Yasashii Nihongo: 5 Easy Japanese Websites for Beginner

Last Updated on 21.04.2022 by Coto Japanese Language School

When learning Japanese, one of the best ways to improve is to immerse yourself in the language. You can do this by watching Japanese shows, speaking Japanese at home and reading Japanese text. Unfortunately, these texts can be hard for beginners. The use of more advanced kanji and lack of furigana can prove difficult for anyone N4 level or below.

The latest news in Japan are also broadcasted by outlets like Mainichi Shinbun, Asahi and NHK. While English-based news media like Japan Times exist, they’re still not as available to foreigners as you’d expect (you’ll need an active subscription to get unlimited access to their news). It’s hard for foreigners in Japan to stay up to date with the latest — or urgent — information.

Thankfully, there exists a form of Japanese suited for people around this level. It’s called yasashii nihongo (やさしい日本語).

Whether it’s for news, lifestyle or blogging, we’ve compiled 5 easy Japanese websites for beginners to read.

What is Yasashii Nihongo (やさしい日本語)?

Yasashii (優しい)in Japanese translates to gentle, or kind. Nihongo means Japanese. Together, they literally mean ‘gentle Japanese’. This is a style of Japanese that was introduced for foreigners to understand in events of emergencies.

How does yasashii nihongo works? Try taking a peek at a typical Japanese newspaper. The kanji characters are so complicated that even some Japanese people have a hard time reading them.

Yasashii nihongo takes into account the vocabulary choices and grammar structure. It avoids complicated kanji and describes everything in an easy-to-understand phrasing.

Most of all, yasashii nihongo drops a lot of formality in Japanese keigo, which, admittedly, is too complicated. In other words, this type of writing is more direct in its translation.

Who Are These Easy Japanese Websites For?

The point is that yasashii nihongo is helpful for foreigners living in Japan to stay in the know. For example, if a disaster is about to strike, English media may not have enough time to cover them. NHK, on the other hand, has its yasashii nihongo program that upper-beginner Japanese students can follow.

If we need to profile the readers, it would be upper-beginner foreigners in Japan who haven’t fully reached the advanced (and intermediate) level yet.

Now, keep in mind that yasashii nihongo is not meant to replace the Japanese language. You shouldn’t settle on easy Japanese, either.

It is also used on some websites to have easy-to-read Japanese content like news articles or blogs for Japanese learners. Finding them can be difficult though, so we’ve compiled some for you!

Jump To:

Wa Tanoshii (和タのC)

Japanese beginner reading site Wa Tanoshii or Wa Ta No C Logo
Image courtesy of Wa Tanoshii

Wa Tanoshii is a web magazine with a bunch of articles for Japanese beginners. The name is very interesting. The (Wa) is the character for “Japan”, and comes from the Chinese character 倭, which is also pronounced as “wa”. In ancient China it was used to mean Japan.  タのC (Ta No C) is a made-up word meant to sound like 楽しい (Tanoshii), meaning “fun”. Together, the name means “Japanese is fun”. The name also reflects Japanese history, as the letters used are in order of kanji to katakana, hiragana, then the alphabet. It is meant to represent the evolution of the Japanese language.

Their articles are all based around living in Japan, written by locals and foreign students. They mark each article based on the level of vocabulary used: N4 or N5. Because they use yasashii nihongo, you shouldn’t have too much trouble trying to read the articles. If you do come across a vocab you don’t understand, they will usually have the meaning and pronunciation of it. Just click or tap the word on your computer or phone! Some of the articles are even narrated, so you can hear what natural pronunciation sounds like.

News Web Easy (NHK)

The NHK is one of the major news broadcasters in Japan. In 2012, they launched News Web Easy. It provides daily news to the foreign population of Japan. They take articles from the NHK website and convert them to easy Japanese. They provide furigana above the kanji used in the articles. The vocabulary used is meant for those at N3 to N5 level.

In the articles themselves, as mentioned earlier you have furigana above the kanji, but there is also the option to turn it off. Don’t neglect this function, it can be useful for your practice! Additionally, they provide text-to-speech on every article, so you can hear the pronunciation. They also link the original articles, if you want to try reading those.

MATCHA

Japanese beginner reading site MATCHA JP Logo
Image courtesy of MATCHA

MATCHA is a web magazine focusing on travel: what to do and where to visit Japan. Their articles come in 10 languages. Most notably, they have two Japanese language setting: standard Japanese and やさしい日本語. They provide lots of furigana for all the kanji. They also have English definitions next to or above some of the more uncommon phrases. 

On their easy Japanese website setting, they have some articles specifically for Japanese learners, with hand-drawn illustrations to boot. Unfortunately, they don’t have a text-to-speech feature.

Easy Japanese

Easy Japanese is a news website that takes news from other sites like CNN, NHK or Asahi, and makes them easier to read. If you ever want to read a Japanese article from a major news publisher in Japan, it’s probably here. They let you sort the news articles by topic, source, difficulty and level. They even let you search up specific Japanese so you can see it used! All the articles have Furigana, and all the Kanji are labeled by their JLPT level. They have text-to-speech on every article too, as well as the option to turn Furigana off. They also let users add translations to the articles, so if you come across a phrase you don’t understand, someone has likely already helped you out!

This site is not as good for Japanese beginners as some of the other sites as there are some N1 and N2 kanji. Don’t let that scare you off though! It’s still a great resource and way to practice.

Nippon Talk

Japanese beginner reading site Nippon Talk Logo
Image courtesy of Nippon Talk

Nippon Talk is very helpful for Japanese beginners. They are one of the few Japanese reading websites that provide both Furigana and an English translation. In every article, you will have the original Japanese text, Furigana over the Kanji, and an English translation. You have the option to hide the Furigana, and also an option to make it bigger. The articles are written by a native speaker, so you can read natural Japanese. Nippon Talk should prove very useful for beginners, with interesting articles on a variety of topics.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed the list! As with most things, it’s important to practice your Japanese every day. You can do that with the news websites we mentioned. They will post a new article that you can try reading. If you find the news boring, then check out the other websites for something you like! It’s important to enjoy your learning after all.

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