Updated March 31, 2023
Japanese podcasts: Our favorites in 2023
Learning Japanese isn't exactly the easiest of tasks, but some resources can make things much easier.
If you want to learn any language, especially one such as Japanese, getting as much exposure as possible is by far the best way to go. And what better way is there to expose yourself to the language than listening to Japanese podcasts?
Podcasts don’t require your visual attention, and you can play them in your earphones when you’re out and about or even working. By simply listening, you can make some serious progress, and this is what I’m here to help you with today.
In this post, I’ll talk about the best Japanese podcasts for learning Japanese for all levels of learners. I’ll also share some podcasts that aren’t focused on learning Japanese specifically, but you can use them to practice your listening and comprehension skills.
Let’s start with a few beginner podcast tips first.
How to Use Japanese Podcasts for Immersion: Tips and Tricks
As I mentioned, exposure and immersion is a big part of learning a new language, but how can you tell if your source of exposure is one that’s worth your while?
Easy Doesn’t Always Do It
For starters, you want to be completely immersed in the language. There are a large number of Japanese learning podcasts out there, but many of them frequently use English as a reference point to teach you grammar or vocabulary.
As you can imagine, this isn’t exactly the best way to go about it.
Learning a language based on another one as a reference might sound like a good idea for beginners, but each language infers a distinct way of thinking. By using translations for reference, you’re not allowing your brain to comprehend how a language works, which motivates you to mindlessly memorize things instead.
What’s more, you develop a habit of translating words/phrases in your brain in order to understand, which is less than ideal and can hinder your progress in the long run. Therefore, it’s crucial to pick a podcast that doesn’t rely too heavily on another language to teach you new things.
Starting From Ground Zero
All that being said, if you’re an absolute beginner and need references to understand the basics, you can also utilize visual media in your learning journey in conjunction with podcasts. Providing your brain with visuals of objects or everyday scenarios can be a great way to further solidify what you’re learning.
Anime, for one, is a great medium that’s utilized by many. As there are plenty of great shows available, you can find one that you’re interested in, like the ones I covered in my most popular anime post.
I even wrote another post specifically on anime phrases you can use in daily life, which goes to show you how effective anime can be.
Alternatively, as I’ll get to in a bit, picking podcasts with the slowest talking pace that you can bear is another great tip if you’re starting from scratch.
Our brains don’t always work at the same speed, and it can take some acclimating to start taking in information in a field that’s completely new to you. Hearing things at a slower speed can help you comprehend more easily, and it’ll also help you learn to enunciate words correctly.
If you’re looking for supplemental tools to learn Japanese or improve your Japanese skills, I’ve also written another article where I shared the best Japanese learning tools available online and on paper.
With that out of the way, let’s see what some of the best beginner-friendly Japanese podcasts for immersion are.
Best Japanese Podcasts: Beginner Level
Below are my selections for some of the best Japanese podcasts for beginners. While not all of these are exclusively for beginners, most of the content they put out is tailored toward Japanese newbies.
You’ll see that most of them have descriptions in episode titles for easy navigation, and some even offer dedicated “beginner-friendly” playlists.
There’s no doubt that JapanesePod101 is one of the best Japanese learning podcasts out there, especially for beginners.
Not only do they have audio podcasts on Apple Podcasts, but they also have video lessons for beginners as well. Their content isn’t limited to beginner material, but most of it is for beginners. They even have a great series tailored specifically for “absolute beginners.”
The episodes are bite-sized, which is great for starting out but can be a hindrance if you want to be immersed in Japanese for a longer period. Still, it provides you with the perk of learning Japanese from native Japanese speakers in a well-structured way.
There are over 90 episodes of the podcast available, but you can also find quizzes, flashcards, and worksheets on the website. At the time of writing, all of the beginner material is free if you sign up.
Slow Japanese by Mochifika
As I mentioned, a slower speaking pace is a must if you're learning Japanese from scratch. This is exactly what Slow Japanese is all about.
The host of the show, Akari, makes an impressive effort to pronounce words as slowly as possible, and sometimes she even breaks them down into syllables. While this may sound boring if you’re at intermediate or advanced levels, it’s an invaluable resource for absolute beginners.
