Funny, interesting captions.
Fascinating glimpses into the lives of people around the world.
There’s just something about Instagram that makes it irresistible.
In fact, you might find yourself tapping to open Instagram instead of your favorite Japanese-learning app. Is Instagram just a procrastination tool? Are you doomed to go down the rabbit hole of likes and hashtags instead of practicing your Japanese skills?
Not to worry, we have the perfect solution: Why not do both at the same time?
Believe it or not, Instagram can help you learn Japanese in a natural and fun way. Read on to see how you can turn your Feed into the ultimate language-learning tool!
Why Japanese Immersion Works
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that immersion is the best way to learn a language. Whether you hope to live or work in Japan someday, or you simply wish to make some Japanese friends, you probably want to learn authentic Japanese, the kind native speakers actually use.
But finding this language isn’t always easy.
Japanese news articles are written in formalized, specific Japanese, while Japanese novels tend to use a complex, if beautiful, language. Japanese Blogs use a more casual form of the language, but reading an entire blog post can seem like a daunting task.
Sometimes, we just need to bring the language to us.
Add some Japanese to the little quiet moments in our lives, so that reading and hearing Japanese can become a part of our daily routine. That’s true immersion.
The best way that I’ve found to do this is by following Japanese accounts on Instagram.
Why Use Instagram to Learn Japanese?
Be honest with yourself: Which app have you used more recently, Instagram or Duolingo? Instagram fills the idle moments throughout our days when we catch a couple of Stories while we wait for the bus or stand in the supermarket queue. It may not be a long enough wait to do a quiz or to flip through the flashcards, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use that time practicing Japanese!
Instagram is an invaluable tool for learning to read Japanese in a variety of different contexts. For one thing, we use it all the time. For another, there are endless options for accounts to follow that post exactly what you love to see.
Practicing Japanese doesn’t always have to mean formal study—we’re allowed to have fun with it sometimes, you know! Use Instagram to make learning Japanese fun by following accounts which post content that you really want to see. Sometimes it can be hard to motivate ourselves to study, but we have no problem feeling motivated to scroll through Instagram!
Instagram is an especially fantastic Japanese learning tool because the pictures provide context that can help you understand the text. The photographs will usually give you a pretty good idea of the content of the post—really, most captions are just a few brief details about the picture. So, between the picture and any words and grammar in the caption that you already know, you can usually figure out the text without needing to translate anything.
How to Learn Japanese on Instagram
First, you need to set a very strict rule for yourself: Avoid the “Translate” button!
For one thing, it isn’t very accurate. But more importantly, you need to be actively reading the captions if you want to learn Japanese with Instagram. How do you read actively? By following these steps:
- Use context clues. First, use all the information available to help you understand the context of the post. Look closely at the post—Who is in the photo, and have they been tagged? Where was the photo taken? If a geotag’s been included, look on the map to see the exact location. What is going on in the photo, and why do you think it’s been posted?
- Skim the text. The first time you attempt to read the caption, you should take the opportunity to practice skimming. To do this, allow your eyes to go over the text quickly, without stopping. Don’t worry about any words or phrases you don’t recognize—keep reading! You have one mission for this first reading: to work out the basic meaning of the text.
- Do a close reading. Once you’ve read and worked out what the caption’s about, you can go back and read it slower. Try to work out as many details and information you can get from the text, and note down any vocabulary, kanji or grammar phrases that you didn’t know. You can look these up in your dictionary or review them in your more formalized study sessions.
And remember: Don’t cheat! I’ll repeat myself here: Don’t hit “Translate!” That is the opposite of active reading.
Learn Japanese from 20+ Hit Instagram Accounts
The best thing about Instagram is that you can tailor it to your exact tastes and interests—no matter which language you’re using to browse! To help you get started on your bilingual Feed, here are over 20 popular Japanese Instagram accounts divided into some of the most common categories.
Japanese Celebrity Accounts
Kiko Mizuhara (@i_am_kiko)
Supermodel/actress Kiko Mizuhara posts frequent updates and daily Stories from her jet-setting, glamorous life, usually with a mixture of English and Japanese captions. This makes her account a great one to follow if you’re just starting out in learning to read Japanese.
“Terrace House” Cast Members (@th_6_tv)
If you aren’t already watching “Terrace House” on Netflix, you need to wake up and smell the Japanese listening practice! If you are already a fan of the show, be the first to hear about new updates by following the official “Terrace House” Instagram!
After you’ve fallen in love with the housemates, you’ll be desperate to know about their lives beyond the house. Fun-loving, free spirit Mizuki (@shidamizuki) works in an adorable coffee shop between trips around the world. Artistic and hardworking Han-san (@yutohanda) seems to be taking Tokyo’s architecture scene by storm. Lauren (@laurentsai) is modeling around the world and still working on her incredible art. Follow them on Instagram for updates!
