If you’re learning Japanese, you might want to get a book to start reading and improve your Japanese. But did you know that you cannot pick any manga/light novel if you’re still a beginner? Tempted to do this, and you might end up depressed and disheartened!
What then is a good material for reading practice? This guide will help you to pick books and manga that are perfect for your beginner Japanese practice reading material! If you’re looking for book to help you learn Japanese instead, check out our guide here: Where to Start Learning Japanese
Q: Can I just get any manga/light novel I like?
You can… but actually, doing that will get you depressed instead of increasing your motivation to learn Japanese or level up your reading skill.
Why? Because most manga contain a lot of kanji without furigana (reading of kanji), lots of slang, and complicated grammar structure. So you might (will, actually…) end up confused and depressed. But a manga is a good practice if you have finished learning N3 material though! In fact, it would be recommended!
Furigana is important for beginner because you will need to be able to read the kanji to look for each word’s meaning in dictionary
Don’t believe it? Here’s a sample of what you might encounter below:
Main Purpose of a Reading Practice Material
Note that these books purpose is not to practice reading Hiragana / Katakana (although you can also use the book for this purpose too if you’d like). The main purpose of these reading practice book will be to expand your vocabulary and get yourself used to Japanese everyday grammar pattern.
Also note that you cannot learn Japanese with this book. This book are complimentary material. You will require text book references to assist you with learning Japanese.
There are 3 type of categories we recommend. Picture books, Simple Manga and Japanese-English Bilingual Manga. Well then, let’s start!
Ghibli’s Picture Books!
One of the best Japanese reading practice material are children’s books! They are easy to read and mostly written in simple grammar pattern. But what children book do you need to buy? Despite the high price, most of the books are very slim, with very little kanjis, and the worse part is that you don’t even know the content until you bought it!
Therefore, this series here is something that we really recommend. We think that every beginner Japanese learner need to have atleast 1 of this book. ｡ﾟ✶ฺ.ヽ(*´∀`*)ﾉ.✶ฺﾟ｡
Why Gibli’s Movie Picture Books?
Reason 1: It’s thick and cost almost the same to 10-20 page japanese children book! How thick ? Depending on the story, around 150 – 180+. And that’s not it, it is also a full color book! Filled with best scenes from each movies.
Common 10 – 20 page children books will cost about the same as ghibli movie books due to the illustration cost. But Ghibli use the image from their movies so they are able to press the price.
Reason 2: There is a big chance that if you want to learn Japanese, you also like a few Ghibli movies. Reading what you love will give you more motivation. And it also a good book as a collection! Have we mentioned that it is a hard cover? Look at this gorgeous character introduction and famous scene of Spirited away!
Reason 3: Simple sentence structure! (but not too simple for beginner) and KANJI + FURIGANA! You absolutely need furigana to search the meaning of kanji in dictionary. And that’s not all! The font is big and clear. Have we mentioned that the book is quite large? About F4 size but a bit wider.
In summary, if you’re looking for a Japanese book for beginner reading practice, Ghibli’s movie books are perfect! There is no reason for not having this book as your beginner’s Japanese reading practice.Be sure to buy the correct one though. They are also provided in English version, which are okay for collection but not okay for Japanese reading practice (lol)…
If you’re not a Ghibli lover and don’t know any of the movie. We would suggest Spirited Away . It’s one of the most famous Ghibli story with a very interesting world and a deep meaning behind it. Click here to check out the movie review and see the trailer.
Easy to Read Manga!
Ghibli’s book was a picture story book. If you’re looking for a manga/comic instead, this title below will satisfy your need.
Although very tempting, try to avoid shonen at the beginning since shonen manga commonly use a lot of pun/made upwords that will be hard to understand…
Yotsuba!Yotsuba is one of the most recommended manga for beginner. It’s easy to read since the main character is a child and it’s about everyday life. (Yes, this manga has furigana!)
If this is the first manga you try to read, to avoid frustration (and depression _:(´□`」 ∠):_ ), you might want to have both Japanese & English version side by side to help you with understanding the grammar pattern/nuance of the sentence. These are the links to get them: Yotsuba 1 (Japanese) & Yotsuba 1 (English)
Another recommended manga is Shirokuma Cafe! It’s a cute (and weird in a funny way) story about a polar bear who owns a cafe. (Furigana? Yes!)
This series is very short and comes in 3 fruit flavor (literally! Strawberry, Mango, and Melon! lol) . (Look at that cover!!) Since this series is short, it can also be a good gift for your friend who is trying to learn Japanese!
Bilingual mangas are good sources to learn Japanese. Most bilingual books are actually published for Japanese people to help them learn English, but it also work the other way around. This can be a good alternative for your Japanese reading practice.
The best news is, the famous Doraemon series is published as bilingual Japanese-English manga!
These are the links to get them:
Doraemon Vol 1 • Doraemon Vol 2
Doraemon Vol 3 • Doraemon Vol 4
Doraemon Vol 5 • Doraemon Vol 6
Doraemon Vol 7 • Doraemon Vol 8
Doraemon Vol 9 • Doraemon Vol 10
With a bilingual book, you’ll be able to understand the meaning of set-phrase/onomatopoeia words with no frustration. For example, on the photo, Giant said “気をつける!” (Ki wo Tsukeru!) “Watch it!” (Lit: Careful!) and Suneo said “ぼくのせいじゃない”. “I didn’t do it! (Lit: It’s not my fault)”.
This kind of set-phrase meaning will be hard to find out especially since the word is written in hiragana so you can’t find which SEI or TSUKERU words that the book means. (There are a lot of SEI & TSUKERU with different meaning).
Onomatopoeia is a sound effect that mimics the thing described, making the description more expressive and interesting but is very hard to be understand by foreign people.
This type of word is used a lot in mangas. As you can see in this screenshot, the word PeroPero is being translated as NYAH NYAAH~ , YAIYAI~ as See this? (attracting atention) and BA as BLEHH!
The downside of this bilingual book however, unlike Yotsuba or Shirokuma Cafe simple manga, these book don’t have any furigana (kanji reading) , but most text are written in hiragana. We recommend that you finish N4 or even better, N3 material before starting to read this comics and you should have no problem reading the kanji (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧
Doraemon Bilingual Manga Special Collection
There’s also special edition series which is a collection of stories with specific theme! It can be alternative for you if you just want 1 books for your collection!
These are the links to get them:
• Doraemon Comic (Laugh) Stories
• Doraemon Witty (Joke/Prank) Stories
• Doraemon Scary Stories
• Doraemon Fantastic Stories
• Doraemon Touching Stories
• Doraemon Love Stories
Jippi Japanese-English Bilingual classic comics
These mangas below are bilingual mangas published by Jippi. They are actually classic manga. They are not completed volume. But if you like the classic title, this can be a good choice for you 😀 It has the same layout as the previous Doraemon bilingual manga.
Reading Manga to learn Japanese is a good way to learn, but picking a correct one to read and building good foundation before reading is very important or you will end up with depression instead of increasing your motivation _:(´□`」 ∠):_
We hope that this guide could help you to find your ideal Japanese beginner reading practice book! If you would like to find a good reference book for beginner instead, you could check it out here: Where to Start Learning Japanese
Happy learning ｡ﾟ✶ฺ.ヽ(*´∀`*)ﾉ.✶ฺﾟ｡