Home About Us Archive Recent Posts Contact Us Resources JIA Plan

Course Books


Most Course books are intended for a class room environment, and I decided that I wouldn’t really touch on those kinds of text books, since they’re very generic, and this site is meant more for the self studier. Keeping that in mind the listing of textbooks below are popular self-study books that can be used in Japanese acquisition. :D Though I’m listing this in the method reviews, I believe these books are more for tools section, but a lot of people decide to use this type of structure, which in turn makes me think method. bah!

Without further ado…

Method Review of Course Books


What is Genki?

It’s an excellent Japanese textbook series that gives elementary-level students genki!

Genki is an integrated textbook series in elementary Japanese that is widely adopted by colleges and high schools in Japan and throughout the world.

The series’ well-balanced approach develops the four basic language skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing to cultivate overall language ability.

Seems pretty straight forward eh? I’ve heard a lot about this book series throughout my progressive research. It really only comes down to two books, two workbooks, two different sets of  cd sets for each textbook, teacher’s manual, answer key, and picture card books. Only. D:

Each book has a pretty basic approach to Japanese, which starts with a dialogue sample, then vocabulary, practice, and then any supplement to the information given. This is pretty standard for a language learning book. The opening of Genki also starts by showing you Kana. This is a plus. Eventually it goes from showing Japanese Kana / Romaji / Definition in English to showing Japanese Kanji / Kana / Definition in English. I like that a lot.

Romaji is evil. Period. Get over it.

These two sets are not meant to give you super great proficiency in either Kanji or Japanese on a whole, but it does cover 317 common Kanji in a slow good pace with the lessons. (If you didn’t know, there are over 3k kanji, so 317 between the two books will help you see that in perspective.) Lastly if you decide to get all the extra stuff, like listening CDs, workbooks, keys and all that good stuff you can. It just helps you.

As the title goes, this is just Elementary use of Japanese. You shouldn’t expect to get a newspaper out and start reading, but rather reading level of an elementary kid with limited vocabulary. So at least they’re not tooting that you should be able to absolutely know Japanese, it does what it claims, teaches you basic Japanese in an easy to learn format.

Then you have its following book, An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese.


  • Use of kana throughout the majority of the textbook, kanji added as you go.
  • Easy to follow format
  • solo-able and classroom setting for goodness
  • visual, audio exercises
  • online community


  • proper Japanese only
  • limited learning of kanji
  • only covers basic elementary Japanese
  • no updates
  • costly for the whole set together

All in all, lots of people enjoy and work through the Genki books for either learning through them or using them for sentence mining in AJATT. Will you learn? Yeah. Does it go the distance? NO.

Japanese for Busy People: I, II, III

Possibly another one of my favorite little course books would have to be the Japanese for Busy People set. Though this 8 (7 really) book series is orientated to the business person learning Japanese for business, it’s also very practical.  Made by AJALT, they claim you’ll come to an intermediate level once you finish up the third level.

The books are as followed: Book I, II, II (in kana/kanji only) – workbooks with cd I, II, III – Kana book – Book I (romaji only). Though in all reality you can really bypass the kana book and the first level in romaji (why they even made this is something I’ll always wonder).

The workbooks really just recover info and let you get a lot more practice. There are answer keys in the back of each book so you don’t have to worry about purchasing anything extra to check your work. These books really are meant for self guidance.

Though I hear that they have a student series now, I’m not really sure what their books are like. I’m sure if you go to the AJALT website you can find more information about both these series.

This book is set up in showing you a dialogue, vocabulary, grammar explanations, practice, listening exercises, and group practicing; pretty standard.


  • no romaji (unless you purposefully subject yourself to it)
  • easy to follow lessons
  • business orientated (if that’s your thing)
  • CDs with listening exercises
  • up to intermediate level learning
  • workbooks designed for more practice
  • paper back
  • online community
  • *cheap (depending on if you get workbooks)


  • business orientated (if that isn’t your thing)
  • not a lot of explanations of how and what for the nuances
  • expensive (depending on if you get workbooks)
  • proper Japanese only
  • only intermediate level

Same as with Genki, lots of people love this series and use it for learning or sentence mining. However, they both share the same sad fate of not taking you 100% through all kanji, and will need more work after these books end. However they’re a good place to start if you’re lost

Japanese in MangaLand I, II, III

Japanese in Mangaland is another very popular self-study course to follow, especially if you’re an avid reader of manga. Their claim is that learning should be absolutely fun. Though even if you don’t care for manga much, the examples are useful due to their everyday Japanese (colloquial speech) versus proper use only Japanese examples.

There are 3 main books, with 1 workbook that is in the traditional left to right format. The first book uses both kana and romaji. Bleh, but not bad, kind of like Genki in terms of just using it as a stepping stone. Starting with book 2 however you no longer get that romaji crippler, and you can get on with the goodness.

The structures of the series is pretty straight forward. Basically grammar issues are explained in detail, then they give you various examples in manga excerpts. After that you get to practice with small exercises that have answer keys.

This series also claims to only take you through the intermediate level of Japanese learning, However there are two more correlating books called Kanji in Mangaland. There are two books and they complement the JiML series well.


  • useful Japanese
  • switches to kana/kanji only
  • inexpensive (if you choose used books)
  • easy to follow format that’s fun


  • Book 3 has many typos and spelling errors
  • use of romaji in the beginning seems a bit excessive
  • only goes to intermediate level
  • must purchase more books to learn kanji

All in all, this one is probably most talked about among solo Japanese learners. It’s very fun and effective, though some claim the third book to have been rushed and overwhelming at times. Otherwise, most all give the thumbs up on saying they learned well through this book.

I think these three sets (as well as with most course book series), though popular study aids, just don’t give it all, because they stop in the intermediate level. There is so much to learn and I think while it presents a great stepping stone, they often can lead a learner to a plateau where they just don’t know where to go after that point.

Its not uncommon for people who have passed with majors in languages to go to that country and speak only in a middle school fashion. Please don’t rely on these types of methods to get you the whole 9 yards, but they’re not bad to get you to the 7th.

Mikoto Neko

The Ring leader of multiple projects who is studying japanese and raising a family! Who needs time for sleep?

Web design by: Panda Chan, Art Design by: © Suishou Yuki, Webmaster: Sally Hayes

Legal links