I first discovered podcasts for myself when I was still working as a dental technician. Sitting there alone in my small lab I was mostly listening to some radio. I eventually discovered a gaming podcast by the German game One crew called Plauschangriff which was producing a weekly show about the latest in gaming. It was running on MTV and was always nice to watch even if I wasn’t that much of a gamer back then. Everybody was getting a PS3 and I just bought a used Dreamcast with tons of games off eBay. That was the kind of gamer I was. I never had one nor a PS2, it was cheap and still a brand new gaming experience for me.
But back to my love for podcasts which quickly developed after discovering the Plauschangriff. I loved the show with new episodes every two weeks, always talking about a different topic. Be it the Dreamcast, handheld games, the best Japanese roleplaying games or point and click adventures (which I still have fond memories of playing with my neighbor). I was searching for more, discovered podcasts about Japan and the textbook-like podcast Japanesepod101.
Unfortunately, the main podcast that got me interested in learning Japanese in the first place M! in Japan (by two German guys Jan and Jacob who is running solarisjapan) stopped a few years ago. A shame because their episodes were always a blast and just like having two friends over in Tokyo.
(Above you can see a picture of a small part of my current podcast selection. I usually don’t listen to the Joe Rogan experience but had to download the Elon Musk interview he did. )
Nowadays I’m not working as a dental technician anymore but still, listen to podcasts every day on my small commute by bike to university. And if you don’t have much time to sit down, read something in Japanese or if you’re just too tired to do some extra learning on the side, it’s a great way to get some exposure to the language through listening to a podcast.
And now on to the Podcasts
Depending on your level of Japanese there are a lot of different options out there. You have podcasts that want to teach you some Japanese grammar in short segments each day, you have dedicated Japanese courses with detailed PDF notes (JPod) and the ones which are just made to be listened to on the side about a topic you enjoy. If you’re just starting out I recommend getting a basic grasp of Japanese first before you head into the audio department. No podcast can replace a good textbook. And till today no App managed that either (even if Bunpro came close for Japanese grammar).
Podcast App: If you don’t already listen to podcasts and you’re in search of an app (iOS) try Overcast. I’m using it for two years now and it’s just great. Everything is so well sorted and structured. Among that are multiple customization options, the ability to set up notifications for new episodes for each podcast individually and you can even upload your own stuff to their servers (premium). Like everyone else, I started with the Apple podcast stock App. It was fine until the launch of Apple Music and the horrible re-design of the Music and Podcast App. Seriously Apple.
But now finally on to the podcasts, I recommend to everyone who is learning Japanese (or just a little curious ;) Not all are actually in Japanese. I included the ones I like which are just centered around Japan as well. It would’ve been a pity to leave them out.
バイリンガルニュース (Bilingual News) – Website
Two friends talking about recent news they are interested in. Ranging from discussions about the planned interactive Black Mirror episodes to the game Detroit Become human and the sustainability of Tesla batteries. I had to get used to the rather slow conversation flow of the two but after I did I found they have a pretty soothing, zen-like quality to it. Ami is mostly talking in Japanese and Michael is usually answering her in English.
It’s a great podcast to start with getting a little more exposure towards Japanese because even if you don’t even get the gist of what Ami might be saying you can still follow the conversation. I’m listening to it on and off, skipping a few episodes in between. I have to be in the mood for the show but it’s a nice starting point for more natural Japanese exposure.
PS: Don’t forget the Bilingual Japanese gift shop ;)
GoGO Abe Kaiwa
あ、わかる！和 英会話で楽々リスニング – GoGoエイブ会話 – Website
Nihongo Con Teppei – Website
The iTalki teacher Teppei also has his own podcasts where he talks about the usage of various Japanese phrases and grammar points in short episodes. His speaking style took me a little to get used to. Not because of the difficulty but rather the intonation. But kudos to all the work he is putting into this. And: He seems like a really nice guy. Just watch his video on iTalki and you’ll instantly know what I mean.
Manga Sensei – Website
A daily podcast by John Dinkel talking about one grammar point each day. Very short (around 3-5min each) and easy to be implemented into your daily routine. Sprinkled in-between are some interview shows with fellow Japanese teachers or expats. The website is worth to be checked out as well. Manga skits that are trying to teach you Japanese, a new blog and the Manga Sensei 30day challenge.
History of Japan – Website
If you want to learn about Japanese history there is nothing better than this podcast (well, maybe this Japanese manga series). Run by the historian Isaac Meyer you can learn about everything from the history of pro-wrestling to homosexuality to the Economy-Bubbly of the 80s in Japan. The episodes are roughly 30 min each and always meticulously researched. Great stuff for everyone who wants to learn more about interesting periods of Japan’s rich history.
The length is perfect for our short concentration spans and if you haven’t been interested in history before this is the podcast that’ll get you. Promise.
News In Slow Japanese – Website
The lifestyle museum – Website
Hosted by Peter Barakan (once involved with the Yellow Magic Orchestra) discussing various topics with a different Japanese artist of all trades. Half-hour shows that are broadcast by Tokyo FM on Fridays every week. Barakan’s soothing voice just pulls you in and if you have a knack for design, art or just Tokyo you should give this show a listen. On the Japanese side, the host is speaking pretty clearly so even if the vocab and expressions might not be on par with your level, you won’t be having any problems understanding acoustically.
8-4 Play – Website
A podcast about Japanese video games by the Tokyo based localization studio 8-4. The podcast is hosted every two weeks and always a nice talk about the latest in games and what the guys have been up to over the last couple of days. I discovered it a few years ago through a recommendation on Twitter and heard every episode since. A nice troupe and great to listen to especially when you’re interested in a Japanese perspective on the latest game releases.
ひいきびいき – Website
Sad news first, this podcast has ended. But that doesn’t stop you from going through their archive of 280 episodes. Roughly the same concept as the Bilingual Podcast minus the Bilingual part. Two hosts talking about the latest and greatest in their lives. Unfortunately, because the weekly-news aspect of the podcast is now gone but it shouldn’t stop you from giving ひいきびいき a go nonetheless. Great to listen to because the speakers are really well articulated. Seriously, I wish I could speak that clearly in my mother tongue as well. If you’re struggling with your listening ability give this podcast a try (but it’s still native Japanese spoken among natives. So don’t get discouraged if you need to come back to this one after another cram session).
This is my current selection of Japanese and Japan-related podcasts I’m listening to. Sometimes I’m even looking forward to cleaning the kitchen just because that means it’s podcast time again. A little note towards the picture above. I just bought these ridiculous Beats headphones because they work so well with iOS. Otherwise, I can’t recommend them and would favor the Sony ones instead. Just to get that out there as well :)
Like always I’ll extend and modify this list as time goes by and I discover something new. If you have a nice tip, please share every podcast you enjoy. Always so nice to find and discover new stuff through fellow Japanese learners (which simply is an awesome community).