The Best Online Japanese Courses: 23 Tested and True Options for 2023
In my quest to learn Japanese online, I’ve noticed that websites for learning Japanese are bountiful these days. And many of them are either sensibly priced or completely free.
I’ve found sites that cater to a huge variety of learning methods and goals—there are places to work on Japanese speaking skills, reading skills, listening skills and more.
In this post, I’ve rounded up the 28 best websites to learn Japanese online.
Best Range of Learning Materials: JapanesePod101
Summary: High-quality video and audio lessons that cover vocabulary, grammar, JLPT materials and more.
Price: Free, basic, premium and premium+ accounts are available, and each level gives you access to more videos and lessons. Pricing information.
JapanesePod101 is easy to use and great for visual or auditory learners, as it primarily teaches with videos and audio clips.
JapanesePod101 also includes vocabulary flashcards and a word bank to really personalize your learning experience and help you focus on words you struggle with.
Although you can continue using your “free trial” as long as you’d like, you’ll need to subscribe to one of their paid plans to unlock the full potential and all the features of the program.
See our full review of JapanesePod101 here.
Best for Immersive Learners: FluentU
Summary: Video lessons using authentic Japanese media clips with interactive subtitles, flashcards and quizzes.
Price: Monthly subscription with a discount for signing up for an annual plan. A free trial is available. Pricing information.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “add” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language skills.
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.)
Best for Intuitive Learners: Rosetta Stone
Summary: Course that focuses on picking up Japanese naturally by using an intuitive learning system.
Price: Paid subscription. There’s an option to be billed every 3 months or every 12 months at a discount. There’s also a lifetime subscription with a pricier one-time payment that gives you access to all languages. Pricing information.
Rosetta Stone is one of the oldest and best known digital language learning programs.
The program’s philosophy is to teach new languages in the same way you learned your first language, by associating pictures with words and introducing grammar later on.
Rosetta Stone is one of the few online courses for individual learning that monitors and helps you improve your accent and intonation, something that can often be overlooked when studying without a teacher.
To learn more, check out our full review of Rosetta Stone.
Best Course for the Basics: CosCom Japanese
Summary: Japanese lessons that cover vocabulary, grammar and the writing system.
Price: Basic online materials are free, but intermediate lessons and add-ons for both levels can be purchased for a one-time fee. Pricing information.
CosCom Japanese offers to-the-point lessons that focus on all the Japanese basics. These basics include vocabulary and grammar topics and tackle the Japanese writing systems.
All the words and phrases included in the online lessons have recorded authentic Japanese audio and English translations.
CosCom also offers invaluable add-ons to their lessons such as short world news updates in simple Japanese, the most common 200 Japanese verbs and instruction on how to type hiragana, katakana and kanji on computers.
Best for Beginners: Japanese From Zero!
Summary: Video lessons that focus on gaining a foundation in Japanese as a newbie.
Price: Some online material and YouTube videos are free. Additional materials and the full Japanese From Zero! course can be purchased for a fee. Pricing information (a free account is required to view this page and upgrade your membership level.)
Japanese From Zero! was created by a Japanese learner named George Trombley who attained fluency in Japanese and went on to be an interpreter for companies such as Microsoft and IBM.
The first course, which is comprised of 13 full lessons, is available completely for free with sign up on the website. The additional four courses must be purchased in either their online or textbook formats.
If you’re looking for something completely free, however, the online and textbook courses are supported by the Japanese From Zero! YouTube channel.
The channel itself can be used on its own to learn Japanese, and the videos are sorted in a logical order for learning Japanese from scratch.
Best for Japanese Vocabulary Practice: Memrise
Summary: Game-like flashcard learning using multimedia and spaced repetition technology.
Price: Some decks and features available for free. Subscription based with a discounted annual option. You can also get a lifetime subscription for a larger one-time fee. Pricing information.
Memrise uses a spaced repetition based technology combined with a flashy and fun interface to teach language with flashcard decks.
The flashcards cater to an immense scope of levels and subjects, from katakana and Japanese counters to JLPT N1 vocabulary.
Memrise might better serve the needs of beginners and casual learners due to its interactive, game-like approach.
