Spring Book Haul

This is my latest book haul: 13 books / genre fiction only!

Medical Fiction

『逃げるな新人外科医』 and 『走れ外科医』 by Yujiro Nakayama (中山裕次郎) – 泣くな研修医シリーズ 2 and 3

I loved the first book of this series 『なくな研修医』, and when I heard that there was a second volume, I knew I had to read it as well. When I ordered it, I saw that a third book had just came out, so I had to get it too 🥰 I don’t know if there will be other books in this series or if it is just going to be a trilogy.

A drama adaptation is just coming out, I’ll try to watch it when I finish the books!

Business Novel

『空飛ぶタイヤ』 by Jun Ikeido (池井戸潤)

This will be my second book by Jun Ikeido, and similarly to the first one, I feel a little apprehensive. First because it is very long (900 pages!) and also because there will be a lot of economics in this novel. I hope that it will not be too difficult for me to read in Japanese, but even if it is, I will not give up!

『空飛ぶタイヤ』 has been recommended to me on Twitter, and it is one of Jun Ikeido’s most famous novels as well. It has excellent reviews on Amazon, and I am sure that I will love it.

You can buy either the whole novel in one book or two separate books (上 and 下), which I did because I don’t like holding thick or heavy books.

Mystery fiction / Detective novels

Stand alone novels

『犯罪者』 by Ai Ota (太田愛)

This book is 974 pages long 😱, and thankfully it comes in two separate books (上 and 下). To be honest, I don’t really feel like reading such a long book, but the problem is that I bought another novel by this author during my previous book haul: 『幻夏』 . I did not realise that 『幻夏』 had to be read after 『犯罪者』. I don’t know exactly how the two stories are connected (it does not seem to be a series), but apparently, you need to read 『犯罪者』 first.

Thankfully, someone pointed this crucial information to me on Twitter, when I was talking about my last book haul. I put 『幻夏』 aside and was waiting for my next order to get 『犯罪者』.

『犯罪者』 has very good reviews, so I hope I will like it. I haven’t read the summary because I find that they tend to reveal too much, and I like diving into a story with zero previous knowledge of it.

『聖母』 by Rikako Akiyoshi (秋吉理香子)

I have never read this author before, but 『聖母』 has been recommended to me on Twitter some time ago, and I finally added it to my order! It looks like it is going to be a thriller, and it also looks like the kind of stories that I love reading.

I am also interested by other books by Rikako Akiyoshi. Her earlier books seem particularly interesting. If I like 『聖母』 , I will certainly add other titles to my list.


『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』 by Tokuya Higashigawa (東川篤哉)烏賊川市シリーズ 3

That’s the kind of title that I cannot resist. And the cover is so cute (illustration by Keiichi Arawi)!

『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』 is the third book in the Ikagawa city series, and I have set my heart on reading the whole series. I must admit that I was particularly excited about this one because it seems so intriguing and funny!

I loved the first book of the series, but the second one not so much. Hopefully, I will love this one!

『名もなき毒』 by Miyuki Miyabe (宮部みゆき) – 杉村三郎シリーズ 2

This is the second book in the Saburo Sugimura series, and I have read the first one so long ago that I don’t remember much about the story. I do remember loving the protagonist, Saburo Sugimura, and the author’s style, though I also found that the book was quite slow and lacked a bit of tension and suspense.

This book is quite long (600 pages), so I hope that it will not be as slow as the first one! I will decide whether I continue the series or not after reading 『名もなき毒』 .

The publisher 文春 (Bunshun) has made a guide to the series that includes a list of characters that is very useful to me. It is worth noting that they added the furigana for each name, which I feel very thankful for as well.

『メゾン・ド・ポリス』 by Miaki Kato (加藤実秋) – メゾン・ド・ポリスシリーズ 2

The first book of the Maison de Police series was published in 2018, and the 6th book has just been released (March 2021)! This means that Miaki Kato has written more than one book per year for the series, which seems a lot to me.

The first book was a collection of several cases, and the second book seems to be the same. This is perfect to me because I can read one story from time to time when I need to take a break from longer books.

『真夏の方程式』 by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾) – ガリレオシリーズ 6

First of all, the cover? 😳 It looks like a computer program randomly chose a picture from a free image website based on the word “Summer” from the title. Not only does this cover looks like a cheap commercial for a travel agency, but it also departs from the other books of the series which all have a similar vibe to their cover 🤔

Anyway, the only thing I want from this book is a nice role for detective Kusanagi. If you follow my blog, you know that I don’t like how this character was portrayed in the previous books. He used to be my favourite character of the series (I am not a fan of professor Yukawa), so it is a bit sad to see him turning into a stubborn and not so good police officer.

I am slowly catching up with the Galileo series, I might even be able to finish it this year. I think it would be fun to read the last book around the same time when its English translation gets released (announced for December 14th by Macmillan).

『 真夏の方程式 』 has been translated into English by Alexander O. Smith under the title A Midsummer’s Equation.

『プレゼント』 and 『依頼人は死んだ』 by Nanami Wakatake (若竹七海) – 葉村晶シリーズ 1 and 2

I have been wanting to start the Akira Hamura series for a long time but never got around to doing it. I am almost certain that I will love this series so I decided to buy the first and the second book together.

I haven’t read the summary on the back covers and the only thing I know about this series is that detective Akira Hamura is extremely unlucky, though good at her work. I don’t know if the books will be humoristic or not, but they look intriguing.

『最後の証人』 by Yuko Yuzuki (柚月裕子) – 佐方貞人シリーズ 1

This is the first book of the Sadato Sakata series. I have read the second book of the series and loved it. It was a collection of short stories, whereas 『最後の証人』 is a novel.

It looks like the first book is the only novel of the series. If I understood correctly, Sadato Sakata is a lawyer in this book, but he used to be a prosecutor. The other 3 books of the series all seem to be collections of short stories taking place when Sakata was still a prosecutor. This looks like a strange format where the first book would be the present time and the other ones would all be set in the past.

『占星術殺人事件』 by Soji Shimada (島田荘司) – 御手洗潔シリーズ 1

This is the first book in the Kiyoshi Mitarai series, and it has been translated into English by Ross and Shika Mackenzie under the title The Tokyo Zodiac Murders.

Soji Shimada has written a lot of mystery novels and this series is very popular, so it’s not clear why I haven’t read it yet. I don’t know much about the series, and I haven’t read the summary of this book, so I really don’t know what to expect.

The edition I have says its a revised complete version (改訂完全版), but I don’t know what it means concretely. It also looks like they are not going to reprint all the books of the series with this revised edition. I have searched through Kodansha’s website and it looks like only the first, second and sixth books of the series have been re-published for now. The fact that they are not reprinting the books in order makes me think that only some titles will get a revised edition.

I know it’s not the end of the world, but if I am to read the whole series, I would be happier if all the books where the same edition – revised or not – just all the same 😩

And that’s it! I have enough books to keep me occupied for the next months 🙂

Short Books and Long Books

I thought it could be fun to list the longest and shortest books I have read in Japanese so far and see which ones were the easiest. I list novels only, so no non-fiction and no short stories or essays.

5 Longest novels I have read in Japanese (over 500 pages)

727 pages:『アキラとあきら』 by Jun Ikeido 池井戸潤 – Business novel

This is one of my favourite books! It was not difficult to read overall, but there is a lot of economic stuff in it, so some passages ended up being quite a challenge to me. If you are familiar with anything related to bank loans and investments – and know the vocabulary in Japanese – this book should be quite an easy read. If not, there are a lot of recurring words, so the book becomes easier as you get used to the specialised vocabulary.

617 pages: 『流星の絆』 by Keigo Higashino 東野圭吾 – Mystery novel

I read this one a long time ago, and I don’t remember the story well. I feel like this is not my favourite Higashino overall, but it is hard to remember what I disliked in the novel. In any case, Higashino’s writing style is so fluid that this book did not feel like a 600 pages book at all. I did not have difficulty reading this book, even though it belongs to one of my earlier readings.

595 pages: 『ノルウェイの森』 by Haruki Murakami 村上春樹 – Coming of age novel

This book was a big surprise in terms of Japanese level. I was shocked at how easy it was to read. The Japanese level is not high at all (I would say you can read it with a good N3 level?), and Murakami’s style is so easy to read, so smooth and agreeable. I really enjoyed the writing style, but the story not so much. Overall, I was not a fan of this novel, but I learned that Murakami is very easy to read in Japanese, something I wish I had known sooner…

562 pages: 『パラドックス13』 by Keigo Higashino 東野圭吾 – SF

I remember loving this book, and similarly to the previous one, it did not feel like reading a long book at all. After an inexplicable phenomenon, everyone seems to have disappeared from the surface of the earth except for a bunch of people who will have to survive together. The SF elements are just there to set up the story, but the novel is more about how people will manage (or not) to get along with each other. I don’t usually read SF, but I really loved this book, and I found it easy to read (I was studying for the JLPT N2 at the time).

535 pages: 『罪の声』 by Takeshi Shiota 塩田武士 – Mystery novel

This one is the most difficult book of the “long books”, and it did feel like a long book! The story is about an extorsion case and is inspired by a true event. I found that some passages felt quite long, there are a lot of characters to remember and the case is rather complex. Overall, I loved this story, but this one did feel like reading a long book!

5 Shortest books I have read in Japanese (under 200 pages)

168 pages: 『コンビニ人間』 by Sayaka Murata 村田沙耶香 – Literary Fiction (Akutagawa Prize)

For a work of literary fiction (and a winner of the Akutagawa Prize), this book was not as difficult to read as I expected, but it is still more difficult than the “long” books listed above. It is a great novel that I heartily recommend. If you think that it might be too difficult to read in Japanese, you could read it in parallel with its English translation by Ginny Tapley Takemori.

