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Review: Tobira Japanese Textbook

In 6 weeks I am leaving for Japan. *small mental breakdown*

I can’t believe how quickly the summer has gone and how soon I will be abroad! These past few weeks have been filled with preparations–things for packing, for being in another country for several months, things for when I return… But no matter what I do, Japan is always on the brain!

One of the things I have been trying to prepare myself for is the language. I have been studying Japanese for a few years and I am a diligent student, but I have never been somewhere for more than one week where I didn’t speak the language, and even though it is something I crave, it is also a little intimidating. Because of this I have been trying to do all that I can to not forget what I learned in class and learn more independently so I can be confident when I land in Tokyo in September.

The way I am preparing is by using the textbook my classmates in the US will be using while I am away. I bought it at the beginning of summer, though truthfully I have really only been using it for the last three weeks or so. I love it. This is one of the greatest textbooks I have used, and definitely the best Japanese textbook I have used so far. Despite going thorugh the book independently, I feel comfortable with the material, and though it is challeging and pushes me constantly, I do understand a majority of what is being discussed.

The textbook is called Tobira, and has a wide range of lessons aimed at helping an intermediate level learner become an advanced level learner.

Each chapter has pre-lesson activities to introduce the subject, readings, conversations, practice questions and conversations to be done with a partner, comprehension questions, grammar points, and an in depth look at one topic in regards to Japanese language. It is fantastic!

This is an example of the comprehension questions and practice conversations.

This is an example of a reading section in one of the chapters. As you can see, there is minimal to no English, and while there is a minimal vocabulary/kanji list, as the chapters and readings progress, you are expected to remember these new words, and the furigana and definitions don’t show up in future lessons.

My goal this summer was to get through chapter 5, and I have been completing about 1 lesson per week, so I am confident I can accomplish that goal. I have found that goals–realistic and perhaps unrealistic ones–are extremely helpful to language learning, no matter it you are learning independently or in a classroom setting. I am definitely a list person, and so I tend to make more goals/task lists than the agerage person, but I find that it really helps my motivation and concentration–even if I get behind and need to rework my goals.

For example, as I mentioned, I have a semi-long-term goal of completing 5 chapters from this book before September. (My ultimate long term goal is to become fluent in Japanese). Each week I set a goal concerning finishing a certain chapter, and then I set goals on the days I study to complete a certain part of a chapter. This is another one of the reasons why I love using Tobira so much. The Tobira chapters are set up in such a way that it can easily be broken up into sections. This week I was studying at work, and split the chapter into 2 sections: 1) Reading through Comprehension Questions, and 2) Grammar and Vocabulary Review. Other weeks are different, and I split up the chapter into more like 4-5 shorter sections.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this to any Japanese learner. 5/5 stars.

Have you used the Tobira books before? Let me know what you think, and if you have found any other books that have worked better! I am always searching for more materials to use!



  1. Thanks for the review 😉 I’m gonna check out the Tobira book on amazon or sth since it looks great! Would you say it’s more for intermediates or pretty advanced learners of Japanese. I myself started learning about half a year ago, but really intensely every day 😉 what’s your business in Japan? Have tons of fun! Greets from Holland

    • Hmm, I would probably say upper intermediate, but if you are dedicated I think you could handle it. Personally I have taken two years of Japanese in university, and would say that after having taken that amount of Japanese, I am prepared for this textbook. I am studying abroad for 4 months, and will be in a language intensive program with an internship component either at a school or a translation company! 😀 Stay tuned for more info on my travels! 😉

      • Wow! 2 years. Would love to do that. Did you know any prior to your studies? I think lower-intermediate is my ground at the moment but its never too early to dabble in the expert areas.
        Will do! Enjoy.

      • I knew Hiragana and Katakana prior to my classes in university, but other than that and the very basic sentence structure I didn’t know anything. I did study Chinese for two years in HS, and have been studying Korean for 3 years, so I am familiar with language learning and the processes that work for me. 🙂 I think sometimes using challenging material can be very motivating, and increases your standards for how much you want to study 🙂

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