My Japanese Reading and studying Experiences - CatDQ

I signed up for the pen pal thing, so we’ll see if anything eventuates in a few months. At least, I think I signed up for it – I wish it sent you a confirmation email you had actually put an application in.


What service did you use? And which service are you using again @CatDQ?

1 Like

I used Pen Friend club of Japan.
They did take about 4-5 months for me to start receiving letters but I’ve had a decent number of different people send them and some are willing to use just Japanese or mostly Japanese once they found out I could sort of read and write at least a little. I’ve had a few replies where they will write in both and a few people have asked if they can write just in Japanese as well.

Just be prepared for to get a lot of people writing to you :sweat_smile: my count so far is 18 but I’ve no idea how long they keep the details in the magazine for. Only members of the club are given your details though and they have to ask the club for them iirc.


My friend signed up for and got an email back but I didn’t. I wonder why some people get one and some don’t. I did kind of forget what I’d wrote but they tended to write a bit about their own interests that matched up with what I think I wrote and I just took it from there. Good luck :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Update 25/10/2023:

What I’ve been up to:

This last week has been much the same as recently. Little time to read extra but I’ve continued with the listening (I’ve been playing FF7 Crisis Core remaster alongside re listening to 本好き chapters), and also been reading the new replies I’ve had from penpals. It’s taking some getting used to since they all write in different styles (to be expected but still). Only one person’s English is a little off but they have said they use a translation app and they are also now writing in Japanese and English translation so it’s giving me practice.

I’ve three letters to finish writing today and get sent off, part of an art commission to work on and then some studying later this afternoon to hopefully finish re-working through MNN so I can restart the Blue set of books and get back on track for learning instead of just reviewing.

How I’m feeling about it:

I’m liking the pen pal letters since it’s forcing me to write non textbook stuff and I’m not only having to think what to write but also be able to read their replies. Mostly it’s been very helpful and I’m enjoying it. Sometimes I revert almost fully to English though since they ask questions I don’t know how to reply in Japanese. Some of the pen pals are also recommending anime, manga and novels to read as well which is awesome. Just a pity a lot of their recommendations aren’t yet available here but I’ve kept a note of them to find later.

Plans for this week and going forward:

Plans for the rest of this week, finish MNN red textbook again, continue reading through blue ミラーさん novel and continue listening to 本好き as well as continue working through Paul Noble’s beginners course as it’s helping me to build more complex sentences as well as correct particle usage.

Going forward, my plans are to work through MNN blue set once the red textbook is finished, continue working through Paul Noble’s course (next steps in Japanese once the beginner course is finished), as well as replying to and reading the pen pal letters, continue listening to 本好き and further down the line I’ll try reading it again since I now have 3 of the light novels and 8 of the audiobooks. Hopefully by then I’ll have more of the series so I can then continue to read them. Once I’ve finished blue ミラーさん novel I’ll be moving back on to Zoo book 2 alongside some easier e-books and manga.

We’ll see how it goes :slightly_smiling_face:


Might be worth checking your spam folder, if you didn’t already

Update 02/11/2023:

What I’ve been up to:

I’ve continued to read ミラーさん blue novel again to test my understanding and be reading something easier while I’m still trying to get my studying back on track (every time I say I’m going to do more studying something comes up and things go in a completely different direction mentally or physically). I had to cancel 2 of my conversation lessons earlier this week due to not being in the right headspace after losing a pet. I managed to keep reading ミラーさん novel (understanding most of it this time) and also pick up parts of lessons from みんなの日本語 red textbook even though I was struggling to do much. I’ve fallen way behind with reading 本好き but until the week before last had kept up with the listening even if I wasn’t fully understanding it. I think I’m going to need to drop it and come back to it with a fresh perspective after the new year. I also spent most of the last week drawing a commission which took up a lot of time and energy but was a nice break from feeling like I was slogging though mud.

