Need a break from kanji practice and memorising conjugation tables? Podcasts are an excellent way to unwind while still improving your Japanese.
There are podcasts dedicated to teaching beginner Japanese, pronunciation, slang, vocabulary and more. And then there are the podcasts where the hosts talk in Japanese about their day-to-day life, culture and society, history, technology and everything else you can think of.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new Japanese student or an advanced learner looking for more specialist topics. Podcasts will help you improve your listening and pronunciation, gain a more intuitive understanding of grammar and common expressions, and above all, enjoy learning and using Japanese.
Plus, the language used will often be more natural than in anime, manga, novels and even your textbooks – because after all, podcast hosts are real people having a genuine (if at times semi-scripted) conversation.
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up some of our top picks for Japanese learners and organised them by level. Of course, identifying the level can be subjective, depending on the vocabulary and accent you’re used to, as well as the episode you’re listening to. So, don’t be put off if one seems harder (or easier!) than you might have expected. Just give another podcast on the list a go.
Table of Contents
Japanese Podcasts for All Levels
Some highly prolific podcast creators have gone out of their way to produce content for Japanese learners of all levels – and on the same channel. Never fear, though, because we’ve only included ones that clearly state the target level for each episode in the title. Read on for some podcasts you’re unlikely to outgrow:
This podcast has something for pretty much every learner, although you’ll want to get the essentials under your belt first. It contains short stories categorised by JLPT level, from an N5-level story about trying to ask a girl out at Disneyland to an N1-level story of a woman touring Hokkaido on a 50cc motorbike – despite her mum’s nervousness.
Unfortunately, it looks like this podcast might be discontinued. For now, though, there are plenty of previous episodes for you to listen to.
Learners from N4 (upper beginner) up to N1 will find plenty to listen to on this podcast from Japanese teacher Tomo. The topics vary greatly, from food and sightseeing to Japanese culture and everything in between. Despite being a teacher, Tomo doesn’t set out to teach you anything. Instead, he gives you plenty of level-appropriate listening practice. Sit back, relax and enjoy.
Listening to this podcast won’t just improve your listening and teach you new Japanese vocabulary and grammar. It’s designed specifically to help you improve your speaking, no matter how little – or much – Japanese you know. Although most of the content is aimed at beginner and lower-intermediate speakers, there is an advanced level. Patreon subscribers also get access to full transcripts and translations.
JapanesePod101 has literally thousands of Japanese lessons. They go all the way up to advanced, although – like most resources – there’s more material at lower levels. With so many podcast and video lessons, it can feel disorganised. Opt for a pathway and use it alongside a textbook or a resource like Wasabi’s grammar reference to help you stay on track.
Although you can get some material for free, for full access, you’ll need to sign up for a premium account. You can use the code ALLLANGUAGERESOURCES for a 25% discount. Check out our in-depth review for more information.
Japanese Podcasts for Complete Beginners
If you know zero Japanese, this section is the one for you. You’ll learn how to say things like “My name is…” and “Do you speak English?”.
There aren’t many podcasts that cater for complete beginners, and many of them are behind a paywall. But once you’ve learnt the basics, you’ll find there are a lot more podcasts available for you. So as soon as you’re ready, take a look at the next section: Japanese Podcasts for Beginners.
This 48-episode Japanese podcast-based course may be dated, but it’s suitable for complete beginners who prefer audio learning and are looking for a gentle introduction to the language.
The lessons start off with an English-language explanation, before playing a dialogue. Then there will be a breakdown in English of the language used. Finally, there’s a “learning point” from the programme supervisor. This is an – admittedly slightly awkward – stage that involves the programme supervisor saying a sentence of Japanese that your regular host then translates into English for you and explains further.
You may find yourself reaching for Google to look up unexplained English-language grammar terms, like “predicate”, but one thing’s for sure: you won’t be overwhelmed by the Japanese.
This podcast only has 20 short-and-sweet episodes, filled with even shorter-and-sweeter textbook-style dialogues. Yet the series packs in a surprising amount of basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary. It won’t replace your Japanese course or textbook, but it will give you some extra listening practice in new contexts.
If you liked the idea of the NHK Japanese podcast, but the dated nature and slightly awkward interactions left you unimpressed, you might find Pimsleur more to your taste.
