Podcasts are an excellent way to learn Japanese.
If you have a busy schedule, and not much time to sit down with a Japanese textbook during the week, podcasts offer a great solution.
But how do you know which podcasts to choose from?
Just searching “Learn Japanese” gives you hundreds of daunting choices.
Don’t worry, I’m here to help. 😊
Starting from beginners to more advanced learners, I’ve compiled a list of the best podcasts to help you learn Japanese.
Whether you don’t even know how to say “hello” in Japanese yet, or you just need some material to brush up on your listening skills, there is something here for everyone.
Podcasts for learning Japanese
NHK is the Japan Broadcasting Corporation.
It is the only public broadcasting service in the nation and has been a trusted resource for news in Japan for years. NHK World Radio has put together a set of great beginner lessons in a podcast for those that want to get started learning Japanese.
They feature a concrete story with a set of characters that cover familiar everyday situations, like asking for the restroom, or going shopping.
Through these lessons, you will be able to learn useful expressions and basic grammar.
If you’re just starting out learning Japanese, I can’t recommend these enough.
Pimsleur boasts a natural way to learn a new language.
Not just by studying grammar points and vocabulary, but by listening, repeating, and mimicking: the same way we learned language as a child. With a focus on speaking, this program offers beginner Japanese lessons for those that want to improve the way they communicate.
The lessons are a bit on the longer side, at 30 minutes apiece, but the slow pace gives you plenty of time to really focus on what you’re learning and practice new vocabulary and pronunciation.
These lessons are a great way for beginners to get more confident in speaking Japanese.
Tofugu is well known in Japanese learning circles for having a website with a ton of interesting and useful content for learning Japanese.
Tofugu podcasts start out with beginner lessons, but then move on quickly to more interesting concepts and subjects to keep you interested. Each lesson goes over specific grammar and vocabulary and feels more like a fun discussion with a friend about the Japanese language, than a teacher lecturing to you.
Overall, Tofugu is an entertaining and engaging podcast with a ton of extra resources to help you level up your Japanese.
Once you get to the point in your Japanese journey where you want to start listening to native materials, the news is a great place to start.
The topics covered will keep you up to date about current affairs and give you solid subjects for conversing with Japanese friends. But sometimes the news is just too fast to understand if you’re not quite advanced yet.
That is where News in Slow Japanese comes in!
This podcast boasts the same news that other podcasts have, but in simple language and at a much slower speed. This gives you time to process each word being said, and even time to quickly look up a word if you’re unfamiliar with it.
You are sure to learn a ton of new vocabulary by listening to the news every day!
The Real Japanese Podcast is by a Japanese teacher named Haruka, who talks about a different subject each week.
These are less like lessons and more like a casual conversation with a friend about various topics, ranging from holidays and shopping, to Japanese slang and culture (e.g. sushi).
The podcasts have a transcript online that you can follow along with, to help you pick up any new grammar or vocabulary you need to brush up on. Some of them are on the more difficult side, but most are labeled with their Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level equivalent with most of them around N3 level, which correlates to intermediate Japanese.
This means you can choose the topics that fit your level and are the most interesting for you!
Bilingual News is a great resource to bridge the gap between learning Japanese with lessons and being able to understand it in the real world.
The episodes consist of two hosts, Mami and Michael who read a news story first in Japanese and then in English. They then discuss the topic, with Mami speaking mostly in Japanese and Michael speaking mostly in English.
When you listen to these podcasts, you can test your Japanese understanding and learn new words and phrases related to each episode.
They cover everything that is going on in the news from weather and to politics and follow it with relevant and easy discussions.
Their conversational chemistry is extremely entertaining, which makes it a really fun podcast to listen to.
As we learned before, NHK is the national broadcast network in Japan.
They have an Easy Japanese podcast for beginners. But this one is for Japanese speakers who can keep up with advanced topics. Once you’re ready to try real Japanese immersion, this is the perfect podcast to start with.
The high-quality audio and subject matter is perfect for brushing up on, or expanding your Japanese language skills.
The daily news podcast covers everything you need to know about current affairs, not only in Japan, but around the world.
If you’re brave enough, try giving this a go as your daily news source!
If you’re into history, you will definitely enjoy one of my favorite Japanese podcasts, called 歴史を面白く学ぶコテンラジオ (“Coten Radio: Learn Interesting History”).
The self-professed “two geeks” who make up the show are true history buffs that love to share their knowledge.
These podcast episodes are 20-50 min long and feature a historical subject that you might not know about.
They have extremely interesting topics and speakers that give in-depth knowledge about crazy and surprising historical facts.
The audio is meant for native Japanese speakers and has some difficult words, but you’re sure to gain a ton of great vocabulary while listening to these super fun segments.
This TBS Radio podcast covers a wealth of information about everyday news and current affairs.
The host and announcer often invite people on for interviews as well for a variety of different topics. Aimed at native Japanese speakers, be sure to have some solid vocabulary and grammar under your belt before giving these a chance. But when you do, you will be happy you did!
The traditional news and talk radio-style program will give an up-close look at Japanese politics and current culture.
The podcast is updated daily, and the episodes in full are about an hour and a half, so there is a ton of listening material for a truly immersive Japanese experience.
I would be remiss if I didn’t cover one of the best podcasts for learning Japanese: JapanesePod101.
These lessons don’t fit into one category because they go from very beginner Japanese, all the way to advanced. JapanesePod101 has thousands of lessons spanning every level of Japanese. They have friendly instructors that cover real conversations in an easy-to-understand format.
Most lessons start with a simple conversation, which then gets broken down into grammar and vocab practice, so you can understand every piece of what is being said.
No matter your level of Japanese, you’re sure to find something with JapanesePod101 that will help you enhance your listening, pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary skills.
As you may already know, the JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test has five levels, from N5, the easiest, to N1, the hardest.
JLPT Stories is a series of short stories at every level.
These short 2-3 minute stories are tailor-made for the level of Japanese you’re comfortable with. The stories are an amazing resource for listening practice if you’re going to take the JLPT. But not only that, they are also extremely interesting.
If you’re finding that most learning material is on the dull side, then this podcast is sure to change your mind.
Even if you’ren’t going to take the JLPT, have fun and improve your listening skills with these short stories.
Know of a podcast for learning Japanese that I didn’t mention?
Share it below in the comment section.