I’ve tried to keep up with my replies to pen pals by writing a bit in Japanese in most letters, some being written in full Japanese. My tutor also advised that my letter to her was written without mistakes (not so sure it was natural sounding but no mistakes was definitely more than I hoped when writing it).
I’ve also picked up Demon Slayer anime series again so I can chat to some of the pen pals about it and hopefully find something new to speak to my tutor about since I’m running out of topics.

I’ve picked Paul Noble’s audiobook back up after a few days off but being exhausted after work isn’t helping my concentration. Hopefully that eases off so I can start to get back into things. There’s 4 hours left of the complete beginner course then his next book is “next steps” so I’ll be using that next. It is helping my listening, speaking and I think it’s also helping my understanding of sentences when reading as well.

Possible plans:

I might look back over Olly Richard’s 30 days ebooks and short story book again since I like the questions that test your understanding of the story and I do like a few of the stories in them too even if some are a little weird. The 30 days books also help with some of the more challenging filler words and certain grammar etc.

I’ve only a little left of ミラーさん (20 pages left) so I’ll finish that off alongside the red textbook then make a start on the blue textbook as well as checking to see which book might be best for me to try to read for when at work where I can look things up less. I’ll continue with Paul Noble’s audiobook as well as with Demon Slayer and my lessons too (2 lessons a week for the next few weeks til I can book more).


If you ever wanna chat Demon Slayer, feel free to PM

Also sorry to read about your pet :cry:


Thanks, I appreciate that :slightly_smiling_face:
I might take you up on that once I’m a bit further in to Demon Slayer, I’ve also got the Manga to read so hoping that will help increase my understanding of the Japanese vocabulary for it.

1 Like

Update 19/11/2023:

What I’ve been up to:

Last few weeks have been a struggle for me with Japanese. I finished みんなの日本語 red text book again and retook the 3 tests, this time coming out at 78%, 75% and 78%. Way better than the first time I went through it. I picked up a few more grammar points that I hadn’t fully understood before but my learning as well as studying times have taken a massive dip recently which I’m struggling to get out of. I also came out with 84% on the first week of 新にほんご500問 N5-N4 level, much better than I did the last time.

I’ve been reading ふらいんぐういっち manga. I’ve just started book 3 and so far most of the time I’m able to understand through extensive reading but sometimes there’s words or phrases that I don’t understand. For speaking I’ve been continuing my tutor based lessons with free talking though I’m struggling a bit with what to talk about and how to improve so we’ve discussed trying a different approach and I’ll see how that goes. I’ve also continued with the Paul Noble Japanese course though at the moment because my friend and I are doing this together, it’s going at a slower pace.

Listening has fallen by the wayside, I was using Doraemon story of seasons 2 as listening while struggling to do much else and also trying to catch up with 本好き but that’s taken a tumble as well. One of my Japanese pen pals really likes 本好き so I’ve said that I’ll read it once I’m understanding it better and then we can chat about it, same with Keigo Higashino’s Detective Galileo books.

Yesterday, I found a Karate manga series that I liked the look of. It’s not yet on Natively but is only 4 issues long so I got that since I remember a lot of the Karate terms in Japanese from when I was a Karateka. I thought that might help get me interested in reading again since everything seems to have slipped.

Plans for this week:

This week, I’ll get some writing practice in by writing a diary entry a few days and replying to pen pals since I’ve had 8 letters this last week, most of which have at least some Japanese in them. It’s just trying to find the time to reply with everything else at the moment.

I’ll also continue with ふらいんぐういっち as well as try to get some more of Paul Noble’s course completed. I’ve 2 more speaking lessons this week (tonight and Tuesday) as well as 2 more language exchanges this week, both on Tuesday. One of those is supposed to be mostly in Japanese but I think I will struggle with it quite a bit. I need to improve my listening skills so I think I should go back to the short stories and listen to those again as they are comprehensible input but I’ve only really listened to a few of them.