This is a paid-for podcast-esque course that will introduce you to beginner-level Japanese. Some people criticise it for its slow pace and 30-minute lessons, but there’s also a lot in its favour. It’s well-structured and really drills your pronunciation and listening. Even if you already know the material, you’ll likely find your speaking improves after a few lessons.
Read our in-depth review of Pimsleur’s Japanese, German and Spanish courses to find out more.
This pay-to-use audiobook is not quite a podcast, not quite a course. It’s a 20-chapter original novel designed to transform you from a complete beginner into an intermediate-level speaker.
First, you’ll listen to a chapter at either slow or normal speed. Then, you’ll get a PDF transcript and translation and do a series of video lessons based on the chapter: vocabulary, grammar, keigo, pronunciation, writing and culture. Each one comes with a worksheet, and you’ll wrap up the unit with a quiz and some recommended speaking activities. Finally, it’s time to move onto the next chapter.
The only catch? It’s one of the priciest Japanese resources around. Check out our detailed review of the Languages Uncovered series for more information.
Japanese Podcasts for Beginners
You’ve mastered the absolute basics, such as これは何ですか and 今日はあついです, but you’ve still got plenty to learn. The podcasts in this section will reinforce basic Japanese vocabulary and grammar, help you learn some more natural phrasing and improve your listening and pronunciation.
Most of these podcasts use English as well as Japanese. However, towards the end of the list, you’ll also find some slowly spoken, all-in-Japanese podcasts that will let you work on your listening comprehension. がんばって!
Looking for beginner-friendly podcasts that will introduce you to natural phrases? LearnJapanesePod mixes lessons with interviews, and it focuses on conversational Japanese. Expect to hear phrases like すし好き？ instead of the textbook-esque あなたはおすしが好きですか. And since it focuses mainly on situational Japanese, it’s a nice supplemental option to more grammar-orientated podcasts and courses.
Some learners may be frustrated by the heavy use of English, but there are plenty of cultural explanations that make it worthwhile. The hosts also have genuine chemistry. But, if you don’t want to listen to the English, don’t worry: they also publish a dialogues-only version of each lesson.
Have you ever learnt a Japanese phrase by heart and then confidently used it in conversation, only to discover that the person you’re speaking to couldn’t understand you?
Often, you’ve actually remembered the phrase perfectly. You just need to work on your pronunciation. Maybe it’s the intonation, maybe it’s the vowels, or maybe it’s that little sokuon or っ sound that can be so tricky. Whatever it is, something’s not quite right.
That’s where the Beginning Japanese podcast comes in. Each episode takes just one word or phrase with one example sentence. Then, it gets you to shadow the hosts, saying it as they say it, so that you pick up natural pronunciation and intonation. It’s a win-win situation: you improve your vocabulary and your Japanese speaking at the same time. And it works nicely alongside a flashcard app like Anki, too.
Get ready to expand your vocabulary. Each episode of this podcast is focused on a single Japanese word or phrase, which are generally N5–N3 level. But this podcast doesn’t just explain the basics. There’s plenty of information about natural, non-textbook Japanese so you can choose how to express your personality, gender identity and age when you speak.
Confusingly, the podcast titles and descriptions often use a non-standardised form of romaji transliteration that seems to be based on a US American accent. For example, they sometimes use “d” instead of “r”, add an “h” to the end of vowels or skip vowels. Take あいだ (間): Manga Sensei writes it as “idah” instead of the standard romaji spelling of “aida”.
As such, low beginners should probably approach this podcast with caution. Until you’re familiar with Japanese pronunciation and spelling rules, the non-standard spelling can make it extremely difficult to look up further information or use the language when writing.
Nihongo Master mixes cultural insights with language lessons. The latter kick off with an English-language explanation of the target grammar or vocabulary. Next, you’ll hear dialogues, followed by translations or quizzes, and then breakdowns or vocabulary recaps. The episodes can at times feel rushed, but they’re an entertaining supplement to your regular studies.
Tofugu’s a well-known name in the Japanese-learning community, and for good reason: the website contains a wealth of in-depth blog posts, grammar guides and more. Their podcast used to be devoted to information about Japan, but since 2018, they’ve been uploading more and more ones about the language itself.
Most of the topics are beginner-level, although they’re far from superficial. It often feels more like a discussion than a lesson, and intermediate learners may also pick up useful titbits. That said, some learners may feel frustrated by the heavy use of English.
