The Best Books to Learn Japanese for All Levels

The Best Books to Learn Japanese for All Levels - EDOPEN Japan

Japan is one of the most developed countries in Asia. Its current economic development is the second largest in the world. In this era of globalization, mastering foreign languages is a must. Especially for those who want to work or study in foreign companies. Japan is a developed country. Japan is now viewed with suspicion by many citizens of the world.

Not only as a tourist destination, but also as a country to work or study. It is very important to know Japanese through its language and culture. If you are interested in mastering Japanese, it is a good idea to learn with the following best books. These books are suitable for beginners to advanced learners as well as JLPT fighters.

It’s never too late to learn Japanese. We recommend these great Japanese language books. We hope they can help you become fluent in Japanese. We will discuss the book below. But first, read the following tips to find the right Japanese book so you can be better prepared. Now, let’s master it for your bright future!

In addition, if you are currently studying Japanese language and culture, especially certain phrases and sentences that are very common in everyday Japanese conversation, please read our recommendations below:

Read also:
Japanese Honorifics: San, Chan, Kun, and Other
How to Use “はい (Hai) Yes” in Japanese?
How to Express I love you in Japanese?

The best tips for getting started with learning Japanese

The best tips for getting started with learning Japanese - EDOPEN Japan

First of all, please note that learning a foreign language is something that some people find difficult. However, learning Japanese has many advantages. Because Japan, as a developed country and one of the world’s leading economic powers, has an impact on global development.

Therefore, people who speak Japanese fluently will be one step ahead of the world’s development. For this reason, it’s wise for you to take your time and study patiently.

Then here are simple, practical, but effective tips for you as a Japanese lover.

  • Practice diligently writing Japanese letters and making a schedule.
  • Expand your vocabulary by reading books.
  • Watch Anime or Japanese Drama.
  • Listen to Japanese songs.
  • Practice with your friends in the community

Besides, let’s just keep going. Next, check out some of our best book recommendations below. They are 100% proven and super easy to use. Here are the top 10 best books to learn Japanese.

The Best Japanese Learning Books for Beginners

The Best Japanese Learning Books for Beginners - EDOPEN Japan

If you want to get the best start in learning Japanese, choosing the right book is very important. Here are the top 5 books for you to choose to start your journey of learning Japanese. Choose the one that suits you best!

(1) “Minna no Nihongo

Minna no Nihongo, is undoubtedly one of the most popular books for people who want to learn Japanese. This book introduces you to the Japanese language and shows you the basic things you need to be able to communicate in the language. Probably Minna no Nihongo (みんなの日本語) is one of the best textbooks in the world for learning Japanese.

Minna, or 皆, means “everyone” So the title of the series means “Japanese for everyone”. The main argument for Minna no Nihongo, especially for beginners, is that it tends to be more in-depth than other popular textbooks. Compared to other textbooks, it contains more vocabulary and grammar, more exercises, and more accompanying workbooks, including those specifically for kanji, reading, and writing.

Minna no Nihongo consists of two textbooks, Volumes 1 and 2. Once you’ve completed Volume 2, you should be able to pass level N4 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). If you are planning to move to Japan or want to learn the language as thoroughly as possible, Minna no Nihongo is a good place to start. You’ll get a solid understanding of grammar and learn a lot of vocabulary.

(2) Genki

Genki is the other Japanese language book series that is extremely famous. It makes every student doubt which book to take. It’s also widely used in university courses and Japanese schools. Genki is a two-volume Japanese textbook published by The Japan Times in 1999. It was revised and updated in a second edition in 2011.

It was written by Eri Banno, Yoko Sakane, Yutaka Ohno, Chikako Shinagawa, and Kyoko Tokashiki. As a beginner, you know what to expect in each lesson. This predictable structure is key. It allows you to improve and develop your Japanese skills step by step. The Genki series has simple explanations and charming illustrations. It’s also full of information that provides a good foundation for beginners.

The conversation and grammar section is the largest part of the textbook. It’s the main reason you buy Genki. It consists of 12 chapters or “lessons” that teach grammar points and provide exercises to reinforce what you’ve learned. The lessons in the workbook give you the opportunity to write down your thoughts and ideas in simple Japanese exercises. In addition, the audio files at the beginning introduce you to many of Genki’s interesting characters.

Finally, it could be the perfect book for you!

(3) “Japanese From Zero

The third, the Japanese from Zero textbook is an innovative and integrated approach to learning Japanese. The professional Japanese interpreter George Trombley and co-author Yukari Takenaka have developed this book. The lessons and techniques used in this series are very great. They have been successfully taught in classrooms around the world for over fifteen years. Unlike most textbooks, you can study by yourself. You won’t need a teacher when using this book.

Again, with this textbook, you’ll learn to read, write, speak, and listen. This textbook uses a new and unique way. It has a holistic approach to address the way beginners learn Japanese. It’s worth knowing that the experienced and professional authors of this book have applied the techniques and lessons in the book. Therefore, you can be sure that these techniques and lessons can work wonders in teaching Japanese.

(4) Japanese for Busy People

Japanese for Busy People is another popular book for learning Japanese. It’s aimed at professionals, so you’ll learn a lot of vocabulary related to office and business situations!

There are two versions: the Romaji version and the Kana version. The Romaji version uses all English characters. The Kana version uses hiragana and katakana for the Japanese texts. However, this book doesn’t teach you Kanji. But, the book is suitable for self-study because it includes a CD for listening exercises.

