Tofugu’s 100 Best Resources For Learning Japanese

[box type="tick"]Check out Tofugu’s new Japanese Resources Guide! It has the best Japanese resources and reviews for each! It’s also more updated (though has fewer resources) than this article.[/box]

Way back in the day, I published a list of my 10 favorite (free) Japanese learning resources, which is great, but not as great as 100 Japanese learning resources. With a list this big, you’ll be able to procrastinate to your heart’s content, which is probably why you’re reading this blog and not learning Japanese instead.

This list has been broken up by category, that way you can find the things you’re most interested in quickly and easily (without having to scroll through the entire list). Within each category, I’ve listed resources starting with my favorites and working my way down. Those marked with a tofugu logo () are “Tofugu approved,” which mostly just means they’ll give you a warm and fuzzy feeling when using them (oh, and I would use the resource myself). Things that I just kinda-sorta like don’t get a sexy fish next to their names. But hey, we have a lot to go through, so let’s get to it.

Categories:

  1. Japanese Textbooks
  2. Hiragana / Katakana
  3. Japanese Grammar
  4. Kanji
  5. Japanese Vocab
  6. Japanese Dictionaries
  7. Browser Add-ons
  8. Japanese Learning Games
  9. Social Learning
  10. Multimedia Learning
  11. Japanese Learning Software
  12. Finding A Japanese Teacher
  13. Google Resources
  14. Reading Japanese
  15. Japanese Resources Lists
  16. Japanese Cheat Sheets

I know it’s a long list, but hopefully it will help you find what you’re looking for more effectively. If you decide to read everything on the top-10o list, good luck! Either way, I hope you find something new to add to your utility belt. Let’s get started!

The Best Japanese Textbooks

Traditionally, everyone learned from Textbooks. Although a lot of textbooks are getting a bit old, there’s a couple of good ones in here including (full disclosure) my own.

1. TextFugu

TextFugu is an online Japanese textbook designed specifically for self-learners of Japanese. As of this post, it’s still in its early stages of development, which means it’s pretty perfect for beginners / complete beginners, though intermediate / advanced learners won’t find much here (yet). What makes TextFugu unique is its focus on all the main issues that self-learners run into. With most resources, quitter-rate is between 80-90%. TextFugu’s much lower quitter-rate is thanks to the interesting content, personal feel, and focus on inspiration / motivation rather than the good ol’ fashioned content shotgun approach.

2. Genki’s Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese

When it comes to “traditional” textbooks, Genki is pretty darn good. Before TextFugu, this is what I recommended that people use. It does a good overall job of teaching someone Japanese, though the biggest problems usually only appear when you don’t have a teacher (or at least someone better at Japanese) to guide you. Some parts can be confusing and a big complicated, so if you’re planning on teaching yourself Japanese, expect to run into some (fairly minor) problems. Another issue I have with Genki is that the stories are really boring. Personally, not a fan of Mary and her dumb exchange student adventures.

3. Japanese For Busy People

Japanese For Busy People was a pretty terrible textbook a while back. They have, however, done a good job making things better in the third edition of their book. There’s still a bit lacking (though, hard to beat the $20 price tag…  you get what you pay for), and I think it moves a bit too quickly. Personally, I’d rather it teach me how to make my life less busy and stressful instead of trying to work around my already busy and stressful life. Still, all-in-all, you get quite a bit for the $20 it’ll cost you, which might make it a good deal for some.

4. Japanese For Everyone

Japanese For Everyone would have ranked higher… if it seemed like people could actually find the audio tapes associated with it. Either you’ll just have to go without the tapes (which is pretty boo boo if you ask me), or you’ll have to special order them from Japan. Either way, it’s not an ideal situation. The book itself is pretty good, and I’d rank it up with Genki… if it had the tapes.

5. Yokoso

Yokoso is going to be a lot better if used in a classroom. It lacks a lot of examples and isn’t organized too well. With a teacher, though, this textbook isn’t all that bad as long as your teacher fills in the gaps (which is, I’m guessing, why it’s so gappy). If you’re self-learning, I’d stay away from this book. If you’re not self learning, I might choose Genki instead. If you have no choice? Well, Yokoso is the best choice, then.

Resources For Learning Hiragana (and Katakana, too)

Hiragana, especially, is a big part of your early Japanese learning career. In fact, I’d say it’s the first thing you should learn. It sets a foundation for reading, pronunciation, and Japanese sentence structure. There are plenty of Japanese resources out there for learning Hiragana (and katakana), and here are my favorites.

1. Smart.fm’s “Master Hiragana” Deck

Smart.fm is a great way to learn Japanese vocabulary, but it’s also a great way to learn other things as well (including hiragana). Although this won’t help you learn how to write hiragana, it will help you learn how to read it. For the writing part, you’ll have to do it yourself, or use one of the other hiragana resources listed below.

2. NihongoUp’s Hiragana / Katakana Game

NihongoUp is a fun way to practice vocabulary, particles, and hiragana/katakana. Like Smart.fm, it won’t help you learn how to actually write the buggers, but it does do a good job helping you to remember them. There’s a free trial which should give you a good amount of time with the hiragana or katakana section. Using games to learn Japanese is definitely a great way to stay motivated (or take a break from the regular grind).

3. A piece of Paper and a Pen

You gotta learn how to write somehow, and it won’t happen on your computer. To learn how to read and write, it’s important that you actually do it. You can integrate this with your flashcard learning as well. Every time a card comes up, you write it down on your paper. Make sure you follow good stroke order too (makes your writing look nicer!). Try writing your hiragana big, then small, too. If you can write your kana big, and make it look nice, chances are you can make it small too (plus, this tricks your brain into remembering each kana better).

4. RealKana

RealKana is a flashcard web app that allows you to choose which kana you want to practice. When a kana comes up, you type it in. It’s as simple as that. One feature that makes RealKana unique from the rest is the ability to choose a font (or fonts) to study with. Like in English, there are multiple ways to write certain “letters.” This can be confusing if you see a new font somewhere. This feature allows you to see the kana in various fonts, which gets you used to what’s out there before you hit up the “real world.”