It’s time to ease into all-in-Japanese podcasts. Don’t be nervous, though: this is a very slowly spoken podcast that uses easy Japanese. Your host Mari’s pronunciation is extremely clear, and you can also read the Japanese and English transcripts on the website.
Ready to take your Japanese listening to the next level? The short-and-sweet episodes of this beginner-level podcast may use basic vocabulary and phrases, but they feel less artificial than most textbooks. The target phrases are used multiple times to help you out, while Teppei’s speaking starts off painstakingly slow and gradually gets faster. As such, it’s a good way to challenge your listening comprehension without throwing yourself in the deep end.
Does one of these names sound familiar? We’ve already mentioned Teppei’s beginner-level solo podcast. In fact, you’re going to see both these names quite a lot on this list, because Noriko and Teppei are prolific podcasters with a good grasp of what makes Japanese tricky for learners.
This entertaining podcast doesn’t use difficult vocabulary or grammar, but even so, it might seem hard at first. This is because it’s the first podcast on this list that features natural, unscripted conversations in Japanese. Listening to a conversation is nearly always more challenging than a dialogue, but it’s also more realistic.
So fasten your seatbelts and get ready to listen to Teppei and Noriko as they discuss Nutella, their Spanish studies, different Japanese accents and much more. This podcast will not only give you more exposure to beginner-level vocabulary and phrases, but it will also help you prepare for conversations with multiple people. Bear in mind that the audio quality of earlier lessons is pretty poor, but it improves over time.
This podcast may be designed for children rather than language learners, but it’s a great way to practise your listening comprehension and broaden your vocabulary. In each episode, the narrator reads out a story – complete with different voices, sound effects, and more. While you might not understand everything, you’ll be surprised by how much you can follow.
Japanese Podcasts for Intermediate Learners
As an intermediate-level speaker, you already have fairly good listening comprehension – providing the podcast host speaks slowly and uses basic Japanese grammar and vocabulary. Now, though, you’re ready to be challenged with more complex language and faster speaking speeds. There’s virtually no English used in most podcasts at this level.
Looking for a gentle introduction to intermediate-level content? Try this immersion podcast, in which your host Yumi talks slowly and clearly about Japanese culture, her daily life with her family and much more. It’s designed for upper beginner and intermediate learners, and each episode is just a few unintimidating minutes long.
Double check the level
Let’s step up the difficulty slightly with this next podcast. We looked at Noriko’s collaboration with Teppei in the beginner section, but lower-intermediate level learners will likely prefer her solo podcast. It’s slightly more difficult, the episodes are a bit longer and yet it’s just as entertaining. Topics vary, but with hundreds of episodes to choose from, you’re bound to find several that interest you. The audio quality is also excellent.
We’ve already mentioned the beginner-friendly version of this podcast above. Now it’s time to dive into the intermediate-level version of the Nihongo con Teppei podcast, with its 600+ episodes. The vocabulary and grammar are more challenging, so don’t worry if you can’t understand everything at first. Keep listening, and you’ll be surprised by how much you improve over time.
Podcaster Iku Yamamoto might speak slower than some other podcasters, such as Noriko and Teppei, but don’t dismiss this podcast. She uses more difficult vocabulary and grammar, and the topics are often slightly more challenging too. In fact, her target audience is intermediate and advanced learners.
Most of her episodes are about learning Japanese or Japanese culture. She talks about Japanese news and surveys; traditions, including the less-well known ones; and natural Japanese phrases and vocabulary that might not appear on the JLPT but will come in handy nonetheless.
If there’s one thing that strikes fear in most language-learners’ hearts, it’s a multi-person conversation. That’s why podcasts like this one are so useful. Two Japanese women studying in the UK chat about their experiences. It’s entertaining, not overly challenging and a great way to get used to more conversational Japanese. They also publish a vocabulary list for each episode online, so if you’re struggling, check that out.
This relaxed podcast will help you pick up more casual, natural Japanese phrases, especially Kansai-ben. Thanks to the slow speech and online episode guides, it’s not too challenging to listen to. However, there are some interesting topics, such as reverse culture shock and when you can switch to calling a Japanese person by their first name.
