(And without the hassle of moving to Japan, enduring expensive classes, or slogging through boring textbooks.)


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Immersion is the key to fluency

If you’re learning Japanese on your own and you’re looking to reach fluency and speak confidently with real native speakers, then you probably already know that immersion (being surrounded by the language all the time) is the best way to do that.

But here’s what you might not know.

You don’t need a plane ticket, new zip code, or classroom to immerse yourself in Japanese.

With the right methods, materials, and attitude, you can reach a high level of fluency anywhere in the world.

Master Japanese shows you how to create an immersion environment almost as good as being in Tokyo, even if you’re in Tacoma or Topeka.

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You are not alone!

Most Japanese learners spend years “studying” the language but never reach fluency.

Why? Here are the six most common causes. Sound familiar?


Not having a strong enough “why”

The path to fluency isn’t necessarily complicated, but it DOES take consistent practice, day after day. You need to get crystal-clear clarity on your reason for learning Japanese, the “WHY” that keeps you going on the days where you feel bored or unmotivated.

Not spending enough time

To reach fluency, you need thousands of hours of input (listening and reading) and output (speaking and writing). That might sound impossible in your busy schedule, but there are many ways to squeeze in time each day through “habit stacking” and “hidden moments.”

Putting off speaking too long

Most people don’t practice speaking enough due to fear of making mistakes. They busy themselves instead with memorizing vocabulary, tapping away in language apps, or watching YouTube videos. These activities can help, but they won’t teach you to actually speak Japanese.

Not practicing skills directly

A lot of learners get stuck studying ABOUT the language rather than actually practicing IN the language itself. Many language apps and classes focus on indirect skills that don’t build fluency and won’t help you in actual human-to-human communication.

Using boring materials

Fun gets done, so you need to select methods that YOU will enjoy. It’s natural for language learners to sometimes feel bored and not want to keep going. This is why it’s extra important to use materials that are fun to use and fit your unique interests and goals.

Getting stuck in “analysis paralysis”

On the other hand, many language learners feel overwhelmed when considering all the materials they could use, and as a consequence, they never actually get started. Finding just a handful of tools you love to use, and sticking with those consistently, is the antidote. Less but better.

Anywhere Immersion is the key to getting unstuck and finally reaching fluency

If you can avoid the above mistakes and put in the required time and effort, you will reach fluency in Japanese.

The key to all of this is creating a fun, immersive environment right at home.

It is this environment—and all the exposure and opportunities for practice it provides—that will actually get you to fluency.

Not textbooks.

Not classes.

Not teachers.

Not apps.

Your environment holds the key.

And you have more power today than anytime in human history to control and build your learning environment. By leveraging the power of modern technology and media, you can create an amazingly effective immersion environment wherever you are:

  • At home
  • At work
  • At the gym
  • In the car
  • In your pocket

Master Japanese shows you exactly how.

How my “Anywhere Immersion” method will get you fluent in Japanese without classes or moving to Japan

You used to have 2 choices if you wanted to get fluent in Japanese:

Option 1: Take expensive Japanese classes

Option 2: Move to Japan

Today, anyone with an internet connection and a little creativity can learn Japanese anywhere in the world. While Japanese classes and living abroad can be great, they no longer have to be a barrier to entry for Japanese learners.

Master Japanese shows you how to create what I call an “Anywhere Immersion” environment that brings Japan to you right where you are.

Not only can you learn from the comfort of home, but this approach has many advantages over traditional classroom and textbook-based learning:

It's More Fun

The Anywhere Immersion approach allows you to choose fun, engaging materials and activities that you love.

It's Less Expensive

Language classes and textbooks are boring and expensive. Choose fun―and often free!―modern resources instead.

It's More Convenient

Anywhere Immersion allows you to learn anytime, anywhere. You don’t need to travel to a class or move abroad.

It's More Efficient

Your custom immersion environment allows you to learn more quickly and make better use of your time (e.g. by leveraging tiny “hidden moments” throughout the day).

It's More Natural

Humans have learned languages through immersion for hundreds of thousands of years. It’s how our brains are wired.

It's Personalized

Anywhere Immersion allows you to tailor the learning process to your unique interests, needs, and learning style.

Here’s How I can Help You Get Fluent

Hi, I’m John Fotheringham, a linguist, teacher, and the author of Master Japanese.

Like most Japanese learners, I really struggled to learn Japanese through formal classes. But once I realized that I could learn faster and have more fun by creating my own immersion environment, my progress took off.

I now teach others how to learn through the same immersion-based approach, no matter where in the world you are.

