Have You Heard of the Hiragana Times?

By Donnie | Articles

An awesome magazine for Japanese reading practice.

Despite my salary being significantly lower than what it was, one of the perks to teaching at a Japanese public school, as opposed to an eikaiwa, is that I get to have a summer vacation. From today, I have a month to myself. This is the time to do some much needed reading and sleeping, to make some cool updates to the Japan Guy, get back on the ole exercise horse, and (a big one) to really take some time to study Japanese.

Let’s focus on the latter one for now.

I find that studying Japanese can really be a lot of fun when I am putting in an honest effort, when I am hitting on all facets of study (grammar, writing in kanji & kana, listening, reading, and speaking). One aspect that I’ve really been interested in lately is the reading side of Japanese.

Thinking back to my school days, some of the best writers and test-takers also happened to be avid readers. The people who read often also had pretty massive vocabularies (remember the SATs? (Scholastic Aptitude Test)). I remember French being one of favorite subjects in school (please don’t ask me to speak it now, though 🙁 ), and in my last year I did independent study. I read more French during that year than I had ever done, and that was my peak fluency time. I did a couple of French competitions and did pretty well. Granted I didn’t just read, I spoke and wrote everyday, and worked on grammar…but reading was an important part of the puzzle.

Because I know that reading provides an opportunity to truly expand your knowledge, I was looking for something in Japanese that would allow me to read more, but would match my Japanese level (pathetic). One solution I will be using is going to my local, public library to pick up children’s books. To find stories that are more geared towards an adult crowd, though, I have found that the Hiragana Times is pure gold!

What is the Hiragana Times?

The Hiragana Times is a short-winded, monthly publication that is perfect for foreigners who are studying Japanese. The magazine focuses on stories that are current (if you have the latest issue of course) and it really does a good job of exposing readers to customs and Japanese social norms (and abnorms 🙂 ) that you may or may not be familiar with.

In general there are two types of articles. The first are ones that have kana, furigana, romaji, and the English translation. Sounds like a bit much when you’re reading, right? Well, not exactly. The way the articles are broken down, makes for a simple, no-fuss read. The second type of article is has the English translation, kana, and kanji (but no romaji). This is more advanced practice that can be quite useful.

The stories are generally quite fascinating so it’s a fun read that really allows you to employ your Japanese skills.

The Good About the Hiragana Times

There are a ton of things I like about this publication. The main thing is that it’s designed to be easy for foreigners, who may not be fluent, to read. The kana, kanji, romaji, and English translations make it possible for anyone to pick the magazine and read it. In addition, the Hiragana Times has useful information and advertisements for foreigners: from housing, to visa stuff, to get-togethers. I also like how they have stories that present aspects of Japanese culture in a funny, light-hearted way. I haven’t made use of the audio feature, but the the Hiragana Times offers an audio version that you can get access to. Listening practice, anyone?

A snippet from the July 2011 issue of the Hiragana Times.

The very same snippet from the July 2011 Issue in hiragana, kanji, and furigana.

The Not So Good Things About the Hiragana Times

I am a fan of the the magazine so I don’t really have a whole lot to put here, but if I were to say some negatives, maybe I’d say that it’s not geared towards the advanced student (but let’s face it, I’m not advanced). That’s not to say that an advanced reader can’t get something from the magazine, though. The other thing is that sometimes, rarely, the magazines might not have stories that are all that great or fascinating…at least to me anyway. Fascinating is a relative term, though; something I find quite dry, another person may find quite interesting. Aside from these two things, though, I can’t think of a whole lot of other negatives.

How Much is the Hiragana Times?

Each issue costs 450 円.

How Much is a Subscription to the Hiragana Times?

Here is a table showing the prices for a one-year and two-year subscription. The prices differ slightly depending on if you living in Japan, or living overseas.

From the hiragana times website. The prices vary if you're buying in Japan or purchasing from overseas.

You can probably tell from what I’ve written already, but I give the Hiragana Times two, Japan Guy thumbs up. If you need reading practice, you can get quite a bit of use out of each magazine you buy.

Please check them out at www.hiraganatimes.com

Donald Ash

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  • Ceci says:

    ThankyouThankyouThankyou! This is fabulous info! I’ve been learning kana, but I’ve wondered what the best way to just dive in and start really learning would be. I pondered trying to find some “baby” manga to start translating. I also have some children’s picture dictionaries. But one thing that was missing was getting to hear the words. I’m soooo checking into the digital Hiragana times with audio.

  • Donald Ash says:

    Awww, you know it’s no problem, Ceci! 😀
    I am really glad you found it useful. It’s a pretty cool way to get some good reading in, ne? I hope it helps you even more than you expect it to.

  • Petaris says:

    I actually just picked one of these up at a Japanese grocery store while I was in Chicago. I had heard about it before but never had a chance to look at one. Its pricy in the US though, I paid over $7 for it.

    • Donald Ash says:

      WHOA! That’s pretty steep. I’m pretty sure the subscription would work out to be cheaper in that case, huh?

      • Brennero says:

        I don’t think it will, for example if i subscribe it would be $15 aprox. that’s pretty expensive for a magazine. I just bought one. It’s really nice though

  • Kayla says:

    Wow, this sounds pretty awesome. Definitely something I’ll pick up when I moved to Japan.

  • crystal says:

    Their subscription doesn’t work on their website anymore and they provide crappy customer service. It’s been over a week since placing a subscription order with them, no confirmation email, no emails back to my inquiries.

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