Anki Decks

Some time ago, The Japan Foundation created a website to help Japanese students learn the type of Japanese that is often heard in anime and manga. While it’s got some decent content, I’ve rarely ever heard anyone mention the site. That’s probably because they stuck all of the content into a crappy flash application. You can’t view it on mobile, you can’t copy and paste text, you can’t resize it, you can’t do ANYTHING useful.

So, I dumped some of their content into Anki decks so that it would be possible to actually learn something from it. I have made a deck containing phrases, and a deck with grammar points. This is only a portion of the total content from the site, but I felt that these parts would probably be the most useful and work the best in a flashcard format.

The grammar deck in particular is a bit dense with all of the information available, but I thought it best to put too much info rather than too little. You can of course customize which fields appear on your cards, since Anki gives you complete flexibility to display the cards as you like.

One cool aspect about the site was that it has 8 different Japanese character archetypes who all speak differently. I have kept this aspect in the flashcards by indicating which character the card is for. There is also full audio, so you can hear the personal spin that each character puts on the phrases.

After studying the cards, there is still some cool stuff to go back on the website to do. For instance, they have several manga stories that you can read, which utilize all of the phrases and grammar.

Content difficulty is probably Upper Beginner – Intermediate. You should probably have at least a good command of JLPT N5 grammar before tackling these.

Grammar Deck

Phrase Deck (updated 5/3/17 to fix image links)

Extracting Subtitles from Netflix

Updated 1/22/2018

Having subtitle scripts from TV shows that you are watching is an excellent study aid. Not to mention that they can be used with Subs2SRS to easily import sentences into Anki! These days, many people tend to watch Netflix more than a lot of the traditional media. I’ve also seen numerous people talking about how the Netflix Original “Terrace House” is great for Japanese listening practice, because it is unscripted and captures natural dialog.

When I originally wrote this post, it was because I had discovered a way of ripping Japanese subtitles from Netflix, which to my knowledge, no one else had figured out how to do at the time. My method was long and clunky though. Eventually, a user named ahlawy posted in the comments section with details for a new method which was far superiod to the one I had come up with. And shortly after that, TITHEN-FIRION posted a tool that he had created which can largely automate the process altogether. So now, it is really quite simple to rip subtitles from Netflix, to the point that just about anyone can do it.

Download Subtitles I’ve Already Ripped

All of the Japanese subtitles that I have ripped have been OCR’ed using the Google Cloud Vision API. This is likely the most accurate Japanese OCR technology available at the moment, but the text still does contain a few mistakes here and there. So please keep this in mind if you are using these subtitles to study. If something looks wrong, it probably is. Go watch it on Netflix to see what the correct subtitle would look like.

Download Netflix Subtitle Pack [updated 12/23/2017]. (left click, then click the download button in the top right)

This package contains subtitles for 26 different series and movies. Just click the link to see which shows are contained.

If Netflix has another show that you would like Japanese subtitles for, or if you want subtitles in another language, then you will have to rip it for yourself using the guide below.

How to rip Japanese Subtitles from Netflix

Getting the subtitles from Netflix is quite simple now, due to a tool that does all the hard work for us! 

First, you will need to download an addon for your web browser which allows you to run userscripts. One such addon is called ViolentMonkey, and it works with either Firefox or Chrome (as well as some other browsers). There are several other similar addons as well, such as TamperMonkey and GreaseMonkey. These all mostly do the same thing, so just pick one. A simple Google search for any of those titles should easily lead you to a page that lets you install it in your web browser.

Next, you want to install the Netflix Subtitle Downloader. After installing it, you will notice some new options appear inside the subtitle selection menu on the Netflix website. Simply select the subtitle language that you want, and then click on one of the download buttons. It’s that simple! You might need to give it a moment after clicking the button while it begins downloading.

Note: On my system, I have run into some issues where the subtitle downloader will sometimes try to download the subtitle for the previous video that I was looking at. If you run into this issue, this can be resolved by hitting the “refresh” button in your browser after loading a video.

For many languages, especially ones with simple character sets like English and Spanish, the subtitles are downloaded as SRT files. However, for languages with more complex character sets like Japanese, Chinese, or Korean, the subtitles are stored as images. So in order to convert these into a text format, you need to perform OCR (optical character recognition).