I’ve been learning and teaching languages for over two decades, including studying Linguistics at Western Washington University, teaching adults in the U.S., Japan, and Taiwan, presenting at multinational companies, working as a translator and interpreter for the Japanese government, and now blogging, podcasting, and publishing books on independent language learning.

I have dedicated my life to empowering language learners, making language acquisition more fun and effective, and helping others avoid some of the mistakes I made along the way.


Master Japanese

How to Learn Japanese Anywhere in the World

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A Navigation System for Independent Language Learners

Master Japanese is NOT a grammar textbook or a formal Japanese course.

It’s a navigation system for independent learners that shows you:

  • How to learn Japanese through Anywhere Immersion.
  • What methods and resources to use.
  • What mistakes and pitfalls to avoid.


  • You will select the right learning strategy that fits YOUR schedule, interests, and learning style.
  • You will pick fun materials you genuinely enjoy, which will keep you showing up every day for more.
  • You will learn how to create a personalized immersion environment in your own home that accelerates your fluency.

And this immersion environment will be your teacher. It will be your textbook.

The end result?

Being able to speak Japanese for the rest of your life and the opportunity to deeply engage with this fascinating culture.

The Only Book of its Kind

Master Japanese is the only book of its kind that:

  • Helps you conquer your fear and focus on the specific habits that will actually move you towards fluency.
  • Helps you uncover your WHY so that you’ll stick with it in the long run.
  • Teaches you how to learn and use the hidden moments in a day to get enough input.
  • Helps you practice skills directly by giving you resources for speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
  • Focuses on the specific tools you need, fun and tailored to your personality, all in one place.

So if you’re finally ready to get fluent in Japanese without expensive classes, boring textbooks, or internet overwhelm, Master Japanese is the navigation system you need.

Master Japanese is the most helpful book I’ve found in my two+ year effort to learn Japanese.

The author provides learners with helpful strategies to approach the learning process, which can be overwhelming unless you can figure out how to make sustainable progress continuously.”

Carolyn Strong

Retired technical writer

What’s in the Guide?

Master Japanese shows you how to acquire languages in a fun, adult-friendly way, with ① detailed tips on creating a personalized immersion environment, ② strategies for working with—not against—how the brain works, ③ tips for how to get—and stay!—motivated throughout your learning journey, and ④ hundreds of John-tested, John-approved resource recommendations to help you reach your fluency goals while having heaps of fun along the way.


In the first part of Master Japanese, you will:

  • Learn how to use the book and get the most out of your investment.
  • Get answers to frequently asked questions.
  • Learn the prerequisites for success in language learning.
  • Learn the core principles that make Anywhere Immersion work.


Next, I will lay out your map to fluency and what joys and challenges lie ahead in your language learning adventure. You will learn:

  • Why you are a hero on a “hero’s journey.”
  • The peaks, valleys, and plateaus you can expect.
  • How to progress from sounds to sentences.
  • The four stages of learning competence.
  • How to go from “zero” to “hero.”
  • Where you should focus your time and effort if you are a beginner, intermediate learner, or advanced learner.
  • How to master each of the four core language learning skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.


Mastering a language starts with optimizing your time and timing. In this chapter, you will learn how to make more progress in less time by:

  • Creating effective goals and daily systems.
  • Creating an ideal learning schedule that fits your unique needs, lifestyle, and chronotype (your natural biorhythm and time preferences).
  • Developing powerful habits instead of relying on willpower.
  • Leveraging the power of social and financial stakes.
  • Tracking your progress and measuring what matters.


Learning a language is more about attitude than aptitude. In this important mindset chapter, you will delve into the inner battle of language acquisition by learning:

  • How to see through the most common myths.
  • How to face (and conquer!) your fears.
  • How to increase and sustain motivation.
  • How to develop diamond-tough discipline.


As memory master Tony Buzan said: “Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” This chapter will arm you with the metalearning (learning how to learn) skills and strategies you need to master Japanese (or any complex skill). I cover:

  • How to maximize your exposure to Japanese wherever you are.
  • How to learn through fun activities and resources you choose.
  • How to maximize your myelin (the neural insulation that drives skill acquisition) through deep, deliberate practice.
  • How to optimize memory through mnemonics (“memory tricks”), spaced repetition, and effective note-taking.
  • How to optimize brain function and health through nutrition, sleep, and movement.


In the final chapter, you will select your “weapons,” the tools and resources you will use to build your Anywhere Immersion environment and learn Japanese the fun, effective, natural way detailed in the book. You will also learn where to find the best Japanese resources, including:

  • Apps and reference tools
  • Podcasts, music, and audio programs
  • TV shows, movies, and video games
  • Comics, books, eBooks, and audiobooks
  • Newspapers and magazines
What I love about John’s guide is how detailed it is.