Check out our full review of Memrise to learn more.
Best for Learning Romaji: Japanese-Lesson.com
Summary: Online lessons that focus on essential Japanese words using romaji.
Japanese-Lesson.com offers 10 completely free lessons that cover essential Japanese words and phrases for complete beginners.
Each lesson focuses on phrases and words associated with a certain lesson topic and includes audio files for key terms.
Lessons also include grammatical and cultural explanations under the “Tips” section, and there are three different drill exercises to help solidify your knowledge in each lesson.
Best Structured Course: edX
Summary: Exceptional university-type courses that cover the Japanese language basics made by vetted professionals.
Price: Free course audits, with an optional paid certificate course.
Started by Harvard and MIT, edX offers high-quality courses on a wide variety of topics—including Japanese—from universities all over the world.
edX’s Japanese courses are presented courtesy of Waseda University in Japan. There are two levels of in-depth beginner courses taught in English by enthusiastic professors.
Students have the option to sign up for individual classes or purchase a full, three-part program course. (Information on their beginner course is available here.)
Every course is free to audit, though you get more materials and quizzes with a paid certificate course.
Among their offerings are courses that teach proper Japanese pronunciation as well as how to use techniques like shadowing to improve pronunciation.
Best JLPT Course: Yuko Sensei
Summary: YouTube videos focusing on JLPT levels N5, N4 and N3.
Price: Free on YouTube. Additional courses are offered on Yuko Sensei’s website at a price.
Yuko Sensei is a native Japanese speaker, so the language used in her videos is authentic and she gives real world situations to contextualize her lessons.
Yuko Sensei has created short video lessons in Japanese that are available on YouTube. She has a variety of lessons for beginner and intermediate learners.
Such videos are incorporated in playlists for basic Japanese, hiragana, katakana and listening practice.
Additional materials and lessons are available on Yuko Sensei’s website for a price, but she does offer a beginner’s Japanese mini-course for free.
Best Online Japanese Quizzes: Linguti
Summary: Graphical game-like language lessons with helpful tools for Japanese learning.
Linguti is a free gamified language learning website offering Japanese and Polish.
If you’re a beginner, you can start with Unit 1 and complete quizzes based on vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and listening to unlock subsequent content.
Keywords can be viewed in romaji, kana or kanji—a handy feature for those with previous exposure to Japanese characters.
But the coolest part is that you can redo lessons as many times as you want. Never having to fear failing is what ultimately makes this website both fun and inspiring.
Best Grammar Course: Wasabi’s Online Japanese Grammar Reference
Summary: Reference page that goes in-depth about specific Japanese grammar points.
Price: Wasabi’s grammar reference is available for free online, but lessons come at a cost. Pricing information.
At its base, this online course is true to its name: It’s a Japanese grammar reference. Grammar lessons follow a chronological order and are actually structured quite like a textbook.
The lessons progress through basic, essential and advanced grammar topics, eventually covering all major concepts in the Japanese language.
Each lesson has a detailed breakdown and examples of the topic as well as a summary section at the end.
The reference is best used in conjunction with Wasabi’s online lessons, but the free resource on its own functions as a complete grammar course.
Best for Mnemonics: WaniKani
Summary: Uses mnemonics and spaced repetition to teach kanji and vocab
Price: Free through level 4. After that, a monthly subscription with a discount for paying annually. Lifetime subscription also available for a one-time fee. Pricing information.
Created by famed Japanese-culture website Tofugu, WaniKani strives to teach Japanese learners 2,000 kanji and 6,000 vocabulary words in a little more than a year.
Specifically targeting beginners, WaniKani uses SRS and employs a slightly rigid learning structure, starting with elementary-level kanji, radicals and vocabulary.
It also supplies entertaining mnemonic devices to help you recall the meanings and readings of kanji.
Best Course for Short Attention Spans: NihongoShark
Summary: Entertaining lectures on a wide variety of Japanese language topics.
Price: Free trial with basic, premium and lifetime pricing plans. Pricing information.
With a philosophy of effective and quick Japanese instruction, NihongoShark offers a series of over 1,000 detailed Japanese lessons.