Create an API Key for Google Cloud Vision API

There are several OCR tools out there that can handle Japanese text. Most of them suck and result in a lot of errors. Google’s OCR is by far the most accurate I have seen, and works quite well. Unfortunately, it’s only sort of free. According to their current pricing structure, you can OCR up to 1,000 images per month for free. Since a typical episode is a few hundred images, this is enough for a few episodes each month. However, Google also offers a great trial offer (at least at the time I write this). You can get $300 of free credit when you sign up, and you have no obligation pay anything or continue using the service. I opted for this option, and was able to OCR all of the episodes that you find in the download above for free.

If you sign up for the Google Cloud Platform, then after logging in, you need to enable the Cloud Vision API and generate an API key.

  1. In the left hand menu, select APIs & Services > Dashboard
  2. Select Enable APIs & Services
  3. In the search box, type “vision”, and then select Google Cloud Vision API.
  4. Select Enable. It may walk you through setting up a billing profile at this point if one has not been created already. Again, there is no obligation to actually pay anything, as you can use this API a certain amount for free each month, and you may get free credits when signing up.
  5. Back at the APIs & Services Dashboard, select Credentials > Create Credentials > API Key.
  6. Once you have generated the API key, be sure to copy it or keep it open in your browser so you can access it later.

Use generate_srt_from_netflix tool to OCR the images

Now, we can use a tool to send the subtitle images through the Cloud Vision API. Someone by the name of “zx573” from the Kanji Koohii forums originally wrote a python script to perform the work of sending the images to Google and generating a text-based subtitle file. I have updated his tool to make it more user friendly and to fix a few issues it had.


Updated 1/22/18, adding vietnamese language and Mac OSX version.

(left click, then click the download button in the top right)
Linux: generate_srt_from_netflix.Linux.tar.gz (tested on Ubuntu x64)
Mac: (untested)
Source: python3 source code

Next, you need to paste your API Key into a text file named API_KEY.txt located in the same folder as the application.

When you run the application, it should look like this:

First, you need to make sure that your API Key is displayed correctly in the top area. If not, make sure you did the previous step correctly.

Then, you just select a folder containing netflix subtitle images (note: when you first downloaded the subtitles, they were in a zip file. This zip file must be extracted to a folder before loading here).

There is also an option to select the language that you want Google to recognize. I included Japanese, Korean, and Chinese in the selection box, but you can type in a different language code if you require another language. You can find a full list of language codes here.

The only other option is the chunk size. The default of 15 is usually fine. If you press the start button, and the program appears to begin working but then gives you an error message part way through, you might need to decrease the chunk size to a smaller value like 10 or even 5. Larger values should use up less of your credit but smaller values have a greater chance of completing sucessfully.

After you press start, if all goes well, the program should run and it will output an SRT file inside your input folder.



Study Subtitled Videos Using PotPlayer

I previously wrote about studying Japanese through the use of Anime, Dramas, and Movies, but I always felt that there was still a step missing from the equation. I mean, sure, you can use great tools like Subs2SRS to ease the creation of Anki cards, but what about the process of actually watching the video? How do you efficiently look up words and try to understand sentences while you are watching it? This was a question that bugged me for a long time. While there are some solutions, such as opening up the script in a text file and following along, loading the video and script into Aegisub to go line by line, or even rigging up AGTH to capture the text output from the player; all of these methods are pretty clunky and leave something to be desired.

But just recently, I came across PotPlayer, and discovered that it actually makes the whole process as smooth as you could ever imagine! It feels like some of the features in this player were practically designed for someone who is learning a language! A few great features that I love about it:

  • Click on words to either perform a search or copy it to the clipboard
  • Copy the entire subtitle line to the clipboard, can be assigned to a shortcut key
  • Shortcuts to seek to the next/previous subtitle, allowing you to easily replay a line
  • Subtitle explorer displays all lines in a separate window for you to browse and seek to a particular line
  • Load multiple subtitle streams, so you can have Japanese and English at the same time
  • It remembers the last file you had open as well as your position within it, making it easy to pick up where you left off
  • Has options for adjusting the synchronization of subtitles, as well as the font
  • Is an otherwise completely full featured player, with tons of options and advanced features

I honestly don’t know what else I could want or expect in regards to watching subtitled video. This works great in conjunction with JGlossator, which will automatically look up helpful information on any Japanese subtitles that get copied to the clipboard.

I’ve put together a short video showing how to get up and started with using PotPlayer to study Japanese from subtitles:

Do you know any other software or tools to help with studying Japanese while watching videos? Let me know in the comments!

Learn Japanese by Watching Anime, Movies, and Dramas

If you are learning Japanese, chances are you probably also happen to like some Japanese entertainment such as movies, dramas, and anime. So, are you using those things to your benefit? After all, we learn best when we are engaged with interesting material! If you haven’t tried it yet, then I’ll show you how to get started.