John has the patience—that I don’t!—to really take you by the hand and walk you through the resources you will need.

If I were clueless and confused as to how and where to approach a self-directed Japanese learning project, I’d definitely want something like this that laid all the tools out in one place.

Experienced geeks like me tend to lose sight of how bewildering a new language and electronic resources can be.

John has not lost that sympathy for the beginner.


All Japanese All the Time

What You Get

PDF Book

You get the beautiful, print-ready PDF version of Master Japanese, which can be read on nearly any device or operating system.


You get the book in MOBI format which you can read on your Kindle or in any of the free Kindle apps on iOS, Android, macOS, etc.

iBooks / EPUB Version

You get the book in EPUB format which you can read in the iBooks app on iOS, macOS, and any of the numerous EPUB readers available.

How Japanese Works

A detailed bonus guide that explains the words and patterns that make Japanese tick.

Conquer Kana

How to write and pronounce every single Japanese kana syllable (hiragana + katakana).

Conquer Kanji

How to learn the writing, meaning & pronunciation of Chinese characters the adult-friendly way.

Expert Interviews

Get inspired with over 3 hours of interviews with linguists, polyglots, and language experts.

Worksheets & Cheat Sheets

The 12 print-ready PDF worksheets and cheat sheets help you apply what you learn and optimize your language learning time.

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I now work in the sales department of a Japanese company. The only reason why I got the job was because they were very impressed by my Japanese level for someone who recently started learning the language. It’s all thanks to your guide. Thank you for your great work and kindness.

Sales Associate, Oakland, CA

Bonus #1: How Japanese Works

My How Japanese Works guide details the words and patterns that make Japanese tick.

You will learn:

  • The origins of Japanese, which language family it belongs to, and the fundamental characteristics that make Japanese Japanese.
  • How adjectives, adverbs, particles, pronouns, proper nouns, verbs, and vocabulary work in Japanese.
  • How formality, respect, and humility are expressed in Japanese with special honorific words and conjugation.
  • How numbers work in Japanese, how to count zero to 900 trillion (!!!), how counter words are used, how to tell the date and the time, and more.
  • How Japanese writing works, including details on kanji, kana, and roumaji, as well as text direction, word boundaries, character spacing, and punctuation.

Bonus #2: Conquer Kana

My Conquer Kana guide shows you exactly how to master Japanese kana (including both hiragana and katakana), complete with stroke order diagrams and links to pronunciation recordings and animated GIFs online.

You will learn:

  • How to pronounce every single kana symbol
  • How to write every single kana symbol
  • How to keep look-alike kana straight
  • Which tools and resources to use for effective self-guided kana study

Bonus #3: Conquer Kanji

My Conquer Kanji guide shows you how to learn the meaning, writing, and pronunciation of the most common Chinese characters used in Japanese, using a fun, effective, adult-friendly approach that leverages stories and mnemonics instead of tedious repetition and ineffective rote memory.

You will learn:

  • The many good reasons you should bother learning Chinese characters
  • Why roumaji (Japanese written in the English alphabet) is helpful, but not sufficient
  • Why you should master the constituent “Lego” pieces used in characters first
  • The power of phonetic (“sound”) and semantic (“meaning”) patterns present in most kanji
  • Why “imaginative memory” and story-based mnemonics are much more effective and robust than “visual memory”
Master Japanese is well written to say the least and quite humorous. I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve always been afraid of learning a foreign language; maybe it’s because of fear of feeling stupid.

Crystal Anderson

Grad Student, Socorro, New Mexico

Bonus #4: 8 Expert Interviews

Get inspired with over 3 hours of interviews with linguists, polyglots, and language experts.


Dr. James Heisig

Despite a research focus in the philosophy of religion, James Heisig is primarily known by Japanese learners for his groundbreaking books—Remembering the Kanji, Remembering the Kana, and Remembering the Hanzi—which show adults how to master characters more efficiently using “imaginative memory” instead of tedious rote learning.

Dr. Jay Rubin

Jay Rubin is the author of the must-read book Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You. He holds a Ph.D. in Japanese from the University of Chicago, and has taught at both the University of Washington and Harvard. His humorous dissection of Japanese greatly helped save my sanity when I was first battling with the more difficult aspects of Japanese grammar.

AJATT's Khatzumoto

Khatzumoto is the creator of the popular language blog and community All Japanese All the Time (AJATT). Proving that self-guided immersion works, Khatzumoto reached an impressive level of fluency in a very short time by watching anime, reading manga, and having an all around kick-ass time.

