It is very difficult to answer what textbooks we recommend. This is because each textbook has its own characteristics, and the best textbook for each person is different.

When I am consulted by a client, I choose a textbook after asking at least the following questions
Learning objectives, learning method (self-study or taking lessons), current level, textbooks used in the past, and other materials and tools available.

If you know a professional Japanese teacher, it is best to consult him or her. However, you need to check how much textbooks he/she can handle. (Please assume that advice from someone with less than 10 textbooks will not be helpful.)

If there is no professional Japanese language teacher you know, you need to be able to judge for yourself. Therefore, we have listed some points that you should understand when choosing textbooks on your own, and we hope they will be helpful.

There are different types of textbooks.
The main types of textbooks for adult learners are as follows
(Comprehensive textbooks / for business people / for short-term residents / reading comprehension / grammar / pronunciation and listening comprehension / notation (kana and kanji) / composition / conversation / preparation for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test)

The “List of Japanese Language Materials” published by Bonjinsha introduces approximately 4,000 Japanese language materials. It is possible to search by the types listed above. Moreover, it can be downloaded free of charge, so if you are interested, please take a look.


Amazon reviews are not helpful.
I often use Amazon for online shopping. However, reviews about Japanese textbooks will not be helpful. This is because most of the people who write reviews are Japanese language learners, and they do not compare the textbooks with other textbooks.

Textbook introduction sites are also not very helpful.
Many textbook introduction sites are affiliate sites. Check if the writers are reliable.
The official websites of publishers may be helpful, but they naturally introduce only their own textbooks, which has the disadvantage of limiting the range of textbooks they cover.

Clerks at general bookstores know very little about Japanese textbooks.
General bookstores sell very few Japanese language textbooks. For this reason, it would be difficult for the clerks working there to compare and introduce Japanese textbooks.
On the other hand, you can trust the staff at stores specializing in Japanese language textbooks because they are very knowledgeable. Bookstores specializing in Japanese language materials include the following bookstores

Bonjinsha: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Sogakusha: Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Nihongo Books: Koto-ku, Tokyo

*Please check the official websites of the companies for the latest information as it may not be possible to enter due to covid-19.

Many of my acquaintances are in the Japanese education field, so let me refrain from naming specific schools here (lol). Instead, there are two criteria that can be used as a reference when choosing a regular Japanese school, which I will introduce here.

Please note that what I am about to explain is for regular Japanese schools. It does not apply to schools for residents who are not related to the student VISA or online schools. There are many reputable schools among them.

(1) Must be a publicly notified Japanese school
Notified Japanese schools are Japanese schools that can accept international students for the purpose of studying Japanese under the status of residence Student. In simple terms, it is a school that can issue a student VISA.
In order to be recognized as a “notified school,” a school must clear several regulations set by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, so it is relatively safer than non-notified schools. Of course, there are exceptions.

A list of notified schools can be found here.

(2) Year of establishment is old
Simply put, the older the year of establishment, the better the school is likely to be. This is due to the following changes in the environment surrounding the Japanese education business.
In 2008, the Japanese government created a plan to increase the number of foreign students to 300,000. In response to this plan, an increasing number of companies established Japanese schools as new businesses.
And since around 2015, there has been an increase in the number of cases of Japanese schools being established for the purpose of supporting businesses in recruiting technical intern trainees.

Mainly for these two reasons, the number of Japanese schools has more than doubled, from 308 in 2007 to 774 in 2019.

Entering into Japanese education as a business is not in itself a bad thing in my opinion. There are good schools among the new schools. However, on a probability basis, I would recommend schools that have been around since before 2015, preferably since 2008.

From the above, my recommendation is to go for a notified school that has been around since before 2015. However, management policies can change, so please use this as a reference only.

Japanese language institutes are divided into four matrices, based on the two axes of lesson type (offline or online) and number of students.

*To be precise, there are group lessons both offline and online, but we omit them here to simplify the explanation.

If we use ABCD, clockwise from the top right, the main educational institutions that fall under each of these categories are as follows.

A: Regular Japanese school
B: Class lessons at online school
C: 1on1 lessons at online school
D: Dispatch of teachers

The general characteristics of each are as follows

Curriculum and schedule are fixed.
Many schools are for international students and class schedules are during the daytime on weekdays.
Some schools offer classes in the evening with small class sizes.
Many schools have changed to “B” because they cannot offer face-to-face lessons due to the COVID-19.
Tuition fees are the second lowest of the four, but long-term courses are usually offered.

There used to be very few, but the number has increased due to COVID-19.
Curriculum and schedule are fixed.
Learners from all over the world can take classes.
Some schools offer classes in the evening.
Tuition fees are the lowest of the four.

