Ultimate Guide To Japanese Textbooks

By Abdulai Lateef | Updated October 7, 2020

 This article is a part of our extensive series of 20 or more guides on how to learn Japanese.



Are you a resident in Japan interested in learning Japanese and wanting to live in Japan for more than one to two years? Are you looking to self-study Japanese or are you interested in having lessons with a Japanese tutor? All these questions lead to one most important question: which Japanese textbook is the best fit for me according to my level?

Your Japanese language studies can be hectic or can be magnificent depending on the type of textbook you buy. If you are a starter, beginner, intermediate, or an advanced student, there are Japanese textbooks that can really help speed up your learning process. Also, If you are looking for textbooks for the Japanese language test preparation and Japanese textbooks for business, this page has answers for you!

Listed below are Japanese textbooks according to the level of Newbies, Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced, Business, and Japanese language test preparations. Find your best fit now!

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    Japanese textbooks for Newbies

    1. Nihongo Fun & Easy 1

    The right book to kick start your Japanese language journey is none other than Nihongo Fun & Easy 1. Nihongo Fun & Easy 1 is purposely made for survival Japanese conversation for starters. This specific textbook makes you speak like a native Japanese! The conversation style helps students learn natural-sounding Japanese. This book helps you learn Japanese you endeavor to know in the short-term. You will have the opportunity to learn useful phrases as entire units, making it easy to say what you want even as a newbie.

    Do you also want to learn specific things of interest in Japanese? This is your book! Nihongo Fun & Easy 1 provides you the opportunity to learn what interests you! The textbook offers different real-life situations, numerous topics, and phrases that you can learn according to your interests.
    Another important feature of this textbook is that it offers flexible, practical, relevant, and independent grammar for real-life situations. You have the choice to study which section is most relevant and important to you.

    To boost your Japanese conversation abilities, you will need practice, practice, and more practice!. There is no other textbook than Nihongo Fun & Easy 1 that offers lots of basic real-life practice exercises in each unit to help students learn natural phrases and expressions. Nihongo Fun & Easy 1 has task-based lessons that include conversation practice, listening practice questions, and readings written in roman letters for learners who can't read Japanese kana yet.

    This textbook comes with an audio CD including all conversation dialogues and English language explanations so you can study everything on your own! Your starting journey to learning Japanese is definitely incomplete without Nihongo Fun & Easy 1.

    Nihongo fun and easy 1

    2. Kurashi No Nihongo (暮らしの日本語)

    On your starting journey of Japanese studies, the top textbook of choice should be none other than Kurashi No Nihongo (暮らしの日本語). This is a Japanese language textbook series for foreigners who wish to improve their Japanese language skills easily. This textbook is structured so that the learner can study hiragana and katakana while at the same time studying basic conversation and grammar. If you do not know any Japanese characters, there is no need to panic because this textbook will teach you everything from scratch.

    At the end of your studies, you will be able to read Japanese characters with ease. The textbook also comes with an enhanced CD that can be used with a CD player to listen to recordings of the conversations found in the book, as well as with a computer to print up the word lists. All these words are available in English, Chinese, and Korean too.

    Another important feature of this textbook is that it works perfectly for students and for teachers as well. The textbook provides useful advice and teaching points in each section of the text. Also, if a teacher has a student who is interested in learning kanji alongside hiragana and katakana, the student can study little by little the 80 kanji presented in the book. To also make the work of the teacher easier, there are also illustrations and kanji cards that can be printed up and used in class.

    Top Japanese textbooks for beginner students

    1. Genki Japanese 1&2

    Genki Japanese 1&2 is divided mainly into two volumes. There are textbook 1 and textbook 2. Textbook 1 comprises lessons from chapters 1 to 12 whereas textbook 2 comprises lessons from chapters 13–23. Each volume consists of two sections: “Dialogue and Grammar” and “Reading and Writing.” 

    These textbooks are also known to help beginners to improve their Japanese vocabulary. In these textbooks, there are Japanese vocabulary terms and their English equivalents. There is a widespread of examples listed in these textbooks to help every student boost up their knowledge of vocabulary. Since every student needs to practice after studying, Genki Japanese 1&2 offers many practice questions in the textbooks.

