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12 (Mostly Free) Japanese Audiobooks for Convenient Listening

Sometimes, written Japanese can seem like an entirely separate language from spoken Japanese.

But in fact, reading skills and listening skills complement each other to a high degree.

Luckily for learners, there’s an excellent way to develop both of these skills at the same time: studying with audiobooks.

In this post, you’ll get 12 great Japanese audiobooks that can help you hone your listening skills—and entertain you!

Contents


1. “The Spider’s Thread” (蜘蛛の糸)

“The Spider’s Thread” is a Buddhist-themed story that takes place in Heaven, Hell and the space in between.

A vicious criminal gets an opportunity to escape from Hell, but for that he must overcome his own ego. Will he succeed?

2. “Rashōmon” (羅生門)

This is one of the most well-known of Akutagawa’s stories, which is set in a dilapidated medieval Kyoto.

A lone servant takes shelter from the rain in a ruined city gate, and discovers that he’s not alone there. The audiobook is #3 in the collection linked above. 

3. “In a Grove” (藪の中)

A murder incident is described by several different witnesses, each of whom gives a conflicting account of the events.

This is a very famous story, largely thanks to Kurosawa Akira’s film “Rashōmon,” whose plot is a hybrid between this and the above-mentioned story. It’s #19 in the collection linked above. 

4. “Kokoro” (こころ)

Arguably Natsume’s most popular and most “Japanese” novel, “Kokoro” tells of a special relationship between a student and a mysterious older man who becomes a very unusual mentor to him.

Despite being a long text, “Kokoro” is highly suitable for studying purposes because it’s written in straightforward language and divided into 110 very short chapters.

5. “Botchan” (坊ちゃん)

This sarcastic novel about a novice teacher from Tokyo who goes to a wacky school in the countryside is a great introduction to Japanese humor. 

Although harder to read than “Kokoro,” this is a highly recommended text if you’re an intermediate or above.

6. “Ten Nights of Dreams” (夢十夜) 

This is a cycle of 10 independent short stories.

Each story is self-contained and describes a different dream, and the texts are the perfect gateway to Natsume’s work.

7. “The Boat on the Takase River” (高瀬舟) 

This story follows a boat that carries criminals from city to city.

On this journey, there is a strange passenger that seems to be a bit too optimistic for a prisoner, and the police are intrigued to know his story.

8. “The Restaurant of Many Orders” (注文の多い料理店)

This story by Miyazawa Kenji follows two hunters that become lost in the mountains and stumble upon a mysterious restaurant. 

There, they encounter strange signs they must interpret and unexpected danger they must confront. 

9. “Librivox’s Multilingual Short Works Collection #4”

This option offers a variety of different short pieces, including poetry, prose, fiction and non-fiction. All the Japanese stories in this compilation are read by the same voice actor, who speaks slowly and clearly.

Beginners can definitely benefit from this audiobook series.

10. “Red Candles and the Mermaid” (赤いろうそくと人魚 – 小川 未明)

This beautiful poetic story tells the tale of a mermaid raised by an old human couple who makes money by selling candles.

The mermaid paints beautiful artwork on the candles and the couple begins to make a lot of money. However, things take a turn for the worse when the couple decides to sell the young girl to a merchant.

11. “Learn Japanese – Word Power 101”

This free audiobook is a must-listen for beginners with little to no experience with Japanese.

Besides the 101 Japanese words you’ll be learning, you’ll also learn practice phrases and example sentences to help with context. 

12. “Pimsleur Japanese Level 1”

Pimsleur-japenese-audiobook This well-reviewed textbook from Pimsleur is a great study aid for those who are already learning Japanese in a class. 

Lessons are split into 30-minute sections that focus on Japanese listening skills and conversation. It’s ideal for beginners, but Pimsleur offers other audiobooks for more advanced learners. 

How to Find Quality Japanese Audiobooks Online

The best keyword to search for if you’re looking for great Japanese audiobooks is 朗読 (ろうどく) or “reading aloud.” Or you can do a simple search with the title of a popular text and the keyword 朗読 to find versions of it being read aloud on YouTube or other websites. 

For easy browsing, here are some great websites where you can find Japanese audiobooks:

  • 青空朗読 (あおぞらろうどく — Aozora Rōdoku): Has free recordings of public-domain texts that are available in text-only versions on Aozora Bunko.
  • LibriVox: Free public domain audiobooks read by volunteers. Especially useful for finding longer, novel-length books.
  • Audible: Mostly offers instructional Japanese audiobooks, with fairly affordable prices and a free trial available. 
  • Innovative Language: Mostly offers instructional Japanese audiobooks, with a variety of language levels (sorted by a 1-9 level, from “Introduction” to “Advanced”) and some free offerings.
  • Loyal Books: Offers a good variety of free public domain audiobooks accessible directly from your web browser, and some have corresponding text and English translations.

If you come across any unknown words in your Japanese audiobooks, a dictionary app is helpful to have on hand.

And if you want even more listening practice, check out the FluentU language learning program—it uses videos to teach you how natives actually use their language.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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Now you have some great Japanese audiobooks and a handful of places where you can find more.

With these options, you can listen to Japanese stories and lessons while you commute, do daily chores, go shopping…

Happy listening!

And One More Thing...

If you love learning Japanese with authentic materials, then I should also tell you more about FluentU.

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FluentU has a broad range of contemporary videos as you'll see below:

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FluentU makes these native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts. Tap on any word to look it up instantly.

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All definitions have multiple examples, and they're written for Japanese learners like you. Tap to add words you'd like to review to a vocab list.

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And FluentU has a learn mode which turns every video into a language learning lesson. You can always swipe left or right to see more examples.

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The best part? FluentU keeps track of your vocabulary, and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It'll even remind you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You'll have a 100% personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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