5. Hiragana Chart & Hiragana Stroke Order Chart

Everyone needs a hiragana chart in their bathroom, and this one does just the trick. It’s easy to see read, printer friendly, and does a good job. Try not to cheat too often, though, or else you won’t be able to actually memorize anything.

6. Hiragana Reading & Writing Practice Worksheet

This worksheet is simple. There are things written in hiragana. You have to change them into romaji. There are things written in romaji, you have to change them to hiragana. Just another way to practice reading and writing hiragana. If you finish this worksheet and want more, head on over to a Japanese newspaper (like Asahi) and “translate” every bit of hiragana you see on a page.

7. Comparisons Between Hiragana and Katakana

When you’ve learned hiragana, and it’s time to move on to katakana, you’ll notice that keeping them straight can sometimes be difficult. This resources puts hiragana and katakana side-by-side to help you differentiate between them.

8. TextFugu’s “Japanese Pronunciation With Hiragana” Lesson

This free lesson goes over the pronunciation of Japanese using hiragana as a backbone.

9. TextFugu’s “Reading & Writing Hiragana” Lesson

This free lesson teaches you how to read and write hiragana, using various resources and techniques.

10. Genki’s Hiragana & Katakana Page

Not the prettiest resource, but gets the job done.

Best Resources For Learning Japanese Grammar

Of course, Japanese grammar is the backbone of learning Japanese. If you don’t gots grammar, you ain’t gots nothin.

1. Jgram.org

Jgram.org is kind of a wiki dedicated to Japanese grammar. It’s broken up into JLPT levels and it’s easy to find the particular grammar you’re looking for, including example sentences, explanations, and more. The content you’ll find here has been contributed by users of the site, which means things are always being updated with newer (and theoretically better) information.

2. Tae Kim’s Guide To Japanese Grammar

When it comes to Japanese grammar, Tae Kim is pretty much the man. His guide to Japanese grammar has been up forever, and is full of great information. I’ve recommended Tae Kim’s guide as an alternate way to learn Japanese, though it’s missing a few things that could make it into a “one-stop-shop” Japanese learning… shop.

3. Maggie Sensei

Maggie Sensei, run by Victor of the YouTube channel Gimmeabreakman, is an absolutely great resource for learning Japanese slang, grammar, culture and more. Lots of stuff here that you won’t find anywhere else, all packed into one location. I’d say Maggie Sensei is best for intermediate level students of Japanese, but no matter what level you are you’ll find something useful (and entertaining as well).

4. Timwerx.net

Timwerx, I feel, must be Tae Kim from an alternate universe (or Tae Kim is Timwerx from an alternative universe). More Japanese grammar laid out in a pretty-easy-to-follow fashion. My only complaint is that there isn’t more explanation. I think this would be a great resource for those of you looking for a refresher / another explanation on a particular grammar point, rather than someone learning all this grammar for the first time. Still, good stuff can be found here.

5. Wikipedia

Wikipedia, as I’m sure you know, is a fountain of knowledge that can’t be plugged. I’ve not only found a ridiculous amount of grammar information here, but also the history of grammar points, links to a ton of examples, and more. Although you won’t find every grammar point, Wikipedia has great explanations on a lot of things, especially the harder-to-understand ones that a lot of people have contributed their knowledge to.

6. Evernote

Just like using Evernote for vocabulary, it’s also a great way to compile information and data on the grammar points you’re learning. Just tag your grammar properly, and it’s a great way to keep track of grammar-related information in one searchable space. If you ever forget a grammar point or need to look up some examples, you’ll thank yourself for using Evernote to keep track of it all, even if it’s a hassle to do while you’re studying.

7. The Japanese Learning Page

Sort of lacking in explanation of each grammar point, but an absolute great way to review your grammar (or look up something you forgot). Lots of info with examples makes this a decent Japanese grammar experience.

8. Visualizing Japanese Grammar

Visualizing Japanese Grammar is a site full of flash animations that take you through different lessons in Japanese grammar. It’s a bit old, and the animations can be a bit wonky (with kind of low quality audio), but definitely a good thing to take a look at for any Japanese grammar buff.

Best Resources For Learning Kanji

Everyone’s favorite part of learning Japanese, kanji. These resources will make kanji less painful, hopefully.

1. Smart.fm

I’m a big fan of Smart.fm and the unlimited amount of Japanese learning potential that they have. They’re basically a “smart” flash card web app that knows when you should study what, and tells you how much of it you should study. It brings back words you have trouble with more often, and is a really good way to learn vocab or kanji. Add sentences, audio, stroke order, and other games (besides the flashcard app) and you have yourself quite the winner. Users of the service also make their own flashcard sets, which you can also study. This means there are flashcard sets for everything (and if a set doesn’t exist, you can create one!).

2. Anki

Anki is a smart flaschard app like Smart.fm. There is definitely a pretty big crowd of people who love Anki and I can see why (though I tend to prefer Smart.fm). Anki has a slightly different approach for learning vocab (and the focus is more on you creating the flashcards, though you can download others), so make sure you try both Anki and Smart.fm to see which one works best for you. One of them should be a good match.

3. This resource has been removed, Sorry!

4. Kanji Koohii

Kanji Koohii is a site that helps you to remember kanji using mnemonics generated by you and the other users of the site. Using mnemonics is a great way to help you remember things, and the cool thing about this site is that there are a plethora of user-generated “stories” that you can use whenever you can’t think of your own.

5. TextFugu Kanji Section

TextFugu has a kanji section as well, though it is quite young. When finished, it will be a complete guide to learning kanji that will really do a good job streamlining a lot of the issues other kanji resources have. It seems like nobody out there is quite 100% “complete” in the sense that they do somethings much better than others (so if you combine several resources, that works quite well). The goal of the TextFugu kanji section will be to create a simple, one-stop learning experience that gets you through kanji quickly, efficiently, and somewhat painlessly.

6. Heisig’s “Remembering The Kanji”

Remembering The Kanji is one of the first kanji resources to use mnemonics to help you learn Japanese. It does a really good job helping you to learn the meaning of a particular kanji, though it doesn’t go into the actual readings / pronunciations of the kanji quite as well. If you’re looking to only learn the meanings of the kanji (not super useful when reading, but certainly helps a lot), then Heisig’s is a great place to start. There are a lot of diehard fans of Heisig, so it can’t be that bad.