179 pages: 『JR 上野駅公園口』 by Miri Yu 柳美里 – Literary Fiction

This short novel is by far the most difficult book of the list! I read it in parallel with the excellent translation by Morgan Giles, and I am pretty sure that I would have given up if I had read the Japanese alone. Some passages were quite difficult with long explanatory or descriptive passages, and overall I think that I just don’t like Miri Yu’s writing style.

DNF – 180 pages: 『火花』 by Naoki Matayoshi 又吉直樹 – Literary fiction (Akutagawa Prize)

This is the only DNF of the list. I did not make it very far in this novel, it was difficult to read, I did not like the author’s style and the story did not interest me much either. That was quite some time ago, so I guess that I would be able to enjoy it more now that my Japanese is better, but I don’t really feel like picking it again.

183 pages: 『蹴りたい背中』 by Risa Wataya 綿矢りさ – Literary Fiction (Akutagawa Prize)

Also a Akutagawa Prize winner, this book might not be very difficult, but it is not easy either. Its length, its topic and the fact that Risa Wataya was very young when she wrote it made me think that this book would be easier than it really is. When I tried to read it the first time, I gave up because I could not go pass the first pages – it was much too difficult for my level at the time. I came back to it not long ago, and I found the beginning a bit challenging, so no wonder that I gave up the first time.

189 pages: 『僕たちはみんな大人たちになれなかった』 by Moegara 燃え殻 – Literary Fiction

This might not be the most difficult book I have read in Japanese, but it is one that felt difficult to read. I read it quite a long time ago, and my level was not very high at the time. Maybe I should re-read it today, but this novel struck me as being difficult to get into if you didn’t share the author’s references. Overall, I was not able to really enjoy this book.


If we were to compare the hours I spent reading all these books, I am pretty sure that it took me more time to read the 5 short books than the 5 longer ones.

It seems obvious that a short book is not necessarily an easy one and that longer books are not necessarily difficult, but when you are a language learner looking for easy books to read, it is tempting to go for shorter ones. If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, I would recommend to avoid picking books just because they “look” easy. Don’t pick a book just because it is super short, the title inspires you and the cover looks cool (I’m looking at you 僕たちはみんな大人たちになれなかった).

If everybody is talking about a book because it just got translated or won a literary prize, I will be tempted to read it, but these books are often not the easiest to read. I bought 火花 during one of my trips to Japan, it had won the Akutagawa prize and just got its bunko version, and there were piles of it in every single bookshop I went to. If I had made some research about the book instead of letting myself be lured by its beautiful cover, I would have realised that it was above my level and that the story was not for me anyway.

On the contrary, I should not be intimidated by longer books if they belong to a genre I am truly passionate about. Even now that I am used to reading genre fiction in Japanese, I still tend to avoid books over 500 pages. Seeing how quickly I devoured the 700 pages of アキラとあきら, I feel more confident in buying longer novels now.

Anyway, I find this list very interesting. I did not try to put easier books in the long books list and difficult ones in the short books list. I simply went over all the books I have read, and the longer ones happened to be the easier ones, while the shorter ones were all challenging works of literary fiction, including books I found very difficult and a DNF.

Detective series I am reading

I started a lot of different detective series this last couple of years, but for most of them, I only read one book and never came back to the series. I thought it would be a good idea to make a list of all the series I have started (and a couple I want to try) and focus on continuing them this year.

My plan is to read at least one book of each of the following series this year

In no particular order:

Galileo Series ガリレオシリーズ – Professor Manabu Yukawa 湯川学


Author: Keigo Higashino 東野圭吾

Years: 1998-2018

Books read so far: 5/9

I have mixed feelings towards this series. I loved most of the stories so far, meaning that the murder mystery and the investigation are always good, but I am not a fan of professor Yukawa. I liked the duo Kusanagi-Yukawa present in the first books, but the introduction of a new character (police officer Kaoru) in the 4th volume broke this dynamic. I will continue the series because I love Higashino’s style and I am always there for a good murder story, but I don’t like this series as much as I expected.

Akira Hamura Series 葉村晶シリーズ – Detective Akira Hamura 葉村晶


Author: Nanami Wakatake 若竹七海

Years: 1996-2019

Books read so far: 0/8

I know nothing about this series, except that it looks great, that I love the cover art, and that I want to read it. I bought the last book by accident (I didn’t know it was part of the series), and it came with an adorable booklet showcasing all the books of the series and Akira Hamura’s career history. This made me immediately want to read the whole series!

Hayato Inukai Series 犬養隼人シリーズ – Detective Hayato Inukai 犬養隼人


Author: Shichiri Nakayama 中山七里

Years: 2013-2020

Books read so far: 1/5

I just read one book of the series and liked it, though it is not exactly what I was looking for. It is more a large-scaled police investigation than an investigation based on deduction and skills. In other words, it is more about catching the murderer than finding who is the murderer. I still liked it, and I will certainly keep on reading it, even if it is not a priority right now.

Maison de Police Series メゾン・ド・ポリス – Detective Hiyori Makino 牧野ひより


Author: Miaki Kato 加藤実秋

Years: 2018-2021

Books read so far: 1/6

I found this series funny and refreshing. I really like the concept of the series: retired professionals and experts of crime are living together in a shared house. They help young detective Hiyori Makino to solve her cases. The tone is rather light and humoristic, and while I prefer more serious cases than those presented in the first book, I will continue this series for sure.

Sadato Sakata Series 佐方貞人シリーズ – Prosecutor Sadato Sakata 佐方貞人


Author: Yuko Yuzuki 柚月裕子

Years: 2010-2019

Books read so far: 1/4

To be honest, I don’t know why I didn’t continue this series right away, I remember loving the book I read (it was a collection of short stories). I particularly loved the main character, prosecutor Sadato Sakata, who has a calm personality and a thorough way of investigating. Also, the fact that he is a prosecutor rather than a police officer, makes the series different from the usual detective series. Continuing this series is now on my list of priorities!

Saburo Sugimura Series 杉村三郎シリーズ – Detective Saburo Sugimura 杉村三郎


Author: Miyuki Miyabe 宮部みゆき

Years: 2003-2018

Books read so far: 1/6

I only read the first book of the series, and at that point, Saburo Sugimura is not a detective, just a nice guy who works at his father-in-law company. While he does investigate in this first novel, he does it without any particular means or skill, which made for a rather slow paced and maybe unexcited detective story. However, I loved Saburo Sugimura and there is something in the author’s writing and the atmosphere of the book that makes me want to read the whole series!

Cold Case Seminar Series (?) 継続捜査ゼミシリーズ – Professor Kobayakawa 小早川

Author: Bin Konno 今野敏

Years: 2016-2018

Books read so far: 1/2

There are only two books in this series so far, so I don’t know if it will develop farther, but I hope it will. I loved the first book, I found the idea new and unique: A former police detective now professor solves cold cases with his five students. The book was mainly based on dialogues (the characters discussing the case) and was a quick and easy read. (I don’t know how to translate 継続捜査 so I went for “cold case” but obviously, this is not an official translation).

Kiyoshi Mitarai Series 御手洗潔シリーズ – Detective Kiyoshi Mitarai 御手洗潔


Author: Soji Shimada 島田荘司

Years: 1981-2018

Books read so far: 0/30

I don’t know much about this series, apart from the fact that it is very popular and that several books have been translated into English. I believe that if we count short stories as well, Soji Shimada has written more than 50 stories featuring detective Mitarai. I cannot believe that I still haven’t tried this series!

Ikagawa City Series 烏賊川市シリーズ – Detective Morio Ukai 鵜飼杜夫


Author: Tokuya Higashigawa 東川篤哉

Years: 2002-2017

Books read so far: 3/8

Detective Ukai is certainly the least reliable detective of this list, but that is what makes him so lovable. I love the characters of this series and overall enjoy the tone and atmosphere of the books. I do find that it tends to go too far in the humoristic direction, some passages being very funny and others a bit too much. But overall, I like this series and I will certainly read all the books available.

Kogoro Akechi Series 明智小五郎シリーズ – Detective Kogoro Akechi 明智小五郎

Author: Edogawa Rampo 江戸川乱歩

Years: 1925-1955

Books read so far: 3/12

My reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book of the series each month. I am doing well so far, though the books are getting longer and longer and reading them takes me a lot of time. I love the series, it has a very different tone and style from the contemporary series listed here. I should be able to finish the series this year 🙂

And that’s it! I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. In the next months, I will focus on continuing and maybe finishing some of the series listed above. (And maybe look for new ones as well! Any suggestions are most welcome 😄)

Favourite books of 2020

I have read more than 50 books in 2020, twice as many as last year! Staying at home more than usual certainly helped, but I also think that my reading pace has increased.

First, I will quickly go over my reading challenge for 2020, and then I will talk about my favourite books of the year!

2020 Reading challenge completed!

I have completed all my 2020 reading challenges.

Read more non-fiction

I have read 10+ nonfiction books this year, which is a lot for me. I am particularly glad that I learned more about criminal law in Japan. I read a book about death penalty and one about a wrongful conviction. I plan on reading more about these topics next year.

Catch up with the Kaga series

I have read the whole Kaga series (10 books so far)! I really want to believe that the series is not over yet, and that there will be a 11th book, but I don’t know if this will happen. There is still a spin-off that I need to read, but it has not been released in bunko yet, so I will have to wait.