Benny Lewis

Benny (a.k.a. “The Irish Polyglot”) is the creator of Fluent in 3 Months, the most popular language learning blog in the world, and is the author of Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World and the Language Hacking series published by Teach Yourself.

Steve Kaufmann

Steve is the creator of LingQ.com and the author of The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey. As a speaker of 20+ (!!!) languages, including Japanese and Chinese, Steve has a lot of wisdom share. What I find most impressive about Steve is that he’s learned most of his languages in his 60s and 70s, crushing the common myth that one can be “too old to learn a language.”

Dr. Victor Ferreira

Dr. Ferreira is a professor and researcher at the University of California, San Diego. He runs the Language Production Lab, which looks at “how language users form sentences and produce words, and how that behavior leads to successful communication.” I find his work on “procedural memory” (which controls our ability to create grammatical sentences) to be particularly fascinating.

Simon Ager

Originally hailing from Lancashire, England, Simon Ager is the creator of Omniglot.com, “the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages.”

Randy Hunt

Randy (a.k.a. “The Yearlyglot”) is on a mission to learn a new language every year, an admirable adventure he blogs about over at Fluent Every Year.
If you decide to embark on the journey of mastering the Japanese language (or any other language for that matter), the most crucial trait you can develop to actually achieve this goal is to become an independent learner. No language course, no software, no textbook and no class will ever show you how to do this.

Master Japanese is one of the very few language resources that shows you HOW to learn Japanese instead of trying to teach it to you.

The guide is packed with tips, concrete steps, advice, suggestions, links and other resources that, if you actually follow and use them, will make your Japanese learning not only much more effective and efficient, but also actually FUN and enjoyable.

And the Master Japanese Interviews with all those “language powerhouses” are, to say the least, enlightening.

I LOVE Master Japanese and I love John’s work. Having experienced first hand how ineffective language classes and traditional language “learning” methods are, I’m certain that Master Japanese can be a great aid in your journey if you give it a try!

Santiago Madrigal

Translator, Bogotá, Colombia

Bonus #5: 12 Print-Ready Cheat Sheets & Worksheets

You get 12 print-ready PDF worksheets and cheat sheets to help you apply what you’re learning and optimize your language learning time.


Goals & Systems

This worksheet helps you to create specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound goals and then translate them into effective daily systems.

Study Plan

Use this sample weekly schedule to get ideas about how to integrate Anywhere Immersion activities into your life, and then create your own personalized study plan using the blank version.

Deconstruction Dozen

This cheat sheet includes the Japanese translations of Tim Ferriss’ famous 12 core sentences that reveal the essential patterns frequently used in Japanese. Think of it as the “80-20 Rule” applied to grammar.


Use this worksheet to create and memorize your self-introduction in Japanese. It’s a great way to learn the language, meet new people, and help put native speakers at ease.

Most Common 500 Words

This cheat sheet includes the most common 500 words in Japanese, empowering you to understand over 70% of the language you will see and hear day to day!


The conjugation cheat sheet allows you to quickly check how to conjugate common verbs and adjectives, including verbs tenses, commands, passive constructions, and more.

Hiragana & Katakana

This cheat sheet includes all the sounds of Japanese in one handy resourceincluding hiragana, katakana, and roumaji.

Jouyou Kanji List

A comprehensive list of all “common use” kanji approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education, including both modern and archaic forms of characters and the grade in which each character is taught in Japanese schools.

RTK List

This cheat sheet includes a comprehensive list of all 2,200 kanji included in Remembering the Kanji, including kanji, frame numbers, and keywords.


Japanese has a number of pronouns (some of which can be potentially offensive) and demonstratives (used to indicate location, direction, type, manner, etc.). Use this handy cheat sheet to help keep them straight.


Japanese expresses formality, respect, and humility using a complex system called keigo. Use this cheat sheet to see which words are used when.


Japanese has heaps and heaps of “sound symbolic words” (words that imitate sounds found in nature, made by the body, etc.). Use this cheat sheet to master the essentials.
Master Japanese stresses that the most important step in mastering a new language is immersion.

Rather than splashing the language on, it’s better to soak in it for best retention; preferably with a slice of cucumber over your eyes.

The goal is to surround yourself with language so that you can’t help but pick it up quickly, and most importantly, cheaply.

Language learning doesn’t require expensive language systems sold in kiosks.

Nate Zimmer

Microsoft, Bellevue, WA



Will this work for me if I’m not good at learning languages?

Lots of people think they “aren’t good at languages,” but the truth is that they’re just using the wrong methods. Instead of studying ABOUT the language by reading a textbook on grammar or taking a class at your local college, when you create an immersion environment for yourself, your brain does the heavy lifting and picks it up over time FOR you. (Exactly like how you learned your first language!)