7. ReadTheKanji

ReadTheKanji has a pretty cool take on kanji learning and drilling. It’s full of pretty stats, looks good, and works pretty well too. Words / sentences will come up, asking you to write the “spelling” of the kanji. It’s great because you can see kanji / words in context with sentences, and it keeps track of what parts of the kanji you remember as well. Definitely a great daily tool to use for 15 minutes or so to learn / review a little bit every day.

8. NihongoUp

NihongoUp is a great way to practice and review your kanji. In game form, this app makes it fun to review your kanji and make things a little less painful (because, you know, kanji is the devil’s alphabet). Kanji/vocab falls from the sky, and you have to write out the pronunciation before they hit the ground. Now if only someone will make a “Kanji House of The Dead,” I’ll be super happy.

9. Yamasa’s Kanji Dictionary (Kanji Stroke Order)

Sure, there are a ton of kanji dictionaries out there, but when it comes to stroke order I like to use Yamasa’s. Not the prettiest interface in the world, but when you put a kanji in the kanji slot, it comes back with, amongst other things, the stroke order, and that’s pretty invaluable for beginners of Japanese.

10. Renshuu.org

Renshuu is another kanji quizzing web app that includes vocab quizzes, listening quizzes, and more. There’s a ton of similar things on this list, so make sure you try them all out. Maybe this is the perfect fit for you (and maybe not).

11. Slime Forest Adventure

Although I haven’t played Slime Forest Adventure myself, playing a game & learning Japanese while doing it doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all. I know quite a few people who enjoy this program, and it definitely seems like a good way to learn and have fun while doing it. You’ll have to pay for a pro account if you want to get all 2000 kanji going, though you can demo it for free and get around 200.

12. KanjiBox

If you’re one of those “Facebook people,” then kanjibox might be good for you. I suppose if you’re going to spend four hours a day updating your status, reading other peoples’ statuses, and playing Farmville, you might as well add something educational to the mix. KanjiBox is a Facebook app that lets you study kanji / vocab right from, well, Facebook.

12. How You Should Learn Kanji

Don’t take my opinions for granted, check out the opinions of 10 other Japan-bloggers in this article on “How You Should Learn Kanji.”

13. Biggest Mistakes People Make When Studying Kanji

If you’re just starting to learn Japanese, or if you’re a Japanese learning veteran, chances are you’re making a mistake with your kanji learning (somewhere). Almost all resources and teachers go about kanji learning in these weird, nonsensical ways. In this article I try to straighten things out for you and help you on your way.

14. On’Yomi vs. Kun’Yomi

One of the most confusing things about learning kanji is the difference between On’Yomi and Kun’Yomi. By learning the differences early, you can get a nice big jump on the rest of the kanji learning world. This is something that a lot of people don’t explain very well, so hopefully this article helps!

Best Resources To Learn Japanese Vocabulary, Words

Kanji & Vocab are pretty similar, but I think I’ve broken them apart here. Definitely hit the kanji section of this list too if you’re interested in vocab, as they go hand in hand.

1. Smart.fm’s Core 2000

Combine 2000 of the most common Japanese words with an awesome vocab-learning system like Smart.fm and you have yourself a winner. I highly recommend you go through 15-20 of these every single day until you’re done, and then move on to the next Core lesson.

2. Flickr

Flickr (and any other photo / images site) is a great way to find inspiration and learn new words. Just find a new image every day, write out the vocabulary on that image, and then translate those words into Japanese (and maybe stick them into Smart.fm or Anki). By using images, you’re giving your brain something else to latch on to, which means you’ll probably remember words you pull from images a lot better than those you don’t. Read more using Flickr as a Japanese learning resource.

3. Evernote

Evernote is a way to keep track of everything. This will take some time on your part, but if you keep track of every word you learn, and put it into Evernote, you’ll have a searchable database of words and vocab you can look up at any time. This is a great way to store information and retrieve it later. Invaluable for the serious Japanese student. Read more about using Evernote to learn Japanese.

4. Smart.fm’s Core 6000

If 2000 wasn’t enough for you, you can move on and the next most common Japanese words. This list is for intermediate students, so the words definitely get a bit tougher, but you can’t go wrong continuing to this list after finishing the first 2000.

Best Japanese Dictionaries

You’ll have to look something up at some point, and there’s definitely a few dictionaries that stand out in terms of quality.

1. Jisho.org

Jisho runs is a prettied up (and featured-up) version of one of my favorite online dictionaries, Jim Breen. It’s better (and prettier) in almost every way, my favorite section being the kanji radicals. If you’re going to use an online Japanese dictionary, this is the one to use. Make sure you hit the “common words” button when you search for something, though, otherwise you’ll get all kinds of wild uncommon results.

2. ALC

ALC is a dictionary that’s all in Japanese, but not that hard to figure out. There’s only one spot to put your word (be it English, or Japanese), and the results are usually pretty good. The best part is the plethora of example sentences that come with a result. Apparently, ALC was made by translators and for translators, making it a good place for… well… translating!

3. Jim Breen

Jim Breen was the first absolutely amazing online Japanese dictionary, which means it definitely can’t be without a space on this list. Jim Breen has a pretty sweet beard, too, and everyone knows that Beards + dictionaries = win.

4. Yamasa’s Kanji Dictionary

Personally, I just like Yamasa’s Kanji dictionary for its kanji stroke order feature. Other than that, it’s a good kanji dictionary, and not too much more.

5. Yahoo Dictionary

If you want another dictionary with good example sentences, Yahoo Dictionary is a pretty good choice. Not my favorite, but there’s nothing wrong with it either. You can always use another perspective when it comes to looking up words and kanji.

Best Browser Add-ons For Japanese Learners

If you’re on Firefox or Chrome, you probably use add-ons. If you don’t, you’re missing out. So why not get some plugins to help you with Japanese too?

1. Rikaichan

Hard to live without Rikaichan. This is a Firefox (and Chrome) plugin that allows you to hover over Japanese words and get a little translation right in your browser window. If you’re reading newspapers (or anything else online) this is a great tool to have. Be careful not to overuse it, though. If you rely on it too much, you’ll find that you’re not actually learning anything!

