Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary

Kodansha-Furigana-Front-CoverWhen you decide to start studying a foreign language the first thing you need is a beginners textbook. Not long after that you will surely need a dictionary to help you acquire new vocabulary at a faster rate whether it is from your native language to the new language or vice versa.

Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary” is the best dictionary that I have found for English speaking students of Japanese. It is the first dictionary that I bought when I first arrived in Japan and it has been next to me on the desk everytime I study!

Why do I consider it to be the best?

1) Examples, examples, examples!

This dictionary is loaded with example sentences and snippets of how to use a lot of the vocabulary words! This is the most invaluable for students of the language. In the beginning you will find some of the examples difficult to understand perfectly due to the fact that you may not understand the grammar used in that particular sentence but they were nice enough to provide English translations of all the examples sentences. Also in some cases they point out that the difference between literal translations and actual meanings.

2) Clarity.

Sometimes in English a word can take on multiple meanings (esp. phrasal verbs) and this dictionary lists the most common meanings. Eg. “turn down” means: fold over 折り畳む, lower 下げる and refuse 断る. Other special cases are usually given examples, such as: “turn down the TV” テレビの音を小さくする.

3) It’s paper.

No, really! Stick with me. I think that online dictionaries have their place. Electric dictionaries are lightweight, small, convenient and portable but there are big advantages to paper dictionaries. First, they force you to remember the Japanese alphabet. This may seem pretty trivial but a few months after learning kana many students forget the proper order. Second, it is easier to scan a page and find what you want. You can also find other interesting words when scanning through a page. Finally, I think paper dictionaries are nice because you can open them to any page at random and learn some new words.

4) It is relatively cheap.

When you compare the price for this dictionary to that of an electronic dictionary you will see what I mean. Also, since most electronic dictionaries are designed for Japanese speakers they can be frustrating to use until your knowledge of Japanese improves.

5) Extras / Other

Furigana is the use of hiragana to write out the reading of kanji. What a lot of other dictionaries do is use Romaji, or romanization or Japanese sounds, which slows down your progress. All kanji in this dictionary are written with furigana so that you can read the sentences. This dictionary also includes conjugation information as well as a list of numbers and counters. The appendices also include a list of Japanese prefectures, some selected Japanese cities and foreign countries with the names written in katakana.


There are just a few negatives. First, this dictionary is filled with the basic vocabulary for learning Japanese therefore more advanced words and slang are not included. Next, it is about 1200 pages so it is not so portable. Finally, I found the font to be too small. Some more advanced kanji are very small and can be difficult to write. I have sometimes needed to type the word into the computer to see all the strokes, or consult a kanji dictionary.

Kodansha-Furigana-Back-CoverIn conclusion, “Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary” is a fantastic resource for studying Japanese. If you are new to Japanese or you have been studying for a few years, head to your local bookstore and check it out. You will probably find it to be a great resource in your Japanese studies.

About steve

I have lived in Japan since 2004. I love Japan and studying Japanese.