For anyone who has just started or has yet to begin learning Japanese, a dose of reality: you aren’t going to learn the language exclusively from watching stuff. You have to study and work hard. Anime and movies can be a fun part of an overall balanced study regimen, but its only a small piece of the puzzle. Before you get started here, you need to have a solid foundation to work from. Once you have picked up a bit of the grammar and began to build up a vocabulary, then we can start getting into the fun stuff.

If you have been studying for a bit, but are still in the beginner level where you can’t really understand natural Japanese at all, but can pick out a few words and phrases here and there, then you should primarily be watching things with English subtitles at this point. That’s right, with English subtitles, just like you normally do. While you are watching, you want to try to force yourself to really pay attention to what the characters are saying. Listen for things that you recognize, try to get a rough idea of what’s going on, maybe even try repeating lines after the characters say them. At this stage, you are still just gaining familiarity with the language. Don’t expect to really learn anything from the anime itself yet at this point, it’s more just a tool to increase your familiarity and your recognition of what you have already learned.

Some people might wonder “wouldn’t it be better to watch without subtitles?” The answer to that is no. According to Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, language acquisition takes place when the learner is consuming comprehensible input that is just slightly above the learner’s current level. In other words, if you don’t know what the characters are saying, you can listen to it 100 times and you still aren’t going to know what they are saying. As I said before, at this stage you aren’t trying to learn anything new from the anime, you just want to reinforce what you have already learned. Also, in this paper by Martine Danan, we can see that some research has shown that watching material with subtitles in your native language can be superior to watching without any subtitles.

Intermediate Learners

Once your Japanese is at the point where you are understanding large passages from shows, or you feel like you know most of the words but your mind just can’t process them quickly enough to fully understand, then it might be time to move on to the next step, and begin actually learning from the shows that you are watching.

At this point, you are going to begin using Japanese subtitles. For anime, one of the largest collections of Japanese subtitles can be found at For dramas, take a look at d-addict’s subtitles index. For movies, I’ll just have to leave it in your hands, as I haven’t found a good resource. Also, movies might generally only have subtitles available in the form that comes directly from the DVD or Blu-ray disc, which are actually images rather than text. These are less than ideal, but they can work in a pinch if you can’t find anything else.

While you are still at a lower level in Japanese, I highly recommend trying to choose shows that have simpler language–things like slice-of-life or high school dramas, or maybe things directed more towards children. You want to make this as easy for yourself as possible! I would highly recommend the anime “Chi’s Sweet Home” to start off. You can find both Japanese and English subtitles, the language is simple, and the episodes are only about 3 minutes each!

Next, you generally might want to start off by watching your chosen show with English subtitles if you have never seen it before, to learn the characters and the story. Then, you want to start reading through the Japanese subtitles. Look up words that you don’t know, and try to understand everything that is going on. If there are some parts here and there that you don’t get, that’s alright, but if there are a lot of parts you don’t understand, then you need to either find something easier or study other things for a few more months. If you like, you can load the subtitles up in Aegisub, a subtitling program which will allow you to go line by line and listen to the audio as you read the text. Be sure to look over the Aegisub manual on their website in order to learn how to use this software. I highly recommend using Aegisub to read through the script, because it will allow you to easily make any changes to the synchronization of the subtitles, to make sure they are lined up properly with your audio. Another cool thing that you can try is to “export” the script from Aegisub as a plain text file, and then you can open up the text file in your web browser where you can use Rikaichan to help read it. Update: I now recommend using PotPlayer rather than Aegisub.

Once you have managed to read through the subtitles for an episode, now its time to go to the next stage and utilize subs2srs to generate Anki cards which you can study! Subs2srs is fairly straightforward, and a simple guide to using it is right there on it’s own website. In addition, you can also use Audio Lesson Studio to generate audio lessons which you can listen to on your phone or mp3 player!

Once you have gained familiarity with the language used in the episode, now try going back and watching it without subtitles. You will be amazed at how well you can follow along now! With each episode you go through, you should find that things get easier and easier, as there will be a lot of repeated topics and vocabulary, on top of the fact that your knowledge of Japanese is increasing.

A Starter Deck

If you are looking for something to get started on, I would recommend the following movie.


A cute and somewhat sad film about cats, the narrator speaks clearly and quite simply for the most part. I’ve posted up my subs2srs deck in a thread over on the koohii forums. If it looks like something you would be into, find a copy of the movie and give it a shot. Otherwise, feel free to start off with something that you would enjoy better.