Japanese site review for free online novels: 「小説家になろう」

By | June 30, 2016

Being very much into books since I was young, especially fiction novels, one of my long-term goals in studying Japanese has been to read as many Japanese novels as possible, gradually increasing my speed and reading comprehension of Japanese works to that of English. Over many years, I’ve made much progress on this, to the point where I’m somewhat satisfied with my comprehension ability of various styles of works, assuming I have a dictionary at hand (physical or digital) to look up unfamiliar words I come across. However, I still have a long way to go in terms of speed, and I’d wager that I may never reach my reading speed in English, at least for certain types of content.

I’ve written previously on some ways people outside of Japan can get access to Japanese books, such as the Booklive.jp as well as some physical bookstores in the U.S.

In this post I’d like to introduce another site I have started frequenting, “小説家になろう” (shousetsuka ni narou), which literally means something like “Let’s become novelists!”.

The site is a general repository for budding Japanese authors to submit their works, and anyone can read them free of charge. There is a good variety of genres, including 純文学 (serious literary works), 歴史 (historical), 推理 (detective), ホラー (horror), アクション (action), 宇宙 (science fiction), エッセイ (essays), and of course the popular 異世界 which is works set in some other world, often with a connection to our own (and probably with a love story thrown in to make things interesting). Everything from short works with only a few pages to long, epic novels are available.

They have a simple, but effective system of rating works and providing comments and reviews, and you can view recent rankings of the top works across genres, and also over longer spans of time. Because anyone can submit a story, you can expect a wide range of quality, from struggling amateurs to semi-pro and beyond, and there is even a section on the site about authors who have gotten their works published, and links to buy them. But generally speaking, if you stick with stories high the rankings you’re likely to get some well-written material.

I think this site is a great resource for anyone learning Japanese who has gotten a few hundred Kanji under their belt, and a good grasp of grammar fundamentals. It’s free and easy to browse, so you can just read a few paragraphs of a bunch of works and see what matches your interest and linguistic ability. There are other features like bookmarks and a list of favorite users which make using the site easy.

I’ve been thinking that I may be able to use this site to find authors whose works I enjoy, and send then a message to request permission to translate one or more of their works to English. I’m still searching for candidate works, though, ideally something shorter in the literature of SF categories. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

“小説家になろう” already has nearly a million users (my user # is around 850,000) and I’m sure it will keep growing day by day. Hope to see you there! You can check out the site here.

The first work I read on their to completion was a short essay that was pretty creative, you can check it out here.

Update: A more modern site that also has free Japanese novels is (カクヨム) Kakuyomu, for which you can see my review here.

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