Learning Japanese can be a difficult process if you aren’t able to travel to Japan and immerse yourself in the language for months at a time. With three writing systems to learn — katakana, hiragana, and kanji — and phonetic sounds that don’t appear in the English language, you may be wondering where to turn to for help.
Fortunately, YouTube has a variety of resources to help tune your ear to the Japanese language, from beginner grammar and vocabulary lessons to deep dives into cultural differences and regional dialects. As you become more confident in your abilities, you can even listen to channels intended for native Japanese speakers.
Use these channels as a supplement to podcasts, courses, or as standalone lessons. Wherever you are in the process, you’ll find a channel that’s just right for your current comprehension skills and learning level.
Start off with one of these channels intended for beginners. If you haven’t taken any classes in Japanese and are new to the Japanese writing system, these videos will get you up to speed and give you a solid foundation for more advanced lessons.
The Language Pod resources are some of the best YouTube channels for learning a new language. They’re comprehensive and well-produced, so you can start out as a beginner and stick with them all the way through more intermediate lessons.
Host Risa will be your guide in videos like “Learn All Hiragana in 1 Hour,” which gives you a crash course in one aspect of the Japanese writing system. Visitors to Japan will benefit from videos like “How to Navigate Passport Control in Japanese,” and language nerds will enjoy “6 Japanese Words That Are Impossible to Translate.”
The variety of topics and teachers on this channel make it a good starting point for any learning level. You can even keep the 24/7 TV channel on in the background to pick up new vocabulary words throughout the day. The JapanesePod101 website has a whole range of lessons available for members (starting at $8/month), but you don’t need to be a subscriber to watch the videos on their free YouTube channel.
For a bit of a retro vibe, check out the Now Learn Japanese channel, where you’ll find the “Let’s Learn Japanese” video course originally produced in the 80s and 90s. These videos aren’t as polished as more recent channels, but they are a good introduction to the basics. Each episode is 30 minutes long and includes skits that revolve around a foreigner moving to Japan. These were produced by the Japan Foundation and have been used in Japanese language classes for decades.
This YouTube channel is designed to get you comfortable with Japanese grammar and pronunciation from Day 1. Hosts George and Yukari will literally take you from zero to 100 million with their video lessons on Japanese numbers. There are also playlists in which George translates and analyzes video games and other media in Japanese to help you understand real-world usage of words and phrases.
These free YouTube videos will give you plenty of material to work with, but you can get additional exercises at yesjapan.com or by supporting them on Patreon. To get the most complete learning experience, follow along with the Japanese from Zero textbook.
This channel is less exciting than some of the other channels here since there’s no host on camera, just words on the screen. But that makes it perfect for studying hiragana, with videos that walk you through the pronunciation of each symbol. You can visit the Guide to Japanese website for free resources and grammar guides that explain some of the concepts you’ll learn in the videos.
Genki Japan is a playlist by Richard Graham that uses music to teach you Japanese. While the topics are basic, the songs make everything easy to remember, so you may find these videos useful when trying to memorize numbers, days of the week, or other vocabulary words. The videos typically show the Japanese script so you can start connecting each word or phrase with its associated symbols.
Yuu is a Japanese instructor based in LA who makes videos that are great for beginners, on topics ranging from “How to Say Hello in Japanese” all the way to “How to Apologize in Japanese.” She also has videos in which she discusses the differences between the Tokyo and Osaka dialects and how to “sound” more authentically Japanese. At 20-30 minutes each, these videos are just the right length to introduce you to a new topic without being overwhelming.
Tomoko is a Japanese vlogger and language instructor who has a broad range of videos covering everything from food and culture to street interviews with native speakers. Her dance and yoga videos are a great way to learn the Japanese words for body parts, and her travel videos will get you familiar with the regional dialects. While she doesn’t have as many structured lessons as other channels, her videos are a great bridge between beginner-level material and more intermediate content.
NHK is Japan’s national broadcaster, and its YouTube channel has dozens of videos of interest to Japanese students. Their Easy Japanese Lesson playlist is the most useful for beginners. Each episode starts with a short animated dialogue in Japanese on a particular topic, such as how to ask for directions or whether you can take a picture. Then, the English-speaking host will break down the dialogue for you.
They also have videos on the news, Japanese food, sumo wrestling, and more. Many of them are narrated in English and intended for an international audience, so they’re easy enough for beginners to follow along and get used to hearing Japanese phrases.
This channel is hosted by Victor, a non-native speaker who has lived in Japan for over 17 years. His videos include introductory lessons and insights into Japanese culture, as well as a playlist called “Japanese for Morons” that covers some of the basics. This is a good channel for beginners that also includes some intermediate content.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics – vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar — it’s time to level up to more intermediate material. These YouTube channels will help you practice your listening comprehension and get you familiar with a broad range of dialects and colloquial expressions. They’re still aimed at learners, though, so most of them will have English subtitles or explanations of the material to help you follow along.
Easy Japanese is part of a YouTube channel that features “man on the street” interviews in a variety of languages. These videos are a great way to expose yourself to everyday Japanese and learn about culture and politics from native Japanese speakers. Topics include sushi, tourism, and “the secret of longevity.”
The hosts speak clearly so the conversations are relatively easy to follow. You’ll learn plenty of slang works to add to your vocabulary. Each video has captions in English, Japanese script, and rōmaji, or Romanized Japanese.
Japan Society NYC is an organization based in the U.S. dedicated to forging cultural ties between the two countries. Their YouTube channel offers a range of resources to level up your language abilities, from the basics to more advanced topics.
Start with their playlist on how to read and write hiragana and katakana, then check out their videos on “levels of politeness” and common mistakes made in Japanese. You can also watch their English-language series Nihon New York for a look at Japanese food, fashion, and culture in New York City.
