Review: Nihongo Notes

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The Japan Times is a Japanese newspaper that’s tailored towards a foreign audience. It’s already around for quite some time and had a nifty little column called Nihongo Notes. Back in 1977 these two books with collected essays from the newspaper were released and became quite hard to come by within the last years. Especially for Japanese learners who are not living in Japan it’s difficult to fully understand this foreign land with all its quirks and expressions. That’s where the Nihongo notes come into play.

Osamu and Nobuko Mitzutani discuss various phrases which are used on an everyday basis in Japan and shed some light onto the meaning and proper usage. If you enjoy reading about Japan and its culture, these books are made for you. The Japan Times is a marvelous publisher that brought us the infamous Genki textbooks and the really essential Dictionaries of Japanese grammar. You probably noticed it by now but without these guys we would be pretty high and dry during our Japanese studies.

I found these while strolling through the Japan Times website and instantly decided to pick them up. Both volumes look absolutely gorgeous and they feel even better in hand. But on to the best part. Each story is printed bi-lingual with the English translation on the left side and the Japanese original on the right. So you can even put your newly learned Japanese to good use and train your Kanji reading ability while always having the possibility to lurk over to the other side and confirm what you just read.

Maybe some of you remember the Mangajin magazine from back in the days. They had a similar column running in there which tried to explain basic Japanese sentence patterns and everyday set phrases. The books are good on their own (and a review will follow) but the Nihongo Notes are more distinct and the ones that started it all.

    • Buy Nihongo Notes at CDjapan or WhiteRabbitJapan
      If you buy the book through my link, I’ll get a small referral fee which will be used to buy even more awesome books for review.

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    • Buy Nihongo Notes at CDjapan or WhiteRabbitJapan
      If you buy the book through my link, I’ll get a small referral fee which will be used to buy even more awesome books for review.

If you learn Japanese you need to learn about the culture and there is nothing better then getting proper explanations from a native. That's what the Nihongo notes are all about.

7 Usefulness
8 Fun-Factor
9 Eye-Candy-Factor
7 Special Japanese Tease Kudos
7.8
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  • Nice review. Was there too much romaji though? I sometimes feel in books like these (based on translations) I cheat TOO much and remember the English more than the Japanese. What did you think?

    • You#re definitely right, but I didn’t want to read the Nihongo Notes in Japanese. The original is on the right side and the translation on the left. So you always have the choice if you want to challenge your Japanese skills a little.

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  • djam

    I lived in Japan from 1978 to 2014 and believe I collected about 20 small volumes of Nihongo Notes, Unfortunately my ex-wife has “kidnapped” those and many other of my Japanese language study books. One book I recommend is “A Graded Japanese Reader” by Roy Andrew Miller. It covers hiragana and katakana in the first 12 chapters and then gets into kanji from chapter 13. I original bought a hardcover version many years ago, but a paperback version is now available.

    • Will definitely check out that book you mentioned. Probably where the Japanese Graded Readers Series got its name from. Too bad you don’t have the original volumes of the Nihongo Notes anymore but the collected paperbacks are really worth the money.