    All practices in the textbooks come with their answers. This helps students become more self-sufficient and study independently. Also in the reading section of these textbooks, there are audio recordings of the readings of every lesson. While the student listens to the reading lesson, it also helps improve their listening skills.

    Genki Japanese 1&2 comes with a CD accompanying each textbook. These CDs contain six hours of audio material in MP3 files. It is possible for students to pause in the dialogue, vocabulary, and practice audio material to give students time to pronounce the utterances, thus helping them to study more effectively.

    Genki japanese

    2. Nihongo Fun & Easy 2

    Every students’ best second choice of Japanese textbook as a beginner is Nihongo Fun & Easy 2. Nihongo Fun & Easy 2 is made purposely to improve the basic grammar for the conversation of every student. After the successful completion of this textbook, you will be able to learn 55 fundamental beginner-level sentence patterns.

    This textbook introduces the masu-form, dictionary form, te-form, ta-form, nai-form, potential form, conditional form, the volitional form of verbs, the plain form, and expressions using adjectives, and giving-and-receiving expressions. Under this section of the textbook, the student will be able to study the most convenient phrase for each verb conjugation! Verbs are really important in our daily conversations so it is essential to get the right verb and its right conjugation when communicating in Japanese.

    Also, no student is better off without practice so Nihongo Fun & Easy 2 has provided the opportunity to practice vocabulary and grammar as well. Starting with basic phrase-by-phrase exercises, users of this book will gradually work towards practical application, eventually becoming able to seamlessly incorporate new sentence patterns into daily conversation.
    The grammar section of this textbook is really incredible too! The students get the opportunity to learn many natural expressions that they can add to daily conversation. There is a roleplay setup in this textbook to give the students the chance to learn many casual and natural Japanese expressions through the dialogue roleplay.

    This textbook also comes with plenty of audio files to make studying easier for people who are still learning to read hiragana and katakana (includes English translations).
    After using this textbook, the student would have acquired survivable Japanese language skills but if a student is interested in furthering their studies with a Japanese language school, there is none other than the most affordable language school in Tokyo: Japan Switch. 

    Top Japanese textbooks for intermediate students

    1. Minna no Nihongo 1&2(みんなの日本語 1&2)

    Published in 1998, Minna no Nihongo 1&2 have been found resourceful to Japanese language learning. Minna no Nihongo 1&2 are some of the most popular Japanese language textbooks for teaching and individual study across the world. Some examples of the lesson topics include: essential grammar, vocabulary, listening, and speaking.

    This textbook comes in two types of books to aid students in learning Japanese with the Minna no Nihongo series: the textbooks (honsatsu) and translations and grammatical notes (honyaku - bunpo kaisetsu). Fortunately for students, the translation book is available in 14 languages: English, Burmese, Chinese, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Japanese (in Romaji), Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese. This offers you a wide range of languages to pick from. The translation and grammatical notes book will help you understand the lessons efficiently and will reduce frustrating misunderstandings in your studies with detailed explanations.

    On the other hand, the textbooks from Minna no Nihongo series are aimed at anyone who urgently needs to learn to communicate in Japanese in any situation, whether at work, school, college, or in their local community. The publishers make efforts to make exchanges between Japanese and foreign characters in the book reflect social conditions and everyday life as exactly as possible. Your intermediate Japanese language skills are definitely going to improve after using Minna no Nihongo 1&2.

    Minna no Nihongo



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    2. An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese

    At an intermediate level of Japanese language studies, the right textbook is really essential. An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese is a recommended textbook for every student. Just as the name suggests, this textbook is one of the most in-depth textbooks for intermediate students and covers reading, conversation, vocabulary, kanji, grammar, cultural notes, dialogue, and listening in detail and supports every section with lots of practice. Every lesson contains around 15-20 pages filled with content that helps you improve your Japanese.

