Japanese Learning Podcasts

Podcasts can be a useful source for learning Japanese. Some of them are great for practicing your listening comprehension or for shadowing. Others try to “teach” you things, through explanations of grammar or vocabulary. I’m really not a fan of this “teaching” type of podcast, as I prefer to learn things like grammar through a textbook or web site where I can see things written down and take it at my own pace. But, I can understand that some people might be interested in that sort of thing.

I think a big problem with Japanese learning podcasts is that it seems to be rather difficult to make material that is interesting enough that you actually enjoy listening to it. There are a lot of podcasts that I feel have some nice content, but I find that I have stopped paying attention a few minutes in. If you aren’t really paying attention to what you are listening to, then it’s not going to be of much help. I realize that this is a totally subjective thing though, so some of the podcasts that would put me to sleep might actually be fairly interesting to someone else.

Here, I’ll introduce you to some of my favorite podcasts, ranked according to how entertaining I personally find them to be!

GoGoエイブ会話

GoGo Eibukaiwa is a casual, mixed English-Japanese conversation podcast. It’s just two dudes chillin’ and talking about stuff. One guy speaks in English and the other guy speaks in Japanese. The main reason that I love this podcast is that it is actually entertaining to listen to. A lot of other podcasts feel so boring, but this one is often funny and interesting. The guy speaking English keeps you from ever feeling lost, so it doesn’t require a lot of mental effort to listen to this one. The only downside I would say, is that its really more of an English-focused podcast than a Japanese-focused one. There are over 200 episodes as of this posting.

JapanesePod101

There is a lot of content here. They have been around for over a decade and are still putting out new lessons on a weekly basis. You can always get the newest lessons through their free podcast feed. If you pay for a premium subscription (or opt for a free trial) you can access the whole back catalogue of lessons, download the dialogues seperately from the lesson audio, get supplemental materials like vocabulary lists and transcripts, and access their “line by line audio” tool. Some of their lessons are pretty great, and some are pretty awful. I have written an article a while back on what lessons I think are most worth your time (I really need to go back and update this some time). They cater heavily to beginners but also have some content for intermediate and advanced learners. I still regularly listen to some of the older dialogues for listening practice.

LearnJapanesePod

I remember trying this a few years ago and not liking it much. I decided to give it another shot recently, and I like it a lot better now! It looks like it improved a lot when they started “Season 2”. They only put out about 1 podcast month, but the content is both useful and interesting, and you can download the dialogues separately for listening practice.

News in Slow Japanese

In theory, this is a great idea for a podcast. Listen to a short news article in both slow and normal-speed Japanese. The website also includes transcripts and vocabulary lists. There are over 300 free articles to listen to! There are additional lessons for premium subscribers. A lot of people seem to like this, so I don’t want to be too hard on it, but I honestly don’t think I could choose more boring articles if I tried! I wouldn’t even bother reading most of these articles if they were in English. I would love this podcast if it just had stories that were half-way interesting.

NHK Easy Japanese

This set of 48 lessons aims to teach basic Japanese. It all comes across very clinical and boring, basically reading out an explanation of every word from a dialogue and then talking about some grammar points. The website does have a lot of good supplemental content and the lessons are available in 17 different languages. They have recently begun a new series called “Easy Japanese: Step-up” which is being broadcast on NHK World television.

Where to find free Japanese Manga

I have recently been looking for websites where I can read manga in Japanese for free (legally), and I have managed to find quite a few! Manga is great for reading practice because the pictures can really help give you additional context about what is happening in the story. If you live in Japan, its pretty easy to find cheap manga all over the place, but for people living elsewhere, it has traditionally been both difficult to get and expensive. So knowing that there are so many online sources now is fantastic!

Some of the manga websites below will let you read titles in their entirity for free, and some will only let you read a few chapters for free, and encourage you to either purchase the rest or subscribe to their service. I have not subscribed to any of these services, so I’m not sure what difficulties you might face if trying to do so outside of Japan. However, there are so many different titles available, there is enough free content to last you for ages!

ComicWalker

Featuring titles from Kadokawa publishing, you can find some famous classics here, such as Evangelion and Lucky Star, as well as the often-recommended manga for Japanese beginners, Yotsubato! There are typically several free chapters available for each manga, including the first few chapters and the latest few chapters.

Shonen Jump+

I think almost everyone knows of Shonen Jump, due to their mega hits like Dragon Ball and One Piece. It looks like they make certain titles available for free in their entirity on certain days of the week.

pixiv comic

Pixiv features a lot of works from amateur artists, but it looks like they also carry titles that were published in popular magazines as well. Many of the titles here only feature a few chapters for free, but I have seen some titles that have every chapter available!