Read literary fiction

My challenge was to read two literary award winners, but I have actually read more than two books. Sadly, I have to admit that reading literary fiction is still very difficult to me. I had to read in parallel with the translation to be able to appreciate the writing style of authors like Teru Miyamoto (especially his earlier works) and Miri Yu. I can understand what happens by reading the Japanese alone, but my level is still too low to truly appreciate the quality of most works of literary fiction.

Open up to new genres!

This was the most fun and rewarding challenge of the year. I have read SF for the first time in Japanese, medical fiction, contemporary romance, and other genres. I still prefer books that are filled with dead bodies, but reading different genres was very nice, and I have discovered a lot of new authors as well.

Read Haruki Murakami in Japanese

Finally, I have read Haruki Murakami in Japanese for the first time. I chose Norwegian Wood, and I was not a fan of this novel overall. I have seen reviews of people saying that, although they love Murakami, they did not like Norwegian Wood. I will try another book one of these days! 

Favourite books of 2020

Top 5 favourite books

I was very surprised to see that most of my favourite books are not crime fiction!

『錦繡』by Teru Miyamoto (宮本輝)

Looking back at all the books I read this year, 『錦繡』 is, I think, my favourite. I was so emotionally involved in the story that I had to take breaks from reading. It is the first epistolary novel that I read in Japanese, and overall this is a format that I love but don’t get to read very often.

I highly recommend it.

I also read another novel and two novellas by Miyamoto this year, but none had the impact this one had on me.

『泣くな研修医』 by Yujiro Nakayama (中山祐次郎)

I found this book extremely addictive. The author is a surgeon and while he wrote several medical nonfiction books, this one is his first novel. If you like medical fiction, this novel is a short, but engrossing one, I just could not put it down.

I am interested in reading more medical fiction and non fiction, so this was a very good start! There is a second volume called 『逃げるな新人外科医』, and it is obviously on my reading list!

『祈りの幕が下りる時』 by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)

I love all the books of the Kaga series, but the last one was really excellent.

The story is rather complex and the investigation is not just about finding the murderer, but to understand the motivations behind people’s actions. We also learn a lot about Kaga’s mother, so this is definitely an essential episode in the series.

I would say that with 『新参者』 and 『悪意』, this novel is one of the best of the series.

『あのころ』by Momoko Sakura (さくらももこ)

This book is a collection of super heart-warming and nostalgic episodes of the author’s childhood. The stories are extremely relatable and told with humour.

I love Momoko Sakura, and while I didn’t know ちびまる子ちゃん before learning Japanese, I did watch several episodes of the anime as listening practice. I found it easier to picture all the events described in the book with the anime in mind.

『そして父になる』by Akira Sano (佐野晶)

I must say that I read this novelisation while watching the film (I had never watched it before). It is hard to tell whether I would have loved this book so much if I hadn’t watched the film. Obviously, the film added a lot to my reading experience, and I don’t know how I would feel about the novelisation if I had read it alone.

In any case, this is by far the best novelisation I have read, and I found that the author added a lot of little details that made it easier to sympathise with the characters (while I found somehow hard to connect with them in the film).

Note: I guess that 『極主婦道』 should make the list too, but I still haven’t finished the series yet.

And if it were a top 6, I would include:

『密室の鍵貸します』 by Tokuya Higashigawa (東川篤哉)

This book is the first one the Ikagawa series. It is a light-hearted and funny detective novel that is also extremely well done and engrossing. If you like locked-room mysteries, you will love this book.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this book, it is one of the most entertaining books I have read this year. I will read the whole series for sure.

Top 5 easiest books

Overall, these are the books that I believe are the easiest ones among the book I read this year.

『おれがあいつであいつがおれで』 by Hisashi Yamanaka (山中恒)

This book is an easy one for Japanese learners. It can be a good first novel, if you have never read books in Japanese before. The story is very good too, the book is engrossing and funny, but it also shows in a clever way how difficult it is to live as oneself in a society that forces you to behave and talk in a certain way. This might look like a book for children, but as an adult, I was completely engrossed in the story and cared a lot for the two protagonists.

『アンフィニシュトの書』 by Shinya Asashiro (浅白深也)

This book is overall easy to read and it has a repetitive structure that also helps a lot. You might find the beginning a little challenging if you are not used to reading novels in Japanese, but when the story kicks off, it really gets easier. Once you know the characters and the setting, the repetitive pattern of the story will make for a smooth read. It is a murder mystery, so if you are into that, you will certainly find this one addictive.

『11文字の殺人』 by Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾)

This novel was surprisingly easy to read, it is mainly composed of dialogues, narrative parts are reduced to a minimum, there are almost no descriptions… it reads very quickly and easily, I guess that native readers can finish it in just one day.

It might not be the best Higashino, but it is one of the easiest I have read and it is a real page-turner.

『あのころ』by Momoko Sakura (さくらももこ)

This is not a novel, but a collection of short episodes from the author’s childhood. The length of each of them makes them perfect to short reading/studying sessions. The stories are extremely relatable, the vocabulary used is related to everyday life situation like school, family and friends.

I also found that there were more furigana than in other books.

『霧のむこうのふしぎな町』 by Sachiko Kashiwaba (柏葉幸子)

This book was also on the easy side. I personally found that it was not as easy as expected, mainly because the whole book was mostly written in hiragana and the story has fantastic elements that makes it more difficult to read than realistic, everyday life settings. But if you struggle with kanji and enjoy Spirited Away-like stories, 『霧のむこうのふしぎな町』 is a perfect book.

I also want to mention that『ノルウェイの森』 by Haruki Murakami was much easier to read than I thought.

Top 3 nonfiction

Since I have read more nonfiction this year than ever, here is a separate category for my favourite books.

『誰も知らない死刑の舞台裏』 by Shoji Kondo (近藤昭二)

I have learned a lot about capital punishment in Japan in this book. It is exactly what I was looking for, the writing was agreeable and the book was well structured. Not only have I learned a lot through this book, but it also made me want to read more about this topic. If you are interested in anything related to death penalty in Japan, this book is a perfect introductory one.

『ハングルへの旅』 by Noriko Ibaragi (茨木のり子)

I cannot believe that I read this book this year, it feels like an eternity… When I read this book, South Korea and Japan had been through months of trade dispute, and this Noriko Ibaragi’s account of her journey to learn Korean was the most heart-warming thing ever. As a language learner, you will find a lot of precious anecdotes and relatable episodes in this book, and if you are interested in Korean and Korea as well, this is a must read!

『ぼくはイエローでホワイトで、ちょっとブルー』by Mikako Brady (ブレイディみかこ)

This book was not really what I expected (I thought it would be centred more on racism), and I was a little disappointed in it at first, but Brady’s depiction of her daily life adventures with her son soon seduced me. Secondary school is a difficult time, and seeing how Mikako sided with her son to tackle all sort of social issues is really heart-warming.


That’s it!

Let’s hope that 2021 will bring enough positive things to make up for the disaster of 2020.

I wish you all a good start in the new year!

2021 Reading challenge!

In 2020, I set myself the challenge to read more widely and include literary fiction, nonfiction and non-crime genre fiction in my readings. It worked very well, and I have greatly extended the range of books that I am reading in Japanese.

In 2021, I want to refocus more on detective fiction, which is, after all, my favourite genre.

So I am very excited to announce my 2021 reading challenge:

It dawned on me that for a fan of detective fiction who loves reading in Japanese, I had never read the adventures of Japan’s first recurring fictional detective, Edogawa Rampo’s private detective Kogoro Akechi (Publications spanned 30 years, from 1925 to 1955.)

I was browsing titles on Amazon but there were so many books (and different editions too) that I didn’t know where to start. I just knew that I wanted to read the books in order if possible. Then I saw this box by publisher 集英社 (shueisha) containing the complete Kogoro Akechi files! The cases are classified in order of occurrence I believe, so this is exactly what I was looking for. I set my heart on reading the whole collection and ordered the box!

The price for 12 books and the box (8900 yen) is somewhat similar to what you would pay if you were to buy all the 12 books separately (assuming a book costs around 700 yen).

I cannot recall ever having such a beautiful set of pocket books 🙂 I was so happy when I opened the box and saw the books so neatly arranged! I like having all my books look the same if they belong to the same series. The publisher made a really good job here, and I love the cover art so much!

It certainly was an ambitious buy, but I see it as an end-of-the-year present to myself and a reward for completing my 2020 reading challenge.

So my reading challenge for 2021 is to read the whole Kogoro Akechi’s cases, or, in other words, to read this whole set.

There are 12 books in total, so it is perfect for a yearly challenge! I believe in quantifiable goals, so to be sure I complete this challenge, I will be reading one book per month. I am not allowed to fall behind or to start a book in advance. For example, if I have finished the first book around January 15th, I will not start the second book before February 1st.

I am so excited about this challenge, and I cannot wait to start!! It is really hard to have this set on my desk and not being able to touch it before January 1st.

I have never read Edogawa Rampo in Japanese (I did read some of his most famous short stories in translation), so I have no clue concerning the Japanese level of his books. I brace myself for some real challenge, but I’m ready for it!

I will update my monthly progress on Twitter, so feel free to follow me there if you are curious to know how I’m doing!

Do you have language/reading goals for 2021? I hope that next year will be better for everyone!


Challenge completed!!!

Book haul!

I know that it is a little early for a end-of-the-year book haul, but I don’t care 😈. I have ordered 15+ books on Amazon and received them a couple weeks ago. Here they are:

Mystery and crime fiction

『密室の鍵貸します』and 『密室に向かって撃て!』 by Tokuya HIGASHIGAWA (東川篤哉)

These two books are the first and second volumes in the Ikagawa city (烏賊川市) series. This year, I read the last book of the series and loved it so much that I decided to read the whole series in order. There are 8 books in total.