Random thoughts (feel free to ignore):

I know I spend way too much time trying to find optimal learning solutions recently which means most of the time my studying is most likely sub par. I also used to spend hours immersing in Japanese by listening, reading and writing (even if it was just textbook stuff). Some days I would think nothing of spending 6 hours pouring over textbook stuff then a further hour trying to read something before switching to listening to something or playing a game with Japanese audio in it. Nowadays I find I’m struggling to spend even 30 minutes trying to read something or listen to something unless it’s scheduled and even if it is scheduled, if something stressful or intense has happened before it, I find that I’m very unlikely to be able to focus on the studying or listening. I seem to get overwhelmed more easily the last several months but I’m not sure quite how to fix that to then be able to focus.

It’s not that I want to give up on Japanese though if this is why people give up, I can understand it. More recently Japanese has been both a frustration and a life line. As much as it upsets me because I’m struggling with it, I don’t want to give it up as even the small amount that I manage to get done does actually help me feel more productive, and like I’m actually still making some progress however small.

I do feel very stuck at the moment and I’m hoping it’s just a phase but it feels like it’s been getting progressively worse over the last year, and I can kind of pin point when that all started. I keep thinking I need a new approach but maybe what I need is just something that gives me a solid routine which doesn’t get disrupted as much as it has over the last year.

Frustrating, but food for thought. I’ll re-visit this in the new year and hopefully by then I’ll have been able to find a solution which allows me to focus properly again on my studying so I can enjoy it as much as I used to.


If you have any ふらいんぐういっち questions that aren’t answered by the book clubs feel free to ask them here. I love that series and it’s probably worth me re-reading them continually.


Thanks, I appreciate that. I’m doing a read through first then I’ll re-read them more in-depth to see what I missed so will take you up on that at some point :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Sounds like a bad combination of being burnt out but still holding really high standards that take a good amount of energy to maintain when you are full of energy. :thinking:

Honestly, knowing very little of your situation CatDQ, I’d be tempted to recommend taking December as a breather. Do the minimum, of course, so that your mind is still on Japanese, but give yourself a break; don’t worry as much about what method will deliver the largest possible payoff, because it’s so much harder to optimize that when you’re tired and your brain is pretty over looking at the little squiggles, haha.

I went through several up and downs myself, and while I could’ve reached my current level quicker if I had maintained my studies at an even pace, I wouldn’t have been happy doing it. I’m trying to remember how long my longest slump was; a year, maybe? I was still doing daily flashcard reviews, but that was about it. It finally got the point where I was feeling itchy to drive back into studying/reading easy things, and at that point I think my brain had recovered enough.

Anyway, just some food for thought. You’ve been putting in a ton of work this year as it is already! And now that the children’s book club exists, that should be an easier start for you than the level 30+ clubs we only had before.


I think you’re right. Work commitments and such aren’t leaving much additional time to do what I want to do which is causing burn out and making me feel overwhelmed (I’ve just had the same discussion with a close friend as well).

Rest of today has been spent trying to think up a topic and gather some additional vocabulary for my lesson shortly and trying to take a little bit of time to chill out. Think this slump has been for about the last year with a bit of a high earlier in the year when I read キノの旅 and Zoo book 1. Rest of the time has been spent mostly reviewing stuff.

I’m definitely considering it but at the same time, I think I’m trying to hold on as Japanese is one of the things that I do actually enjoy even though my progress is frustrating the hell out me. I might need to just look at doing the minimum and revisit in January or once my mind is in a better place to focus more.

My lessons will continue for the moment til my tutor moves to her new job and I can continue reading lower level stuff even if it’s just to see how much I understand and not actively studying til I feel less overwhelmed.

Thank you for the advice, I do appreciate it :slightly_smiling_face:


Update 26/11/2023:

This week has been a bit easier both for reading as well as easier on my mental health. I took the advice given and I tried to ease up on feeling like I should continually be forcing myself to actively study which has in turn lessened a bit of my burn out.

What I've been up to:

The last week, I’ve finished book 3 of ふらいんぐうぃっち manga. I liked the sky whale, it reminded me of Run Factory Oceans/ Rune Factory Frontier and also Ba’ul from Tales of Vesperia although Ba’ul is a dragon and not a whale.