2. Kanjilish

Kanjilish is a neat concept. When you turn it on, it turns the first letter of an English word into a kanji. The kanji corresponds to the meaning of that word, which helps you associate the kanji with its (English) meaning. For example, the word “eat” might look like 食at. It’s a

3. PeraPeraKun

PeraPeraKun is pretty similar to Rikaichan. Personally, I like Rikaichan, but others like PeraPeraKun. Your choice.

4. Kitsune

Kitsune lets you type in Japanese (in Firefox) without having an IME or anything like that installed. Personally, I’d recommend you just install it and be able to type in Japanese (everywhere), but for some reason if you only want Japanese in your Firefox, Kitsune will do the trick.

Best Japanese Learning Games

Woohoo! Games are fun and make learning easier. Games do have a couple missing pieces, but all-in-all they’re a good way to supplement your studies.

1. NihongoUp

NihongoUp won’t give you an all-in-one Japanese learning package, but out of the things it does do, it does them well. NihongoUp is a great way to study hiragana, katakana, kanji, and (this is the best part), Japanese particles. Probably the best Japanese particles quiz out there (and if you’ve studying Japanese for any amount of time, you’ll know that particles are tough). Definitely worth the small fee to grab yourself a copy of this app.

2. My Japanese Coach

In general, I’ve mostly heard good things about this Nintendo DS Japanese learning game. There’s a few errors here and there (to be honest, though, almost all Japanese textbooks have a few errors, at least), but it’s definitely a good way for younger people to learn Japanese. This game is just for beginners, though, so intermediate / advanced learners of Japanese probably won’t benefit from this.

3. Slime Forest Adventure

I haven’t played this game myself, but there’s a good number of people out there who love it. Slime Forest Adventure is an RPG style game that helps you learn Japanese while you play it.

Best Social Learning Japanese Resources

Everything’s a lot more fun when it’s social. Social learning helps with motivation and gives you a new perspective on everything. I definitely recommend you try some of these out if you aren’t already!

1. Lang-8

Lang-8 was my top pick for the Top 10 Free Japanese Learning Resources article from a while back. It’s still really high up there, and a definite must for anyone who’s been learning Japanese for at least a month or two. The idea is simple: You write articles in Japanese, and Japanese native speakers correct your journals. Japanese people are also writing articles in English, and you help them with their English. It’s language exchange at its finest. You won’t find a better way to practice writing your Japanese.

2. Twitter

Twitter, surprisingly, is a pretty fun way to practice Japanese. You can do a couple of things. First, you could tweet in Japanese – this is an easy (and not too overwhelming) way to practice writing a bit. Secondly, you can follow Japanese tweeters, and translate what they have to say. Once again, it’s short (140 characters!) so it doesn’t feel like you’re doing too much. Do this a few times a day, and you’ll get more done than you think!

3. Mixi.jp

If you already have some Japanese friends, Mixi is a great way to keep in contact (and keep practicing your Japanese). Mixi is Japan’s biggest social network, and with journals, status updates, and more, it’ll surely keep you busy (and learning Japanese) without even realizing it.

4. Skype

No better way than Skype to talk to people in Japan on the phone. There are Japanese language exchange groups within Skype, and you can Skype with people on Lang-8 as well. Somehow they manage to get their audio quality right in every way possible.

5. Making Some Real Friends

All we’ve been talking about here is making online friends. Why not go make some real friends? Those tend to be the best (and most rewarding) type of friends anyways.

6. RhinoSpike

RhinoSpike is pretty new (just launched, in fact), but the premise has a lot of potential, I think. The idea is that you submit text that you want read out loud by Japanese native speakers. It can be anything (newspaper article, blog post, sentence, word, etc). They record it, and you get the audio for the text you want. Conversely, you can help a Japanese native speaker by recording some English. At the time of posting, they’ve only been around about a week, but if you give them a chance I think they could be a pretty legit resource for Japanese listening practice.

7. LiveMocha

LiveMocha is super popular, and has a lot of (free) RosettaStone-ish features (not a fan). It’s a combination of doing online lessons and connecting with native speakers of the language you’re learning. Personally, I think the above resources (combined) do a better job, but some people will probably connect to LiveMocha really well.

8. LingQ

LingQ is another social learning program that has lessons, audio, social learning, and more. Personally not sold on LingQ, but maybe it’s something you would like. Take a look, though it can get a little pricey depending on what freemium upgrades you go for.

9. MyHappyPlanet

MyHappyPlanet is just another way to hook up with language partners. I haven’t used this site myself, but it looks to be pretty good. Hard part will be finding people who will actually go through with the language exchanging, though, no matter what site you use.

Best Japanese Multimedia Learning Resources

Although probably not the best primary way to learn Japanese, multimedia is a great way to supplement your studies (and give you studious breaks when you need them). Here are the best spots to get Japanese media on your computer, iPod, and TV.

1. iTunes Japanese Podcasts

Even though you can’t purchase things on iTunes Japan, you can still download free things, like podcasts. Japanese podcasts are an absolutely fabulous way to listen to Japanese (even if you don’t understand it) and get your ear tuned to the language. Here’s how you do it. First, change your location to “Japan” (down at the bottom of your iTunes store). Second, go to the podcasts section. Third, download Japanese podcasts to your heart’s content. Lots of good stuff there, including things for kids if you want to listen to something a bit more simple.

2. JapanesePod101

JapanesePod101 is all about audio learning. They have podcasts specifically for learning Japanese, as well as worksheets and extra content to go along with them. If you are a purely auditory learner, then give JapanesePod101 a look. There’s a ton of free content as well, and you can get in on a free trial to see the rest (and see if it’s right for you).

3. YouTube

Definitely not going to be the best way to learn Japanese (if this is all you use), but it doesn’t hurt to listen to the Japanese language (and have fun while you do it). YouTube is full of great Japanese clips to watch and listen to. At the very least, it could be a good distraction between brutal bouts of kanji study.

4. NHK’s Japanese Podcast Lessons

This is a lot like JapanesePod101 (in that there are audio lessons that you follow), though it’s not quite as fully-featured. I also think they jump right into overly-complicated things in their first lesson (though that’s just my opinion). Once again, if you’re a purely auditory learner, it’s worth a peak, though I’d choose JapanesePod101 over this.

