Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Kanji & Reading Practice

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    It’s about time to start applying for this year’s Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), so I’ll be making a few posts sharing some studying materials with you all. This second post will focus on good websites and books to use for kanji and reading practice. (An earlier post focused on listening comprehension resources.)

    If any readers out there know of good links that aren’t on the list, let me know and I’ll add them!



    Websites & Software

    Anki – a nicely designed flashcard site that lets users practice both offline and online. Anki isn’t limited to Japanese studying, but its site has a big collection of Japanese kanji and vocab lists that can be loaded into the program.

    Speed Anki – an online flashcard site designed for studying JLPT vocabulary words. Users can sign up for an account to track their progress and let the system know when they’ve mastered particular words.

    Dartmouth Kanji Pratice page – a selection of 400 commonly used kanji with videos showing their stroke order and audio clips of their readings.

    Nihongo Resources – a general Japanese language study site with a section aimed at helping people memorize the official list of 1945 commonly used kanji.

    Kanji Box – an application that members of the social networking site Facebook can use to learn and study kanji and kana. If you have friends on Facebook who are also using Kanji Box, the app will track your scores and see who is most proficient in kanji drills.


    JLPT Jitsuryoku Up series & the Kanzen Master Series – The official sets of books used as study guides for the JLPT. If you stick to and study the book in this series corresponding to the JLPT level you plan to take [4. 3, 2, or 1], you’ll be well prepared for the actual test. These books don’t seem to be available on Amazon.com, but they are available on Amazon.co.jp: Kanzen Master / Jitsuryoku Up.

    Remembering the Kanji I (Writing) and Remembering the Kanji II (Reading) – quite a few people out there swear by James W. Heisig’s Remebering the Kanji series, which breaks down characters into their elements and attaches meanings and stories to particular kanji. Those who already know hundreds of kanji without the aid of this series probably have developed their own system of remembering how to read and write particular characters, so Heisig’s system might not be the best for advanced readers. However, if you’re at an early stage in your studies or have trouble remembering kanji you’ve studied in the past, this series can be a useful reference. (There is also a third book for upper level proficiency, so it can help readers prepare for all levels of the JLPT.)

    Kanji De Manga and Kanji in MangaLand – Two textbook series that help beginners learn kanji through Japanese comics. The early books in this series look like they’d be great practice for the kanji sections of level 3 and level 4 of the JLPT.

    The Kodansha Kanji Learners Dictionary – There are a lot of kanji dictionaries out there, but this one is my personal favorite.


    Reading Comprehension

    Websites & Software

    Rikaichan – A popup Japanese-English/German/French/Russian dictionary extension for the Firefox web browser. One could use just about any Japanese website as reading practice with the aid of this extension.

    Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC – perhaps the best online Japanese-English dictionary. Its translate words section is particularly useful for looking up all the words in a reading passage.

    Asahi.com and Mainichi.jp – Levels 1 and 2 of the JLPT often use old articles from newspapers such as the Asahi Shinbun as reading passages, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to use its articles as reading practice. (With the aid of tools such as Rikaichan and WWWJDIC)


    Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors – a collection of essays by Japanese authors such as Haruki Murakami and Banana Yoshimoto. The first half of the book contains 8 essays by 8 different authors, with every other page containing a professional English translation of the preceeding Japanese page. The second half of the book contains detailed translation notes on specific phrases and a glossary of individual vocabulary words that appear in all the essays. The is packaged with a CD containing audio narrations of all the essays.

    Read Real Japanese Fiction: Short Stories by Contemporary Writers – another new book in the Read Real Japanese series. It contains 6 short stories by 6 different Japanese authors, and it is structured in the same manner as Read Real Japanese Essays. It also comes with a free CD of audio narrations.

    Breaking into Japanese Literature: Seven Modern Classics in Parallel Text – A selection of short stories by Natsume Soseki and Akutagawa Ryunosuke that is great reading practice for those aiming for level 1 or 2 of the JLPT. The book contains definitions of every Japanese word used in each story and also contains English translations of the stories. Free MP3’s of the stories in this book can be downloaded for free from its official site.

    Exploring Japanese Literature: Read Mishima, Tanizaki, and Kawabata in the Original – this book is as sequel of sorts to Breaking into Japanese Literature, containing longer stories that are a bit more difficult. It is layed out in the same style as the first book, but it lacks mp3 or CD’s of the stories being read aloud.

    Reading Japanese Financial Newspapers – Okay, this isn’t exactly set up for people studying to take the JLPT, but it is a great book. If you’re studying for level 2 or level 1 of the JLPT, this kind of book could give some extra practice and help you read online news articles. This fine book is no longer in print, but used copies are available on the internet.

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