Picture book reading is also an excellent way to learn Japanese!


Picture books are essential for children to learn languages. The picture books they loved when they were little are still important treasures for them even as adults. Children may ask you to read to them many times a day with simple, rhythmical words and appealing characters that are appropriate for their age. Such picture books are also highly recommended for adults learning foreign languages! In this article, I will introduce some classic Japanese picture books and popular picture books!

Picture book reading is also an excellent way to learn Japanese!

- Simple and rhythmical style:

Picture books are generally designed for children, and the style of writing uses simple language that is easy for Japanese language learners to understand. The rhythmical writing style unique to picture books is also perfect for reading aloud. Through the picture books, children can learn basic vocabulary and become familiar with the rhythm and pronunciation of the language while having fun.

- Illustrations help you understand the story

Picture books are easy to understand because the illustrations as well as the words are part of the story. Therefore, even beginners and elementary level learners can enjoy working with it.

- Learn about Japanese life and culture:

Picture books often tell stories that relate to everyday life, children's experiences, and provide an opportunity to learn about the daily lives and culture of Japanese children. By reading picture books, foreign language learners can deepen their understanding not only of the language but also of the culture in which the language is spoken. Through them, they can also learn everyday language and expressions that are useful in real life communication.

- Multiple language versions

As picture books are sometimes translated into several languages, the same story can be read in both native and foreign versions. Reading Japanese versions of famous foreign picture books, such as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", can also be effective. As such, picture books are highly recommended for learning Japanese in a fun way. Picture books are a fun way to learn a language. I hope you will find your own favourite picture books in your area of interest or with your favourite characters,

Nine of the most popular and recommended picture books in Japan, for children and adults

The following are nine popular picture books in Japan, together with their text difficulty levels!

1. Peek-a-Boo!

By Miyoko Matsutani; Difficulty level 1
A long-selling picture book for children that has been read continuously since it was first published in 1967. Various animals play "Peek-a-Boo". The text and illustrations are simple, but it is a classic picture book that every child in Japan has read at least once. Miyoko Matsutani has written many other picture books, all of which are popular.

2. Where's the Fish?

By Tarō Gomi; Difficulty level 1
This is one of the best-known books by Tarō Gomi, a world-famous picture book author whose books have been translated into many different languages. A goldfish escapes from a goldfish bowl, hides behind polka dots on the curtains, in a candy jar, between piles of strawberries... This picture book is as fun as a game of hide-and-seek. It is also published in English and is a very popular picture book in many countries.

3. The Daruma-san series

By Satoshi Kagakui; Difficulty level 1
"Daruma" is a lucky charm used to make a wish. In Japan, Daruma is a familiar character who has been the subject of various picture books. The Daruma series here consists of three parts: "Daruma-san", "With Daruma-san" and "Daruma-san's". The series is based on the children's game of "Daruma-san ga Koronda" (a game in which the children stop moving when the phrase stops, similar to Red light Green light in the USA). The familiar phrases of 'Daruma-san...' are repeated in variations in this picture book.

4. The Nontan series

By Sachiko Kiyono; Difficulty level 2
The Nontan series of picture books features Nontan, a cheerful cat boy. There are 23 volumes published under various titles, which are also animated. The stories are based on the everyday life of a young child, with Nontan playing, fighting and having trouble with his sister "Tartan" and his animal friends. The fast-paced style of writing is recommended for reading aloud.

5. The Koguma-chan series

By Ken Wakayama; Difficulty level 2
This picture book series features Koguma-chan, a friendly bear boy, and Shirokuma-chan, a cheerful girl who lives next door. Fifteen books have been published on themes familiar to young children. One of the most popular is ”Shirokuma-chan's Pancakes". It carefully depicts Shirokuma-chan making pancakes.

6. Guri and Gura

By Rieko Nakagawa; Difficulty level 3
The story is about two wild mouse twins, Guri and Gura, who love to cook and eat. They find a big egg in the forest and after thinking about what would be best for it, they decide to make sponge cakes. They bring a big frying pan and start making sponge cakes, and all the forest animals gather around. The sponge cake that Guri and Gura make looks delicious and it is a classic picture book that has left a good impression on everyone's hearts.

7. Bread Thief

By Keiko Shibata Difficulty level 3
"Bread Thief", the current number one picture book in terms of popularity; The Bread Thief wears a loaf of bread and searches for delicious bread. One day, Bread Thief finds a bakery with a sign saying "The world's most delicious bakery in the forest" and sneaks in under the cover of bread. This is a picture book for children and adults alike, with its lovable character and expressions of Bread Thief and many delicious-looking loaves of bread.

8. Anpanman

By Takashi Yanase; Difficulty level 4
Every child in Japan loves Anpanman. The character is so popular that almost no child has grown up without passing by Anpanman. The character is famous for its character goods and animation broadcasts, but it originally started as a picture book. Various characters such as Anpanman, Currypanman, Shokupanman and Baikinman appear in the series. You can find many Anpanman-related picture books and magazines for young children in bookshops.

9. Butt Detective

By Troll; Difficulty level 5
A picture book about solving mysteries featuring Oshiri Tantei (Butt Detective), a gentleman whose motif is his hips and whose habitual phrase is "Mmmm, it smells". Oshiri Tantei solves various cases through mazes and quizzes. You can experience solving riddles together while reading the picture book, and enjoy it while playing. The unique characters are also popular and have been made into animations and films.


Are there any picture books you know? The titles introduced here are very well-known and popular titles that all Japanese people know, but there are many other attractive picture books that have been published. Although they are less well-known than the animated books that are popular all over the world, they are very useful for learning foreign languages, especially in terms of learning the rhythm of language. Reading aloud is recommended when trying out picture books! If you find one that interests you, please read it!