While the show itself is free, you can also become a paid member and access full transcripts of the episodes as well.
The show has short, bite-sized episodes that average around 5 minutes, but new ones are released each week on a consistent schedule. You can listen to it on the website or on Apple Podcasts.
Originally started as a blog about Japanese culture written in English, Tofugu has quickly grown and become one of the most valuable Japanese learning resources on the internet.
The blog also has a podcast for Japanese learners, and the casual topics that relate to everyday life make it a hoot to listen to. The wide range of topics makes it easy for anyone to find something of interest, and honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air among other beginner content that’s mostly made for children.
My only gripe with this one is that it relies a bit too heavily on English, which, as I explained, is not ideal. Still, the wide range of topics discussed is a huge bonus that makes Tofugu unique and interesting to listen to.
Learn Japanese Pod
Learn Japanese Pod is everything a beginner can ask for.
For one, almost all the content they put out is for beginners. This makes it a great go-to podcast — pick an episode at random or put it on shuffle when you work out or go about your day.
Secondly, the show’s structure is very easy to follow. Each episode begins with a few short conversations that are completely in Japanese. Then, the hosts of the show explain the common phrases and the grammar rules used in each dialogue.
At the end of each episode, the hosts of the show also talk about the previous dialogues in English so that you can check if you understood everything correctly.
You can listen to all of the episodes for free on Apple Podcasts, and there are also English and Japanese transcripts of each episode, which you can also access free of charge.
Best Japanese Podcasts: Intermediate Level
Now that we covered all the beginner-friendly podcasts in Japanese, let’s take a look at ones that are more tailored toward intermediate-level learners.
While these podcasts may also have beginner or advanced-level episodes, most of the content they offer will work best for people who find themselves somewhere in between.
Japanese LingQ Podcast
LingQ’s approach to teaching language is one that’s a bit nuanced, but the premise is interesting enough to get you hooked immediately.
Essentially, LingQ believes that any type of content can be utilized as material to teach Japanese, so you’ll listen to everyday conversations, news, or interviews, as well as small passages from audiobooks.
The podcast is all about the daily use of language, and it supports its teaching with the sort of material you’d come across on your own as you go about your day. This makes it easy for intermediate learners, as well as anyone who has a hard time pinpointing their Japanese level, to jump in.
The website also offers study materials like flashcards and worksheets, which are sadly locked behind a paid membership.
News in Slow Japanese
News in Slow Japanese shares the same premise as the Slow Japanese podcast I covered in my beginner-friendly recommendations. As you can tell by the title, the show is essentially news articles read at a very slow pace.
Don’t worry if you’re not in the mood to listen to the news, though. The term “news” is used very loosely here, and the podcast covers a wide range of topics such as sports, movies, TV shows, books, and humor.
You can also listen to the episodes at a faster pace. This makes for a nice, rewarding challenge, and it also helps you become more confident in your Japanese skills.
You can access the transcripts for free on the podcast’s website, and if you become a paid member, they also offer other study materials. These include worksheets, as well as a web tool for shadowing speeches, which helps with improving your pronunciation.
You can listen to News in Slow Japanese on Apple Podcasts.
日本語 With あこ
日本語 With あこ simply translates to “Japanese with Ako.” It’s an unscripted, short-form podcast series hosted by Ako, a Japanese teacher who made a name for herself online with her Japanese courses and easy-to-understand content.
Ako’s content ranges from beginner-friendly to advanced, all marked with corresponding symbols for ease of use. However, most of the episodes are tailored toward intermediate learners.
Not only does she have monologue-like episodes, but she also occasionally has guests on, which make for interesting conversations and add variety.
Best Podcasts in Japanese: Advanced Level
While it might be easy to find Japanese learning podcasts for beginners and intermediate learners, it’s usually hard to find casual, interesting content that’s specifically for advanced learners.
Most of the advanced content available is usually for preparing for the JLPT, and I covered some of the podcasts that prepare you for the JLPT in another post. However, unless you’re not preparing for an exam, learning a language is the most effective when it’s fun and exciting.