You can choose your own curriculum and schedule.
Learners from all over the world can take classes.
Some schools offer classes in the evening.
Tuition fees are higher than B, but lower than D.
Many teachers are familiar with lessons for business people.

You can choose your own curriculum and schedule.
Tuition fees are the highest of the four.
Many teachers are familiar with lessons for business people.
However, outside of large cities, there may be no Japanese teachers available.

Since the price per lesson is inversely proportional to the number of students, class lessons with a large number of students are inexpensive, and lessons with a small number of students, One-to-one is more expensive.

Based on the above characteristics, you should choose the one that best suits your needs.

For qualified teachers, the market price seems to be 2,000~8,000 yen per lesson (1 hour).
For teachers who have the ability to teach business people, the price is usually 3,500 yen or more.

The better the teacher, the higher the FEE may be. But the probability of your success in learning Japanese will be high, so the cost performance may be good. In fact, I know someone who charges 8,000 yen per hour. Her unit price is higher than other teachers, but she has a lot of repeat customers and there are no vacancies in her schedule.

If you want to keep the total cost of learning Japanese low, I recommend that you do what you can by self-study and focus your lessons with the instructor on exercises that you cannot do without him or her.

If it is difficult for you to bear the cost by yourself, your company may pay for it, so it is recommended that you check with your company. In particular, a company that pays for English language training for its Japanese employees may be willing to pay for Japanese language training for its non-Japanese employees.

(1) Face-to-face lessons
It seems that all the teachers registered on this site are qualified.

(2) Online lessons
For online lessons, there is no site that I can introduce with confidence. There are several reasons for thinking that way.

Reason 1: Many of the teachers registered on matching sites are unqualified.
Just as there are qualifications for English teachers such as TEFL, TESL, TESOL, CELTA, DELTA, etc., there are also qualifications for Japanese teachers.

Qualified Japanese teachers are those who meet any of the following requirements.
(1) Pass the Japanese Language Teaching Competency Test.
(2) Have a bachelor’s degree and have completed a 420-hour training course for Japanese instructors approved by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
(3) Complete either a major or minor program in Japanese education at a university or graduate school.

However, there are many matching sites that do not require them to be a certified teacher. If you are just looking for a conversation partner, it may be good enough, but if you want to take lessons, we recommend that you choose a qualified teacher at the very least. There is a big difference between someone who has systematically studied Japanese teaching methods and someone who has not.

Reason 2: Just having a qualification is not enough.
As I wrote in [What kind of teacher is a good Japanese teacher?], I consider a good teacher to be someone who can provide you with highly effective learning lessons and the know-how and advice you need to achieve your goals. Time performance is especially important for business people. For this reason, just having a qualification is not enough. In fact, I have interviewed more than 1,000 Japanese teachers, and there are not a few who are qualified but have poor teaching skills.

However, these are my personal opinions. If you and I have different preferences that we are looking for in a teacher, there is a chance that you can find a good teacher even on a matching site.

I hope these articles are helpful for you to meet a good teacher.

As I wrote in another article, the definition of a good teacher varies from person to person, so it is difficult to give a general answer, but there is one magic question that can determine a teacher’s teaching experience, material selection skills, and ambition.

The question is: “Please tell me all of the textbooks you can use.”

Beware of teachers who can use only a few textbooks even if they have many years of experience. In one-on-one lessons, it’s necessary to customize lessons according to the student’s needs. If the instructor has been teaching one-on-one lessons for a long time, they should be able to use a variety of textbooks in order to meet the needs of a wide variety of students.

There are many Japanese teachers who have never had one-on-one lessons and have only had class lessons. These people may have used only the textbooks specified by the school they work at repeatedly. They may be able to teach very well on those textbooks, but their experience will be limited.

If a teacher has little experience, but is willing to look up a textbook for you, they are probably a good teacher.

This question is similar to the question, “What kind of boss is a good boss?” Because the definition of a good teacher varies from person to person.

In my opinion, a good teacher is someone who can provide you with the most effective lessons and the know-how and advice you need to achieve your goals.

The following two qualities are necessary to achieve this.

(1) Japanese teaching ability
Such as, Japanese teaching experience, course design skills, material selection skills, level judgment skills, feedback skills, creativity and ambition.

(2) Communication skills
Such as, Logical explanation skills, coaching skills, cross-cultural understanding, fairness, business manners, quick response, positivity and the ability to communicate effectively.

However, it would be unrealistic to compare all these aspects to find the best teacher. Therefore, I think it would be more realistic to try to learn from a few different teachers at first, and then take lessons with the one you think is the best for you.

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