Don’t you just wish you could pack your TV and take it with you wherever you go?
Oh wait, you can.
Android devices have some pretty awesome television apps.
This is terrible news if you’re guilty of binge-watching your favorite shows because now you don’t have to stop. Ever.
But it’s fantastic news for Japanese learners.
Japanese TV apps are perfect for streaming authentic Japanese television on the go, including everything from anime and dramas to video clips and news broadcasts. Not only do you get to watch some awesome shows while traveling, you also get all the benefits of Japanese linguistic exposure that a Japanese learner needs to become fluent.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few duds in the Google Play store when it comes to Japanese TV apps. Lucky for you, we sifted through them all to make this list of the five best (and mostly free!) Japanese TV apps for Android phones.
If you’re a little lost on how exactly a television app could do so much good for improving Japanese language skills, we’re going to dig into that, as well.
Tips for Learning Japanese with Android TV Apps
Just by watching Japanese shows, you’ll be exposing yourself to the language. But simply passively watching isn’t enough to really get the most of the experience. Here are some other ways you can use TV apps on your Android device to improve your Japanese skills:
- Improve your listening and comprehension skills by watching television shows with audio. Listening skills are a pretty major aspect of learning Japanese. You need to be able to hear spoken Japanese and process it in your head quickly, especially if you’re involved in a conversation. Listening to dialogue via television shows will definitely help with this.
To really give your listening skills a workout, turn off the subtitles and see how much you can understand. If that’s too difficult, try watching with the subtitles first, then turning them off and watching again. Now how much can you pick up?
- Improve your reading and translation skills by watching Japanese television with subtitles. Similar in value to listening skills, reading skills are vital to true Japanese fluency. Watching a film or show with Japanese subtitles is a great way to improve your reading abilities.
Since subtitles fly by pretty fast, watching Japanese television can challenge you to read and comprehend Japanese quickly. To focus on your reading, turn on those Japanese subtitles… then turn off the audio! Can you keep up?
- Use television apps when you’re traveling or have time to spare on the go. One major reason people have for wanting to abandon their language-learning endeavors is a resounding “I just don’t have time.” That’s a valid concern.
Luckily, Watching Japanese television via a mobile app allows you to fit in some practice time where you’d otherwise be doing nothing. Now you can work on your Japanese on the bus, while working out, on your work break or during any other downtime.
5 Japanese TV Apps for Android to Get Your Fix (and Learn)
Rakuten’s Viki app is pretty much the poster child for Japanese TV apps. This app is known for providing excellent streaming Japanese TV series with subtitles that are actually well-written and entirely accurate.
Although the app is mainly for Korean shows, it also has plenty of Japanese content. Most of the shows you’ll find on Viki are subbed in both English and Japanese. There won’t be any discrepancies with the subtitles in this app, making it perfect for brushing up on your Japanese language skills.
Any level of learner can use this resource, but how challenging it is varies by show. It’s worth testing out episodes of different shows to get a feel for the difficulty level of the dialogue and subtitles.
It’s also worth noting that Viki contains almost exclusively Japanese TV dramas.
Viki is free to use with ads but you can purchase a premium version to watch without interruptions. Some shows are region-locked so if you’re unable to access any of our recommendations below, simply search for something else—there’s plenty of content to be explored!
- 過保護のカホコ (か ほご の カホコ) — “Overprotected Kahoko”: A naive 20-something relies heavily on her mother and has had everything decided and done for her since childhood. Things get complicated when she meets a young man who’s lived the complete opposite life.
- 今からあなたを脅迫します (いま から あなた を きょうはく します) — “May I Blackmail You?”: A bully is contracted by the police to do what they can’t: threaten suspects and solve crimes the illegal way.
- 恋するメゾン (こい する メゾン) — “Rainbow Rose”: Students from various countries must live in the same boarding house in Korea.
Although FluentU doesn’t contain full episodes, you can watch tons of video clips from authentic Japanese TV shows with the Android app.
Not only that, but these videos and clips are actually pumped up with goodies that make them ideal for language learners. They provide all the authenticity of TV, anime and drama shows, combined with the structure and support of a learning program.