The podcasts I’ll share below fill this gap effectively and offer some nice, casual content that isn’t just for exam prep or learning grammar; it’s also interesting for everyone in general.
Let’s first take a look at some of the best advanced-level podcasts that are generally fun and informative. Then, I’ll share my best picks that are specifically for techies, developers, or IT professionals in general.
This one’s especially for the history geeks, but Coten Radio’s content is interesting enough to get anyone hooked.
The podcast’s full title is Coten Radio: Learn Interesting History (歴史を面白く学ぶコテンラジオ), and it’s hosted by two history enthusiasts. The two hosts delve into a unique and interesting historical topic in each episode, which lasts for about 20 to 50 minutes.
Coten Radio often covers shocking stories from history that aren’t so well known, so you can count on each episode to be worth your while.
The language used in the podcast can be challenging for some listeners as it’s not a “Japanese learning” podcast and is meant for native speakers. However, this makes it a perfect podcast to pick up interesting vocabulary while learning about the wildest facts.
News Connect is an informative podcast that aims to deliver the most important current news in the world of economy, business, and international politics in a concise manner.
In fact, the 5–7 minutes-long episodes are great for getting your daily news on your way to work or while having a bite during lunchtime. The episodes are aired daily, which means that the content is always current and up-to-date.
Think of News Connect as a daily news show rather than a podcast. Not only will it help you get up-to-speed on world events, but it’ll also help you pick up some new, niche vocabulary every day.
The language used in News Connect isn’t the hardest to listen to. However, considering that it’s still aimed toward native Japanese speakers and the advanced nature of the content, it’ll still make for a nice challenge for your listening skills.
Special Picks for Techies and Developers #1: Rebuild
Rebuild is a fantastic podcast hosted by Tatsuhiko Miyagawa. The general theme of the podcast is tech, and it features the host speaking with a guest each episode on software and new gadgets.
The show has a cult following, and rightfully so. The topics and guests are almost always interesting, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn tech-related vocabulary as well.
While the show mostly covers tech-related topics, some guests bring up culturally relevant topics as well, but everything is always tied to tech and science.
There are currently over 400 episodes of the show, and all episodes are available on Apple Podcasts for free. The episodes are quite lengthy, too, with most having a runtime of 2+ hours, which means you won’t run out of content anytime soon.
Special Picks for Techies and Developers #2: backspace.fm
Backspace.fm is your go-to source for tech news. The weekly podcast has been regularly covering the latest news on tech and interesting gadgets since 2014.
The show is hosted by a software engineer, a tech media editor, and a tech journalist, and each episode lasts for about an hour, with some episodes going even longer.
Backspace.fm is a dense podcast. While it covers news from the tech world that you may have heard of, it also covers lots of interesting developments in the tech world that you might not have even heard of.
The podcast also has guests from the industry from time to time that have valuable inputs and interesting takes. It features lots of technical language and vocabulary that advanced learners are sure to benefit from.
Special Picks for Techies and Developers #3: Takram Cast
Takram Cast is the perfect all-rounder podcast for advanced Japanese learners.
It covers a wide range of topics that include design, technology, literature, and business, but the show isn’t afraid to switch things up every once in a while with other topics like politics and sociology as well.
Each episode of Takram Cast is between 20-50 minutes long, and episode length can change drastically depending on the depth of the subject.
The show is hosted by the members of the global design innovation studio Takram, all of which bring their artistic perspectives even to the most technical topics. Of course, this makes it a great podcast for advanced learners to learn about an artistic way of thinking while working on their listening skills.
Special Picks for Techies and Developers #4: fukabori.fm
Last but definitely not least, fukabori.fm is a podcast that does a deep dive into specific topics in the fields of technology, engineering, organization, and management in each episode.
If you enjoy finding new topics that you can later get lost in a rabbit hole by yourself, this one is definitely for you. Each episode of fukabori.fm features a guest who’s an expert in their field, and just listening alone makes you feel smarter as you learn a lot.
In addition to the changing guest, each episode features the host of the show Iwashi, who is a software engineer and a part-time lecturer.
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