Best Japanese Textbooks for Beginners



Choosing the right textbook is imperative to the study of Japanese.  Some may not explain things in an easy to understand way, which can leave learners frustrated with Japanese.  It is good to know which textbooks do a better job explaining and helping you retain info than others.  Here is a list of Japanese textbooks I recommend. These are all ones that I do own and have tried.  I have found them to be, in general, the most helpful.  I hope this helps you decide which textbook to use with your studies!

Individual reviews for each, coming soon!

Note: using the Amazon links helps support the site! (:

Best Japanese Textbooks

Textbooks that are good for learning most parts of the language

First Place – Genki 1: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese

The Genki series by The Japan Times is widely used in colleges and is pretty decent for self learning.  Personally, it is my favorite book out of all other textbooks.  It may not be perfect, but perfect is hard to come by with Japanese textbooks!  I highly recommend giving Genki a try. Genki 1 is one of a 2 part series. Buy Genki 1 cheap

Second Place – Japanese From Zero! 1

Japanese From Zero! is great if you do not yet know your Hiragana or Katakana.  It gives you GREAT practice with them and by the end of the first book, you will be extremely comfortable with Hiragana.  This book works at a slower pace that upper beginners may not find appealing.  Japanese From Zero! 1 is one of a 3 part (and expanding to 5 shortly?) series, so you can learn (possibly) up to an intermediate level, if not higher. ++ Get Japanese from Zero! 1 cheap

Third Place – Japanese For Busy People 1

Japanese For Busy People is a good series.  There are two versions of the book, Kana or Romanized, and I am not entirely sure which one I like more.  Most people push for Kana so you can familiarize yourself with actual Japanese writing, but the book does not include ANY Kanji so you might as well not even bother if you aren’t going all the way, in my opinion. I thought the Romanized version was more helpful and I know all my Kana. Japanese For Busy People is mainly focused around business aspects.  It is still helpful for non-business people, but in the first few units they teach you how to ask and say when a store opens or closes.  This probably isn’t the biggest concern for someone just learning Japanese.  Still helpful though!  Japanese For Busy People 1 is one of a 3 part series, so you can stick with this book for a while! ++ Geat Japanese for Busy People I: Kana Version cheap or Get Japanese for Busy People I: Romanized Version cheap

Fourth Place – Japanese For Everyone

I have mixed feelings about this book.  Japanese For Everyone is PACKED with information.  Some say it has as much as Genki 1 and 2.  It is much cheaper than owning Genki 1 and 2 (by a lottttt).  The print is very small and I feel as though it pushes through content without really allowing the learner to comprehend all of it.  I like that it introduces Kanji though, like most books do not.  If you can only buy one textbook, this should be it.  But for most people, you may want to stick with Genki. Get Japanese for Everyone cheap

If you liked this post, please suggest it to your friends or subscribe! A Worst Japanese Textbooks for Beginners post is coming soon, along with individual reviews for each book!

Thanks for reading,

-Travis V10

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  • phreadom

    The link for “Japanese for Everyone” actually links to “Japanese for Busy People”. (both the text of the link, and the address are both wrong.)

  • V10 Japan

    Thanks for telling me!! haha. Fixing this now :)

  • orangenbaum

    first of all great blog. keep it going!!!

    if someone just wants to speak the language, i highly recommend teach yourself.

  • MikeS

    “Elementary Japanese” I & II by Turtle Publishing should be on this list…it’s a fantastic series and comes with a CD and exercises in the book. All for waaay less then Genki.

    • V10 Japan

      I own Elementary Japanese by Turtle Publishing and I like it. I’ll give it another look and see if I should revise the list.

      Thanks for suggesting this!

  • Mike Page

    Oh, and you can reach me at

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