The best Japanese book for adults

The Japanese language has many quirks, such as not using plural nouns or conjugated verbs.
The Japanese language has many quirks, such as not using plural nouns or conjugated verbs. (BestReviews)

Learning a new language is extremely challenging. For English speakers, it can be easier to pick up Romance languages because words are written using the English alphabet and have similar pronunciations. Some words in other Romance languages even look very similar to English words. However, Asian languages like Japanese add another layer of complexity to learning a new language — you also have to learn thousands of characters to be able to read and write.

Books and apps can work together to learn a language like Japanese, where you can understand the fundamentals of a language and practice writing new characters. For a great introduction to the Japanese language, Japanese from Zero! 1: Proven Techniques to Learn Japanese for Students and Professionals can get you learning on your own.


What to know before you buy a Japanese book

Skill level

Are you just starting out on your journey to learn Japanese? Or are you looking for resources to continue your Japanese studies and improve your reading and writing skills? This can be a crucial consideration for buying a book and starting on the right foot. Books for true beginners can start by sharing some foundational elements to the Japanese language and start with very basic vocabulary. As you increase your comprehension, Japanese books build upon your skills and introduce you to more complex grammar and reading passages.

Learning style

Japanese language learning books can come with different components to help you learn Japanese based on your preferred learning style. Japanese vocabulary books are just for learning new words with some footnotes for grammar. Workbooks provide room for you to practice characters and writing sentences.


Katakana vs. Hiragana vs. Kanji

Katakana, Hiragana and Kanji are three different alphabets that Japanese pulls from to create the written language, which makes it even more difficult to learn. Beginner books may only teach one alphabet, usually Hiragana, to ease learners into Japanese. Learners should note they will have to learn all three on their way to fluency.

Japanese books features


The most valuable addition to Japanese books to help learning can be workbook spaces to practice writing, doing exercises to recognize vocabulary and experimenting with sentence structure/dialogues. Photocopying pages from your workbook can provide you with even more opportunities to practice as you learn.

Online learning aids

More expensive Japanese language learning books can come with a database of online resources like lesson videos, games and audio files for no extra cost to you. These resources can also connect you with a larger community of learners even when you’re studying on your own.

Japanese book cost 

Japanese language books are low-cost resources for starting to learn Japanese. Most books will only cost between $10-$30, with the more expensive books including practice workbook pages. Keep in mind that many language books are available in a series, with each edition becoming more complex. You may start out by spending $10 to get your feet wet, but you may end up spending more on more advanced editions.

Japanese book FAQ

What can I use in conjunction with language books to help learn Japanese?

A. Many language learners can use apps like Duolingo to help study on the go. Learners should also see if they can join a language learning Discord channel to practice their conversation skills with other learners.

Is using a book an effective way to learn a new language?

A. Using a Japanese book can be a great introduction to the Japanese language, especially when used with other resources. Some learners have a hard time scaling up their learning when they reach an intermediate level. Learning from a book also requires a lot of self-discipline. Set aside time each week dedicated to studying Japanese or you might find your Japanese book gathering dust by the end of the month.

Which Japanese book should I get?

Best of the best Japanese book

Japanese from Zero! 1: Proven Techniques to Learn Japanese for Students and Professionals: available at Amazon

Our take: The best resource for learning Japanese besides attending in-person language classes. It comes complete with online learning aids for a more comprehensive education.

What we like: A highly recommended resource for beginners, with workbook pages to aid vocab and grammar comprehension. This focuses on Hiragana and comes with a bilingual glossary. Online resources include quizzes, video lessons, and chat rooms with other learners.

What we dislike: Each book costs $30 which is almost double the cost of other Japanese learning books.

Best bang for your buck Japanese book

Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self-Study: available at Amazon

Our take: A workbook-focused Japanese book with a lot of room for practicing new Hiragana characters

What we like: This Hiragana workbook builds on knowledge throughout the book, making it easy for learners to remember new words and comes with helpful pronunciation guides for new vocabulary. It is mainly composed of character writing guides with stroke order and room to practice.

What we dislike: It's not the best book for learning grammar or practicing sentence structure.

Honorable mention Japanese book

Japanese Short Stories for Beginners: available at Amazon

Our take: A book targeted at the intermediate level to help Japanese language learners practice reading skills beyond basic vocab memorization

What we like: These are simple short stories for Japanese language learners that challenge new students. Passages have side-by-side English translation to check understanding. The Kindle version allows for direct translation while reading.

What we dislike: This book doesn't have any online learning aids or workbook-type pages to help your education.

Daisy Kelly is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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