Naomi Watanabe (@wantanabenaomi703)
Hilarious, stylish and one-of-a-kind, Naomi Watanabe is a Japanese comedian and fashion icon. She posts photos from her gigs and travels, plus Stories of her hanging out and laughing with friends, which she also uses to promote her work—so her account is a great source for practicing both listening and reading skills!
Ashley Yuka (@ashley_yuka)
Kiko Mizuhara’s little sister is just as glamorous and fabulous as Kiko herself! Ashley Yuka’s a model and a DJ, with a keen interest in music and art. Follow Ashley for a glimpse into the Tokyo youth, fashion and music scene.
Trendy Angel’s Tsukasa (@tsukasa_trandy)
Tsukasa from Japanese comedy duo Trendy Angels posts infrequently, but with long captions, all in Japanese. More advanced Japanese readers can challenge themselves to read his long lists of hashtags!
Following recipes is an excellent way to learn vocabulary themed around food and cooking. If you go on to make any of the recipes you find on Instagram, use that as an opportunity to practice the new food-related vocabulary. When you pick up an ingredient, remember and repeat what the ingredient is called in Japanese.
Reading recipes will help you learn not only food vocabulary, but also vocabulary about measurements, cooking techniques and more. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can learn and remember new vocabulary when the words are related to an interest or activity in the real world!
Tasty Japan (@tastyjapan)
揚げたてをどうぞ！おうちで天丼 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 作ったら #tastyjapan をつけて投稿してくださいね！✨ ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ レシピはこちらをご覧ください♪ ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ おうちで天丼 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 2人分 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 材料： ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ ■天ぷら衣 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 薄力粉 120g 冷水 120ml 卵 1個 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ ■天ぷら ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ えび 4尾 ピーマン（半分に切る） 1本 なす（半分に切る） 1本 かぼちゃ（薄切り） 2枚 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ ■かき揚げ ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 玉ねぎ（薄切り） 1/2個 人参（細切り） 1/2本 三つ葉 30g 桜えび 15g 薄力粉 大さじ2 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 揚げ油 適量 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ ■たれ ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ しょうゆ 大さじ4 砂糖 大さじ2 みりん 大さじ5 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ ごはん 500g ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 作り方 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 1. えびは尾を残して殻と剣先をむき、尾の先を切って、包丁の先で汚れをしごき出す。塩（分量外）を少々ふっておく。 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 2. 衣を作る。ボウルに卵を入れて、白身のコシを切るようによく溶きほぐす。薄力粉と冷水を加えて混ぜ、少し粉が残る程度で混ぜるのをやめる。冷蔵庫に入れて冷やしておく。 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 3. 天ぷらを作る。えび、ピーマン、なす、かぼちゃに薄力粉をまぶし、余分な粉ははらう。衣をまとわせたら180℃の揚げ油に入れ、浮いてくるまで揚げたら、紙などにとって油を切る。 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 4. かき揚げを作る。玉ねぎ、人参、三つ葉、桜えびに薄力粉をまぶし、お玉2杯弱の衣と混ぜ合わせる。170℃の揚げ油に入れ、かき揚げの真ん中を箸で突き刺し平たい形に整える。固まってきたら裏返し、両面がカリッと揚がったら紙などにとって油を切る。 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 5. たれを作る。しょうゆ、砂糖、みりんをフライパンに入れて、とろみがつくまで中火で2分ほど煮詰める。 ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ 6. 丼にごはんをよそい、かき揚げと天ぷらをのせる。たれをかけたら、完成！ ㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤㅤ #料理 #手料理 #レシピ #料理動画 #クッキング #美味しい #ランチ #おうちごはん #夜ごはん #どんぶり #丼 #天ぷら #エビ天 #かき揚げ #サクサク #和食
If you’re into Japanese food and cooking, this is the account for you! The videos include ingredients in both Japanese and English, making them easy to follow, but the full recipe is included in the caption only in Japanese.
Rola’s Kitchen (@rolaskitchen_official)
Japanese model Rola runs an Instagram sharing beautiful food photographs and simple recipes from her kitchen. If you’re a really passionate home cook, Rola even has a Japanese cookbook available for purchase called “Rola’s Kitchen.”
Food Illustrator Tamy (tamytamy2015)
Being a long-term lover of both food and illustrations, this is one of my favorite accounts on Instagram. Tamy keeps a unique kind of diary: Every day, they illustrate and annotate something they ate that day. They sometimes illustrate recipes, too.
Reading handwritten Japanese is often a very different challenge from reading it typed. Tamy’s notes and illustrations are a good option if you want to practice reading handwritten Japanese because the lettering’s so neat and clear. There’s another reason to try to read and understand Tamy’s notes: You can’t use the “Translate” button on them!