Most of the videos have colorful graphics and handy subtitles to help you follow along with the lessons, making them suitable for beginner and intermediate learners.
Japanese Ammo is a great way to level up your Japanese without moving too quickly. Misa covers a variety of basic vocabulary, as well as how to write hiragana, katakana, and kanji. She also has videos on interesting topics such as texting in Japanese and “Must-know phrases when living with a Japanese partner and roommate.”
Misa’s style is fun and easy-going. She’s also a manga fan and has several videos in which she reads manga in Japanese. Most of her videos have subtitles in Japanese, English, and rōmaji, making them easy for new learners to follow along.
This channel is all about kanji, the Japanese script derived from Chinese characters. It mostly consists of a narrator writing kanji with a pen and paper. The videos are aimed at elementary school students, so the vocabulary isn’t very advanced. But since kanji is the most complex of all the Japanese scripts, this channel is best for intermediate learners. The narration is either in English or in Japanese with English subtitles.
Ask Japanese is another channel that features man-on-the-street interviews with native speakers. Most of the videos take place in Tokyo and address cultural and travel issues. The conversation can be a bit fast at times, but turn on the subtitles and do your best to keep up. Topics include “How hard is renting a place in Tokyo?” and “What’s the best food to try in Japan?” The locals will give you their honest opinions on everything!
Reina Scully is a YouTuber who offers “Weird Japanese Lessons” and “Silly Japanese Translations.” These include anime reviews, Internet slang challenges, and more. While her lessons aren’t as in-depth as some of the other channels, they’re a fun way to pick up some new words from a vlogger who speaks fluent Japanese and English.
Nobita is a native Japanese speaker who grew up in Japan. His videos include lessons, commentaries, and interviews with everyday Japanese people. Some of his videos may seem a bit sexist to American viewers, with separate playlists asking men and women what they think about Western girls (or guys), or interviewing Japanese men about why they are still virgins. But his interviews with elderly Japanese people are especially interesting and offer some insight into how Japan has changed over the years.
Yuta is a native Japanese speaker who interviews people on the streets of Tokyo and creates videos introducing foreigners to the Japanese language and culture. Since he doesn’t have formal lessons, his channel is best for intermediate learners who want to improve their listening comprehension skills. You’ll also learn interesting things about Japanese culture, including dating, living in Japan as a foreigner, and how Japanese people type on a keyboard. Yuta’s videos are fun, silly, and easy to follow.
This channel is hosted by a native Japanese speaker who vlogs about a range of topics in Japanese and English. Her channel is especially useful for people who want to learn the Kansai dialect, which is spoken on part of the main island of Japan. She has several video lessons on negative form and other differences that are unique to that region.
This channel is run by a YouTuber from New Zealand who has lived in Japan for many years. His videos cover a variety of topics, including a series on Japanese business culture that’s a must for anyone planning to move to Japan for work. He also explores current events and Japanese history and culture. His videos have both English and Japanese content, making them suitable for intermediate learners.
Tofugu is a Japanese blog and podcast that deals with all aspects of Japanese culture. You won’t find many formal lessons here, but their playlist on Japanese body language may be useful for language learners. You’ll pick up a few new hand gestures, like the Japanese symbol for “money,” and other ways to communicate using your body.
These YouTube channels are great for students who are ready to start conversing entirely in Japanese. While some of these channels are still intended for non-native speakers, they typically assume a high level of listening comprehension and a strong grasp of grammar. Try them without using English subtitles to give yourself a more challenging learning experience.
Bilingirl Chika is a YouTuber whose videos alternate between English and Japanese. She lives as a “digital nomad” with her husband and 8-month-old baby Pudding, so her videos will take you all over the world, from Japan to the U.S. to Australia. Between this channel and her other channel, Japanagos, you’ll have plenty of content to choose from. Watch her get married at a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony, or follow along as she compares working styles in Australia and Japan.
This is a great channel for picking up new concepts without being 100% immersed in Japanese. Since she often speaks in English too, you can follow along using context clues, or turn on the subtitles for both English and Japanese translations.
Chiaki is an air hostess from Okinawa who now lives in England and makes videos on travel, fashion, beauty, and more. Some of her videos are entirely in Japanese, without any subtitles for English speakers, while others are video lessons that will show you how to order food in a restaurant and other tips for traveling in Japan.
Nihongo no mori is an advanced channel intended for students who are studying for the JLPT exams, or Japanese-language proficiency tests. You’ll want to have a solid grasp of Japanese writing before tackling this channel. But once you do, you can use these videos to refine your grammar and improve your conversational skills. This is a great channel for anyone who’s planning to work, study, or live in Japan long-term.
Bobby Judo is a YouTuber who makes silly videos about drinking, cooking, and other aspects of life in Japan. His videos are entirely in Japanese, with English subtitles, so you’ll need to be able to read Japanese script to navigate this channel. His videos are fun and casual but deal with interesting topics, such as the “One Beer With Bobby” playlist, in which he answers questions about foreigners while drinking beer.
Dogen is an American who makes videos about his life in Japan, including language lessons and comedy sketches. His pronunciation is so authentic that he could pass for a native speaker. His videos cover topics that aren’t found on many YouTube channels, such as finances in Japan and the recent Japanese elections. He also has a guide to pitch and pronunciation that’s available to his Patreon subscribers. Dogen is a great resource who knows what it’s like to learn Japanese as a native English speaker.
Whether you’re teaching yourself from scratch or taking a class, these YouTube videos will speed up your learning process and prepare you for a trip to Japan. Because written Japanese is so different from English, you’ll miss out on a lot if you only learn from books or podcasts. YouTube videos offer the perfect combination of all the elements that make up the Japanese language: pronunciation, script, body language, and more.
Plus, they’re fun to watch!
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