Which book to use after Tobira?

I am working on the second Genki book. Once I finish it I will continue with the Tobira book. But which book should I use after that? I was thinking about getting Aozora : Intermediate-advanced Japanese Communication but there maybe be better books than that.

Honestly, by the time you’ve finished Tobira, you’ve essentially learnt everything you’re gonna get from a textbook. Get the Dictionaries of Japanese Grammar for reference, maybe, but otherwise just read some actual Japanese books.


I also like the Kanzen Master series. The N2 and N1 editions would follow Tobira


I may get the Japanese Grammar dictionaries one day. I will definitely read some books. But I am not sure if it will improve writing and speaking.

In my case I want to become much better at japanese than my friends. There are all super awesome. Of course I asked them, which books they used but they didn’t want to tell me.

Actually I browsed through the kanzen master books but didn’t buy any of them yet. But the n1 reading book didn’t seem that hard. The Aozora book is in my opinion harder. There is a sample chapter online if people wonder. http://www.nflrc.hawaii.edu/media/docs/LT33-ch4.pdf

These “friends” do not seem to be friends…


A very good alternative to the Japanese grammar dictionaries series is this book, https://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Japanese-Patterns-Teachers-Learners/dp/4874246788.


Without them I would have never started to learn Japanese. They probably didn’t want to tell me either because
a) they used some super secret textbook or study method
or b) they learned japanese by watching anime the whole day and don’t want to admit it.

I think it’s b lol. It’s nothing serious just a friendly competition. They are great people they always recommend me some good anime, manga or japanese songs

Thanks I will look into it.


Have you tried having Japanese lessons from a native? How about a Japanese pen-pal?

Unless you’re aiming for N2-N1 I don’t think you’d need further reading since your main goal is output. I’d imagine that you’ll rarely encounter stiff N1 grammatical expressions during casual conversations.

You need to find the means wherein you can practice outputting and have someone correct you and/or give a native sounding expression. Just keep practicing the skill that you want to have.


I plan to follow the path of Tobira → Kanzen Master up to N1, and immersing meanwhile. However, I’m currently doing much more just reading and listening whatever, and checking the grammar I encounter in BunPro and the Handbook. I stopped doing Tobira after the end of lesson 4, though I will eventually come back and finish it.

I also thought about what to do after Tobira before and there was this thread that I bookmarked that might be useful to you.

I’ve read somewhere that the N3 ones wouldn’t be bad to have for some gaps that Tobira doesn’t cover, but can you actually skip them? I’m asking this because I wanted to get them myself, but if I can just jump to N2 I’ll definitely save the money.


What seems to help me most to get better at japaese is: to listen to real japanese conversation in games, visual novels or TV. Writing down useful phrases, checking what they mean and then memorizing them

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I did Tobira after Kanzen Master N3 (and N2) because I had to use it for class, and I was already familiar with pretty much everything in it. Not sure if it’s the same the other way around, though


Imo, once you hit the upper intermediate level, textbooks stop being super useful. You’re totally right that there’s still more to learn and grow from there (especially when it comes to output), but in my opinion that growth isn’t going to come from a textbook. At the upper intermediate level, you need to get better at learning how to apply all the different grammar concepts and vocabulary you’ve learned in a way that sounds natural and enables you to express more complex ideas. Passively reading about how to do that from a textbook is not super effective imo.

I would recommend getting a native tutor (or a really good friend/exchange partner). Write things and have them correct you. Talk and have them correct you. Read and listen to native materials for input, and output as much as possible.

As a side note: I saw some people recommending Shin Kanzen Master and other JLPT prep books. Those books are great for helping you prepare the the exam, but aren’t going to help you with output, if that’s your goal. There’s more to learning Japanese than the JLPT


From the extract that @Kumirei posted, it does look pretty good. However, are the resources you need available? (E.g. for Aozora, can you get answers to the exercises easily as well? If not, you’re getting a ton of work that you could potentially do with no way of checking if you’re right, which is a waste of time, in my opinion, since that time could be better spent on a textbook that allows more immersion.)

