Want to study Japanese, but don’t know where to start? Well, we’ve got good news for you: you’re already headed in the right direction!

That’s right! Searching for a well-suited Japanese language book is your first step into mastering the language. With proper guidance, you can save time and brainpower as you advance through the curriculum!

When choosing a Japanese language book, the question isn’t necessarily “Which Japanese language book is the best?” but rather “Which Japanese language book suits me the best?”

That’s why, in this article, we’ll introduce our top Japanese language books for beginners along with their pros and cons. We will also include reviews of the books from past users, based on their Amazon star rankings. We hope that you can use the information as a reference in choosing the perfect Japanese language book for you!

Without further ado, let’s dive right in!

1. “Genki”

genki Japanese language book
Japanese language book # 1: “Genki”

Summary: Used by college courses worldwide, “Genki” books I and II are popular Japanese language books used by beginners. Since they are often used in college “Introduction to Japanese” courses, they may be a good choice for learners dabbling in the Japanese language to study abroad in Japan!

Pros:

  • Since they are so popular, there are many discussions and reviews of the series posted online for extra reference.
  • Their curriculum covers four language skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening).
  • Supplementary audio CDs and workbooks are available for extra practice.
  • JLPT level N5 is covered in “Genki” I and JLPT level N4 is covered in “Genki” II, so you’ll simultaneously be studying for the tests!
  • They contain explanations in English.
  • The providers offer extra materials online that are free to use.

Cons:

  • They are geared towards college Japanese language classes, so they contain discussion exercises that do not work for self-study.
  • Answers to exercises are sold separately.

Review:

See what past users have to say about their experience with this Japanese language book.

Japanese language book Genki total global rankings and reviews chart on Amazon:
Overall, Genki has had high rankings and reviews by past customers on Amazon. Out of the 2014 total global rankings on Amazon, 85% of them gave the book 5 stars, 10% gave 4 stars, 3% gave 3 stars, 1% gave 2 stars, and 1% gave 1 star.

Let’s see some comments from reviewers on why they decided on the number of stars that they gave the Japanese language book Genki.

★★★★★ oxcart400 on Amazn.com

Very well organized. Each chapter has consistent sections. Has an excellent companion mobile device flashcard app that you can purchase. The early chapters let you have romaji. The later chapters have kanji with hiragana superscripts. This book seems to be a class textbook, so there is a certain amount of two-person exercises. This book does make you supply a lot of effort.

★★★★☆ Will Sellers on Amazon.com

This is a good book for anyone who wants to learn some Japanese Grammer and vocab, keep in mind it’s almost essential to already know hiragana and katakana as the book switches early on to using just that. At times it feels like it wants you to jump in with too little information but steady practice seemed to be plenty to ace the practice after 2 – 3 times reading the chapter and going over the practice to see what it wanted me to do.

★★★☆☆ Erin N. on Amazon.com

I’ve taken two semesters of Japanese with this textbook. You will learn formal Japanese and basics like introducing yourself, polite questions and responses, and how to ask for directions or order off of a menu. The book is rather oddly laid out, however. For example, in chapter nine, you learn the names of several colors – black, white, blue, and red. But what about the rest of the colors? They will teach you a few adjectives and nouns, but similar ones are scattered throughout the book in orders that don’t make sense. The other complaint my teacher made was they only teach one way to say things, so you only get one possible sentence structure when there are different ways to do it that are still considered correct. I don’t care for the layout for these reasons, BUT if you do read go through the grammar points, you will learn a lot. It covers hiragana, katakana, and basic kanji. I also don’t know of a better textbook for a complete beginner, so I would still recommend this because it has CDs so that even if you are self-teaching, you can practice listening and speaking.

