The notion that texts in Japanese can be described in terms of text type or genre is not a new or novel approach. However, such descriptions are not common. This paper presents a description of three genres in Japanese: the factual news commentary, the hard news story and the soft news story. The descriptions have been informed by systemic functional linguistics, in particular by work on the system of THEME (Halliday 1994, Martin 1993, Matthiessen 1995), thematic patterns of progression (Danes 1974, Fries 1983, Ghadessy 1995) and generic structure potential (GSP) (Hasan 1996). The GSP representation of the genres enables a direct comparison with similar genres in English. Having knowledge of the differences between the realisations of genres in English and Japanese empowers teachers of Japanese as a foreign/second language to develop sensibly graded and sequenced reading and writing curricula based on appropriate linguistic research into the characteristics of authentic, contemporary Japanese language usage.