Don’t I need to move to Japan if I’m going to learn through immersion?

While moving to Japan would of course be ideal, with the internet, it’s possible to create an immersive environment right where you are right now, and surround yourself with the sights and sounds of Japanese everywhere you go! I teach you exactly how to do this in Master Japanese. You can listen to Japanese podcasts, talk with native speakers in another country, watch YouTube videos, listen to music in Japanese while you’re tidying up around the house, and even change your phone and computer’s display to Japanese! (And don’t worry, I’ll teach ya how to turn it back, too―just in case. 😉)

I’ve heard Japanese is one of the hardest languages in the world and takes decades to learn. Are you sure this is going to work for me?

Lots of people like to say that Japanese is the hardest language, but really, it’s just very different from English. And it will become more and more familiar as you expose yourself to the language! Sure, it has totally new characters you have to learn (which can be intimidating for new learners), but it is totally doable with the right approach. People with less smarts and fewer resources than you have taught themselves Japanese, and you can, too! With enough time and consistency, you’ll be able to begin having basic but flowing conversations in a matter of months, not years.

I know I’m supposed to practice speaking with native speakers, but it’s so scary. It’s the one part of learning I neglect most. How can I speak more confidently?

You’re right; it totally is scary. And this is where most people get hung up and quit. So many people struggle with being afraid of speaking, and let it keep them from fluency, that I’ve dedicated a whole section of this book to overcoming fear and unhelpful thought patterns that hold us back. These are proven methods that have helped other people learn to speak freely and with confidence, and they will help you, too!

I feel overwhelmed with all the resources out there. I have so many already. Why should I buy this, one too?

In today’s world, most of us are already swimming in books, apps, and audio programs. Instead of thinking of Master Japanese as an addition to your resource pile, think of this as a tool to help you use your resources better. With Master Japanese, you’ll be able to pare down to only the essentials―those that will actually help you improve your speaking, listening, reading, and writing and learn in a way that fits your unique personality and lifestyle.

How will I get access to the book, worksheets, and interviews once I buy them?

When you buy Master Japanese, you’ll be able to instantly download all the materials right to your computer or smartphone. You will also get an email with a link you can click to download the materials in case you click away or want to refer to it later. Since all the materials are digital, you could go from checkout to reading Master Japanese literally in the next minute. No need to wait for the mail carrier to deliver you a package. (Hooray!)

I have another question that’s not on this list!

I’ll gladly answer it for you!

Shoot me an email through the contact form on my website and I will get back to you ASAP.



You’re just getting started with Japanese...

…and you want to make sure you are using the right methods that will launch you to fluency and make the best use of your limited time by using the materials, not searching for them.

You already know you need to create an immersion environment from home...

…and you’re looking to build and refine your list of resources to help you speak, listen, read, and write in Japanese.

You’re already spending five or more hours a week actively learning Japanese...

…by practicing learning characters, listening to music in Japanese, watching videos, using language-learning apps, or speaking with a tutor.

You’re aware of all the doors speaking Japanese fluently will open for you...

…whether commanding higher pay at your job or opening new career paths, having more fun when you travel, making your upcoming move to Japan so much easier, connecting more deeply with a loved one or their family, sharpening your brain, and making new friends you wouldn’t have otherwise.

You’ve been learning Japanese on your own for months (or years)...

…but you aren’t yet fluent or haven’t made as much progress as you’d like.

You’re willing to put in the multiple hours it takes each week to reach fluency...

…as long as you know that your time is going towards the activities that are going to give you the MOST payoff for your effort.

You care about using your time wisely and having fun while you do it.

You want to use the best and most up-to-date tools that are efficient, effective, and fun to use, rather than spending time searching for those tools. (And, you want to avoid wasting your time with outdated, boring, ineffective methods that just involve rote memorization of characters over and over!)

You’re excited to try the Anywhere Immersion method.

Even if you’ve used methods that didn’t work in the past, like a one-hour-a-week class or reading ABOUT the language with a textbook, you’re excited knowing that tomorrow, you could start supercharging your fluency by working with your brain, not against it!
Master Japanese is well written, and made me laugh quite a bit. It was informative and is full of useful tips, many of those can be applied not only when you are learning Japanese, but also when learning any given language.

One of the things I liked the most were the immersion tools developed along its pages and the best way to use them. It gives you an insight on Japanese, not on its grammar but on how you have to learn it, and does so being very specific.

Finally, the most important thing here is that is harder to get bored applying this method (Of course you will need to be motivated!). I have advanced quite a lot since then too!

Elohim Falcón

Student, Miranda, Venezuela

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