The comprehensive lectures are entertaining and make even the most confusing aspects of Japanese easy to understand.
Nihongo Shark is accessible for the complete beginner and also a valuable tool for the advanced speaker.
Its “HJS Four Phases” divides Japanese into four sections: introductory, beginner, intermediate and advanced.
The courses are also divided into sections based on your learning goals, whether you’re studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) or looking to learn before a trip to Japan.
Each course is self-paced, so you can take your studies as quickly or as slowly as you want.
Best Course for Modern Learners: NHK World’s Online Japanese Lessons
Summary: Lessons made by native Japanese speakers with videos and quizzes.
NHK’s online Japanese course was created by native Japanese speakers for learners of the Japanese language.
Since you’re getting Japanese lessons straight from the source, this means that you’re learning real and relevant everyday Japanese words and phrases.
This site offers realistic scenarios, quizzes and videos, which is similar to BBC’s Japanese learning course. Free, downloadable lessons are also available to use for later review.
All the content is presented with fun, colorful illustrations and tons of personality, making the learning process very enjoyable!
The lessons include a charming “My Haru-san” tracker to hold you accountable for studying every day and a number of other fun features.
Best In-Depth Course: Japanese Ammo
Summary: YouTube videos that go in-depth about Japanese grammar and phrases.
Japanese Ammo is run by Misa, an upbeat language enthusiast whose videos go into the finer details of the Japanese language.
The videos are aimed at beginners and intermediate learners and the host explains particulars of Japanese grammar in-depth, including points that may be easily confused by learners of the language.
She thoroughly explores how words are used by native Japanese speakers, offering valuable insight that can help viewers sound natural.
Every aspect she touches on gets a clear, easy-to-understand explanation, so you’ll know exactly why every Japanese word or expression is used the way it is.
Her playlists contain a treasure trove of Japanese lessons, offering help for absolute beginners and tourists, as well as listening practice for those looking to improve their Japanese comprehension.
Best Audio Course: Loecsen Japanese
Summary: Flashcard-based courses with audio that focus on beginner Japanese.
Loecsen offers language courses that learners can follow at their own pace.
In the Japanese course, there are 17 completely free lessons (called “themes”). These are interactive flashcard-based lessons complete with vocabulary lists and quizzes.
Lessons revolve around topics such as colors, the beach and taking a taxi. First, learners review the words in each lesson along with audio recordings and helpful visuals.
Then you complete the quizzes that include various activities to help you learn the words and phrases.
The “Read Aloud” function allows you to hear Japanese readings of content anywhere on the web. Simply copy and paste a text and get an automated audio recording and translation of it.
The course also includes and supports writing in hiragana, katakana, kanji and romaji.
Best Course for Travelers: Japan Society NYC
Summary: YouTube videos with a classroom-like setting that focus on beginner and travel Japanese.
The Japan Society of New York City offers 24 completely free video lessons on YouTube, covering essential Japanese.
While no writing of hiragana, katakana or kanji is taught, this course is perfect for those looking for a travel-style Japanese course for tourists.
Each lesson is taught like a university lecture with explanations and grammar tips. The last part of the lesson gives viewers an opportunity to practice by translating words and phrases from English into Japanese.
If you’re interested in the cultural aspects of Japan and its language, the Japan Society’s main YouTube channel covers many modern issues important to Japanese people.
Best Cultural Course: The Japanese Page
Summary: Japanese lessons with a cultural focus on living and working in Japan.
The Japanese Page is a great place to start learning about Japanese culture as well as beginner language skills. It gives you a feel for learning the language before you commit to a paid service.
The Japanese Page is a completely free website that offers help with typing Japanese words on your keyboard, along with hiragana and katakana lessons.
The lessons also include advice about Japanese culture and insight into what it’s like to live in the country.
One of the website’s coolest features is Makoto, a monthly subscription digital magazine packed with learner content like stories with vocabulary explained, cultural tidbits, jokes, puns and so much more.
By signing up for this magazine, you also get access to more features on the website, like weekly shadowing sentences for beginners and intermediate learners.