5. KeyHoleTV

KeyHoleTV allows you to watch TV from all over the world (including Japan), which means you could be watching Japanese programming (and infomercials) from the comfort of your non-Japanese home. Quality and reliability might be an issue, but what do you expect from TV you’re not supposed to be watching?

6. Veoh

Veoh, like YouTube, is full of Japanese content (and often at higher resolutions). This is mostly just another distraction, in my opinion, but you can definitely get some benefit out of it if you try hard enough.

7. D-addicts

Not that I’m promoting Bittorenting or anything like that, but if, for some reason, you needed some Japanese drama, well, this might be the place to find it. Maybe…if you catch my drift, Daddy-o.

8. TBS Japan

TBS Japan is pretty much just a news site with video clips. You’d be surprised at how hard it is to find a Japanese news site with video that’s not bloody Windows Media Player / Real Player only. Who uses either of those anymore? But, if you’re looking to get some Japanese news in Japanese (you know, to practice your formal Japanese), this is a place to do it.

“All-in-One” Japanese Learning Software, Apps, & Websites

These will give you a “one-stop-shop” in terms of Japanese learning.

1. TextFugu

This is my baby, which is why I believe in it so much. If I were to learn Japanese all over again, this is exactly what I would want to use (that’s why it’s my number one, because it was created for a dummy like me). TextFugu is an online textbook, so it lacks a lot of the fancy “features” that others in this section will have, but fancy features are just fancy features sometimes, unless they’re useful features, then they’re pretty awesome.

2. About.Japanese

There’s a surprising amount of information here. I’d say it’s not presented in a simple way, but if you can find the info, it’s pretty great. There’s a reason About shows up so often when you’re searching for Japanese language related queries.

3. All Japanese All The Time

Not quite a Japanese learning software, app, or website, but had to find someplace to put it. This is a site that shows you how to make everything in your life Japanese and create an “immersive environment” for yourself wherever you are to learn Japanese. Personally, if you’re going to get this intense about it, I think you should put all that energy into just moving to Japan. Easier than you think, if you want to do it. If you want to immerse and you’re stuck in some ho-dunk backcountry, though, you won’t find a better guide to immerse yourself in Japanese while not in Japan. Also includes a lot of tips, tricks, and info on staying motivated, which is cool too.

4. Rosetta Stone Japanese

Everyone knows about Rosetta Stone because they spend millions and millions on ads and airport kiosks. But, for the most part they aren’t as great as they make themselves out to be. Click the link above to read my opinion on them.

Best Resources For Finding A Japanese Teacher or Class

Whether you like meeting your teacher virtually in person, you’ll be able to find something here. If you can’t find anything at all, well, then it’s time to think about self-teaching. Main thing is you get started (and don’t let the excuse of no teacher get in the way). Go go go!

1. eduFire

Online learning is the future, and if you want a live teacher you can use eduFire to get one from Japan (or anywhere). Teachers come up on webcam (along with you) and you do your lesson in a virtual classroom. It’s pretty spiffy, and a great way to save money and find teachers you normally wouldn’t have access to.

2. Craigslist

If you’re looking for a local teacher, Craig is your dude. I’ve had a ton of luck finding all sorts of other things (like couches), and finding a Japanese teacher shouldn’t be that bad either (as long as you’re in a location with Japanese teachers). If you’re someplace rural, or lacking in Japanese teachers, you may have to go online and find yourself a virtual one (or teach yourself Japanese).

3. TeachStreet

Although not as expansive as Craiglist, Teachstreet is positioning themselves to be the search engine for teachers / lessons / classes, etc. They’re still only in a limited number of cities (U.S. will have the most luck), but if you are lucky enough to be in one of their operating cities, finding a Japanese teacher should be a cinch.

Top Google Resources For Japanese Learning

If you want to know more about using Google as a Japanese learning tool, check out this article.

1. Image Search

Did you know that Google’s image search is a great way to look new words up? Say you find a word and look it up. The dictionary sucks (because you didn’t use one of the top dictionaries in this list), so you come up with an ambiguous answer. At this point, you would put the word into Google image search to figure out what that word is visually. Chances are, you’ll get some good images to correlate with that word and you’ll now know what it means.

2. Google Search Results

Say you have two similar words (or spellings of words… maybe in katakana), and you aren’t sure which one you should use. Search for both of them in Google and see which one gets you the most results. Most likely, the one with more results will be the correct one to use.

3. Google Translated Search

Google translated search is a not-well-known resource that lets you see side-by-side comparisons of search results, one in Japanese, one in English. Although this is a good way to look at Japanese, there can be errors in automatic translations, so you have to be careful! This is best used by more advanced learners of Japanese.

4. Google Calendar

If you don’t make your Japanese learning important enough to schedule it, then maybe it isn’t important enough. Google Calendar is one of the best calendaring systems out there. It’s a great way to keep track of your studies, what you will study, and when you’ll study. I recommend everyone give scheduling a shot, it can be a great help as long as you stick with it.

5. Google Voice

Although Skype is probably the better alternative, if you’re calling land-lines in Japan, give Google Voice a shot. I use both Voice and Skype to make calls to Japan, and have been happy with both. It just depends on where you’re calling from (Skype = computer, Voice = phone).

6. Google Translate

As a last resort, if you have to do an auto translation, you could try Google Translate. Computer generated translations never turn out accurate, so if you’re using this, you better know a decent amount of Japanese to fix all the errors it’ll show up. Still, translators are supposedly getting better, but learning the language on your own is still the best route to take.

Reading Resources

Reading in Japanese is just another step. Along with these resources, I’d recommend using the Rikaichan plugin to help you look up kanji / words you don’t know or understand.

1. U of V Japanese Text Initiative

University of Virginia is putting together a database of Japanese text that you can search and read (and use to practice). Lots of really great printable text, sortable by author or title. There’s even the option to view text with or without furigana, which is pretty epic if you ask me (I’d try to go without, though, if you really want to learn).

2. Kankomie

Kankomie is full of old Japanese stories. The cool thing about this is that when you click on a story, it will open up a (flash) storybook and read it out loud to you, which means you can read along with the voice. It’s like learning Japanese with karaoke, except a lot older.

3. Goo.ne.jp

Looking for lots and lots and lots of Japanese news to read about? Goo for you.