『AX』 by Kotaro ISAKA (伊坂小太郎)

This is a novel that I want to read since I first saw it. I didn’t want to buy the big format though and had to wait for the pocket edition to come out. I have only read one book by Kotaro Isaka and loved it, though reading it was also a strange experience. Since then, I have been wanting to read more books by this author but never got around to it.

『幻夏』 by Ai Oota (太田愛)

I know nothing about this book, but I keep seeing it on Amazon, and it has very good reviews. It is quite long (almost 500 pages), but the story looks great.

『祈りの幕が下りる時』 by Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)

This is the tenth and last book in the Kaga series (加賀恭一郎シリーズ). The first book I read in Japanese was the first book of the series 『卒業』, and I have continued the series over the years. Finishing the series will feel like an accomplishment for sure!

『聖女の救済』 by Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)

Fifth book in the Galileo series (ガリレオシリーズ), this one has been translated into English under the title Salvation of a Saint. The Galileo series does not mean as much to me as the Kaga series, but I love it, and I am quite excited about this one because it is a novel (three of the first four books were collections of short stories).

Literary fiction and medical fiction

『星々の悲しみ』by Teru MIYAMOTO (宮本輝)

This is the only book of literary fiction I bought, so I chose one by my favourite author so far (of literary fiction). Teru Miyamoto has written so many books that it was hard to chose one. I wanted to read his more recent novels, but they were not available as pocket books so I will have to wait.

『泣くな研修医』 by Yujiro NAKAYAMA (中山祐次郎)

While this is a novel, this book is praised for its realistic depiction of the life of an intern. There is a second volume entitled 『逃げるな新人外科医』. I have been reading some medical nonfiction in English lately and it made me want to try reading in this field in Japanese too. I fear there will be medical terms that I don’t know, but at the same time, I expect them to be mostly in kanji, which would make them easier to guess and remember.

Non fiction

『あのころ』by Momoko SAKURA (さくらももこ)

This is a collection of essays by Momoko Sakura about her childhood. I believe that there are three books in this format. I already read and loved 『まるこだった』and thought it was time to jump into another one.

『殺人犯はそこにいる』by Kiyoshi SHIMIZU (清水潔)

I am very excited for this one, because I believe I never read true crime in my life, so this will be a first for me. This year, I read a book on death penalty, 『誰も知らない死刑の舞台裏』, that went over some cases that have shaped criminal law in Japan. This made me want to learn more about famous criminal cases and this book looks like a good start. It goes over the North Kanto Serial Young Girl Kidnapping and Murder Case that started in 1979.

『裁判官失格』 by Ryuichi TAKAHASHI (高橋隆一)

Here again, it is 『誰も知らない死刑の舞台裏』 that made me want to read more about judicial penalties and court ruling. I am particularly interested in the decision process that leads to life imprisonment or death penalty, and it looks like this is a topic that will be present in this book. (edit: I have read this book already, and it was not at all on death penalty vs life imprisonment. Overall, I was disappointed in the content…)


『恋する寄生虫』 by Sugaru MIAKI (三秋縋)

I was impressed by another Miaki’s book that I read recently and enjoyed very much, even though this is not my usual kind of reads. I decided to read another one and chose the author’s best known novel. I was tempted to read the manga adaptation, but it is three volumes and my order was already far more voluminous than planned.

『ちびまる子ちゃんの慣用句教室』 and 『ちびまる子ちゃんの漢字使い分け教室』

These two books belong to a series of books for children called 満点ゲットシリーズ. The series covers a wide range of topics that are mostly subjects that children learn in school. It uses the character and fictional world of Maruko chan. I already have the one on honorifics 『敬語教室』, and it explained things so much better than any textbooks for language learners I have read… I think this series can be useful for Japanese learners, so I wanted to try a couple more topics before writing about them on my blog.

『自分を好きになりたい』by Pon Watanabe (わたなべぽん)

The other manga I read by this author were mainly on consumption habits and house keeping, but in every book, she talked with sincerity about her own experience and about accepting oneself as one is. I wanted to read 『自分を好きになりたい』 for some time because it has very good reviews and I definitely love Pon Watanabe’s vision of life.

That’s it for this post, but there is actually something else in my book haul that will be the core of my reading challenge for 2021. I am super excited about it, and it is hard to not just start right away, but I do have a whole plan for 2021, and I am sure it will be a lot of fun! I will talk about it in December, so stay tuned!

Review: monthly magazine ニュースがわかる

In this post, I want to talk about an online magazine that can be great for language learners who want to practise reading in Japanese or who want to get into reading the news in Japanese.

『ニュースがわかる』 is a monthly magazine for secondary and high school readers published by Mainichi. The entire magazine has complete furigana and many illustrations/pictures in colours. Articles are mainly about social, political issues but you will find a bit of everything, including culture, environment, science…

The subscription for the digital version costs 255 yen per month (490 for the paper version), and each new issue comes out around the 15th of the previous month. Once you have subscribed, you can read the digital version of the magazine either on Mainichi website or by using the app (available on Google Play and the App Store).

You can see the table of contents for each issue here, and you will find information about the digital version here.

I subscribed in July, so this is my review after reading 3 issues of the magazine.

About the magazine

The magazine has 45 pages in colour with a lot of illustrations (pictures, drawings, graphs, maps, etc.). You will find complete furigana throughout the magazine.

Most articles are related to topical issues (mostly concerning Japan, but there are international news too) or general knowledge, but they are not strictly speaking news articles. For example, Tokyo gubernatorial elections took place on July 5th. The magazine of August contains an article that explains the role of the governor in the fight against the coronavirus. This kind of topic allows the reader to feel close to current affairs while building their general knowledge and social awareness.

Most articles are about social issues but there are also pages on politics, foreign policies, environment, culture, science… I personally found each article I read to be very interesting, and I am always learning things while practising my reading.

Apart from articles, there are also manga, quiz, and a section that goes through the main news of the previous month.

An example of the pages layout

I find that the difficulty level of articles varies a little (for example, the news section is more difficult than the main articles), but overall, I would say that it is a good reading material for N2 levels and a good study material for N3. With N1, you will certainly find the magazine overall relatively easy to read, but specialised topics can bring you new vocabulary:

  • N3: The magazine will be challenging, but it makes for a good study material and a good source of new vocabulary, especially if you are interested in social issues.
  • N2: I think that the language level of the magazine is perfect for N2 students, it can also helps you start reading news articles in Japanese.
  • N1: Makes for a good reading practice and a good way to stay in touch with topical issues in Japan.

I really wished that I had found this magazine sooner because I have always been looking for reading resources that would be both easy enough to fit my language level and interesting enough to keep me reading. Materials for adults might be too difficult, but materials for children are often uninteresting to me. This magazine is right in the good spot: easier to read than news to adults, but still tackles topics that are of interest for an adult readership.

I find that this magazine is great if you want to:

  • read news articles in Japanese
  • build your vocabulary on specialised topics
  • practice reading on a regular basis.

I will cover each of these points in a dedicated section.

Read news articles

If you want to read news articles but find newspapers too difficult to read, this magazine is an excellent way to get started. The articles are short and “easy” to read. The vocabulary is still challenging (I would say that it is around N2), but it is much easier to read than newspaper articles. News articles tend to have long sentences whose structure is not always easy to follow. They will also use difficult turns of phrase and expressions. The articles in 『ニュースがわかる』 are easy to read in the sense that sentences are simply structured.

My personal experience is that, with my N1 level, I still find news articles very difficult to read in Japanese. The vocabulary is of course challenging, but more than that, the long sentences and grammatical patterns are difficult to decipher. It feels like newspapers use a language of their own (this might be true in all languages). Furthermore, the reader is supposed to have a certain knowledge of what is going on, so articles sometimes only hint at or refer to events without explaining them, which makes it very difficult to jump into a new topic.

On the contrary, I find the articles of 『ニュースがわかる』very easy to read. I rarely encounter an unknown word in articles about social and political issues, but specialised topics like space mission or competition of shogi are a good way for me to learn new words. What I also really appreciate is how simple the sentences are in their structures and grammatical patterns. Another good point is that the authors explain everything, they do not expect their young readers to have a previous knowledge of the topics they are talking about. Some “keywords” explain important notions, and the many illustrations like maps or graphs also make it easier to understand the content of the article.

This is an example of how key words are explained

If you are interested in reading Japanese news, starting with this magazine can make for a smoother start rather than jumping directly into news articles.

Build your vocabulary

『ニュースがわかる』 can also be a good source to learn vocabulary out of the native resources you use for immersion and practice.

I think that learning words you encountered in native resources is the most efficient way to learn vocabulary as you can associate each word with a context and remember them more easily. The problem I have always encountered with this method is that there are so many unknown words in native resources that I always found it difficult to know which ones to learn, which ones to look up and which ones to add to anki. The amount of words to work on has often been discouraging and looking them up was tiring.

As a result, I mainly built my vocabulary with lists of words provided by my JLPT textbooks. It was boring, but easy to use.

『ニュースがわかる』 is great because it is a native resource and it is fun to read. At the same time, it aims at a certain level of reading skills and will not use unnecessarily complicated words or grammar. The words that are used are all words that you have to know if you want to read things on this particular topic. As a result, you know that the words present in the articles are all worth learning. And of course, the furigana make it easier to look them up.

What I also find great is that you can learn vocabulary by topic. If you are interested in reading about anti coronavirus measures in Japanese, work on the vocabulary of these articles. It is great if you like to classify your vocabulary by topic. More generally, it allows you to focus on what interests you and to not feel overwhelmed.