    An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese teaches a wide range of topics. Each lesson starts with cultural notes relevant to the topic of the lesson. These notes help you better understand the situations presented and give you context. There is also a kanji review for kanji that you ideally already know. Each lesson also contains dialogs that you can use as both listening and reading practice. These dialogues present different real-life situations of the lesson's topic.

    In this textbook, there is a list of all the new vocabulary that appeared in the lesson. The list is divided into several sub-sections. For example, all new vocabulary from the reading practice section is in the "reading practice" sub-section, which makes it easy to find the word you are looking for. All kanji have furigana and English translations are included. There is also a detailed grammar explanation for almost all the lessons.

    Example sentences for every grammar structure with English translation are included. Every student can practice what they have learned in the lesson. If you have completed one of the beginner textbook series above (e.g. Genki 2 or Minna no Nihongo) and want to continue with intermediate Japanese, this is the perfect textbook to help you continue.

    Top Japanese textbooks for advanced students

    1. Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese

    Just like other textbooks, Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese combines the practice of all four language skills: reading, listening, writing, and speaking. This textbook is primarily made with the goals of solidifying the grammar, vocabulary, and kanji foundation studied during the beginner level and to develop all four language skills. What makes this book unique is that you can learn Japanese using multimedia alongside the textbook.

    To help students achieve the above goal, Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese makes learning a bit more fun using the Internet. This textbook comes with a link with which you gain access to the multimedia kit on Tobira’s official website. There are many varieties of materials that a student can find on this website. Some of these include materials for audio learning, video learning, kanji, grammar, and writing practice.

    Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese offers the opportunity for students to make a language partner online. With this language partner online, you can follow scenarios of everyday conversations, repeat a single section, or completely take over one part and interact with the other person. You can also record your performance and compare it with the original.

    There are a total of 15 chapters in this book that cover everything from reading, vocabulary lists, dialogues, conversation practice, grammar notes, and kanji lists to culture notes. Reading, dialogues, conversations, and vocabularies from the book are all available as audio material as well. After a student has successfully completed the material on the internet, the student’s advanced Japanese skills will have improved significantly. English translation is provided to the grammar notes and vocabulary lists.

    It is also important to note that the Tobira Gateway to Advanced Japanese textbook has been used for Japanese classes at many Universities in Japan.

    2. Dekiru Nihongo Intermediate Textbook

    Dekiru Nihongo is aimed at helping intermediate students to sharpen their Japanese communication skills. The book is the third book of the Dekiru Nihongo series. On average, all textbooks of the Dekiru Nihongo series have at least 20 chapters. As part of practice for users, they have to do a role-play in every section of the chapters. These role-plays are tailored to address different daily life situations.

    The book introduces new grammar, phrases, and vocabulary. Just as with other Japanese textbooks, the textbook provides CD audio conversion examples for listening practice.
    Every chapter of the Dekiru Nihongo Intermediate Textbook starts with a discussion. The learner is invited to share their experiences or expectations in this part. After an introduction, each chapter is divided into four parts. The student will practice their skills on how to invite, ask for help, or give advice. The student will also be asked to look into a poster, pamphlet, or article and give their thoughts hence improving their reading and writing skills.

    Students are also required to listen to the news, conversation, or interviews. This part will improve their listening skills. The learner will have to answer questions. Then, they will be able to share their thoughts, knowledge, and experience. There are also challenges in the textbook that users have to complete.

    Dekiru Nihong

    Top Japanese textbooks for business

    1. Japanese for Business People: Getting Down to Business

    This book is recommended for Japanese students who are interested in pursuing a career in which the Japanese language is used in or outside of Japan. It is ideal for students with an interest in business, but anybody interested in working in Japan or a Japan-related field will benefit from it.

    The great thing about this book is the numerous amount of examples offered. Each chapter goes into more depth compared to any other textbook. For example, in a chapter on invitations, the publisher went to extreme lengths to offer a variety of situations in which you would make an offer, make a recommendation, accept an invitation, accept an offer, or politely turn down offers and invitations. You learn a variety of expressions, and the amount of practice will really help you to diversify your speech and become increasingly fluent.

    As with other usual textbooks, chapters in this textbook have reading, listening, and speaking exercises. It is made for the classroom but can also certainly be used for self-study because there are plenty of exercises.