4. Asahi Shinbun

My personal favorite when it comes to “Japanese newspaper studying.” Be careful, though. Articles disappear behind a paywall after a while, so use something like Evernote to grab the content to study later.

5. Yomiuri Shinbun

Just another Japanese newspaper to study with if Asahi doesn’t do the trick.

Top “Japanese Resources Lists” List

Of course, this is the internet, and there are plenty of other Japanese resource lists out there. I feel like a lot of them are pretty old, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find a couple of new gems in each. Believe it or not, this Japanese learning resources list could have been a 500 top learning resources list (thank goodness it wasn’t, though). There are a ton out there, so if you’re looking for more, these will get you started (and hopefully finished as well).

1. Top 10 Online Resources For Learning Japanese Free

Not all the resources on this list are free, so if you want a more concise, free-er list, take a look at this one. Everything on this top-10 list is also here, but this is a great way to see the best of the best (at least in the free category… sometimes, though not always, you get what you pay for).

2. Gakuranman’s Top 5 Free Online Japanese English Dictionaries

If the dictionary explanations above didn’t do it for you, or you want to find a couple new ones, check out Gakuranman’s list. He’s definitely the Japanese dictionary guru.

3. Top Books For Learning Japanese

Detailed information on pretty much every Japanese learning book out there. If you’re set on getting a book, take a look at this list and find one that’s right for you!

4. NihongoUp’s Japanese Learning Resources

NihongoUp lists their favorite Japanese learning resources for you. There’s a bit more emphasis on non-free learning resources, so you’ll definitely see some new stuff in this list.

5. Tumbleweed’s Resources for Learning Japanese

Just another list of Japanese learning resources.

6. Sabotenweb’s Japanese Language Learning List

A huge and somewhat poorly organized list. You’ll definitely find something new here, it’s like looking through a messy attic. There’s treasures hidden everywhere.

7. Japanese Language Learning Resources

Another big list of Japanese learning resources with fairly good organization

Japanese Cheat Sheets

There’s something to be said about cheat sheets. They’re so sexy and useful (if done right). Here are my favorite cheat sheets, available to download with the click of a button.

1. Nihonshock’s Ultimate Japanese Cheat Sheet

If any cheat sheet can call itself the “ultimate” cheat sheet, this is the one. It looks good and contains a ridiculous amount of information. In some cases, I’d say too much info, but if you need info on almost everything, go get this free cheat sheet.

2. Japanese Language Cheat Sheet For Travelers

If you’re traveling to Japan and don’t know a lick of Japanese, take this cheat sheet with you. It’s designed for someone who’s going to Japan but doesn’t want to study anything. Perfect for travelers.

3. Japanese Particles Cheat Sheet

If you’re like every other Japanese student, you probably hate particles. This cheat sheet will make your life a little bit easier.

4. Japanese Counters Cheat Sheet

If particles haven’t knocked you out of the ring, counters will. Okay, so this cheat sheet is many pages long, but there are a lot of counters out there to bash your head against. Enjoy.

5. Japanese Colors Cheat Sheet

Colors are weird and mysterious in Japanese, and this cheat sheet either makes it easier or more complicated. I can’t tell. Either way, all the information is there for all you color-lovers.

What Resources Would You Add?

Surely I’ve missed 300-500 resources up there, and there’s no way I’m going to add them all (because most of them are crap). But, is there something incredible I’m missing on this list? Something you think the world can’t do without? Let me know what you think in the comments, share this list with your Japanese learning friends, and go rest your eyes. You deserve it (and I deserve to rest my fingers).

P.S. If you thought this list was too long, you should follow Tofugu on Twitter.

P.P.S. If you thought this list was too short, you should subscribe to our newsletter.

  • http://divita.eu/ seifip

    wow! That's a truly impressive list… It'll take me hours to go through all of these ^^

    Thanks a lot for including several of my projects! I would also like to let you know that:
    1. NihongoUp is also great for learning vocabulary and grammar. The vocabulary section contains around 10,000 words from all JLPT levels with the possibility to learn them both in kana or with all the kanji. The grammar section contains a Particles mode, a Counters mode, and, after this weekend's update, a unique Transitivity mode which allows one to learn transitive/intransitive verb pairs and when to use which.
    2. In addition to the Colors cheat sheet you mentioned, I've also made a Japanese body parts cheat sheet which can be very useful if you're ever going to visit a doctor or so :)

  • http://divita.eu/ seifip

    One more thing… There's a great Japanese dictionary called Tagaini – http://tagaini.net/ – which is actively developed (a really cool, fairly revolutionary, kanji selector is to be added in the next version). + I've made the icon for it ^^

  • http://www.tictaek.com TicTaek

    Woah! This is a uber awesome list of great Japanese learning material that will take me awhile to go through. Thanks man! I'm excited to check out all of these great resources.

  • chotaimotai

    Seriously just looking at this list makes me stressful and also makes my eyes burn.

  • chotaimotai

    But then again its a fountain of very useful resources, Thanks great post !

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    haha, I feel yah on that one.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    careful not to go blind when you do!

  • jace

    Rosetta Stone should not be anywhere NEAR a list of the top resources

    its a ripoff and a piece of crap

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    totally agreed on that one, but, I figured it was a good excuse to link to my article which talks about Rosetta being a piece of crap too, haha, so they get zero link love on that one.

  • http://twitter.com/andoryuu3 案導流

    (@andoryuu3 on twitter)

    For those looking for study time on their cell phones, take a peek at HiraganaRecall (and the other two Recall softwares):
    http://www.getjar.com/mobile/4998/hiragana-recall/

    It's basic, but kills time when you're on the bus. A DS with learning games might be more efficient, but I don't always have that with me.

  • http://gakuranman.com Gakuranman

    Awesome list Mr. Fugu-lish! You’ve truly become an organisational master as of late!

  • http://bridgetbeaver.blogspot.com Bridget

    my first textbook was ‘Japanese for Everyone’!! I have the tapes, too!!! Is there any way I could convert the tapes into MP3s or something?? Can anyone hook me up with info. on how to do that??? I mean, I don’t even have a tape player anymore….
    And, yes, Genki is a great text! The people that wrote it (profs. at Kansai Gaidai) were basically writing it for ryugakusei at Gaidai, so I guess the Mary/Takeshi relationship kind of makes sense when you look at who it was originally intended for. But, as you said, totally crap-tastic for the self-learner. I guess I was lucky to have the people at Gaidai who wrote it teach it to me :D

  • JM

    Good list, but no mention to japanese nintendo DS game like なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習 or Kanken DS 3.