『ニュースがわかる』, August 2020, p10

For example, in this paragraph, you will find useful vocabulary to read articles about the coronavirus. Words like 感染者数, 死亡者数 or 対策 are definitely words you need to know in this context. 権限 is also a word that you encounter often when reading the state or local administration’s power in setting anti-infection measures.

The most difficult word in this paragraph is the one in red. What makes it difficult is that it is the name of a law. A newspaper article would just mention the law without explaining what it is. In the magazine, the word is in red to note that it is a “key word” that is explained on the same page.

To give you another example, let’s look at the quiz section (there are questions for secondary school and for high school levels):

Answering is certainly not challenging for an adult, but answering in Japanese can be!

Practise reading

If you don’t know what to read in Japanese, having subscribed to an online magazine gives you a reading resource each month.

One downside of the subscription is that you only have access to the current issue and the previous one. You are not able to stock previous issues to read later, so you have to read the magazine during the current month or you will fall behind and might even miss a complete issue if you haven’t read it and a new one has come up since.

On the other hand, this system forces you to read regularly. My problem with being able to save things for later is that I end up never reading them. Maybe it is just me, but I feel reassured when I know that I have saved a lot of reading materials for ulterior use, but somehow, saving things for later becomes more important than actually using them…

With this magazine, I have two months to read an issue, and if I don’t, it is gone and I lose all access to it. I hate this system, but I must also admit that this forces me to read the magazine regularly.

Plus and downsides…

The plus

  • The prize. I personally find that 255 yen per month is a very reasonable prize for what you get.
  • Great layout and many illustrations make it easier to read.
  • Complete furigana makes it easier to look up words.
  • The language level makes it perfect for language learners who want to strengthen their vocabulary in order to read article news.
  • The viewer provided to read the digital version is okay. (see downsides too)
  • You can access the viewer on your computer, tablet or phone.


  • As far as I know, there is no way to download and keep the magazine. You only have access to the current month and the previous month. If you don’t read it an issue on time, you will not be able to read it later, even though you paid for it.
  • I don’t think that you can read the digital copy of the magazine anywhere else than the Mainichi viewer.
  • While being okay, the viewer is not perfect either. The digital version of the magazine is not a version specially designed to be read digitally, it is exactly the same layout as the paper version and all you can do is zoom in the page to read the paragraphs. It is manageable, but not extremely responsive either. Overall, I find it much easier to navigate on my phone rather than on computer, and I recommend reading through the app rather than on the Mainichi website.
  • The magazine is a little late on topical issues, but that is certainly inevitable.
  • As far as I know, there is no sample available to read before you subscribe, but I may have missed it.
  • Again, I may have missed it, but there does not seem to be notifications to tell you when a new issue is available.


I tried to list all the downsides I could think of, but I personally find that the great content and low prize of the magazine largely make up for all the downsides I noted.

I wish I had known this magazine sooner, it would have been such a great reading material when I was working towards N2… I will keep the subscription for now because I enjoy reading the magazine, and I also feels that it keeps me close to topical issues and makes me learn interesting facts I didn’t know (for example, that Yamato city issued a law that forbid watching your phone while walking the streets!).

Read in Japanese with novelisations

I am not a big fan of novelisations in general, but I have always thought that they could be a great resource to start reading novels in Japanese. I have decided to test this idea myself by reading 『君の名は。』 and 『そして父になる』 while watching the movie (progressing scene by scene).

What I learned from this experience is that novelisations are not necessarily easy to read, but they can be a valuable tool if you don’t feel confident enough to read a novel on your own.

The novelisation of 『君の名は。』 is staying very close to the film, and while it was more difficult than I expected, it can be a good way to practise reading if you adapt your strategy to your level. The novelisation of 『そして父になる』 is more elaborate with many added scenes and dialogues, making it a great practice for intermediate readers.

For each book, I will first write a short review and then discuss how you can use them to practise reading.

『君の名は。』by Makoto Shinkai (新海誠)

Title: 『君の名は。』 (きみのなは。) Your Name.
Director: Makoto SHINKAI (新海誠)
Author: Makoto SHINKAI (新海誠)
Published by 角川文庫
262 pages

Mitsuha (三葉) who lives in the countryside and Taki () who lives in Tokyo start to sporadically wake up in each other’s body…

Book review

One particularity of 『君の名は。』 is that the novelisation was written by the director himself, Makoto Shinkai.

My previous experiences with novelisations have not been great (for example, I did not enjoy reading 『日本沈没2020』), so I did not have big expectations for 『君の名は。』. However, it turned out to be better than I expected.

As the director says in the afterword, he finished writing this book before the film was actually completed, and this is why you sometimes read that the film is an adaptation of the book. However, the director has clearly written 『君の名は。』 with the film in mind. To me, it is clearly a novelisation of a film in the making, rather than an original work.

As a consequence, the book does not add much to the film, and you will not learn anything new by reading it. Visual effects being completely lost, many of the scenes that were striking in the film, tend to lose their impact once in paper. Much of the humour is lost too. As the director says himself in the afterword, 『君の名は。』 is better on screen:


Here are some examples showing that the descriptions of the book, while okay, cannot convey the full impact of their respective scenes in the film (in my opinion).





When I was reading the book, I was constantly asking myself how much I would have appreciated the scenery, characters and action if I hadn’t had seen the film prior to reading the novelisation. I felt that most of the descriptions in the book were relatively pale in comparison to what the film delivers, so I’m not sure that you can appreciate all the strength, humour and emotional impact of the story by reading the book alone.

However, the director also gave his characters some consistence by adding inner thoughts and some introspection, so overall, the book is not disagreeable to read.

To conclude, I would never recommend the novel over the film, and overall, I don’t recommend reading the novelisation if your goal is to learn more about the story or to approach the story from a new angle. However, if your goal is to improve your reading skills by practising, then yes, I think that 『君の名は。』 is a good choice, especially if you love the story and the film.

If you want to read a more thorough review of the novelisation with indications concerning the Japanese level required to read it, I recommend going to Kuri’s website: Japanese book club cafe.

Reading practice 『君の名は。』

I guess that Japanese learners might tend to choose 『君の名は。』 as a first novel, thinking that it would be easy to read. Personally, I don’t find this novel particularly easy to read, and it is certainly not the easiest book I have read in Japanese. Some parts are okay but some descriptions are challenging. If you have tried to read 『君の名は。』 and found it difficult, it’s normal. If you have given up thinking that your level is too low, please don’t give up reading altogether and just try another book!

As I said in the review, the film was not completed when the book came out, therefore, there are some differences between the two. Some dialogues do not fit exactly, sometimes the book having more, sometimes the film having more, but overall, it is very easy to follow scene by scene what is on screen and what is on paper, it almost feels like reading the script of the film.

There are different ways you can use a novelisation to help you read in Japanese. Don’t think that you have to read the book the same way from the first to the last page. You can change your strategy as you progress in the book.

If you have never read a book before and are a complete beginner in terms of reading, I recommend to read only the dialogues to start with. You can either watch the film in parallel, progressing scene by scene, or just read the book if you have a good knowledge of the story.

When you feel a little more confident, you can start reading the narrative parts that directly surround the dialogues. They usually give indications concerning how the characters speak, what tone they use, what facial expression they make and so on.

Reading the novelisation and watching the film at the same time can also be a good way to start reading more complex descriptions, if you are at an intermediate/advanced level or if you tend to struggle with descriptive passages. For example, this is how Mitsuha’s village is described:


This description appears very early in the novel, and is quite difficult to read. If you think that you have to understand everything when reading or if you look up every unknown word, this passage is likely to make you think that your level is not good enough to read this book. As I explain in another post, I believe that you must not let descriptions of this sort discourage you. As long as you understand that the author is describing the scenery, you can move on (even if mountains, water, blue sky and white clouds are all you understood).

The good thing with novelisations, is that skipping the whole paragraph is not a problem. If you are able to associate the description with the right passage in the film, you can put aside the whole paragraph and still follow the story. If you want, however, you can also use the film to practise reading this kind of depictions. Try to match unknown words with what you see on screen without looking up words. You are likely to realise that you understand more than you thought at first.

If you want to increase your vocabulary and use the book for a good study session, you can also thoroughly go through a passage like this one. If you learn vocabulary this way, you are more likely to remember it as you are actually seeing what this word stands for and will be able to associate it with a particular scene of the film when reviewing it.

Another example of challenging passage is the description of Tokyo from Taki’s appartment:


These two descriptions can be rather difficult depending on your level, but the rest of the novel is overall much easier, especially the dialogues. This is why I think that 『君の名は。』 can be used at different levels to improve your reading.

Again, you don’t need to read the whole book the same way. You can just read the dialogues for the first 50 pages or so while watching the movie, then slowly expand what you read by reading everything that surrounds the dialogues but keep skipping the descriptive parts or any long block of text that looks too difficult. Towards the end of the book though, you will certainly feel that your reading level has already improved and you might want to challenge yourself by trying to read everything.

To conclude, I would not recommend 『君の名は。』 as an easy book for beginners if your goal is to just read a novel. But if you use it to practise reading by personalising the way you read it, then I am sure it can help you make huge progress.

『そして父になる』by Akira Sano (佐野晶)

Book review

Title: 『そして父になる』(そしてちちになる) Like Father, Like Son
Director: Hirokazu KORE-EDA (是枝裕和)
Author: Akira SANO (佐野晶)
Published by 宝島社
340 pages

Ryota (良多) and Midori (みどり) Nonomiya (野々宮) suddenly learn that their six-year-old son Keita (慶多) is not their biological son. Keita and another boy Ryusei (琉晴) have been switched at birth. The Nonomiyas meet with Ryusei’s parents Yukari (ゆかり) and Yudai (雄大) Saiki (斎木) and discussions to exchange their children begin.

