Beginner Books Intermediate

Actually Learning with Japanese Comics

I am very pleased with my recent acquisition of “Living Japanese Through Comics: Culture in Japan“! Make no mistake, this book is not your typical “learn Japanese by reading manga” kind of book.

The book is broken up into 5 parts. Each part corresponds to one of the four seasons with the last part left for miscellaneous items. Each part has roughly 9 short comics (usually about 4 panels). Each comic will appear on the left side of the book with a full grammatical and cultural explanation on the right side.

The beauty of this book is that each short comic has been carefully chosen by the author to teach the read about a specific part of Japanese culture. At the same time, relevant vocabulary words and grammatical constructions are taught in their proper context. Using comics that show characters leading a normal life and taking part in typical Japanese customs is the crucial element to this book which makes it different from other books teaching Japanese through manga.

For example, do you know why and when Japanese hang their futons in the sun? Do you know what the Tanabata festival is? What does it mean if someone calls you a “nichiyoudaiku”? All of this and much more is revealed in “Living Japanese Through Comics: Culture in Japan“.

Example of grammar explanations found in I feel like this book is good for both beginners and intermediate readers. Beginners will find natural Japanese conversations with a full and easy to understand explanation of the grammar while intermediate readers will learn many cultural aspects about Japan they may have missed. Also, if you feel like you need to work on your reading and pronunciation skills, a “romaji” or alphabetical transcription of each comic is provided below the relevant panel. A list of vocabulary words with pronunciation and meaning is also provided in the footer of each page.

No matter what your level, this book is a great one to add to any Japanese learner’s library.


This Teacher Made an Interactive Japanese Textbook and Lesson Series

In this day and age, why settle for just a textbook? How about a textbook that comes with a free life-time supply of interactive Japanese lessons on youtube? It exists, and it’s called Japanese From Zero.

Get started with book 1!
Created by George Trombley, a professional Japnese/English interpreter, this series of textbooks is great for beginners. And, to reinforce the material, George Trombley himself posts interactive videos on youtube and his website that compliment the textbook.

The current textbooks in the series are:

Also, look out for the much awaited Japanese from Zero! 5 which is in the works.

His youtube channel and website have become very popular amongst beginning Japanese learners. His success is probably partly due to the fact that he often hosts live youtube streams where he takes questions from the Japanese From Zero community.

I should also mention that this is also one of the only Japanese textbook series I have seen that is also available on Kindle (so far it looks like only book 1 and book 2 are available). Sometimes it is not always practical walking around with your textbooks. I, myself, have been enjoying a Korean textbook that I have for Kindle. If I forget my book but have my Kindle, I’m good to go! This literally gives you no reason not to study Japanese! You can find the Kindle versions of Japanese from Zero here:

So what do the books cover and which level should I get? If you are really just beginning, you should of course start with book 1 which will take you through the various Japanese characters (hiragana, he saves katakana for book 2). You will learn basic words like colors, greetings, etc… along with simple sentences such has how to say you like things, counting, and telling time.

If you are a little more advanced than that already, you can jump to book 2 which includes katakana, how to point to object (kono, sono, ano – these X, that X, and that X over there), conjugating adjectives, and words for the Japanese family structure.

Book 3 will focus more on kanji, kanji stroke order, indicating a time span with your verbs, the “te” form of verbs (a form used for connecting verbs with other verbs and making more complex sentences), making comparisons, and “when” clauses.

Book 4 builds upon the others with more grammar and more kanji. Here you will start learning about how to make your verbs more polite in Japanese, making lists, describing things/people (what people are wearing, for example), expressing the idea “have you ever…”, asking how to do something, expressing if/then-when clauses, expressing giving and receiving, and even more uses for the “te” form of verbs.

If you are looking to start learning with a more interactive approach to Japanese lessons, why not give Japanese From Zero a try?