Japan Travel and Photographers
Japan is an undeniably photogenic country, and there are many wonderful Instagrammers capturing its unique beauty. Here are a few:
Sanga Ryokan (@ryokan_sanga)
Sanga Ryokan in Kyoto is a dream destination, and their Instagram Feed will remind you every day just what’s waiting for you in Japan. The captions are very short and may include English words and short sentences, making this a great option for beginner Japanese readers.
Hikaru is a photographer living in northern Hokkaido. The photographs on this Instagram at the moment are of a magical winter wonderland, and the captions are reflective and philosophical. Through these beautiful images, you can watch the seasons change in northern Hokkaido as the snow melts away and is replaced with green fields and wildflowers.
Atsushi Aizawa (@a_aizawa)
1053 チカラシバ Fujinomiya, Shizuoka, Japan 静岡県富士宮市 猪之頭 #japanfocus #jp_gallery #instagramjapan #ig_japan #wu_japan #wu_asia #worldunion #theworldshotz #igersjp #team_jp_ #team_jp_東 #静岡県 #team_jp_skyart #mtfuji #Japan #Shizuoka #natureaddict Mt. Fuji Shizuoka, Japan #Lovers_Nippon #東京カメラ部#japan_night_view #japan_night_view_member #1xPicoftheDay #phos_japan #夜景ら部 #写真好きな人と繋がりたい #bestjapanpics #photo_shorttrip #しぞーカメラ部 #night_excl
Atsushi Aizawa exclusively photographs Mt. Fuji, and his images are as mysterious and majestic as that famous mountain peak. His captions are very short, often only a handful of words and a list of hashtags, but his beautiful photographs will make a wonderful addition to your Japanese learner Instagram feed.
Yama Ok5 (@yama_ok5)
Okinawa seems like a world apart from mainland Japan in both environment and culture, and it’s hard to believe that Yama’s photographs are taken in Japan at all. But this paradise is Japan, and what a paradise it is! Yama photographs their home of Okinawa, both above and below the ocean’s surface, with brief captions describing the beautiful places in the photographs.
Bon Pon (@bonpon511)
京阪神エルマガジン社の「おとなの神戸」(4月12日発売)の撮影で神戸へ行って来ました。 bonは初めて、ponは2度目の神戸。素敵なお店や場所を巡りました。 スタッフの皆様には大変お世話になりありがとうございました。おかげさまでとても楽しい旅になりました。 #神戸を巡る旅 #神戸 #KOBE #メリケンパーク #ポートタワー #フロインドリーブ #harlowicecreamshop #竹中大工道具館 #東天閣本店 #京阪神エルマガジン社 #おとなの神戸 #夫婦 #60代 #ファッション #コーディネート #夫婦コーデ #グレイヘア #白髪 #共白髪 #couple #over60 #fashion #coordinate #outfit #ootd #instafashion #instaoutfit #instagramjapan #greyhair #bonpon511
This adorable senior couple has been viral on Instagram for some time now, for their immaculate coordinated outfits and their simple, repeated pose of two people smiling pleasantly at the camera, holding hands. Their captions, usually detailing the outfits and the day they wore them, are long and complex enough to challenge even quite advanced Japanese readers.
Minori Nakada (@minori_nakada)
Minori Nakada’s a model and photographer, and was a housemate in the first season of “Terrace House.” Her Instagram Feed is glamorous and attractively curated, and she updates her Stories quite frequently.
Jazz pianist and teenage fashionista Mappy has a quirky and charming Instagram account, refreshingly low in sponsored posts. Her passion for jazz music and style is highly engaging and will brighten up your Feed in a wonderful and unique way.
Mr. Yabatan (@mr_yabatan)
Mr. Yabatan is hilarious, especially for Japanese language learners. He posts short selfie videos of himself engaging with Japanese culture in different ways while speaking Japanese with a thick French accent. His sentences are short and snappy, and he includes subtitles in Japanese so you can read along. No Japanese learner’s Feed is complete without Mr. Yabatan!
BuzzFeed Japan (@buzzfeedjapan)
It’s just not Instagram without a healthy dose of cute animal videos! Follow BuzzFeed Japan for daily updates of Japan’s most popular animal videos. If you happen to fall in love with one particular animal you can, of course, click on the original poster’s Instagram handle to add them to your Feed permanently!
There’s a good reason we call Instagram bloggers influencers: Something about Instagram is incredibly influential. We’re all using it anyway, so why not use that downtime for learning? There’s no better way to learn Japanese than through immersion, and how much easier can immersion get than this?
Add Japanese to your life, bit by bit and in ways that interest you, and you’ll find yourself learning without even knowing it! Then, when you go to read a difficult text or hold a conversation with a native speaker, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find just how much you already know!
Go forth and Follow!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Japanese with real-world videos.