Honestly speaking, the biggest problem with this series of books is that you don’t learn Kanji. Thus, you cannot learn how to write Japanese in the standard version. It is because only Romaji is used. This not only makes it impossible to read or write. But also means that learning pronunciation is much more difficult. However, there are plenty of exercises and practice exercises to make up for this.

A cool feature is that there’s an accompanying app that allows you to learn on the go!

(5) Yookoso! An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese

Yookoso ~ An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese is the right book for beginners. This is the book from the first volume of a two-volume series. It’s based on modern principles of second language acquisition. It was the first text that integrated the teaching of all four language skills. You can learn to listen, speak, read, and write only in one book. This book also provided extensive supplementary material.

This textbooks treats grammar as a tool for developing communication skills in Japanese. The rich illustration program provides an attractive context for language learning. There are many example sentences and tables to illustrate concepts. The emphasis on example sentences is a great way to learn original Japanese. This book will certainly give you a strong background for collocations.

The Best Japanese Learning Books for Intermediate & Advance Level

The Best Japanese Learning Books for Intermediate & Advance Level - EDOPEN Japan

If you have already studied Japanese and want to raise your level, here are our recommended books for you. Please leave your comments below if you have any questions about these books.

(1) “Read Real Japanese”

Read Real Japanese Fiction book presents short works by six of the most provocative Japanese authors of our time. The captivating world of Hiromi Kawakami, the hair-raising horror of Otsuichi, the haunting, and the other valuable short stories. These stories are very suitable for students in middle school and above.

Japanese short stories are written entirely in Japanese. Fortunately, there are English translations for the most important words on the page. In the back of the book, there’s also a built-in dictionary for Japanese-English learners.

There you will also see a section with notes on nuances, language usage, grammar, and culture appearing in each story. Best of all, the books come with a free audio CD. And the stories are read by a professional narrator. What a great book!

(2) “Tobira”

This is a relatively new book actually. The content of this book is up to date. This textbook consists of 15 chapters divided into a reading passage, a vocabulary table (about 80 per chapter), a conversation script, and questions on those topics. There are about 15-20 grammar points per chapter.

The main point is that there are a lot of grammar points in this book, your reading and translation skills will grow a lot as a result. There are very good explanations in English of each grammar point. As well as several varied example sentences.

One of the best things about this book is its clarity and “fun” nature. It’s really clear and easy to read and work through. Also, there are lots of pictures in the reading passages, fun little mini-exercises, and a whole lot of manga! It is a manga lover’s paradise! One thing to keep in mind. This book is highly recommended for intermediate to advanced Japanese learners.

The Best Japanese Learning Books for JLPT

The Best Japanese Learning Books for JLPT - EDOPEN Japan

As the main goal of every Japanese learner, mastering the JLPT is really a must. While you may have trouble choosing which is the best book for learning Japanese? Here is our recommendation for you!

(1) “New Kanzen Master”

First on my list for JLPT fighters is the New Kanzen Master. This book covers the levels N4 to N1. There are five books for each level: grammar, vocabulary, kanji, reading, and listening. We usually buy all five books as a set. For example, if you want to pass the JLPT N2, then you can buy the N2 level books.

You can also buy only the books you need to work on. In my experience, this book provides very comprehensive and rich material for grammar and vocabulary. However, you can choose the methods or styles that you like best.

Being very extensive and detailed, you might find this book a bit dry since you will not find any pictures in it. But all in all, for JLPT fighters, this book would be the best weapon you can reach for. For serious students or JLPT fighters who really want to make fast progress and reach their goals, this book is the best option.

(2) “Nihongo Sou-Matome”

Secondly, I would recommend this one. Yes, it is the Nihongo Sou-Matome. This book is also great for JLPT preparation from N5 to N1. In the case of N3, N2, and N1 levels: in one set you get grammar, vocabulary, kanji, reading, and listening. For level N4, on the other hand, you get two books. And, for level N5, there is only one book that covers all the material.

What we really like about this book is that the author makes an achievable study plan. They have divided the material into an eight-week study plan for the learner. They provide some exercises and detailed explanations of some difficult vocabulary. There are short explanations in English, Chinese and Korean in one book.

This book is very simple, handy, yet comprehensive, making it a good weapon to pass the JLPT. There are also cheerful pictures in some places that will make your fight day much more fun. Unfortunately, the content is not as deep and detailed as the New Kanzen Master. In the end, it’s up to you. Choose what suits you.


Finally, let us conclude this article with the following points:

  • If you want to learn Japanese from scratch, then please choose the 5 books: “Minna no Nihongo“, “Genki“, “Japanese from Zero“, “Japanese for Busy People” and “Yookoso“.
  • For the intermediate to advanced level of the Japanese learners, these 2 options would be great: “Tobira” or “Read Real Japanese“.
  • If you are aiming for the JLPT, choosing one of these 2 books is the answer: “New Kanzen Master” or “Nihongo So-Matome“.

That’s it from us! Please leave your comments below for any questions etc. See you in the next article!


Representative Director of Reboot Japan Co., Ltd., which operates EDOPEN JAPAN. Founded the company in 2018, which provides Japanese language education and assistance for studying in Japan. Started the company after living with international students at a Japanese language school. He enjoys learning about new people and cultures and has lived in Australia and Malaysia. Graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Sophia University.