺. What you need to determine is whether or not attempting to decipher these kanji on your own is a problem for you, and whether or not you’re willing to face all these new words that you might have to study on your own.

I think you should if you feel comfortable with handling all the new vocabulary, including the fact that you might have to look a few words up in the dictionary once in a while because they aren’t explained in the book. Check out the grammar section as well and see how things are explained, because while I found it nice that the explanations were very succinct, other people found that they weren’t clear enough. The main reason it’s a good idea to start Tobira is that the sentences in it are quite long, so it’s a good way to start learning how to read long sentences.

As for pacing… I’m probably the worst person to ask, because at my most motivated, when I really wanted to finish the book, what I did was to skip all the activities and questions (I was getting sick and tired of copying answers from the text while simply paraphrasing certain bits) and to power through each chapter in one day. However, this was possible in large part because most of the grammar was already known to me thanks to the internet and anime. If you’re seeing most of the structures for the first time, then perhaps anywhere from three days to a week is a reasonable amount of time to spend on each chapter. I think the questions you should ask yourself when it comes to pacing are

  1. What resources do I have to check myself against? (E.g. do you have the answers to the questions in the book?)
  2. Which activities are useful to me? (E.g. are the comprehension questions, role-play and expression practice helping you? Do you have any way of knowing if you’re expressing yourself correctly? Should you cut some of these activities out if they’re taking up too much of your time?)

Ultimately, I think what you should do is to try out one or two chapters in order to get a feel for how much time you need, and then decide how to schedule your studying with Tobira.


Thanks for the response, hopefully the transition isnt too painful I was just slightly worried if I was going too quickly, as people have told me it should be taking me around a year to finish n4, whereas rn I’ve only been studying for about 5 months but I’ll be sure to try asap. Did you start reading manga/ other source material during or after N3?

I did Tobira at around the same WK level as you. Don’t get intimidated by the N3 kanji - the book doesn’t expect you to already know them; it’s trying to teach you them!

(Though iirc there are occasionally kanji it includes in the readings without expecting you to learn, too; just giving you the reading and definition so you know what it means in the sentence without expecting you to memorize it. That’s just the reality of reading Japanese at an intermediate level; it’s gonna be a long time before running into a kanji you don’t know becomes a rare thing.)

It’ll be overwhelming at first because of the long passages of just Japanese, but the goal is to get you used to reading and build your confidence, and imo it does a good job of it. I remember only a few chapters into it I’d already started feeling way less intimidated by big blocks of text.

Definitely do the workbooks! Personally a chapter a week (main book + workbooks) was a good pace for me; gave time for the new material to sink in while still going pretty quick.

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I started watching anime before I started learning Japanese, actually, and I started watching anime while paying (some) attention to what was being said halfway through my first textbook, which was probably meant to cover everything up to the beginning of N3 (so a little more advanced than Genki). You shouldn’t be aiming to understand everything at that point, because it’s probably impossible (or at least quite difficult) at that point. However, it’s still very good listening practice and can help you reinforce the most common words and expressions used in conversations, like が and けど.

However, one caveat: I’m a Chinese speaker, so kanji were never really a problem for me. That might mean that I didn’t face the same difficulties that you might. However, well, I did have to learn the grammar from the ground up, so I don’t think your experience will be that different in that regard.


While I’m not the OP, thanks a lot for the explanations @Jonapedia , because I was also wondering whether to do Tobira after Genki :).


Just from my own experience, I did Genki I and II within 8 months, and I don’t think I particularly sped through it. With my tutor, to begin with I was only have a lesson every two weeks (she hadn’t got space for weekly at that time) and we covered a whole chapter each time. From the middle onwards of Genki II, we were only doing a chapter every two weeks. So I think I definitely could have done it, finished it, wrapped a bow round it within your timescale if I’d had weekly sessions covering a whole chapter right from the start. Just because others take longer doesn’t mean you haven’t learnt it. Everyone is different, everyone has different amounts of time they can devote to it, and frankly, everyone has differing abilities to pick up the language. Go for Tobira. You’ll be fine :slight_smile:


Aye, Tobira can feel like a bit of a jump, but it’s actually intended to follow on from Genki (and Nakama). You can find on the Tobira website a list of the kanji that’s assumed knowledge for Tobira which isn’t covered by Genki, so that you can bridge the gap a bit more easily. There’s about a dozen at most, if memory serves.

Genki actually covers all of the grammar that you need to cover for Japanese - the grammar taught in Tobira is more like meaning subtexts for specific uses.