There’s quite a bit I’m not understanding fully but I’ll go back and re-read it in depth once I’ve completed the 12 books as it is helping me to keep reading while still being able to mostly follow the gist of what is going on without much looking up and just inferring from context. I’m really enjoying it; there isn’t much drama, there are some funny bits, some parts are predictable but it is very easy going and relaxing. I also like the weird characters that pop up now and again. Seems to be at least one new character each book, sometimes several.

I’ve picked up Wanikani again since I got a lifetime account a few years back but got stuck when I became overwhelmed last year with the number of reviews I kept getting wrong so trying a different tactic from level 1 again. The reviews of older stuff I had burned previously is still good practice and I can pick up the on’yomi/ kun’yomi I had missed the first time round if I remember the ones from before.

I’ve continued with the weekly lessons, though December may be difficult as I’m unsure if my tutor will still be available or if we’ll shift things to January instead. I’m not sure when she is leaving for her new job but after she finishes up, I think I’ll continue with the language exchanges I do regularly now (one every Sunday that mostly teaches me new words and simple ways to talk about every day things, one who mostly practices english but will occasionally switch to Japanese as we only have 20 to 30 minutes each time and it’s usually really early in the morning for me so I don’t mind it just being English til my Japanese level is better and I’m not wasting much of the time thinking about things, and the last one we talk for about an hour to hour and a half in English one time then Japanese the next time).

I’ve also been trying to keep up with the penpal letters writing at least a little in Japanese each time but they are now coming back several at a time so now it’s getting more difficult to keep on top of things. I currently have 23 people who have written to me, though 3 have only sent one letter so far, and one of the people who writes regularly has also sent me a Japanese picture dictionary as a Christmas gift so now I need to think of something to send back to her :sweat_smile:. I only know it is a picture dictionary because she has written that on the cover of the envelope it was sent in. It’s all pre-wrapped so I’m saving it for Christmas. Around 5 or 6 of them are now writing either the whole letter in both Japanese and English or they are writing a paragraph or two in Japanese for to help me practice which I’m so grateful for. There is one person who I’m unsure if he’s got the wrong idea or if he is just unsure of how his English could come across and I’m a little unsure how to respond without being rude or being misunderstood.

Something new:

My tutor recently suggested that I start up a daily diary so I’ve been using that most days to write about half or just under that of an A5 page in Japanese. I’ve been using a bullet journal and my Tutor has been correcting my language as well to tell me if it sounds ok or if it needs changed to sound more natural. We’ve also switched up the lessons so now I do some free speaking which she will correct or help me articulate and then she will tell me 3 new words for me to use along with examples of how to use them naturally. Mostly it is filler words or nouns but it is helping me to understand better as well as learn new words I might not learn from the textbooks.

I also started にほんご con Teppei for beginners podcast last week and completed 30 odd episodes. I was surprised at how much of it I could work out from context and also how much I could actually understand of it. I know it’s for beginners but I usually only understand bits and pieces, not full topics. Granted they are only a few minutes long each but it’s still nice to have comprehensible content to listen to. Only issue is, YouTube doesn’t save my progress so I’m not sure exactly where I finished :joy:.

How I'm feeling overall with progress:

I feel like my studying this week hasn’t really been studying in a traditional sense like what I’m used to, but I have found it has taken pressure off me to make it easier for me to study if that makes sense? I’m enjoying it and I am still learning while continuing to use the language regularly.

I’m wondering if maybe part of how I’m feeling has been due to me spending most of this year reviewing content from textbooks I’ve completed and not enough moving on to stuff that I haven’t yet studied.

At the moment, I’ve no intention of going back to studying from the next textbook until next year, as I think I do need to ease off a little for my own mental health until I can get the rest of my life back in a decent place and focus more fully on studying again. I think the advice from on here is spot on for what I need at this time so I don’t burn out and put myself off completely.