The program is simple but powerful: You watch video clips, interact with the multi-layered subtitles and learn a little bit more Japanese with every clip. You can also add unfamiliar vocab to your list, use video flashcards and even test yourself on what you learned from each video with adaptive quizzes.
FluentU can certainly make your Japanese journey a smoother one. It’s perfect for every level of learner since you can even sort video clips in the app by difficulty to fit your needs.
You can try FluentU with a free trial to decide if it’s a good fit.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Crunchyroll before. This awesome website has been the main source of anime online for years. Their app is pretty cool too, and offers a few drama options as well as popular (and lesser-known!) anime.
Any level of learner could benefit from watching the shows on Crunchyroll but, like with Viki, we suggest testing the waters to find an anime or show that won’t be too challenging for you to follow.
The subtitles available depend entirely on the show you’re watching. Some have no subtitles (although most have at least English ones) while others have both English and Japanese subtitles.
Crunchyroll is free to use but a premium account is required for viewing some content. With a membership, you can also watch simulcasts of your favorite shows, which means that you’ll be watching the newest episode at the same time that it’s available to the Japanese audience.
- ソードアート・オンライン — “Sword Art Online”: Players of a virtual reality game become trapped within its world and have to survive in a violent fantasy world where death in the game means death in real life.
- 進撃の巨人 (しんげき の きょじん) — “Attack on Titan”: A group of young soldiers fight to survive the oppressive force of giant bloodthirsty humanoids.
- 風が強く吹いている (かぜ が つよく ふいて いる) — “Run With the Wind”: This sports anime follows the lives of two young and incredibly talented runners with some major chips on their shoulders.
If watching the news for free is your thing, Fuji News is the app for you! Fuji News contains live broadcasts of various Japanese television news channels as well as many video clips and lifestyle shows.
This app is entirely in Japanese, including the available subtitles, so it may be better suited for upper-intermediate and advanced learners.
We suggest just downloading the app and picking a video from the “recommended” section. Over time, the app’s algorithm will adjust to the kind of content you like and begin suggesting videos you’re likely to enjoy (and understand).
You probably already know all about the YouTube app. What you may not know is that it’s quite possible to find Japanese television shows through this popular streaming service without violating any copyright laws.
Follow these tips to find and watch Japanese television shows on YouTube legally:
- Try specific keywords. We suggest trying searches along the lines of “Japanese television show legal,” “Japanese news broadcast” or “Japanese TV legal.”
You can also search by specific shows with “(Show name) official,” which will usually get you to the official channel of the show (or its broadcaster), where you might find clips, trailers and sometimes even entire episodes.
- Change up your settings. Through the app, you can change your content location to Japan via the Settings menu. By doing this, you’ll be shown specifically Japanese media and have more opportunities to stumble upon authentic legal content.
- Check the channel names. When looking at a channel that claims to be a YouTube version of an actual television channel, make sure to read the video titles and check the channel’s “About” page. If you find a lot of links to authentic Japanese social media, chances are they’re legitimate.
There’s also the option to settle for authentic YouTubers rather than authentic television channels.
Overall, it can be tricky to find authentic but legally uploaded Japanese television on YouTube. If you don’t have much luck using the above methods, try browsing around for Japanese YouTubers, instead. All of the content they produce is legally their own, so you won’t be engaging in any shifty business.
It’s worth noting that the subtitle situation for most YouTube videos can be dubious. Advanced learners would probably benefit from YouTube videos without subtitles the most.
- That Japanese Man Yuta: Our host Yuta interviews Japanese people and dives into different aspects of Japanese culture.
- YOUは何しに日本へ (YOU は なに し に にっぽんへ) — “Why Did YOU Come to Japan?”: This series follows a group of hilarious Japanese men as they ask foreigners lots of interview questions. You can find more episodes by following the search tips above.
- NHK WORLD-JAPAN: This Japanese news and lifestyle television channel contains a mix of spoken Japanese and English.
There are so many options for watching Japanese TV on your Android device!
Even if you only choose one app, you’re sure to find your new favorite binge-watchable Japanese drama, anime or show through it.
Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist who writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
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