    The structure of each chapter helps you become familiar with basic expressions and gradually helps you to use these expressions yourself. Each of the four stages within each chapter is designed to make the language more your own. By stage four of each chapter, you will be surprised at how well you can express yourself to achieve the lesson goals.
    This textbook also comes with a CD in Japanese to help students improve.

    Japanese for Business People- Getting Down to Business

    2. Japanese for Business People: We Mean Business Textbook.

    Are you planning to work in Japan? Are you interested in business in Japan? Or do you want to become more fluent in Japanese in your business life? Don't worry, We Mean Business Japanese textbook has answers to all your questions. We Mean Business is a unique book that will not only improve your Japanese in general but also help you become better at doing business irrespective of the location you are in.

    In each of the chapters of this textbook, there are a lot of useful vocabulary, expressions, role-plays, and many more to help business people improve in Japanese. Every chapter is divided into four parts, and each part is divided into "within the company" and "outside company." This is extremely useful in terms of helping you learn exactly what language to use with co-workers and your bosses and managers and what language to use when dealing with outside companies.

    Each chapter focuses on various unique themes, such as "explanations" and "opinions." In the chapter, every student will practice from a variety of angles. Students will start out with basics, for example, asking someone to explain what they said. Then you will practice making explanations yourself. You'll learn to respond to certain questions ("What new features does your product have?" etc.) and also to be persuasive.

    There are also plenty of role-plays, business simulations, business diagrams, and more. If you are a Japanese teacher looking for a good book to use with a class of business students, this is a great choice. Even if you are not in a class, this is a useful book for self-studying. You can do many exercises to make yourself a perfect businessman. A CD is also included, giving you the opportunity to practice listening.

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    Top Japanese textbooks JLPT

    1. TRY (トライ)N1- N5

    There are five books in this series, one for each level; TRY N5, TRY N4, TRY N3, TRY N2, and TRY N1 Level.Based on the level you buy, the textbook is divided into many chapters with an average of fourteen chapters per book. Each chapter focuses on communicating in different situations and contains the following features:

    Conversation transcripts to show how the grammar points are used in real-life Japanese communication, fundamental grammar strategies which allow you to practice listening and reading comprehension, and review questions and answer sheets simulating the format of the real Japanese language proficiency test, giving the user a holistic experience as to how taking the actual test would feel like.

    In almost the whole series of TRY, each chapter of all the textbooks contains some English to help you understand the grammar points. The included practice exam and audio CD allows you to simulate taking the JLPT as a final test of what you have learned. A removable booklet of scripts and answers will help you to check your weak points so you can perform your best on test day.

    Also, every student can download the vocabulary list with English translations for the words used in the main text from the publisher's official website for free. Every TRY textbook in the series also includes a CD for listening exercises.

    After completing this book, every student would have improved their Japanese language skills.

    Try textbook

    パターン別 (Pattern Betsu) N1- N5

    Pattern Betsu is the perfect Japanese textbook for anyone looking to pass their Japanese language proficiency test. This textbook is divided into five volumes: Pattern Betsu N5, Pattern Betsu N4, Pattern Betsu N3, Pattern Betsu N2, and Pattern Betsu N1. According to the level of the language test, every student can buy the textbook that suits them.

    Pattern Betsu Japanese textbooks can be used by any beginner, intermediate Japanese, and advanced language students to improve their language skills. It is designed to provide the learner with practice in all test sections and to be a complete preparation guide for the Japanese language proficiency test.

    What sets this book apart from other similar workbooks is its approach to drills and its aim to make the learner aware of basic patterns in the way the JLPT structures its exam questions. By training yourself to recognize question patterns, you will be more likely to understand the correct answer.

    Every Pattern Betsu textbook is divided into four chapters: vocabulary, listening comprehension, grammar, and reading comprehension which are based on the four areas of the proficiency test. As you work through the examples and become used to the question types, you will build confidence in your ability to perform your best on the test day.

    Every textbook of Pattern Betsu includes two CDs in Japanese only to help every student improve their listening.


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