Yotsuba-to! – Ideal manga for learning Japanese?


One of my favourite manga, and in fact the first I ever read in the original Japanese, is よつばと!/Yotsuba&!, by 東清彦/Kiyohiko Azuma. It is an entertaining and easygoing manga, with good art and story, so that alone is enough to recommend it; it is a best seller in Japan so many would agree. However, I think it also happens to be the ideal beginner’s manga for learning Japanese, for several compelling reasons.


Firstly, it has furigana, not an uncommon feature by any means – less time spent looking up kanji means more time to increase comprehension. More interestingly from the learner’s perspective, is that the protagonist, Yotsuba, is a young child who often has to have things explained to her in simple terms, and this tends to make the business of interpreting Japanese text without a side by side guide in another language much easier.

A very basic vocabulary and a knowledge of simple grammar, coupled with the ability to read kana and use a dictionary, should allow anyone to read and enjoy this, whilst improving their Japanese at the same time.


Textbooks tend to be a difficult route for maintaining motivation to learn (they are tedious, and they are after all merely a means to an end) and are often a little divorced from the language as it is actually used (although clearly manga usage can also fall into this category). For this reason, some sort of enjoyable pastime is best combined with learning, and manga fits the bill for Japanese (RPGs are my other recommendation).

Even if Yotsuba-to is not the kind of Japanese material you eventually see yourself reading/watching (in my case I worked towards the likes of Berserk and Ghost in the Shell), it certainly seems to provide a “real” entry point to the language, when understanding a lot of other works is likely to be very difficult.












Even if you’re not learning Japanese, Yotsuba-to is a widely licensed and scanlated manga, so language should not be a great barrier to enjoying it.

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    Comment by JustPassing
    12:56 05/05/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Yotsuba is a nice manga. =D
    It's funny and giving you a relaxed feeling when reading.

    Comment by Anonymous
    20:46 28/04/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    That small girl reminds me of Azumanga Daioh

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:44 06/03/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Textbooks tend to be a difficult route for maintaining motivation to learn (they are tedious, and they are after all merely a means to an end)..."

    So true -_- They can also be intimidating at times. Sometimes I go out of my way to find the thickest text book in the store just to find out what class it is and avoid it.

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    Comment by chicogrande
    02:45 15/07/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "Yotsuba!" is one of the most funny manga out there!

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    Comment by Karusan
    03:37 26/09/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Thanks for the tip, Artefact. How long after you began your studies were you able to read this manga?

    It would be interesting to read more about how you (and others) went about it to learn Japanese. I started just 5 weeks ago with self studies through text books.

    Comment by TsubasaNoTenshi
    05:24 25/02/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wee, despite Naruto and Yotsuba, can you recommend another title? Am getting Yotsuba, but don`t think I will be getting Naruto.

    Comment by Kyo
    11:24 16/02/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Hey it's 404Girl!

    Comment by Benny
    17:29 06/09/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    same here, a friend of mine gave the series to me. and then i know that it's the mascot for 4chan (not a routiner there)

    Comment by G4tsu
    02:49 05/09/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    The first Manga I read in Japanese too, I love it and it's the only one I'm able to read in Japanese for the moment xD
    I tried Death note which has furigana but language is too complex.
    Definitly one of the best Manga and propably the easier and most fun to read for japanese beginner learner.
    Nice presentation Artefact!

    Avatar of Artefact
    Comment by Artefact

    I think the next one I read fully was Naruto (actually I have read it several times despite never actually writing about it), and this can be recommended to an intermediate despite having the occasional more complex parts; these may actually be a plus as they keep learning opportunities open.

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:37 30/07/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    thanks for manga :D

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    Comment by XSportSeeker
    11:52 28/10/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    Nice tip!
    I actually import those with Amazon from US, since it's still not licensed in Brazil.
    But I'll try finding the original japanese version... I need to learn Japanese asap.

    Comment by Kikuti
    18:40 06/02/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    do u know more manga that it is very easy to read and good for learning japanese?

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:06 10/02/2013 # ! Neutral (0)

    You should try shoujo manga rather than shounen because most shoujo manga tend to have school settings and tend to depict a wide range of everyday situation. I learned Japanese with Cardcaptor Sakura and Aka-chan to boku, but I'd recommend the latter because Cardcaptor Sakura does have quite a few fantasy / magic related words that would not be easy to understand for beginners and looking words up all the time get frustrating easily I assume. Generally, in terms of vocabulary (non-fantasy) shoujo is always easier to read than shounen / seinen manga.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:29 09/02/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    Definitely good for learning. For me it's one of the few manga I can understand most of while reading

    Also rereading that part still makes me laugh

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:12 09/02/2009 # ! Neutral (0)

    the characters looks so much that those he draw in Azumanga daioh. I am not learning japanese but I assume Azumanga Daioh would also fit to learn japanese.

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