5.0 out of 5 stars The best Japanese reader I have seen
This is the Japanese reader I have been hoping for! I can hardly believe that such an excellent book has finally been made available after suffering through sub-par readers for so long. This book is just awesome, and if you are studying Japanese then you are going to want it as soon as possible.
Japanese has always suffered from a dearth of good readers. Some, like A Japanese Reader are so dense and academic as to put off all but the most dedicated student. Some, like Mangajin’s Basic Japanese Through Comics, are fun to begin with but don’t get you very far. The biggest problem has always been that middle ground, that 2-kyu level where you need some help getting over the hump from constructed text and into the real world.
I had the previous edition of Read Real Japanese, and this release is a vast improvement. The old version relied far to heavily on romaji, which anyone reading at this level should be long past. This new edition eliminates this problem, using only the kanji and hiragana character sets. All kanji are initially presented with furigana, but afterwards appear on their own so you have to work for it. The stories are presented with the right hand being the original text, then the left hand presenting translations on difficult passages. In the back, there are more detailed translation notes and a dictionary of all the words used. The system works excellently, and it is a good challenge to mentally create your own translation then flip to the back and see what the editor translated the passage as. A CD is included as well for pronunciation, and I have found it is helpful to put on the CD and read along to increase your speed.
The selection of authors is also enjoyable, with only the ubiquitous Yoshimoto Banana making a repeat appearance from the previous edition. There are horror stories, magical realism, “slice-of-life”…one of my favorites was a scary tale about a solitary boy late at night and a mysterious sandbox with something lurking underneath. They are graduated in level, with the earlier stories being simpler to read, and then slowly gaining in difficulty. The goal is to eventually wean you off of readers, and the editor gives several suggestions of follow-up stories on each level that you can seek out and try on your own.
I am really happy that “Read Real Japanese” was published, and I hope that more follow suit. There is a companion book, “Read Real Japanese Essays: Contemporary Writings by Popular Authors 1 free CD included“, which is of the same high quality, and students of Japanese will be wanting that as well. Highly, highly recommended.