Reading the novelisation of 『そして父になる』 by Akira Sano has been a shock to me. I thought that novelisations were bound to be a boring copy of the original film, but this one is excellent and does not feel like a novelisation at all. The author has added a lot of information that was not explicitly present in the film. All these elements add value to the novelisation and it feels like reading an original work, not an adaptation.

If you have enjoyed the film and are afraid that the author has departed too much from the movie, don’t worry. It never feels like the book is adding random information, but rather the other way around, that the film has suppressed elements that should have been there. In other words, you get the impression that everything described in the novel was there initially but had been cut from the film for duration purposes.

Here are some expamples of added elements that give more consistence to the characters and make the reader feel close to them:

The book does not only describe Keita’s amazement when eating for the first time by the Saikis, it also explains why: 慶多は呆気に取られていた。家では自分が食べる分を皿に取り分けてもらっているのだった。(p.123)

By adding Midori’s thoughts when she is watching Keita eating, the book gives more depth to the character and makes it easy to identify with her: その顔を見ながらみどりは、この味を忘れないで、と思った。ゆかりさんの唐揚げも、どんな高級店の味も、ママの作ってくれた唐揚げには敵わないって思ってほしい。(p.241)

In this scene, it is easy to guess Midori’s feelings, but the book adds it explicitly, making it possible to enjoy the story by reading the book alone: みどりはマフラーを編み続けていたが、次第にその手さばきが遅くなっていた。疲れていたのではない。琉晴の存在が慶多を否が応でも思い出させた。(p.145)

Reading the book made me feel much closer to Midori than I would have felt had I watched the film only. In this case the author adds something that is not suggested in the film, but I feel that it is exactly what Midori is thinking at that moment: ただ同時にみどりは少し心が軽くなるのを感じていた。斎木家と決定的な仲遠いをしてしまえば、交換という話そのものが消滅して…。(p.179)

Generally speaking, the book always tells us what and how the characters are thinking. Each scene is longer in the book than in the film with added dialogues, inner thoughts and emotions, that are all in accordance with what the characters are.

The author also filled the blank between two scenes. A film can jump from one scene to the other without problems, but if a book does that, it might end up with a broken narration. I find that Akira Sano did a great job at connecting the different scenes, even adding which day of the week we currently are, making the reading much smoother. It also gives information the film only suggests like episodes of the characters’ past, how they met and how they feel towards each other.

I find that the film leaves a lot of space to interpretation, with a lot of things that are hinted at but not said. To be honest, without the book, I would have missed a lot of the subtleties present in the film.

Overall, this is an excellent novelisation that I heartily recommend if you have watched the movie and want to read an adaptation. You will learn more about the characters and maybe understand things that you might have missed while watching the film. I also recommend the novel in itself if, for some reason, you are not interested in watching the movie. Personally, I have watched the film for the first time while reading the book, and all the elements added by the author greatly improved the way I experienced the story.

Reading practice with 『そして父になる』

While I found 『そして父になる』 overall easier to read than 『君の名は。』, I also think that it is less appropriate for beginners who want to get into reading books in Japanese. The strategy of reading only dialogues will not work here because the book adds too much information compared to the film, so it will be difficult to make the connection between the two if you are not already comfortable with reading in Japanese.

However, this book is perfect for intermediate readers who can read in Japanese but do not feel confident in reading an entire novel without help. The book is a mix of added parts where you are on your own, and parts that are very close to the film, allowing you to reconnect if needed and gain confidence.

For example, this is how the book describes the shopping center where the two families meet for the second time (p. 81)


The book adds context and link one episode to another by telling the reader what happened between two scenes (we don’t see Midori calling the Saikis in the film). It also adds a time landmark with 翌日, which makes the reading much smoother and natural. The underlined sentence allows you to link this passage with the film.




The book adds information here that is not in the film. It emphasises the gap between the two families: Midori would have thought the private room of a restaurant the natural choice for this kind of meeting, but Yukari casually suggests the snack corner of a shopping center.


The underlined part is what we see on screen, but the rest is added by the author. Here again, it adds relevant information that makes the book feel like a novel rather than a novelisation.


Finally, this part is the description of what we see on screen, but with added details that makes the whole depiction more concrete. It does not look like the author is describing what appears on the screen (a feeling that I constantly had when reading the novelisation of 『日本沈没2020』), but rather, that he describes the shopping mall of Maebashi.

This extract shows you how the book follows the film while adding things that are not explicitly present in the film. When reading, you constantly go back and forth between passages that you have to understand on your own and passages that reconnect with the film.

The book sometimes adds entire passages that are not in the film at all, but they are short and are often used to fill the blank between two scenes or give the feeling that a whole day has elapsed instead of just a couple of short episodes. What is great is that even if you stumble across a passage that is hard for you to understand, you know that the book will eventually reconnect with the film, so you can skip these passages without fear of losing track of what happens.


I recommend using novelisations to get into reading books in Japanese if you don’t feel confident enough to jump into a complete unknown story. You can also use novelisations to start reading in Japanese very soon either by reading only the dialogues or by trying to link together what you read and what you see on screen, guessing the meaning of words, associating vocabulary with concrete objects and so on. If your level is good enough to let you read dialogues without problems but if you struggle with long descriptions with metaphors and difficult vocabulary, novelisations can help you there too. In summary, they can be used at different levels with different purposes.

However, keep in mind that novelisations are not necessarily easy to read, especially if the original film contains a lot of striking sceneries or action that the author needs to describe. Don’t get disheartened if you feel that your book is too difficult, just use it smartly and find your own personal ways of practising with it. (Maybe I’ll try other novelisations in the future to find easier ones.)

Note: I personally found 『そして父になる』easier to read than 『君の名は。』, and 『君の名は。』 easier to read than 『日本沈没2020』. I think that the perception we have of a book’s difficulty differs depending on what we are used to reading, our reading tastes and our interest in the story. In novels, I prefer realistic, everyday life settings over fantasy or SF works, so this might explain my ranking.

How to start reading books in Japanese

My main goal when learning foreign languages (not just Japanese) has always been to read books in this language. However, it has often felt like an impossible task and I cannot count the number of books I have started and given up.

With Japanese though, I changed the way I was reading books (or trying to read books) and things became easier surprisingly quickly. Obviously, I did not become able to read books in Japanese overnight, but once I started, I made steady progress. I am far from being an expert, but reading has been my main focus while learning Japanese, and this method worked very well for me.

Obviously, we all have different ways to learn languages, so you might have your own method that works for you. But if you feel that reading books is impossible despite your having learned so many words already or studied for so long, these tips might be helpful.

Introduction: What you need to read books in a foreign language

I think that people tend to overlook the “reading skills” part and focus too much on the “vocabulary and grammar” part. Or they think that one must come before the other, that you first accumulate a certain amount of words and grammatical patterns and then, when this amount is considered enough, jump into reading. This is why people tend to ask questions like “when can I start reading a book in Japanese?” “how many words should I know before I can read this book?” “Is N3 enough to start reading a novel in Japanese?”.

In my opinion, you should stop thinking that you must build your vocabulary before starting reading in Japanese (or any other language). As you can see in my table, I consider the reading skills part to be more important than the amount of words you know. This is why I never know how to answer the question “at which level can I read this book?”. To me, your capacity to read a book does not depend as much on your JLPT level or the number of words you know, as on your reading skills level and how much you read in a foreign language on a regular basis.

As a result, I think that two learners with the same JLPT N3 level who have gone through the exact same textbooks and who have learned the same lists of vocabulary will have a different reading experience depending on whether they are used to reading in a foreign language or not.

Similarly, with my JLPT N1 level, I can read a lot of novels without looking up words, but I cannot understand TV shows. When people make jokes and all laugh and talk at the same time, my brain just turns off. It is the same me with the same amount of known words and the same JLPT N1 certification, but a lot of practice in one field and almost no practice in the other.

Why you should start right away

Reading and listening are not that different!

I believe that reading and listening are not that different when it comes to language acquisition. If you want to improve your listening skills, you should start listening to your target language as soon as possible. Well, I think that reading is the same: you should start reading as soon as possible.

It is common to think that we need more vocabulary to start reading, that we must first go through this or that textbook and know x thousands of words before starting reading. But the day you consider your vocabulary strong enough to start reading a novel in Japanese, your reading skills will be very low (as you have never practised them), and you will have a hard time understanding what you read, in spite of your strong vocabulary.

To go on with my comparison with listening, let’s say that I have learned 6000 words of vocabulary, but I have never listened to any Japanese spoken at natural speed. If I decided to start listening now, I would not be able to understand what I hear. I would not be able, for example, to recognise the words that I have learned, I would not be used to the pronunciation and intonation of Japanese, the pace of the speaker would be too fast, and so on. Obviously, what I should have done is to start listening to Japanese while building my vocabulary instead of waiting until I know enough words to start listening to non-textbook Japanese.

And what would be your advice to someone telling you “I’ll start listening to real Japanese when I get N2”? Obviously, you will tell this person to start listening to real Japanese right now, even if they don’t understand it.

Don’t wait until you know enough words!

I think that it is the same with reading. Your reading skills will improve independently from your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, and the sooner you start the better. Even if you know a good amount of vocabulary, if you have never trained your reading skill, you will have difficulties recognising the words you know if they appear in a different context, understanding long sentences will also be challenging and you might end up knowing all the words in a sentence but still not understand what the whole sentence means. It will also be difficult to understand paragraphs that contain unknown words, something that you should definitely train yourself to do if you want to read books. You will feel frustrated whenever you encounter a sentence full of unknown words and grammar. Finally, you will also feel tired of reading very soon and your reading pace will be slow.