  • http://twitter.com/wrightak Andrew Wright

    Your description for Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji was:

    “Remembering The Kanji is one of the first kanji resources to use mnemonics to help you learn Japanese. It does a really good job helping you to learn the meaning of a particular kanji, though it doesn’t go into the actual readings / pronunciations of the kanji quite as well. If you’re looking to only learn the meanings of the kanji (not super useful when reading, but certainly helps a lot), then Heisig’s is a great place to start. There are a lot of diehard fans of Heisig, so it can’t be that bad.”

    I don’t think this is accurate. Heisig’s book helps you memorize the *shape* of the kanji. It doesn’t really teach the meanings because only seeing the kanji used in context can do that. Perhaps a description like this would be better:

    “Remembering The Kanji is one of the first kanji resources to use mnemonics to help you learn Japanese. It does a really good job helping you to memorize how to write the kanji, though it doesn’t go into the actual readings / pronunciations of the kanji and only gives you a one word summary of the meaning. Heisig wrote a second book to teach the readings but this is not as popular as the first. There are a lot of diehard fans of Heisig, so it can’t be that bad.”

  • Tanuki

    Awesome list, there are more than a few items that were completely new to me. Just throwing another dictionary recommendation into the ring:
    http://www.weblio.jp
    I absolutely rely on this dictionary, based off the Kenkyusha dictionaries. The English entries are good, but the Japanese entries are superb, breaking the word down into all of its potential meanings(including peripheral or metaphorical ones), cross-linking most of the compounds in its definition to other entries and in many cases giving example sentences. It is definitely more useful for intermediate and advanced students, but since I started studying for the JLPT N2 it has been crucial to helping get the words stuck in my head. It took a bit of effort to get used to reading the entries in Japanese, but after looking up a few lower level words, you can easily get a feel for how things tend to work. Cannot recommend enough.

  • gec

    rikaikun for Chrome.

  • http://mdid.wordpress.com/ David

    In the books section I would add “Minna No Nihongo”. It has much better explanations of the grammar than “Japanese for Busy People”.

    For Kanji stroke orders I use KanjiVG (http://kanji.sljfaq.org/kanjivg/) which will show you a vector graphic of Kanji with stroke order highlighted. They also have a handwritten Kanji search page (http://kanji.sljfaq.org/draw.html) which I find easier to use than the Windows IME Pad.

  • http://divita.eu/ seifip

    wow! That's a truly impressive list… It'll take me hours to go through all of these ^^

    Thanks a lot for including several of my projects! I would also like to let you know that:
    1. NihongoUp is also great for learning vocabulary and grammar. The vocabulary section contains around 10,000 words from all JLPT levels with the possibility to learn them both in kana or with all the kanji. The grammar section contains a Particles mode, a Counters mode, and, after this weekend's update, a unique Transitivity mode which allows one to learn transitive/intransitive verb pairs and when to use which.
    2. In addition to the Colors cheat sheet you mentioned, I've also made a Japanese body parts cheat sheet which can be very useful if you're ever going to visit a doctor or so :)

  • http://divita.eu/ seifip

    One more thing… There's a great Japanese dictionary called Tagaini – http://tagaini.net/ – which is actively developed (a really cool, fairly revolutionary, kanji selector is to be added in the next version). + I've made the icon for it ^^

  • http://www.zonjineko.com zonjineko

    Thx for the list – many I had never heard of. RhinoSpike looks really interesting.

    I’d like to add http://www.tangorin.com to the list of dictionaries – I think it is the best I have used.

    It would be remiss of me not to mention a great Japanese learning blog called http://www.zonjineko.com ^_^

  • http://www.tictaek.com TicTaek

    Woah! This is a uber awesome list of great Japanese learning material that will take me awhile to go through. Thanks man! I'm excited to check out all of these great resources.

  • http://twitter.com/jyuichi jyuichi

    I would have submitted the Erin’s Challenge TV series (DVDs with supplemental textbook) but it didn’t seem too accessible. . Each episode features two skits (basic and advanced) focusing on a grammar topic, discussion of the grammar and various cultural videos.

    However, Just a few days ago, the Japan Foundation put up a web version with most of the show at erin.ne.jp . The skits and cultural videos are subtitled in normal japanese, kana only, romaji, or japanese + English making them open to many level sets. The navigation is currently in Japanese only but an English version is planned for the end of April.

  • chotaimotai

    Seriously just looking at this list makes me stressful and also makes my eyes burn.

  • chotaimotai

    But then again its a fountain of very useful resources, Thanks great post !

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    haha, I feel yah on that one.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    careful not to go blind when you do!

  • http://twitter.com/untmdsprt Jenny

    If you had a tape player with audio out, and a computer with audio in, you could record everything into the computer. You could probably find a local band or other audio geek with the equipment that could do it for you.

  • jace

    Rosetta Stone should not be anywhere NEAR a list of the top resources

    its a ripoff and a piece of crap

  • http://twitter.com/untmdsprt Jenny

    Pimsleur is actually a good resource for the speaking part. I’m finding it’s helping me with the proper grammar structure without having to think about.

    It’s also good to train my ear because I’m a visual learner.

  • http://www.tofugu.com koichi

    totally agreed on that one, but, I figured it was a good excuse to link to my article which talks about Rosetta being a piece of crap too, haha, so they get zero link love on that one.

  • http://twitter.com/andoryuu3 案導流

    (@andoryuu3 on twitter)

    For those looking for study time on their cell phones, take a peek at HiraganaRecall (and the other two Recall softwares):
    http://www.getjar.com/mobile/4998/hiragana-recall/

    It's basic, but kills time when you're on the bus. A DS with learning games might be more efficient, but I don't always have that with me.

  • http://tokyo.japantimes.co.jp/ Jonny

    Wow, that’s an awesome concise list! Thanks for sharing. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this on the LocalJapanTimes Fan page ^^

  • JackiJinx

    Gotta love lists! Much obliged.