S-MANGA

S-Manga is run by Shueisha publishing, which is the parent company of Shonen Jump, so you can find many Jump titles here in addition to others. For each volume or book of a series, you can typically read the first chapter online for free.

MangaZ

Formerly known as J-comi, according to Wikipedia, this site was created to make out-of-print manga available online. You can read titles in their entirity for free. It includes some classics like Love Hina, but it looks like a lot of the most popular items on here are erotic titles.

eBookJapan

They want you to buy the full books, but select titles will let you read several entire volumes for free! If you just want to buy books in electronic form, it seems that you can find almost any popular title on here.

Sai-Zen-Sen

I think the most interesting parts of this site are the Twitter 4-koma and the 4Pages sections.  These are particularly nice for beginners because they are so short, so its much easier to read a bit whenever you get some free time. The Twitter 4-koma section has several manga where each chapter consists of just 4 panels. There are links to allow you to go back and read each one from the very beginning. The 4pages section is similar, but each chapter is 4 pages long, and they all seem to be in full color, which is nice.

Are there any other good sites that I missed? Let me know!

Free Japanese Readers

I recently came across an archive of free readers that I’ve never seen before, created by the Japan Foundation. They are quite basic and each one is very short, so they are good for beginners of Japanese. These aren’t as good as some of the ones that you can buy, but you can’t beat free. There are about 25 of them and they are licensed under creative commons.

KCよむよむ

Japanese Doll Stories

Recently while browsing around for YouTube channels aimed at Japanese kids, I discovered an entire genre of videos that I didn’t even know existed. There are numerous channels where people are creating original stories and scenarios using dolls and other toys. As these are typically aimed at children, the stories are fairly basic, and the language is usually quite easy and straightforward. The animation and visuals also help a lot with understanding what is going on.

Here are a few of the channels that I have come across. There are plenty of other channels like these out there, but these seem to be among the best, from what I’ve seen.

ここなっちゃん

The videos on this channel are fast paced, wacky and quite well-made. There are hundreds of videos here. The only potential downside is that the fast pace may make them a bit more difficult to follow the dialogue. I think this is a good channel to leave playing in the background, because it has constant talking with no pauses.

アニメハウス♡animehouse

Animehouse has over 1000 videos available, but most of them aren’t terribly interesting, in my opinion. They do use a wide variety of characters though.

ここあちゃんねる

Cocoa channel features short stories that are about 8 minutes in length, usually followed by a drawing tutorial that is about the same length. I do wish the voice acting could be a bit better, as it sounds like the actress is afraid to actually raise her voice. Hundreds of videos here.

あふろおねえさん

Afro-Oneesan also serves up some wacky and fast-paced videos. There are a couple hundred videos here at the moment.

 

 

Japanese Is Easy grammar series by CureDolly

I thought I would take a moment to recommend a series of Japanese grammar videos that I have been enjoying for quite some time now. I find them to be extremely valuable, but it seems like the kind of thing that a lot of people might easily skip over if they come across it, so I thought it was worth highlighting. Some of the concepts might be a bit controversial because they go against the grain of what people are normally taught, but if you give it a chance, I think you would find that it makes Japanese grammar much simpler and more logical overall.

The videos are hosted by a somewhat scary looking CG character by the name of Cure Dolly from the website KawaJapa. The basic idea behind these videos is that textbooks and classrooms generally teach Japanese all wrong, introducing a lot of misconceptions and causing things to be needlessly confusing.

For example, one of the core ideas put forth is that the が particle exists in every sentence, although it is frequently just implied rather than actually existing in the sentence. The が particle also just performs one function – it marks the subject of the sentence. This in itself has huge implications for other aspects of Japanese grammar–and in every case, makes things easier and more logical. If you try to study about the が and は particles anywhere else, you will find this huge laundry list of situations and exceptions where you might use one or the other. Situations like if you are trying to show contrast betwen things, trying to emphasize something, if you are introducing new information, if you are using question words… they just go on and on! But it turns out that learning all these weird rules is completely unnecessary when you simply understand what the core function of the particle is. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll also learn about how Japanese doesn’t actually have conjugations, everything that you thought about “passive” form has been a lie, what です actually means, and much more.

I first became interested in Cure Dolly’s thoughts on Japanese grammar when I picked up her book “Unlocking Japanese“, which laid out a lot of the same things that are covered in the video series. However, the videos go deeper, cover more topics, and present things in a better way. I recommend watching all of the videos in order, since they build on each other, and just jumping into later lessons will likely be confusing.

I could keep trying to sell you on it, but, just watch it. It’s free and worth your time. That’s really all that needs to be said.