★★☆☆☆ Ryan Lidster on Amazon.com

I will state upfront that I think, from the perspective of a novice teacher or new student, this textbook is easy to use…That said, coming from my previous position of teaching ESL for several years, the dramatic gap in quality between several ESL textbook series and is hard to overlook…

The vocabulary for each chapter is seemingly selected at random…The vocabulary lists are not organized around any central theme…and the grammar points in turn have no meaningful connection to each other or necessarily to the content of the chapter…

Taking one step further back, though, I found myself often asking: why are my students learning this now? Is it really essential for them to be able to say that their throat is sore, while they still can’t really describe things they want or don’t want (欲しい doesn’t appear at all), or can or cannot do?…

The biggest mystery to me, though, is why or how the text calls itself “integrated.” There are almost no assignments that explicitly target integrated skills…

To reiterate, these flaws do not render the text unusable…If this textbook were translated to a more commonly taught language than Japanese, I am not confident that it would be published at all.

★☆☆☆☆ Amazon Customer on Amazon.com

The publisher tries to make this book sound like you could use this for self-study of Japanese but it’s really really not geared towards that. I’m sure it’s fine in a classroom but I assume you’d only be reading reviews if you were considering buying it for self-study. I’m honestly learning a lot faster now that I’ve given up on this book and am just using free online materials like Tae Kim.

One other major issue with this book is that the early chapters spoonfeed you with a lot of romaji, and the entire thing barely teaches you any kanji at all, which I would think would just encourage you to develop bad reading/writing habits early on.

Does this Japanese language book suit your needs? If so, you can purchase a copy of this Japanese language book on Amazon!

2. “Japanese for Busy People”

Japanese For Busy People I: Kana Version (Japanese For Busy People Series): Japanese language book
Japanese language book # 2: “Japanese for Busy People”

Summary: The “busy people” in the title “Japanese for Busy People” refers to career professionals who are aiming to learn Japanese while working. This Japanese language book purposefully omits kanji and uses katakana instead. There is a Romajized version, as well!

Pros:

  • It uses quizzes at the end of each section for self-evaluation.
  • Answer key to exercises is included in the book.
  • Audio CD is included.
  • It includes themes on work and careers.
  • There’s no kanji (good for learners who aren’t aiming to learn kanji yet).

Cons:

  • It is geared towards working people, not necessarily students.
  • There’s no kanji (inconvenient for learners wanting to learn kanji).

Review:

See what 898 past users have to say about their experience with this Japanese language book.

Japanese for Busy People, Japanese Language book ranking and review chart on Amazon
Overall, Japanese for Busy People has had fairly high rankings and reviews by past customers on Amazon. Out of the 898 total global rankings on Amazon, 77% of them gave the book 5 stars, 13% gave 4 stars, 6% gave 3 stars, 3% gave 2 stars, and 2% gave 1 star.

Let’s see some comments from reviewers on why they decided on the number of stars that they gave this Japanese language book.

★★★★★ Nicole M on Amazon.com

I’ve been using this book as the textbook for my Japanese Conversation class. I love this textbook, and this is coming from someone who dislikes the best ones because they’re, well, textbooks…The pictures are cute and definitely help assist in the learning process. They use a specific set of characters they made for the book that they introduce in the intro. At first, I thought this was needless, but it helps later on…The vocabulary at the bottom of each page is good for a quick reference.

…The book is a great size…as a college student who doesn’t want her bag too heavy or too full, I like the size.

The book is easy to navigate, and I like the way and the order they present the learning material. There’s nothing I dislike about this book at all. And the price? Definitely affordable.

…I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who’s learning or refreshing themselves on the language of Japanese.

★★★★☆ Dennis on Amazon.com

A real excellent introduction to Japanese vocabulary, culture, and grammar. The exercises can be repetitive and are mostly substitution exercises. However, this is a great way to master sentence patterns. My suggestion is to do the exercises and then to create one or two other sentences of your own based on what you just did. This way, you can further apply what you have just learned.

★★★☆☆ D. Smith on Amazon.com

I have used this text for my introductory course and must say that compared to Genki, I find Busy People I to be lacking. The vocabulary is alright, and if you get the kana version it is superior to trying to muddle through with the romaji crutch. However, I find the exercises to be repetitive and non-educational. For each exercise, an example is given. All the student is asked to do is fill in the blanks to repeat the same thing with different people/places/things for the 3 exercises that follow. That is great for practicing writing kana–but not much else. A person can literally complete the exercises without learning the grammatical point that is supposed to be learned in the section.