    A comment on MyJapanese Coach. I’ve played enough of the title to get a real good feel of it (I’ve done over 50 lessons now), and while there is a great lot of vocabulary in it as well as a way to reference it later on, there things that just could’ve been done a LOT better. There’s some incorrect stroke order (wrong answers result if you don’t do the programmed stroke order), inconsistent use of かな for when inputting answers (most times will be asked to input romanji for word search, typing, memory games, and flashcards, even after done going over all the かな lessons), a few words that I’ve found are never used because they’re outdated (to be fair, many texts are guilty of this), not testing on all the material presented (i.e. on a lesson about Verb Bases, it introduces Bases 1-5 along with the て and た bases, but tests on only the vocabulary without any conjugation), and the basis of mastering words is based on finishing a few games (like whack-a-mole, memory, word search, etc. ) until 10 points are gained for each word in a lesson, then the game considers the words in the lesson mastered and moves onto the next lesson (there’s never a penalty for getting something wrong, just no points gained).

    So while I can recommend MyJapanese Coach as a relatively cheap electronic dictionary for beginners or perhaps travelers, I would not recommend it as a learning device. It just leaves much to much to be desired.

  • http://nihonshock.com/ Lloyd Vincent

    Epic roundup! And thanks for featuring my cheat sheet! (^^)

    One other resource I’d like all Japanese learners to know about is: http://www.hiragana.jp/en/
    You can use this site to load web sites with Japanese text, and it will automatically add furigana over all the kanji for you. It works very well but just be aware that you can’t trust it to decode proper names or slang correctly.

  • Anonymous

    Holy mother of god….and I thought the top 10 list was helpful,this is just….Koichi, you truly are the messiah for the Japanese self-teacher. Thank you sir, just thank you.

  • JackiJinx

    すみません! I wanted to add something else ^^;;

    I’m one of those people that imports games, and I can say with certainty that if you want to play directly from Japan, make sure that you have *at least* an Elementary level completed. Even with an Elementary level, a dictionary will be your best friend for playing…children’s games! That’s probably disappointing for some people, but the only other options are limited to casual games that use relatively little text, meaning little to no learning opportunities and RPGs which require an extensive knowledge of the language to grasp.

    My first import was a Pokémon game, and I wouldn’t have gotten it if I had known that it was written entirely in かな (I started learning via Heisig method, so my vocabulary was painfully limited), though even if it wasn’t, there was just too much I didn’t know and had a hard time grasping.

    If you’re interested in importing games, I suggest looking at this slightly dated site (http://mrbass.org/nintendoDS/japanesegames/) for a list of some DS games to check out and also this guide (http://www.giantbomb.com/guides/pepsimans-guide-to-surviving-imports/692/) to help further understand what you’re getting yourself into.

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  • Katarina

    The only source i'd care to add is http://www.sharedtalk.com
    good for finding Japanese conversation partner (well or pretty much any other language) or a native to teach you what other sources fail to do (though in that case most likely natives will fail as well xD)

  • http://www.zonjineko.com zonjineko

    Yes agreed with this one – I have the whole series on DVD and the books that go with it. I didn't know about the web version – thanks for the heads up.

  • kanjo

    “Barron's Japanese Grammar” (it's usually called “Japanese Grammar (Barron's Grammar Series)” online, though) is one of my favourite Japanese books. It's small but it teaches most Japanese grammar very well, just enough explanation and examples for me so the small book is put to full use :)

    Kanji Sono Mama DS Rakubiki Jiten is probably my favourite thing ever. It's like one of those 電子辞書 but for the price of a cheap DS game (If you know the price 電子辞書 usually are you'll know how fantastic that is!)

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  • maryanneburgos

    Kooks like a great list! Now Chinese please. :-)

  • georges
  • http://twitter.com/tonysensei Tony Gonzalez

    If anyone is using “Genki I”, you might be interested in my “Genkier” series of podcasts that I created to accompany it. Unfortunately I've only done the first six lessons, but they might help you to avoid some misconceptions about Japanese that I think Genki can easily lead you into. I've also created some Anki decks to accompany the vocab and kanji in those lessons of “Genki I”. and other stuff. I hope that Genki users find these materials useful. =)

    You can get my materials here:
    http://tonysensei.com/groups/genkier-users/page

  • http://www.artistaoscura.wordpress.com/ artista.oscura

    Wow! That is one heck of a list! Thanks man! This should be fun.

  • sumi

    I find your translations of signs really helpful. I hope you add a lot more of them.

  • http://www.zonjineko.com zonjineko

    Thanks really appreciate it ^_^

  • Laurrrr

    I use Tagaini Jisho all the time! It's just a desktop version of Jim Breen's, but the interface and features are SUPER SICK. The particularly love the flagging feature. If you run into a vocab word/kanji you don't know, you can flag it as “to study” or “already known” for later review (you can also add notes to each entry and add custom tags). You can do really advanced sorting of these lists, do quizzes for points which are internally tracked, or even print out flashcards from lists.

    The BEST part about the flagging feature comes into play when looking up unknown kanji. If I pop 心 into Tagaini and click through to the kanji entry, beyond the stroke order diagrams, readings, meanings, and component radicals, there is a list of compounds the kanji shows up in. AND THE WORDS ON YOUR “TO STUDY” AND “ALREADY KNOWN” LISTS FLOAT TO THE TOP OF THE LIST AND ARE SHOWN FIRST! I hate looking a kanji up and seeing compounds and words I'm not familiar with first because I can't make the mental connections needed for long term retention. So for 心, I'll see 心, 心配, 熱心, and 関心 first on the list because these are vocab words I've studied in class, and then I say, “OH! 心 is part of those compounds?! That makes so much sense!” And then it's just that much easier to remember both the kanji and the compounds.

    I super super super <3 Tagaini Jisho.

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  • softbanksucks

    The online dictionary ALC is eijiro (英辞郎). Unless your ability is quite advanced, you need to be very very very careful with it. I can't stress very enough.

    Eijiro is huge though, and it has been getting better, especially since they recently deleted a bunch of stuff.

    Oh yeah, for mac users of 10.5 and above, there is a very good Japanese dictionary included with the OS.