If reading books in Japanese is one of your language goals, then you should start training your reading skills as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you know “enough” words!

I would even go as far as to recommend having a native resource with you from day one. Manga are certainly one of the best resources for beginners, but whatever you choose, it must also be something you like, something you are happy to carry with you or have on your desk (my personal choice was One Piece, I was mainly looking at the pictures, but felt super excited and motivated anytime I could recognise a word or understand a short sentence. It was certainly not the best choice with all the slang and piracy-related words, but flipping through the pages made me happy and motivated.). I know that buying a book in Japanese when you are just learning the alphabets might sound premature, but once again, you would not find it strange if a complete beginner was listening to a podcast in Japanese to get used to Japanese sounds.

Use your book to practise reading hiragana if you are a complete beginner, peek into it from time to time and try to recognise the kanji you know, underline the grammatical patterns you learnt, look at the sentences, their length, how punctuation is used. If your book has furigana, you can even use it to read out loud and practise hiragana. Obviously, you won’t be able to read it, but don’t forget that you are using this resource to help you improve, it is not as much a goal in itself as a way to achieve a good level of reading.

Let’s compare it with listening once more. Let’s say that you start listening to Japanese podcasts or radio or anime from day one. You don’t really expect to understand what you hear, you do it to train your listening skills, and maybe, because you love the sounds of Japanese. If, however, you can recognise a word from time to time, it feels like a great achievement. It is the same with a book. Use it to train your reading skills and feed your passion for Japanese. Personally, looking at Japanese books makes me happy and makes me want to make more efforts to improve my level.

Summary: your capacity to read a book in a foreign language does not depend entirely on how many words/grammar points you know. If reading a book feels like a struggle, in many cases, this might just mean that you need to improve your reading skill, not your vocabulary. If you give up reading your book, you deprive yourself of the very practice you need in order to improve. Obviously, you still need to work on your vocabulary and grammar in parallel, but don’t give up practising reading, even if it feels like you don’t understand half of what you read.

How to read books at an intermediate level

How not to read a book

I feel like a lot of language learners want to understand everything in a novel, or feel that they must understand everything to keep reading. Now imagine that I want to listen to Japanese, I am watching this film and if I don’t understand something, I pause the film, replay the scene over and over again and won’t move on until I understand 100% of what is said. It does not look like I am ever going to finish the film and it does not look very efficient either. It is certainly much better to watch the entire film, and after that watch another one and so on.

Similarly, I don’t think that starting a book, looking up every word and trying to understand everything is the best way to improve your reading. Don’t get me wrong though, I do think that doing this is an excellent exercise, one that you should be doing from time to time that will greatly help you increase your vocabulary and reading skills. But it is an additional exercise, it is not how you should be reading in general. This is “studying Japanese”, not “reading in Japanese”.

For a long time, this is how I used to read books in a foreign language though. I would start a novel, being super motivated and excited and you can bet that I would have bought a new notebook to go with it. I would look up every single unknown word and write them down in my notebook. Sometimes, I would even look up words I already knew just to check that I got the pronunciation right. I would even write down one or two example sentences to learn the words in context. After looking up a dozen of words and grammatical patterns, I would feel tired but satisfied, until I’d realised that I was still stuck on the first page! Inevitably, I would feel discouraged, but maybe my initial motivation would be strong enough to let me repeat this process several times. But in the end I would always give up, never going past the first ten pages or so of the book.

Not understanding everything is fine!

If I am able to read books in Japanese now, it is because I changed the way I was reading books in a foreign language. My rule of thumb is: as long as you can roughly sum up what happened, move on. You might have read an entire page, and all you can do is sum in one sentence what has happened? Great, you can go to the next page. Even if you missed subtleties, even if you skipped an entire paragraph because it was a description full of unknown kanji, it is okay. The author might have used an entire page to describe the house in which the character enters and all you understood is that your protagonist entered a house. Fine, you understood the main piece of information!

And yes, if you read like that, you might end up understanding only half of the book, you will not truly enjoy the story, and in the end, you might feel that you have no right to even say that you “read” this book. But who cares? If you managed to finish this book, or even if you read 100 pages of it, this is a huge achievement! If you have “read” an entire book, even if you understood half of it or less, you have immensely improved your reading skills. You can now move on to the next book, and I swear that this next one will be easier to read. The third one even more, especially if you stick to the same author, or at least the same genre. Like in everything else, practice makes perfect and the more your read, the easier it gets. Actually, this magic starts working while you are reading your first book. The first page will be the most difficult, the next 20 pages, will be difficult, but after that it will start getting easier and easier. If you have made it to page 100, I think that you won’t have much difficulties finishing the book. The problem is just that we tend to give up before this process kicks off.

If you rely too much on vocabulary and grammar, you will have to wait a long time before feeling that improvement in reading. 200 words more or less will not make any difference in your capacity to understand a novel. Even if you have added 1000 words to your vocabulary, I am not sure that you will feel such a huge difference when you read. If you have been diligently learning 20 new words per week for a year but still cannot feel any improvement when reading a book, it will be very discouraging. Contrary to the amount of words you know, the amount of reading practice that you accumulate starts showing its benefits very quickly.

Your book is your language tool, not your goal.

You also have to accept the idea that there is nothing wrong in not understanding everything in a book. You cannot look up every unknown word in an entire novel. If you do, chances are that you will give up after a few pages. This will only comfort you in the idea that it was too soon, that your level is still too low, that you don’t know enough words to read a book in Japanese. And we go back to this idea that you need to know a certain amount of words before you start reading. Once again, we focus too much on the “vocabulary and grammar” part and forget the “reading skills” part.

On the contrary, if you manage to go through an entire book, no matter how badly you understood it, you will have tremendously improved your reading skills. This includes for example, the capacity to guess the meaning of unknown words or to spot the important words (the ones you should look up) in opposition to all the words you don’t need to look up to understand the core of what happened. You will improve your reading pace, and reading in Japanese will not give a headache anymore. Sentences full of unknown words will not be frustrating or depressing anymore because you are already used to dealing with them. You will also gain confidence because now you know that you can go through an entire book, that you have done it before.

In about everything we do, we cannot be perfect at once, because we need to practise to get better. The first things you do in every field will look like rough drafts. But waiting until we can do things perfectly before doing them is the best way to never be doing anything. Reading in a foreign language is the same, you cannot do perfect on your first book. You will certainly shamefully massacre the first books you read, but that means that you are already making progress and getting better!

Don’t understand? Try another book!

The book is nothing sacred, it is just a tool you can use, you don’t owe anything to it. If you really feel bad about reading a book and missed so much in it, you can always promise it to read it again later. And if your understanding of it is too low to really follow the story, then choose a story you already know, a translated work or a novelisation for example. If you do, skipping difficult parts will not impact on your understanding of the story.

It is also important to try different books. If you really cannot go through this book you bought, blame the book, not you. Try another one. Even if you heard people say that this book was easy, this does not mean that it will be the easiest book for you. To me, Keigo Higashino is one of the easiest authors I have ever read but that might just be because I am used to reading tons of detective books, I love the genre and know its codes well. I also know what kind of vocabulary, what kind of scenes, actions and dialogues I can except. I also love whodunnits and police investigations so much that I am willing to put in the extra effort to read the book until the end. But if you never read crime fiction and don’t particularly like this genre, the book I find easy might be challenging for you.

So once again, don’t be depressed if everyone says this book is easy but you cannot understand it. You just need to find the book that you will find easy, not the one that other people find easy. It might take some time for you to find the good one, and I recommend trying different books if you struggle too much with one. Choose a genre you love or are used to reading in your mother tongue or other languages and choose a story that seems engaging to you. To me, the most difficult books to read are the ones I don’t like. It would be a shame if you gave up reading because the book you chose was too difficult or too boring and it would really be a pity if you ended up thinking that your level is too low because of the wrong book.

Summary: I really think that you should go for quantity over quality to improve your reading. Reading a book in Japanese might be your ultimate language goal, but stop seeing this as a goal for now, see it as a tool, a way to practise and get better. In order to one day be able to read and understand 99% of what you read without dictionary, you have to “sacrifice” books to your practice.

This is how I used to read books before compared to how I started reading books in Japanese:

Looking up words

Once again, I think that there are two activities that you can do with a book: read in Japanese and study Japanese.

If you want to study Japanese and improve your vocabulary, you can select one or two pages (or just a paragraph) in your book and decide to study it until you understand 100% of it. You will certainly look up unknown words, look up unknown grammar, work on difficult sentences to identify grammatical structures, you can even try to translate the whole page, or read out loud to check that you can pronounce all the kanji words.

Looking up words prevents you from improving your reading skills

But what interests me here is reading in Japanese, not studying Japanese. And in order to improve your reading skills, I think that you should not look up words. A good portion of your ability to read in a foreign language will depend on your capacity to guess things you don’t know. Guess the meaning of unknown words, guess the meaning of a sentence with unknown words, put two and two together and fill the blanks. I like to see it as a detective work, you are given some pieces of information and you have to deduce what happened. As long as you are not reading a work of fantasy, filling the blank will not be difficult. Choosing a story that deals with everyday life will make things easier and if you are used to reading a genre of fiction, you are also used to the codes belonging to this genre.

As a result, if you look up every unknown word, you are not training this capacity at all. Obviously, there will be words that you do need to look up from time to time, but your goal is to identify which word you really need to know to be able to understand the whole scene. This is also a capacity that will improve with practice, the more you read, the easier it will be to spot the problematic word.