★★☆☆☆ Kathleen Wiersch on Amazon.com

I am taking a class that says that as part of the class we will be learning Kana. The class description says buy the third edition of Japanese for Busy People so I assumed I should get the “Kana” edition. Oh no! This edition assumes you already know Kana. I guess there must be some people learning Japanese who already know the script but I’m not one of them.

★☆☆☆☆ D. Resnick on Amazon.com

Definitely NOT recommended for people who want to learn a lot of practical Japanese language in a short time. Despite the title, it seemed to me that the book requires a great deal of effort to learn a lot of random things very quickly in a sort of childish kindergarten way (“This is a key. That’s a book.”), and definitely not in order of usefulness – why do I need to know how to say “one trillion mechanical pencils” before I learn toilet, passport, visa, taxi, bus stop, train station, train ticket, entrance, exit, …? There is very little explanation – much of the material raises more questions than it answers, giving the student the feeling that they don’t know how to use what they’ve learned except in the very few explicit examples given in the book.

Are you one of the “busy people” who need a Japanese book for beginners? Then head on over to Amazon to purchase a copy of this Japanese language book!

3. “Adventures in Japanese”

adventures in japanese: Japanese learning books
Japanese language book # 3: “Adventures in Japanese”

Summary: “Adventures in Japanese” provides a simple introduction to the Japanese language. It is geared towards junior high and high school learners, or those who want a gentle introduction to Japanese.

Pros:

  • Simple explanations enable you to immediately grasp the basics of the Japanese language.
  • There is a companion website with free bonus material.
  • It is very simple and easy.

Cons:

  • The simplicity of the explanations can make them vague.
  • Its contents are not as comprehensive as other college-level Japanese language books.

Review:

See what 31 past users have to say about their experience with this Japanese language book.

Amazon ranking and reviews chart for "Adventures in Japanese"
Out of the 898 total global rankings on Amazon, 80% of them gave the book 5 stars, 14% gave 4 stars, and 6% gave 1 star.

Why such rankings? Let’s find out!

★★★★★ Tony Salonga on Amazon.com

We used this book for Japanese 1, it’s much better than the previous edition. It integrates more kanji into the curriculum allowing for students to be prepared for the AP exam earlier.

★★★★☆ Cipriano Acuna Jr on Amazon.com

My daughter says thank you, my daughter, for having fun with the Japanese book.

★☆☆☆☆ L. Tomoyasu on Amazon.com

If I could give this ZERO stars I would. This is, by far, the WORST Japanese Language book I have come across. I’ve studied with several other books and while no book is perfect, this one AIJ seems to have no real structure to it. There are so many things thrown into it here, there, and everywhere. I am no Japanese expert or linguist, but if you want to pull your hair out by trying to make sense of where this textbook is going, then, by all means, go ahead and buy this book.

Are you a junior high or high school learner looking for a simple introduction to the Japanese language? Then you can purchase this Japanese language book on Amazon!

4. “Minna no Nihongo” 

 minna no nihongo: Japanese language book
Japanese language book # 4: “Minna no Nihongo”

Summary: Translated as “Japanese for Everyone”, “Minna no Nihongo” is another popular Japanese language book series in the academic world. The books are written and edited by Japanese language teachers who are (obviously) professionals in this field.

Pros:

  • It covers a wide range of content.
  • Since it’s written in Japanese, it offers great practice in the language.
  • Very descriptive and in-depth explanations on grammar.
  • Answers to some practice questions are included in the book.
  • The series consists of many books, all with unique specializations and focuses.
  • The books introduce kanji right off the bat.

Cons:

  • Since everything is written in Japanese, you will need a device or dictionary to translate the content.
  • Prior knowledge of katakana and hiragana is necessary.
  • Since focuses and specializations are scattered across different books in the series, you may need to purchase multiple books for a comprehensive understanding of the Japanese language.

Review:

See what past users have to say about their experience with this Japanese language book.

