Note: Some of the podcasts in our original article have been lost to the podcast ether… We’ve replaced them with what we’re listening to now!
Podcasts can be a fantastic way of rapidly expanding your familiarity with a language. If you are not entirely fluent in Japanese or just starting out with your listening studies, then you might be wondering if there are podcasts. For Japanese, there is a multitude of resources available. In this post, I am going to list up the best Japanese podcasts that I have come across, from beginner to native level.
Best Beginner to Intermediate Japanese Podcasts
There are plenty of beginner-friendly podcasts available, as well as ones aimed for intermediate-level Japanese speakers. Depending on your interests and what you want to study, here are the best podcasts for learning Japanese, starting from the beginning and working towards higher difficulty:
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
You might already know the name Tofugu, since it’s been one of the best Japanese language learning resources on the internet for quite some time. Although Tofugu started out as an English blog devoted to Japanese culture, it has expanded throughout the years to include more information for studying and master the language.
Tofugu has a broad range of resources for you to tap into, including basic conversations, in-depth grammar blogs, and even interesting podcasts. You can listen to everything from fantasy or fashion to educational content about whiskey. Whatever your interests are, you can find content on Tofugu that is appropriate for your current Japanese skill level.
2. NHK World
Are you looking to replace reading the newspaper in your native language with something a bit more fulfilling? NHK World is not meant to be confused with Easy NHK, another podcast that is meant for true beginners to Japanese. Rather, NHK World is a radio broadcast available in 17 languages but designed for those who are learning Japanese. There are plenty of articles and audio clips for you to use at your leisure, including articles that contain both Japanese hiragana and kanji.
Regardless of your listening skill level, there are podcasts covering hundreds of topics for you to listen to. The pace of the speech is moderate but enunciated clearly, so even beginners can start to make sense of the information. Since NHK is such a far-reaching program and a highly-regarded news source throughout the world, you know you are getting quality content that is also extremely educational. You will notice a great emphases on pronunciation, so if you are having trouble with articulating some words, NHK World might be a great resource for you.
3. Learn Japanese Pod
Level: Beginner to Advanced Beginner
If you are just starting out with studying Japanese, then you need to check out Learn Japanese Pod. Every single episode is aimed at beginners and cover dozens of topics to help you succeed. For example, you can learn essential travel sentences to get you trough a short trip to Tokyo, or you can tap into vocabulary about your favorite hobbies. Every episode is interesting and comes with transcripts in both English and Japanese.
It works like this: The show has several short conversations that are done in Japanese. Then, the hosts discuss certain phrases and how to use them in a grammatically correct way. Later, the conversation is broken down for you in English so you can review what you did or did not understand.
Best of all, the podcasts are hosted by three people: Alex, the creator of Learn Japanese Pod and a native English speaker; Asuka, a native Japanese and professional linguist; and Beb, a Japanese host who teaches Osaka-ben, or the Osaka dialect.
view of previous episodes at the beginning of each podcast.
Level: Beginner to High Intermediate
This is one of our favorite resources for learning Japanese. The only reason it’s not at the very top of this list is because it’s a paid (or well, freemium) program.
If you are at beginner or intermediate level in Japanese, then we highly recommend checking out JapanesePod101.
They offer a vast array of podcasts and resources for learning Japanese and are one of the best options if you’re looking to master conversational Japanese. This site’s webmasters (Rohan and Michael) are both long-time users of JapanesePod101, and can’t recommend it enough. We even managed to score some really big discounts for our readers if you’re interested.
5. Bilingual News
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Bilingual News is one of the few Japanese learning podcasts that delves into hundreds of topics while combining both English and Japanese. In other words, it is super useful for those who are unable to immerse themselves in Japanese right away. Typically, the two hosts, Michael and Mami, discuss news that is happening around the world in both English and Japanese. Michael speaks in English while Mami uses only Japanese. Sometimes, the podcast hosts even have special guests who are Japanese.
The latest episodes air every Thursday and are available through the Google Podcasts app or iTunes. If you download the Bilingual News app, you even get access to transcripts from every single episode. You can locate material from old episodes as well, so you can catch up and study around the clock. The only downside is that you have to listen to the podcast prior to getting the transcripts, which can be difficult for total beginners.
6. The Japanese Page
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
Beginners, rejoice! You can take a break from the textbook for some time and get to learning through listening to real conversations done in Japanese. The Japanese Page is an incredible resource, even if you aren’t using the podcasts. That said, the podcast lessons, while short, are very useful for memorization and conversation. The reason beginners benefit from these episodes is because they are done in English and add in Japanese conversation. You get the formal explanation and then an example.