This part is only relevant if anyone is interested in why I'm burnt out and feeling more overwhelmed. It it not language learning related and I'm only recording it here for myself to keep track of, so feel free to skip it:

I haven’t been able to speak about this in detail previously. Work is still the highest factor in how I’m feeling. My manager is leaving next week along with several other managers who either have already left or are just about to (it’s openly being discussed now so even if someone from work is on here, I can’t get in trouble for posting this now). The team I’ve spent time with since Covid began is now being broken apart and sent to different teams and until last week, I had no idea who I was being sent to (which is a scary thought when I know some of the managers left are not ones with a high opinion of me and have an extremely poor outlook for anyone with mental health or physical health problems). The manager I’m being sent to is decent and I have worked with them previously but there is still a chance that I may not have a job after the first few months of next year. As a result, my financial situation may not be great and this is also contributing to the stress and pressure I’m under. Hence why I’m more easily overwhelmed and finding it more difficult to focus. There is also a chance that I may autistic and that it has not previously been diagnosed but if I get tested and find out that I am, there is a possibility it will affect my work prospects, new job prospects and also my ability to continue to pay for my house which I don’t want to lose. It is bothering me, not because I might be, as I’ve considered the possibility for the last 10 years or so, but because being diagnosed may restrict my access to certain things and may limit financial options and job options in the future.


Update 08/12/2023:

Honestly, I haven’t done much in the way if studying since my last update. I’ve continued with my weekly lessons though at 1 a week instead of the usual 2 a week. I’ve picked up wanikani again and I’ve tried to keep up to date with that as much as possible, and I’ve tried to write a diary entry daily but I’ve missed the last 5 days from being overwhelmed after a night out that didn’t go as planned.

I’ve spent most of the last week trying to get back on track but missed the mark on multiple occasions. Definitely feeling burnt out now and struggling to get into anything.

Instead of studying properly, I’ve played games listening to Japanese voice overs (not perfect but better than nothing), I’ve done wanikani and read some short sentences in Japanese to try to keep something going.

I’ve decided that whatever I do between now and the end of the year, there’s no pressure for. If I study, that’s ok. If I just keep the conversation lessons and wanikani, that’s ok. If I don’t manage to get anything sorted but start fresh in the new year, that’s ok too.

I’m going to take some time to relax and chill out a bit while trying to get things back on track then start fresh once my head is in a more level place. I’m not giving up, just taking a step back to gather my thoughts and get things back in the right place before I re-work my routine and pick things back up again.


I hope you have a restful rest of December! I’m kinda leaning towards that same direction as you; it’s been a long, long year, and December hasn’t let up at all. I hope you get much gaming done!


Thanks, good luck with yours too.


Update 13/12/2023:

I’m still taking it easy but have been reading a little from Penpal letters and tutors lessons. I’m back at work later today so that will get me back into my routine for reading at least about 40 minutes per day using my breaks at work.

I still have some letters to write so those will help with my writing practice and I’m still taking lessons and working through wanikani; maybe in 2024 I’ll get passed the level I keep getting stuck at.

Goals for the coming year:

  • Continuing with lessons to practice speaking and picking up more natural language skills
  • Re-read book 1 of キノの旅, Zoo book 1 and hopefully later in the year try 本好き again (I re-listened to the full first book across the last 2 days and tried to pick out what I could)
  • Read more books including finishing ふらいんぐういっち series so far, Zoo book 2 and continuing to read through the rest of the キノの旅 series if I can.
  • Pick up みんなの日本語 blue set again and restart it so I can hopefully finish it this time.

Anything that improves on this year and helps me to get closer to my ultimate goal is still an improvement :slightly_smiling_face: I’m happy I’ve continued to learn in some capacity even though this year has been super tough, especially busy and full of highs and lows throughout.


Re-doing things will probably add to a feeling of not progressing and thus might lead to burn-out. I would just start with Zoo 2 without re-reading Zoo 1. In terms of language learning it will be same, I would say. [If you want to re-read it because you really like it, you can do so in, say, two years from now, where it will be far easier than now.]