Amazon ranking and reviews percentage chart for Japanese language book Minna no Nihongo.
Out of the 906 total global rankings on Amazon, 81% of them gave the book 5 stars, 11% gave 4 stars, 5% gave 3 stars, 1% gave 2 stars, and 2% gave 1 star.

Let’s see some comments from the reviewers on Minna No Nihongo: Beginner 1, 2nd Edition.

★★★★★ Angeline on Amazon.com

Excellent book, much better than the Genki series. (It) immerses you in Japanese right away and forces you to look to the translation book for any help. By removing the crutch of English words being mixed in, it acclimatizes you to reading Japanese even at the early levels. I have tried so many Japanese textbooks to learn grammar, but this was the only one that really helped.

★★★★☆ Aowyn on Amazon.com

If you have a little experience under your belt already, this can be an excellent practice book for you! I also learned a lot of words that were very useful in my fully immersive Japanese class (practice, example, polite, plain, present tense, past tense, object, subject, particle, verb, transitive, intransitive, etc.). This vocabulary isn’t very useful for day-to-day communication, but it’s invaluable in a classroom setting.

★★★☆☆ Akiko on Amazon.com

I’m Japanese and teaching Japanese to foreigners. This book is for learning Japanese, not for studying alone. You know the difference. We, Japanese teachers, teach Japanese students through this book. If you want to study Japanese alone, you can find other books written in your language and Japanese.

★★☆☆☆ レーニン on Amazon.com

I gave it to a Chinese friend, but it seems that it was made for Americans and could not be used at all.

★☆☆☆☆ Laurie on Amazon.com

My fault for not doing more research before I purchased this, but the entire book is in Japanese. Perhaps this information should be included in the description.

Want to focus on a particular aspect of the Japanese language in depth? Then check out the OMG Japan website and browse through the series of this Japanese language book!

5. “Japanese Short Stories for Beginners”

Japanese short stories for beginners: 20 captivating short stories to learn Japanese and grow your vocabulary the fun way
Japanese language book # 5: “Japanese Short Stories for Beginners”

Summary: This Japanese language book includes 20 short stories that are easy to read for beginners in the language. It is a compilation of short Japanese storybooks for beginners and is a great book to improve your reading comprehension skills and become comfortable with the Japanese language. This book may be a great supplement to other grammatically informative textbooks!

Pros:

  • Reading short stories is an engaging way to learn Japanese.
  • Each story includes a summary of the story, vocabulary questions, and answers. 
  • The short stories have dynamic characters and unique plotlines, unlike textbook excerpts.

Cons:

  • The furigana above the kanji is quite small, so you may need prior knowledge of kanji to take full advantage of this book.
  • The book is not meant to teach Japanese, but rather to drill it.
  • There is no audio included. (Although kindle has an audiobook version.

Review:

See what past users have to say about Japanese Short Stories for Beginners.

Japanese language book 'Japanese Short Stories for Beginners' Amazon ranking and reviews chart
Out of the 395 total global rankings on Amazon, 79% of them gave the book 5 stars, 15% gave 4 stars, 3% gave 3 stars, 1% gave 2 stars, and 2% gave 1 star.

Let’s see some reviews on this Japanese language book!

★★★★★ Chris on Amazon.com

I’ve bought a couple of ‘beginner’ Japanese short story collections before which have at times been very badly graded for the level and simply way too difficult. Thankfully this one is by far the best yet, and the stories are readable and not under or over-challenging (I’m not exactly a ‘beginner’, though- I’m around N4 level, having completed Genki books 1 and 2). Vocabulary lists and translations are there if you need them, too, which is very handy, and the stories themselves are nice and varied. While not suitable for true beginners, this is a great book for elementary/ pre-int learners!

★★★★☆ Sam on Amazon.com

As a beginner of the Japanese language, I find this book to be an excellent supplementary tool for my quest for fluency. The sentences are simple enough to follow along with (though you’ll definitely need to be proficient in your hiragana and katakana) and the stories contain relatable situations that one might encounter on a daily basis.

★★★☆☆ Remco Kuiper on Amazon.com

Well… let me say this, buy some reading glasses when you buy this book. Unless you can read kanji very well, the hiragana above the kanji is very small en very thin, and sometimes it is printed through the kanji making it sometimes impossible to read. It could have been a good book for beginners, but it is just printed wrong.

