Recommended Japanese Study Resources
Genki I and II are probably the most widely used Japanese textbooks, and for a good reason. These are fantastic textbooks that provide a solid foundation for understanding Japanese sentence structure and verb conjugation. If you can only choose one Japanese textbook, GENKI is the way to go (but don’t waste your money on the workbook). Here are the Amazon pages for the most recent editions of Genki 1 and Genki 2.
Tae Kim’s Guide is another great textbook for beginning Japanese learners and serves as a great companion to the GENKI books. There are two things to note about Tae Kim’s Guide: (1) It’s totally free on the Tae Kim website. (2) It encourages readers to “think in Japanese” and to approach the language as a native speaker would, which is extremely beneficial.
Tobira is another textbook that many consider to be a good jumping off point after mastering the GENKI textbooks. This book is useful for developing intermediate grammar and vocabulary skills, however you can learn the same content from other sources such as the Sou Matome and Shin Kanzen Master books. Tobira can be found on Amazon here.
A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar is an amazing book. Simply put, this is the number one resource for learning Japanese grammar. In fact, Wild Nihongo’s grammar lists, explanations, and example sentences are heavily based on this book. There are also higher level editions for intermediate and advanced learners. A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar can be found on Amazon here.
JLPT TEST PREP
Nihongo Sou Matome is a series of books specifically designed for JLPT test prep. For each JLPT level, Sou Matome offers a set of books that cover all aspects of the exam (i.e. vocabulary, grammar, reading, and listening). The books are structured as a 6-8 week course with daily learning activities and a review at the end of this week. One drawback of Sou Matome is that grammar explanations are extremely brief, so make sure to visit wildnihongo.com for more thorough explanations! Here are some links to the Sou Matome Books by JLPT level (note that you can also buy the books individually). [N5] [N4] [N3] [N2] [N1]
Shin Kanzen Master is another well-known JLPT test prep series that offers a set of books targeted for each JLPT test level. Shin Kanzen Master’s explanations tend to be slightly more thorough than those of Sou Matome, but Shin Kanzen Master also tends to me more dry and boring. It’s worth sampling these books online to see which one suit your needs. Here are some Amazon links by JLPT level (note that there are no Shin Kanzen Master books for the N5 level): [N4] [N3] [N2] [N1]
KANJI LEARNING TOOLS
Remembering the Kanji is a popular kanji learning book that assigns each kanji radical a unique mental image and gradually combines these radicals into increasingly complex kanji characters whose meanings are based on their constituent radicals. RTK is a tried and true method for quickly memorizing kanji. However, one drawback is that it does not teach any vocabulary that actually use these kanji.
WaniKani is a subscription-based application that teaches kanji and vocabulary via kanji radicals, spaced repetition, and mnemonic devices. WaniKani is known for using fun and whimsical examples that facilitate memorization. Check it out here.
USEFUL APPS AND WEBSITES
ANKI is a digital flashcard application based on the concept of spaced repetition. This is the #1 tool for building vocabulary. ANKI allows you to download pre-made flashcard decks, or you can create your own decks from scratch (this is our recommendation). You can also totally customize your cards and include multimedia such as images and audio. ANKI is free as a desktop application and Android app, but it costs $25 on iOS.
Imiwa is a fantastic dictionary app for iOS. It allows you to search for and save vocabulary, which you can then export to ANKI. It also provides useful information on kanji readings as well as animations that illustrate kanji stroke order and lists of vocabulary that contain particular kanji characters. It also provides numerous useful example sentences. Imiwa is not available for Andorid, so Android users can check out the dictionary app Midori instead.
Jisho.org is a simple and useful online Japanese dictionary. You should always have a tab open to this site! Check it out here.
Google Translate is an excellent tool for translating Japanese on the go. You can upload or scan images into the app and get instant translations. This is particularly useful for translating difficult kanji. The Google Translate app allows you to extract Japanese text from images and copy them into a dictionary app such as Imiwa.
YouTube is a highly under-rated language learning tool. YouTube enables you to discover an infinite quantity of Japanese music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and entertainment, as well as YouTube channels dedicated specifically to Japanese language learning. A few recommended channels include Japanese Ammo With Misa and Miku Real Japanese.
Maggie Sensei is a great site with thorough explanations of many Japanese grammar topic written by a native Japanese speaker. Check it out here.
Imabi.net is another excellent website with extremely in-depth grammar explanations all the way from beginner to advanced topics. Check it out here.
Bunpro is a subscription-based grammar-learning application based on spaced repetition. Many people think of Bunpro as the sister of WaniKani, with Bunpro teaching grammar and WaniKani teaching kanji and vocabulary. Check it out here.