Learn Japanese with Audiobooks: 5 Books (and 3 Resources) to Freshen Up Your Japanese

If you’re a multitasker at heart, fitting in time to listen to Japanese audiobooks is very much doable.

You can easily fit some Japanese audio lessons into your daily schedule, like when you’re running on the treadmill, stuck on a long flight or sitting in traffic.

Not sold yet? Here are a few reasons why Japanese audiobooks are perfect for the busy learner on the go, and five books to get you started.


Can Audiobooks Really Help Me Learn Japanese?

They sure can! Here’s how:

Audiobooks can help with listening skills.

This is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Just listening to spoken Japanese can help learners get used to speaking speeds, tones and real-time translation.

Listening to audiobooks, in particular, can help intermediate and advanced learners learn the difference between spoken conversational Japanese and Japanese used in storytelling.

Make your leisure, travel or workout time more useful by listening to audiobooks in Japanese.

We spend a lot of time in traffic, on planes and generally just killing time by waiting.

Japanese audiobooks can help make those empty moments more useful by entertaining ourselves with a good book while brushing up on our Japanese.

Many of these audiobooks are instructional guides, so you can actually enjoy a lesson with an audiobook.

Are you in the mood for some serious learning but don’t have the time to sit down for an online class?

Lesson-based audiobooks are a great way to fit actual lesson time into your day without having to budget more time from your busy schedule.

These audiobooks can act as a perfect bridge between your other learning methods.

Whether you’re aiming for full immersion or just trying to introduce some more Japanese into your life, listening to audiobooks helps surround you with the sound of the language.

Complete your immersion experience (and add some visuals into the mix) with FluentU.

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

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.


Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app for iOS or Android!

FluentU and audiobooks: You can’t go wrong with that combination!

3 Great Sources to Learn Japanese with Audiobooks


Everybody’s heard of Audible, right? This massive online audiobooks store founded by Amazon is incredibly popular right now. Their non-English sections aren’t the biggest, but they do have some pretty good picks as far as Japanese audiobooks go!

Just about every audiobook in the Audible Japanese section is instructional, so if you’re looking for some good audio lessons, this is the place to go. Not only are Audible’s books fairly affordable, but you can also get a free one-month trial to read tons of complimentary books. What’s better than free, really?

Innovative Language

Innovative Language, like Audible, provides mostly lesson-based Japanese audiobooks. However, there’s a huge variety when it comes to finding the right language level for you.

Innovative Language sorts their literature and books by a 1-9 level, from “Introduction” to “Advanced.” Many of their audiobooks are 100% free and some are also hosted on Audible.

Hungry for more? Innovative Language is a great one-stop shop for lessons, courses, apps, books and much more!

Loyal Books

Loyal Books is a public domain organization dedicated to translating and recording Japanese literature for audiobooks. All their books are free and Flash-based, meaning you can access them directly from your web browser and listen away. Plus, everything is free.

There is quite a bit of variety on this website and some of the audiobooks have corresponding text and English translations.

5 Audiobooks to Freshen Up Your Japanese

“Learn Japanese – Word Power 101”

Do you have a goal for learning vocabulary words in Japanese? Innovative Language’s “Learn Japanese – Word Power 101” may be perfect for you!

This book 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. Did we mention that it’s free as well?

Innovative Language’s audiobooks are also handy for those who don’t speak English as their first language. Just select your native language and start listening!

“Pimsleur Japanese Level 1”

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

Lessons in this book are split up into 30-minute sections that focus on Japanese listening skills and conversation. It’s an ideal choice for beginners but if it’s too simple for you, Pimsleur also offers Japanese audiobook lessons for intermediate and advanced learners.

Search for this audiobook’s price on Audible.

“The Winds of Gath” by E.C. Tubb

The Winds of Gath (Dumarest of Terra, Book 1)

Are you a fan of a challenge? We suggest listening to this audiobook in Japanese with corresponding texts in Japanese and English.

This novel follows the adventures of intergalactic mercenary Earl Dumarest in a sort of futurist version of “The Odessey.”

This one can be tough, so we recommend active listening: When you get stuck on a vocabulary word, make a note of it and practice.

By the time this science fiction novel wraps up, we guarantee that beginners, intermediate learners and advanced learners will have learned something new and improved fluency!

To listen to this audiobook, just click “play” on each chapter.

“Librivox’s Multilingual Short Works Collection #4”

Librivox is a great resource for Japanese audiobooks. However, we didn’t include it on our list of resources because all the books are recorded by volunteers, so good quality isn’t always a guarantee.

However, this particular audiobook of short story classics is of very high quality. 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.

To download, simply click on the audiobook of your choice and you can download an mp3 file to use as you wish.

“Red Candles and the Mermaid” by Mimei Ogawa

Titled 赤いろうそくと人魚 – 小川 未明 (あかい ろうそく と にんぎょ – おがわ みめい) in Japanese, this beautiful poetic story by the famed nineteenth-century Japanese writer tells the tale of a mermaid raised by an old human couple who make 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.

It’s essentially a children’s story with a dark twist, but adults can definitely find entertainment in this classic.

The type of Japanese used here is very formal and poetic, so advanced learners can benefit from listening to this story. It’s also very easy to play the audiobooks from your browser.

Have we convinced you of how great Japanese audiobooks are? We get that everybody’s schedule is really busy and finding the time to learn a new language, especially one as complicated to the Westerner as Japanese, is a task that may seem impossible.

With these awesome audiobooks, you can make your leisurely language learning time way more effective. 頑張って (がんばって) — Do your best and practice hard!

Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.

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