It’s good to challenge yourself. I’d say just dive straight in.

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Thank you everyone for the replies, I’ll stop my procrastinating mindset and just jump right into it

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I agree. From experience, I think it’s doable to do 1 Genki chapter per week even, but that would mean going at it every day for a couple of hours and much longer on weekends.

That’s actually very good to hear! By not covered by Genki do you mean that they don’t appear in Genki or are not explicitly taught, but might still appear?

I’d say that still sounds useful :slight_smile: . Yes, so far I also get the impression that Genki does a job at teaching core grammar concepts.

Also, good luck and fingers crossed!


just a random question: how many kanji does genki I and II cover in total?

I’m reasonably sure Genki doesn’t use any kanji that it doesn’t teach, but either way, the list can be found on this page if you want to check for yourself.

This is the entirety of the list of kanji that’s assumed for Tobira but not taught by Genki:



I think it might be a little bit on me, then. Most of these do appear in Genki, especially in the 単語 sections, but Genki kind of sort of doesn’t assume you need to know and/or use them. For instance, 汚る and 汚す are a key part of the paragraph on transitive/intransitive verbs, but there is always furigana for “optional” kanji.

Looks like I actually do know all of these :sweat_smile: .

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From the Genki FAQ that comes up on Google when you search ‘genki i and ii kanji number’:

A total of 317 kanji are studied in the Reading and Writing sections: 145 in GENKI I and 172 in GENKI II .


I went straight from Genki II to Tobira, and it was fine. Tobira is harder than Genki, but mostly just because it has more Japanese and less English, not because the Japanese they use is hard to understand. This good because it’s a more immersive experience.

Also, my own personal experience was that Tobira doesn’t really get much harder as it goes on. It seems like it stays at a more-or-less constant level of difficulty, while simply piling on more grammar and vocabulary. I felt that I could almost read the final chapter of Tobira even before I was halfway through the book. So that should be encouraging in the sense that even if the first few chapters feel hard, it won’t continue to feel so difficult for all 15 chapters.


Tbh I’ve had a look at the first few pages and its not too bad understanding what they are asking, I’m just confused on how you are meant to use the online website in correlation to the book

The website has all of the audio materials, and some supplementary exercises as well.

You can just make your own way to go through all of the materials, but if you’re interested, here was my process for each chapter:

-Do the introductory exercise

-Read the reading exercises without referencing a dictionary or vocabulary list. Then, read through the vocab list, and read it again, referencing the vocab list as necessary to get a complete understanding of the words. (There will still be grammar you don’t understand - save that for the end of the chapter)

-Listen to the listening exercises 2-3 times each. Do this a few times for total comprehension, and only reference the script when you really can’t understand a word or a passage at all. Then use the vocab list in the same way as for the reading.

-at this point there are usually a bunch of exercises such as pair work or writing assignments. I did them by myself, even the pair work, but if something really doesn’t make sense you can probably skip it. The more you do, the more you retain though!

-when you reach the grammar section, make flash cards in an SRS (I used anki) for the black- and grey-circle grammar points (you don’t have to do this but it will help with long term retention). The book didn’t seem to emphasize the white-circle grammar points so I just read their explanation once, but made no flash cards.

-now, go back and skim through the readings once more to observe the grammar points in use. And also re-listen to the audio exercises.

-Finally, there are some more resources available on the website that are seemingly optional, but will of course solidify your understanding.

  1. The video: I highly recommend watching it and completing the worksheet. It’s some good native-level listening practice, but they help you understand it so it’s not impossible.
  2. The grammar worksheet: it’s nice to have just to solidify the grammar a bit more. You could skip whatever grammar points you already feel confident on.
  3. Their pre-made Anki decks of vocab from the chapter: I recommend this highly! It’s so convenient to just download a pre-made deck and start reviewing it immediately with no extra work. They already selected the most important words from the vocab list, too. Just do the “yomimono” and “kaiwabun” decks - you don’t need to do the kanji exercises or use the kanji decks because you are using WK for that.
  4. “Language Partner Online” - This is a sad attempt at conversational practice, where you’re supposed to awkwardly fill in the silence of a pre-recorded conversation with a pre-written script. I understand the intention behind it, but in practice I feel it’s a waste of time. I recommend skipping this entirely, as it’s completely unrealistic.

Also, I spread this whole process out over about 2 weeks per chapter. But 1 week seems reasonable if you have 1-2 free hours to study each day.

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