★★☆☆☆ Kerrigan on Amazon.com

I’ve done about a year of Japanese at Uni, thought I’d give this good a shot. It’s still way too advanced for me.

★☆☆☆☆ Yuki on Amazon.com

Boring stories in which nothing happens, just look at the summaries. And NO AUDIO! Language learners need audio!

Interested in improving your Japanese language skills through engaging short stories? Then head on over to Amazon and purchase a copy of this Japanese language book today! Free with kindle unlimited membership!

6. “Japanese From Zero! 1”

Japanese from zero! 1: Japanese language book
Japanese language book # 6: “Japanese From Zero: 1”

Summary: “Japanese From Zero! 1” is a Japanese language book that is provided by creators who teach Japanese through their YouTube channel and website. It is a perfect choice for beginners who want supplementary support from outside sources.

Pros:

  • There are YouTube videos provided by the makers of this book that can assist you in the learning process.
  • The pace is very relaxed and easy to follow.
  • There are free materials on its website.

Cons:

  • It contains exercises dedicated to hiragana that may be redundant for learners already familiar with it.
  • There is not much listening content in the book.

Review:

See what past users have to say about Japanese Short Stories for Beginners.

Japanese language book 'Japanese from Zero 1' Amazon ranking and reviews chart
Out of the 4285 total global rankings on Amazon, 86% of them gave the book 5 stars, 10% gave 4 stars, 3% gave 3 stars, 1% gave 2 stars, and 1% gave 1 star.

Let’s see some reviews on this Japanese language book!

★★★★★ AJ on Amazon.com

I’ve used a few others and this one is my favorite. The way the writer explains the language really makes it easy to follow and understand. His YouTube channel is a perfect supplement to this book as well. I recommend reading the lesson first, then watching the corresponding free lesson on YouTube.

★★★★☆ W Brown on Amazon.com

I’d highly recommend this as a first Japanese book if you have not yet experienced Japanese given the presentation of the content of the book, the progressive approach and the easy going look to the page layout as there is lots of white space to help you focus on a few concepts at a time.

★★★☆☆ Donna Jones on Amazon.com

I’ve just started this book and I am literally learning from scratch. Some books just make you repeat words without understanding, but this book breaks everything down and tries to explain things thoroughly. I know it is a long process, but if I remember only half of what is in this book, I should be able to get by in Japanese.

★★☆☆☆ Dave Xenu on Amazon.com

As an introduction for beginners, this could be effective if it weren’t for the lack of audio. There is a website with audio and while the series is three books the site appears to have to have the equivalent of two more books however the site is subscription-based. The books aren’t exactly cheap so it’s not unreasonable that they should have been included.

★☆☆☆☆ Reggie Curtis on Amazon.com

This book has 265 pages of instruction. By the end of this book, you learn less than ten verbs. Seriously! The majority of this book and most Japanese language books is spent teaching you how to write and read Hiragana and Katakana.

If you would like to learn from a Japanese language book with extensive supplementary materials online, then you can check out “Japanese From Zero! 1” on Amazon!

Japanese Learning Books PDF: Free Download

Although we advise you to invest in at least one Japanese language book for beginners that will set a solid foundation for your studies, there are various Japanese learning book PDFs that are free to download online! These Japanese learning book PDFs may provide great supplementary practice in addition to your textbook’s curriculum!

Check the article: Free Japanese Language Books Available Online – SchooLynk Media

Just remember…

These Amazon reviews are based on insights from common people, not professionals. It is possible that some positive or negative reviews may be exaggerated for external reasons. The key for understanding these rankings and reviews may be to use the percentage of the average number of stars given to each Japanese language book!

No matter which Japanese language books you choose, please don’t forget to have fun with the learning process! Watch some Japanese anime to accompany your studies. Make Japanese friends who can practice talking with you. More importantly, never forget the motivation to learn Japanese that you feel now when things start getting tough along the way!

Let’s find the perfect Japanese language book for you! You’ve got this!

Ganbatte!