Learn Advanced Japanese With These Side-by-Side English Readers

Want to read Japanese newspapers or essays? Preparing for JLPT N1? Here’s how to level up your Japanese game with side-by-side readers.

Unseen Japan
8 min readSep 6


By Jay Allen

Book with light emitting from it

Trying to understand newspaper-level Japanese? For the most part, it requires a lot of immersive reading. But there are some tools you can use to help give you a leg up. In this post, I’ll talk about a book series I recently found that helps Japanese learners understand one of the country’s most iconic newspaper columns.

The slog of understanding N1-level Japanese

Woman reading Japanese newspaper
Picture: アオサン / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

It’s difficult to bring your Japanese to the level where you can immerse yourself in native content. But it’s also rewarding knowing you can abandon learning materials and consume media you enjoy. After all, that’s why many of us started studying Japanese in the first place.

But it’s not so simple as saying, “read native materials.” That’s especially true with works such as personal essays and newspaper op-eds. Depending on the writer, such pieces can be written more elegantly or formally than standard news coverage. Many tend to use kanji compounds and rare idioms you’re not likely to hear in daily conversation.

In other words, combined with Japanese being a high-context language that often omits topic and subject, such texts will likely occasionally have sentences that leave you scratching your head. Even after reading Japanese every day for years, I still sometimes run into some constructions that give me pause.

I’ve covered some techniques you can use to bridge this gap, including sentence mining and the Listening-Reading method. You can also work through difficult texts one-on-one with an online Japanese language learning teacher.

Using side-by-side readers



Unseen Japan