Once you have listened to the entire clip, the podcast ends with a brief recap on what you learned. Every episode is partnered with text in English and Japanese, as well as information on key phrases for you to remember. You don’t have to listen to the podcasts in order, either; but do keep in mind that there will be a re
7. I Will Teach You A Language: Japanese Conversations
If you are looking for one of the best podcasts for learning Japanese and increasing your listening comprehension, then Japanese Conversations is an excellent program. Although it is best for more advanced beginners through intermediate, beginners might find listening to the content beneficial.
While it is not a true to form podcast, Japanese Conversations offers a huge library of Japanese conversations. You get access to transcripts as well, to help you study the story-based audio and gain deeper comprehension.
This is ideal if you are planning on taking the JLPT, since the conversations mirror the audio exercise done on the exam. With the transcripts, you can follow along while listening to stories at native speed. This will level you up and give you confidence for real world conversation.
Best Immersion or Native Japanese Podcasts
Once you are ready to make the jump, you can challenge yourself by listening to podcasts originally intended for Japanese people, aka immersion practice. The great thing about using podcasts for native speakers is that there is no dumbing down. You get exposure to how the language is really spoken. Yes, it will be tough to start with, but it doesn’t get any harder than this. With consistent exposure and a dictionary on hand, you will make great progress with your Japanese studies. I dare say you will also learn a lot about Japan and how Japanese people think.
8. Sekai Chokusou Interview
After a ton of searching and trying new podcasts, this is the one that stuck. I listened every single episode (there are 74) at least once while commuting, over the course of a few months, and my Japanese listening and speaking improved dramatically. So much that my Japanese friends were shocked.
Basically, each episode series (usually 2-3 episodes per series) is an interview with a Japanese national who’s living in a different country overseas. My favorite interviews are usually the ones in Southeast Asia, since they tend to be pretty interesting characters.
The main host’s voice can be a little bit grating at times (vocal fry!), but the interviews are super entertaining, and for the most part the hosts speak slowly and naturally (if a bit formal) Japanese with the guests. 100% recommended for intermediate Japanese learners who like to travel.
They also have a bunch of other travel related podcasts here.
9. NHK Daily News Podcast
The daily news podcast by NHK is a fantastic resource for the serious Japanese learner. This free podcast is popular with Japanese expats abroad who want to keep up with the latest news. NHK is the national broadcaster of Japan, similar to the BBC in the UK. You can therefore rest assured that the Japanese language used in this podcast is exemplary, which could be ideal for those taking the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test.
The length of the podcast is usually around 15-20 minutes. It’s a great way to refresh and expand your Japanese knowledge. The perspective is international news (as opposed to Japan domestic), so you could even replace your normal news consumption in English with this one.
10. Chiki Ogiue Session 22 Podcast
This is a current affairs and general interest talkshow that does a great job of touching upon issues from around the world. They invite expert guests to talk about a particular topic, usually in interview style. I really enjoy the free-flowing style – it’s natural and informative without ever getting too formal or stilted (as opposed to what you might see on a current affairs show on Japanese TV). Highly recommended listening!
11. Junk Podcast
This talkshow network has been around for years now and is one of the more popular podcast / radio networks in Japan. I still remember the first time when I hit the play button and said to myself “Damn, I don’t understand anything! Is this even Japanese?!” As you might expect from talk radio, the speech is rapid and colloquial. The hosts constantly jump around topics (often from previous shows) and use a lot of irony.
I’d say that this is a particularly challenging podcast (also depending on who is hosting), but with some repetition and familiarity with the format you will get used to it. In any case, regular exposure to this kind of content will greatly boost your casual Japanese, as the chat style is close to how regular Japanese people actually talk to each other in real life.
12. The Takeda Kunihito Podcast
Takeda Kunihito is a prominent Japanese academic who has courted controversy in Japan due to his views on global warming and other scientific issues. In this podcast, he talks about not only scientific issues, but politics, economics, international relations, philosophy and history among others. Kunihito San is a very eloquent speaker of Japanese. His style is clear and precise. The show tackles a wide range of subjects in monologue style, making this among the more enjoyable Japanese podcasts to listen to.
So there you have it. Our summary of the best podcasts for learning Japanese that we’ve found so far. I’m sure there are many other good ones out there. Do you know of any? Let us know in the comments!
Michael has lived in Japan on and off for almost 10 years. He loves studying Japanese, and is currently working on going from N2 to N1 on the JLPT.