This 20-chapter pay-to-listen podcast is designed to provide comprehensible input for lower-intermediate speakers. This means it speaks slightly above your level, but not so much above it that you can’t understand it – albeit with a little bit of effort and perhaps a few replays. Although at first this might be frustrating and challenging, it’s a good way to improve your listening comprehension. Bear in mind, however, that Conversations is on the pricier end.
Are your vocabulary and grammar better than your listening comprehension? You’re not alone in that. Don’t worry, though, because we’ve got the podcast for you. News in Slow Japanese is designed for intermediate and advanced learners, but you can play the recordings at two speeds: fast, which is still pretty slow; and slow, which is incredibly slow. In short, it’s a great catch-up tool for your listening comprehension.
They’ve uploaded the transcripts on their website, and premium subscribers also get access to worksheets along with shadowing tools that should help you improve your pronunciation. If you don’t want to use the website, however, you can find all the episodes on Apple Podcasts.
Love fiction? You’ll enjoy this podcast-turned-radio programme in which actress Tae Kimura reads stories aloud. It’s proved so popular that an accompanying book has also been published.
While it’s designed for native speakers, we’re including it in the intermediate section because of the slow speaking speed. The vocabulary and grammar may at times challenge you, but it’s a good way to ease yourself into material designed not for learners but for the average Japanese speaker.
Japanese Podcasts for Advanced Learners
As an advanced student, you’re ready to take on content that’s designed for native speakers – and that’s exciting. You’re no longer limited by what’s available. You can listen to anything you want to. Interested in history? There are over 10 million Google results for 歴史のポッドキャスト. Feminism? There are many to choose from. Politics? Just pick your flavour.
So ironically, this section is one of the shortest. After all, you don’t need our recommendations. And even though we’d like to, we can’t possibly tell you which Japanese-language podcasts are most worthy of listening to – that’s going to depend on your personal interests.
The podcasts that we have included are either extremely popular with Japanese learners or include lots of guests. Treat them as useful starting points – but don’t be afraid to branch out on your own.
Purists may not be impressed by this podcast, which isn’t actually produced by a native speaker. However, your host is a fluent Japanese speaker who not only lives and works in Japan but also presents TV programmes on NHK World. Each episode includes different guests – who are typically native speakers – so the topics vary greatly.
This old podcast remains hugely popular with Japanese language-learners, and for good reason. The hosts Daichi and Haruka have genuine chemistry and are animated speakers, which makes for engrossing listening. And since each episode focuses on a different one of “their favourite things”, you’re bound to find a topic that interests you.
ひいきびいき is no longer updated, and the recordings stopped functioning on most podcast platforms in 2020. However, around 300 episodes are still available via The Internet Archive.
This podcast is all about tech, software and gadgets. You can expect some specialist vocabulary and plenty of geeky content. Sometimes, the topics verge onto sociology, too, but it’s always done through the lens of science.
Your main host, Miyagawa, articulates clearly and the audio quality is good. The guest hosts, however, sometimes have thicker accents. If you find yourself struggling, try a different episode. And if you find a guest host whose perspectives you find interesting, check out the web version of the episode. You’ll be able to click on the host’s image and see every other episode they’ve appeared on.
We’ll hold our hands up and admit it: this isn’t a podcast. It is, however, a website that will let you buy Japanese audiobooks without a Japanese bank card or billing address – and that’s something of a rarity.
Audiobooks and podcasts aren’t really the same thing. Podcasts will often introduce you to more casual, conversational language. Yet audiobooks will also improve your listening, broaden your vocabulary and help you internalise tricky grammar. And there is no shortage of topics. Whether you love fantasy novels or like to learn more about business, you’ll find something here.
So there you go: 30 podcasts, audiobook sites and podcast-esque audio courses to help you improve your listening comprehension, pick up new vocabulary, and above all, have fun learning Japanese.
Podcasts might be less structured than traditional study materials, such as courses and textbooks, but they’re an excellent language-learning tool. You’ll get used to hearing how Japanese people really speak, whether you’re listening to a one-person monologue or a multi-host conversation. So don’t hesitate to add a couple of the podcasts on our list to your study routine.
And of course, as you learn more Japanese, you can expand from our list to find the podcasts that really interest you – whether that’s geeky lectures about science or history, passionate breakdowns of current affairs or lighthearted explorations of popular culture.