Beyond that… I guess it’s also a question of how fast you want to advance. How much are you willing to study on your own? How much vocabulary do you want to absorb at once? The Aozora passages in that sample are not easy (I had a little trouble with them), but they’re not that hard either (quite a bit can be deduced from context, and the gist of each word is clear even if its precise meaning is not). I think better examples of books that are truly difficult and advanced are these two:

Perhaps I’ve improved a little since I last flipped through this sample, but I was once at a point where even just the 中・上級 textbook gave me roughly three new words a sentence, even now, I think there’s at least one word I feel the need to look up per sentence. These textbooks from the University of Tokyo also seem to contain relatively few exercises compared to the amount of readable text/vocabulary lists, which I feel is a plus for self-learners. The 中・上級 volume was actually used in my country’s high school curriculum in a programme that’s meant to bring students up to… well, OK, I don’t know what the Japanese department aimed for or guaranteed, but the French department (which I was a student in) aimed to get us to C1. My friend, who took the course, said this book should be sufficient for a solid N2 level, with an N1 becoming attainable with a little additional grammatical self-study. I’d say N1 is roughly B2-C1 though, so I’m not sure how to think about it. Then again, my friend’s teachers did provide rather advanced additional materials, so perhaps C1 really was the goal of the course even if the textbook was only roughly good enough for a B2, and my friend did pass the N1 with rather good marks (160+/180, I think). Either way, I think it’s a good book. Whether it’s actually better than Aozora for your purposes is for you to judge. Both look fairly challenging.

I’d like to respectfully disagree. I had a respectable (70+%) pass for my B2 French diploma, which I think safely put me in the ‘upper intermediate’ bracket, but I would have progressed much slower without my guided immersion textbook (essentially immersion + targeted grammatical explanations). The proof: I saw how much more my classmates struggled than I did, even though some of them were at the same level as me when we started our last two years of French language education. I’m now studying in France, and I have a C2 diploma in French with a fairly high score (84% overall; 90% for reading and writing). I’ve also regularly outscored native speakers in French within my stream at university (a science stream, granted). Textbooks may not be as necessary at the upper intermediate level, and it’s true that advanced textbooks are sorely lacking in the Japanese education sphere, but good textbooks are brilliant accelerators. If you don’t have one, or you pick a bad one, you can still reach the advanced level after some time, but having a textbook that really immerses you while proving just enough explanation for you to advance, while aggregating tons of useful advanced structures and vocabulary so you don’t have to seek them out yourself… that makes you tons faster. Many people felt a huge jump when we went from the B1-B2 intermediate level to studying C1 advanced material for French, but thanks to just a few months of extra study with that advanced textbook, I felt almost nothing, notably because it had already fed me all the rest of the advanced grammar and some of the rarer literary words that I needed to be comfortable at higher levels. You don’t need one, but in my opinion, and based on my experience, the fastest route to the top from the upper intermediate level is

  1. Finish an excellent intermediate-to-advanced textbook while doing immersion/other exercises on the side
  2. Pour all the rest of your time into immersion while using a monolingual dictionary as much as possible while reading all the definitions and examples that you have time for

Having someone to help with output practice is of course a welcome addition to all this, but sometimes that option isn’t available. In any case, I think that this is the faster route on the input end, at the very least, even if it won’t necessarily help with output without practice.


That’s a fair point. I’d agree that a textbook like the one you described and used in the manner you described would be hugely beneficial, especially in a classroom setting where you’re also doing output based activities and have a teacher giving you feedback.

My comment came from the way I often see people self studying, even here in Japan where output based immersion should be relatively easy. I often see people at the upper intermediate level pick up the grammar book for Kanzen Master or some other JLPT prep book and just memorize it, with minimal, if any, output based practice. As a result, I know a lot of people who can read and listen at a B2/C1 level, but have trouble holding a conversation at even a B1 level. It doesn’t help that the JLPT doesn’t test output.

Every upper level Japanese textbook I’ve seen has been in a similar style. It just gives you a laundry list of increasingly obscure grammar points/ sentence patterns and expects you to memorize them, with little context or usage notes given nor opportunities to practice using them yourself. This is probably a result of the grammar translation method having a strangle hold over foreign language pedagogy in Japan.

I guess what I was trying to say is that once you get to upper intermediate, onboarding a bunch of new, relatively obscure, grammar patterns by rote memorization is probably not the best use of your time. You want to be improving your communicative ability. If there’s a textbook that will help you with output based communication, by all means, use that.


Really? Wow! I found the texts in there really difficult, much more difficult than (almost) any of the novels I’ve been reading. Especially the high concentration of N1 grammar and the often abstract nature of the topics made them challenging for me when I was studying for N1.
(I actually found the actual test a bit easier, even, although disclaimer: reading was my worst category :slightly_frowning_face:)

I can definitely recommend the Shinkanzen grammar books as well! N2 and N1 grammar might not be used in conversation that much, but it’s still important to know if your aim is fluency. And it’s also by no means as obscure as some people make it out to be :slightly_smiling_face: It’s definitely worth studying in my opinion.
The grammar practice questions in Shinkanzen Master are really difficult and will definitely (over-)prepare you for the exam (if you aim to take it one day).