Use your brain, not your dictionary

You might think that if you cannot look up words, the whole process will be pointless because you won’t understand enough to keep going. My belief is that we always understand more than we think we do, or rather, we have the capacity to understand, but we are not aware of it or too lazy, and we prefer to rely on the dictionary rather than to make an effort to understand. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel like no matter how annoying looking up words can be, it always feels easier than thinking and making deductions. When I became aware of my tendency to never use my brain when reading in Japanese, I also realised that in the majority of cases, when I reached for my dictionary because I did not understand something, I could have understood it if only I had tried to.

Next time you think that you don’t understand a paragraph, instead of opening your dictionary right away (or worse, giving up!), take some time to think about what this paragraph could mean. I bet that you will be surprised by the number of times when you actually understand something you thought you did not understand. Sometimes, we stumble across something that just does not make sense, but come back to it the following day or after a break, and the meaning seems obvious, so much so that it seems incredible we did not get it the first time. So take a break if needed and come back to your book with a clear head.

Let go of perfectionism

I know that if you are a perfectionist, this method might be hard to apply. Personally, I have been the perfectionist type of learner for a long time. Unknown words? Look them all up, learn their pronunciation and different meanings, learn their kanji, read all the example sentences of my dictionary, add them to anki and learn them in both the Japanese to English and the English to Japanese direction. Doing all this is fine if your main goal is to improve your “language knowledge” (as the JLPT puts it), but it is not the most effective when it comes to improving reading or listening.

It took me a long time to be able to let go of perfectionism, but one day I realised that what I wanted the most was to improve my reading as quickly as possible and read challenging books. To achieve my goal, I had to be satisfied with a large amount of passive/incomplete vocabulary.

So yes, today, there is a huge amount of words that I know imperfectly. There are words for which I know the meaning but not the pronunciation. There are words whose meaning I kind of know, that I can recognise if they appear in context, or whose meaning I can guess in context, but I could not give you their exact definition if you gave me just the word alone. I would also perform poorly on a kanji test, I cannot give you the core meaning and pronunciations of a random kanji, but I would certainly know, recognise or guess the meaning of any word containing this kanji if I see it in a whole sentence or paragraph.

If your goal is to improve your listening or reading quickly, then you should be more flexible on how you learn words and accept that there are words you “know” in the context of reading or listening, but that you don’t know perfectly. If you were to master perfectly all the words you encounter, your progress in listening and reading would be very slow. On the other hand, if your goal is to improve your language knowledge, this is totally fine. I just believe that you can choose the area that matters to you and specialise in it.

For a long time, I have thought that knowing a word meant being able to use it in all language fields (speaking, listening, reading and writing). This belief has slowed me down, I think. Taking some time to ask yourself what you want to achieve and what you really want to do with Japanese can save you some precious time, help you make faster progress in your chosen field and avoid discouragement. As my main goal is by far to improve my reading, I don’t care about not being able to use (when writing or speaking) or to recognise (when spoken) all the words I am comfortable with when reading.

Summary: Looking up words and spending time trying to understand everything in a sentence is a great exercise, one that I do often, especially when reading news articles. However, this is not how I think that you should be reading books as a basis. Don’t spend too much time on each page or the whole process will be soon discouraging, just move on when you think you understand just enough to follow the story. If you take notes, I recommend to make a list of characters and write a very short summary of what you have read before closing your book so that it will be easier to start again next time. A post-it on the last page you read with a one-sentence summary will do. This is particularly important if you cannot read every day because not remembering where you left the story can be discouraging, and you might end up not opening your book again. It is also a good idea to set in advance the number of pages you want to read per session and stick to it no matter what.

How to start reading books at a beginner level

In this section, I collected some things you can do with a book even if you are a complete beginner. As I said, I recommend getting used to having reading resources with you from day one. Obviously, you won’t be able to understand it but there is a lot of things you can do to to help you improve your Japanese in general and get used to dealing with native resources. Compared to someone who has gone through a complete set of textbooks before jumping into native resources, you will make faster progress and be much more at ease with Japanese if you have played with native resources alongside studying your textbooks.

I often talk about “books”, but of course, any reading material will do, it can be a blog, a twitter account where you follow only Japanese accounts, a web magazine… You can search for any keyword on the internet, compare the results and print out a page that looks like a good reading practice: not too many kanji, pictures maybe, a lot of space between the lines…

If you go for books, I recommend taking a children’s book with furigana or a manga (most of them have furigana). Children’s books can be great because they are often printed with a large font and have a lot of space between the lines so you can take notes in them, but I recommend choosing a story that deals with everyday life rather than a work of fantasy or fairy tales. You can also choose specialised books on topics that interest you, this can be great because these books will certainly be illustrated and use a vocabulary you are familiar with in your mother tongue.

So here are some ideas to use a book even at a beginner level.

Practise your hiragana and katakana

This seems obvious, but you will learn hiragana and katakana much more easily if you practise them often. We all find katakana more difficult simply because we are less exposed to them. Having a book with you is a good way to practise reading hiragana and katakana.

  • Read the parts written in hiragana and katakana out loud. If you have a book with furigana, you can read everything out loud.

Practise your kanji

Same with kanji, the more you see them, the easier it will be to recognise and remember them.

  • Underline or highlight the kanji you have learned, this will help you to recognise and remember them. Do this process from time to time to check your progress. For example, let’s say we are in January. Go through the first 5 or 10 pages of your book and highlight all the kanji you know. Go through the same pages again in July or December and do the same process using a different colour.

Get familiar with how sentences are structured.

Something that might be difficult when you start reading in Japanese is to know what is what in a sentence. What you can do is look out for particles you have learned and try to identify what is the verb, what is the subject, and so on.

  • Look out for particles and try to find groups of words in a sentence. For example, where would you add a space if Japanese were written with space between words?

Practise your reading

As we saw, reading is not just about knowing but also about guessing and putting things together. This is a skill on its own that you can only train by reading a lot without looking up words.

  • Try to guess the meaning of a sentence, even if you only know two or three words in it. You can write your deductions in a notebook to check them later, once again, you will be able to see your progress.

Look out for recurring words

No matter what book you chose, you will find recurring words. If you are a beginner, you don’t need to look them up, just recognising them is already a huge step. When you see a kanji word, if you are able to tell yourself “oh, I have seen this word before, ah yes, it was in the previous paragraph!”, you are making considerable progress. It is not something that you can appreciate right away, but you are training your brain, which has had nothing whatsoever to do with kanji before, to recognise kanji words. I am not talking about looking up this word and learning it, I am talking about the capability to recognise a kanji and think “I have seen this kanji before”. You are training your brain to do something it never did before, congratulations!

  • Circle kanji that appear twice in a paragraph or a page. Depending on your level, you can even try to guess their meaning.

Read in parallel

If you can find a book that has been translated (either, from Japanese to your mother tongue, or a foreign book that has been translated into Japanese), read in parallel. I recommend reading one paragraph in the language you are comfortable with, and then look at the same paragraph in Japanese. Try to identify everything that you can relate to the translation. Even if you end up with only one or two words, that’s fine. You can also guess. For example, if a word appears twice in the translated paragraph, look at the Japanese text and look for words that appear twice there too.

  • Use a work in a language you are confortable with to track down words in a Japanese text.

Practise your writing

Even if you have only just got through the alphabets, nothing stops you from writing down an entire book if you want to. This will improve your writing and you will memorise the hiragana more easily. As for kanji, you could either only write the ones you know or simply copy everything, even if you don’t know what it means. I really recommend that you learn the basic rules of stroke order (look at this post by Tofugu for example). With these rules in mind, you should be able to write down most kanji even if you don’t know them. And to be honest, I don’t think that messing up stroke order is the end of the world, you are not making calligraphy after all. You can also just skip the most difficult kanji or write them in hiragana if your edition has furigana.

  • Choose a sentence or paragraph that does not contain to many kanji and write it down. Take this as an opportunity to practise your writing skills too.

Read only the dialogues

If you already know the story of the book you chose, then I recommend to only read the dialogues. Dialogues are often the easiest part to read in novels, you will find something that is closer to spoken Japanese and less intimidating than entire blocks of text.

Of course, you need to know the context or reading the dialogues will not make much sense. You can choose the Japanese version of a book that you have already read in translation or another language. Or read in parallel with a translated work: read everything but the dialogues in your mother tongue or English, and read the dialogues in Japanese. You can even check that your understanding was correct afterwards. Another thing that you can do is to read the novelisation of a film or series you have watched.

  • Choose a novelisation or a book you have read in translation and look at the dialogues. Try to match it with your knowledge of the story.

Summary: Get out of your textbooks from day one. If you stick to what you learn in textbooks only, a lot of things (words, expressions, casual structures…) you find in native ressources will sound unfamiliar. Even if you don’t learn all the words, kanji and expressions you see while doing all the exercises above, you will still get used to seeing them, and when you do learn them later, it will be much easier. You also won’t be unsettled anytime you come across things you never saw in your textbooks.


We all have different ways of learning a language, so I don’t know if this method will work for you, but for me, it was day and night. Compared to the time when I tried to understand everything in the books I read and looked up every word, I made much faster progress in reading by using this method.

Reading in Japanese might be intimidating and, as is often the case, we all want to be well armed and well prepared before jumping into something intimidating… but don’t forget that the best way to get prepared is not only to accumulate knowledge but also experience and a lot of practice.

It was a long post just to say that the best way to get better at reading is to read a lot, but I hope that this post can encourage you to get started, and give you enough motivation and conviction to help you persevere and not give up halfway!