Best for Flashcards: Anki
Summary: A flexible and free flashcard program that lets you learn with spaced repetition and multimedia.
Anki is a free program that lets you create and customize virtual flashcards
Anki also allows you to download premade decks from its companion website for fast and easy kanji and vocabulary memorization.
Here’s why it works so well: Anki’s spaced-repetition software (SRS) makes difficult cards reappear at higher rates until you’ve adequately retained their contents.
Basically, SRS forces you to review the cards that you struggle with the most but lets you skim (and ultimately skip) the cards you already know.
It’s an innovative system with quality results, and a cinch to use.
Best for Specific Skills: Kanshudo
Summary: Beginner lessons on specific skills such as vocabulary, grammar and kanji.
Price: First 20 beginner lessons are free, followed by paid intermediate courses. Pricing information.
A personalized learning experience that provides structured lessons as well as free plans.
By setting your own challenges, you can focus on the areas of Japanese that you want to learn.
The program’s tracking system lets you see exactly what your progress is in vocabulary, grammar, kanji and specific study points.
In addition to lessons, Kanshudo offers a ton of games that allow you to reinforce your studies, as well as graded reading material to practice reading.
The program’s vast library of Japanese vocabulary, grammar and kanji lets you look up any term and its kanji.
Kanshudo also offers textbook support, so if you’re learning with a Japanese textbook series like “Genki” or “Minna no Nihongo,” this is a great supplemental resource.
Best Flexible Course: Marugoto
Summary: Website of structured courses that focus on finding your own study preferences.
Marugoto is a textbook series as well as a website that provides structured courses for beginners that aim to give them real power to communicate in Japanese.
Developed by the Japan Foundation and based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), Marugoto offers self-study courses provided through the Minato website.
There are two options that you can choose from based on your study style: “Katsudoo” for casual studies and “Rikai” for more serious studies.
You can review your progress at any time by using a profile that keeps records of your study progress and your learning portfolio.
Both self-study and tutor-supported options are available online. Options include a wide range of topics, like writing general language and anime-specific courses.
While many of the most popular courses use English as a base language, a number of lessons are also available in other languages like Spanish, French, Thai and Mandarin Chinese.
Best Paid Course: Coto Academy
Summary: High-quality course options much like those you would find in a school setting, with vetted teachers and materials.
Price: Varies based on lesson package. Pricing information available for each type of lesson.
Based on an in-person learning academy in Tokyo, Coto Academy offers online courses that users can take anywhere in the world.
After checking your Japanese level for free, you’ll then be able to select the best course option for you. Depending on how you learn best, you can take lessons either privately or in a group.
There’s no need to worry about getting materials—Coto will send you everything you need.
Coto Academy also offers JLPT prep courses and Business Japanese Courses, making Coto a fantastic resource for those looking to advance professionally with their Japanese.
Best for Tutor Support: Nihongo-Pro.com
Summary: Website that connects you with Japanese tutors for one-on-one lessons.
Price: Reasonable rate for a 50-minute lesson, and discounts if you purchase 30 lessons or more. Pricing information.
This website is great if you want an actual human teacher who can Skype with you and help you learn Japanese at your own pace.
A tutor can help you a variety of ways that you’ll miss out on if you only learn alone. If you’re looking to learn Japanese with a teacher in the comfort of your own home, Nihongo-Pro.com is a good place to start.
They can help you improve your pronunciation and intonation and give you personalized study suggestions and guidance on what you need to improve.
You can try out some lessons to help you decide if it’s right for you. You can choose your own teacher and buy private lesson “tickets” which you can use at any time, whenever you’re ready and available.
This is much better than strictly scheduled lessons, because you won’t miss out or be left behind if you need to take a break or go on vacation. There are also a few freebies like leveled quizzes and kanji games.
With these websites, you’ll be pera-pera (speaking fluently) in no time at all. And all without stepping outside!
Learning independently gives you the chance to work at your own pace and to focus on any aspect you’d like.
Be sure to check out other ways to study by yourself such as Japanese books, how to learn Japanese in your car and learning by watching TV.
No matter how much time you spend studying online, having fun while you learn will keep you motivated to keep going!