My internet connection sucks so I can’t do lessons right now but I have somebody who corrects my writing.

You are right the further I proceed in my studies the more I will use immersion. Of course I only use authentic content for immersion. Content created by japanese people for japanese people. I mainly use textbooks to learn expressions, proverbs and how to express ideas.

I had planned to work with the help of a teacher through the book. I don’t mind if a book is super hard I am willing to work hard to improve. Every day I spend around three hours for learning + immersion around 30 minutes.

That was actually what I wanted to do. Spending one hour on an advanced textbook every day and use the remaining time on immersion. Does somebody here have a good recommendation for a monolingual dictionary?

@Jonapedia I always wanted to ask you. How do you manage to write the kanji/hanzi fast enough to make notes in school? Even the ones I can write well can take me up to twenty seconds to write. But in school you probably need to write them much faster. Or is it something you can get much better at, just by daily practise?

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That’s great! Well, if you’re going to work with a teacher, then you can pick more or less whatever textbook you want. You might even want to ask the teacher for textbook recommendations. That might help. I was asking because I’m a self-learner and I’ll only have the opportunity to take formal Japanese classes in about two months’ time. The closest thing I have to a teacher now is my friend studying in Japan.

For the free (and high-quality) ones that are online, I think the best option at the moment is 大辞泉. The truth is though, every major dictionary site allows access to it (Kotobank, Weblio, Goo辞書), so you’re probably going to want to make your choice based on how much you like the interface and the other tools that each makes available (e.g. Weblio and Goo辞書 each have thesauri, with Goo’s being perhaps little better because it has disambiguation pages), including other dictionaries (Goo辞書 sticks to one dictionary, more or less, whereas the others include stuff from Wiktionary or… I can’t remember the name exactly, but it’s some sort of ‘Dictionary of Practical Japanese Usage’). I don’t know anything about paid dictionaries other than the fact that 広辞苑 has the same sort of status as Oxford does in English, but you might not need all that information (just like how most of us don’t need the full 28(?)-volume Oxford English Dictionary).

Well, practice is definitely one part of it, but there’s also a reason why hanzi/kanji have so many forms. Even if you just look at the forms that are still commonly used today, you have three: 楷書、行書、草書, in increasing order of cursiveness, with the last being based on a set of conventions used to adapt… 隷書 (‘clerical script’), I think? What I did to get faster while also staying legible was to learn 行書 and modify it so most of the teachers I knew would still be able to read it. It’s not really something that you have to do, but having some idea of past conventions used by professional calligraphers helps you think of ways to link strokes without turning everything into a mess. Stroke linking will probably also come naturally over time, but linking absolutely everything with exactly the same pressure is probably going to be a disaster (I tried that as a child because I was so sick of lifting my pencil :rofl:), so I wanted to learn how to do it judiciously.

In short, I guess the answer is… yeah, practice will help you to get faster. Beyond that though, if you want, you can try learning one of the forms that developed as a means of going faster.

Just a few examples of my own writing with the amount of time I needed for each:

The first was me really taking my time.
The second was me going about as fast as I could without letting everything degenerate. (I slipped up a little on 世.)
The third was me doing my best not to join any strokes, but I think I was still rushing a little because I had just finished the second set.
(The cancelled bits are things I struck out because I either added something that made a kanji rubbish or because I wasn’t respecting the conditions I had set for myself for that particular set.)

You can take a look at this YouTube channel for some tips:

I didn’t learn what I do from him (all my sources are Chinese aside from whatever I try to do with kana), but I think his videos are pretty good.

Oh yeah, one last thing: I think every country that uses kanji has its own set of common shorthand symbols. For China, it’s probably mostly based on 草書 or 行書. For Japan, here are some examples:


Haha I never wanted to imply that I am that good in japanese. I only skimmed through the Shin Kanzen Master n1 reading book. I always saw the n1 jlpt as something mystical, something only a chosen few can accomplish. That is why I was kind of shocked realizing that in two or so years I could acquire it, if I put lots of work into it.

@Jonapedia Thank you that was very informative. So some kanji have alternative forms? When reading japanese manga I sometimes saw words I know written with different kanji often some fancier looking ones. I always wondered the reason for it. Now I finally know that they are alternate versions of kanji.

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I’ll add that the next traditional textbook after Tobira is Authentic Japanese: Amazon.com

The 完全マスター series is good, but it is primarily a JLPT cram book so it may or may not serve your needs there.

I will say that I used neither resource so I can vouch for neither.

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That’s actually a different thing. What @Jonapedia is referring to are different forms for the same kanji.

But you can also use different kanji for the same word, like 早い and 速い for はやい. Often it’s because each kanji provides a different nuance.