19 Best YouTube Channels to Learn Japanese in 2023
Have you thought about learning Japanese with YouTube?
Yes, YouTube’s great for turning your brain off. But there are also tons of channels dedicated to helping you learn Japanese.
Here are some awesome YouTube video channels that will set you on a course for Japanese success!
- Japanese Language Learning Channels
- Japanese Culture and Living in Japan
- Japanese YouTubers
- Why Should You Learn Japanese with YouTube?
- How to Effectively Use YouTube to Improve Your Japanese
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Japanese Language Learning Channels
Japanese learners can absolutely benefit from lessons available for free on YouTube. The keywords 日本語レッスン (にほんっご れっすん ) (Japanese lesson) can also help you find more lesson-based channels on YouTube.
1. Learn Japanese from Zero!
We’ve all got to start from somewhere, but to those who feel daunted by the task of learning Japanese, this channel has a clear and simple message: you can learn lots of powerful grammar and words in just a few minutes a day.
This is a great place to start. Most of the shows are hosted by fluent Japanese speaker George Trombley, whose passion for the language is infectious and whose presentation style is bubbly, friendly and engaging.
The videos are companions of the book series by the same name, and there are playlists for each of the four available books. They cover a lot of ground and include such concepts as turning verbs into nouns, taboos to avoid in Japan and how to pronounce various words.
Does your Japanese vocabulary need a little expanding? If so, Easy2LearnJapanese is a great YouTube channel to meet your needs.
This channel focuses almost entirely on vocabulary videos. Most videos are appropriate for beginner-level Japanese students, though a few are targeted at intermediate-level learners.
Luckily, you can often tell which level the video will be since many videos are labeled with the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) numbers, from N5 (beginner) to N1 (advanced). Make sure to check out their playlist to find the level you’re looking for.
If you want to learn quickly, effectively and have a little fun on the way, turn your eyes and ears towards JapanesePod101’s YouTube channel.
There’s a slew of useful video lessons for beginners, covering such areas as language basics and learning how to write in Japanese. There’s a huge amount of variety here so if you’re struggling with a particular grammar topic, you’re likely to find it here!
Most of the videos follow the format of a presenter on camera and some simple graphics. There’s no need for big Hollywood production costs here, as the knowledgeable and friendly presenters are engaging enough to command your attention.
4. Learn Japanese with Tanaka san
Learn Japanese with Tanaka san is completely animated and is great for visual learners. The premise is that Tanaka, a cute tiny sushi, teaches Japanese along with his other adorable friends.
If you love animation and all things cute, then this is the channel for you. The creator and narrator has a pleasant, gentle and clear voice, and every video has English subtitles.
These are great to cover some of the basics in a relaxed and fun way. There are flashcard videos to learn vocabulary, a series on learning kanji with anime, quizzes and videos where you can practice talking with the little sushi, Tanaka.
5. Japanese with Hanako
Japanese with Hanako is another wonderful channel you can keep enjoying from the time you start learning Japanese straight through until you reach an advanced level.
The channel offers over 100 videos covering grammar, pronunciation, culture, listening and more. Some of the channel’s most engaging videos offer listening practice while discussing culture.
Hanako also gives valuable lessons on the cultural behavior associated with certain language depending on the context. While the discussion is entirely in Japanese, key phrases and vocabulary words are translated into English.
6. 日本語の森 (Japanese Forest)
For classroom-style learners and test takers, regardless of your current level, Japanese Forest has videos that’ll suit your unique needs.
Japanese Forest lists the JLPT level for most videos and does a lot of live streams. If you’re just starting out, look for N5 level videos, which cover basic conversation points, like introducing yourself and asking simple questions.
All the audio is in Japanese, which is terrific for a more immersive experience. The text appears on the screen in Japanese to allow you to read along.
7. Tae Kim
Tae Kim’s channel is the perfect introductory course for absolute beginners who prefer more structured learning. Without a host in sight, the videos concentrate on the Japanese characters and their English translations.
The channel is a collection of short and simple videos covering a range of topics including compound sentences and long vowel sounds. There is a strong and welcome emphasis here on pronunciation.
The pace of each lesson is quite slow, so it’s fairly easy to keep up. Although this channel no longer posts videos, the lessons give beginners an excellent grounding in the basics.
Japanese Culture and Living in Japan
Are you still waiting to get that plane ticket to Japan? Search “YouTubers in Japan” to find vloggers who currently live there. A lot of these channels are in English, but often interview or feature Japanese speakers.
8. Ask Japanese
Through Ask Japanese you can learn a language through real-life interviews of people on the street. Listening practice doesn’t get more authentic than that!
This channel is a great way to get exposure to different paces of speaking, accents and subject matter. It’s also an excellent way to get a sense of how Japanese speakers see the world as the topics range from silly to serious.
These are real-life conversations that can be a bit challenging if you’re just starting out, so don’t hesitate to hit pause, take notes and look some words up! Also don’t forget to turn on the subtitles if you need them.
9. NHK WORLD-JAPAN
NHK is Japan’s biggest public broadcasting service. NHK World is their YouTube-based international broadcast of NHK, boasting a wide variety of trailers, interviews, news and everything in between involving Japanese culture.
The videos are mostly in English, but often feature interviews with local craftsmen or other subjects in their short or long documentaries. In these cases, you will hear the spoken Japanese and see the English subtitles below.
Due to the nature of this public broadcasting channel, you can expect a varied mix of Japanese accents and speaking speeds.
10. Paolo from TOKYO
Paolo from TOKYO is a Filipino American who has been living in Tokyo for a long time. He makes the “Day in the Life” series following ordinary Japanese people in their daily routines, which has collected millions of views.
Every video is narrated by Paolo in English and the interview subjects talk in Japanese, so there are subtitles provided for each video. He follows around a manga artist, a housewife, an office worker, a knife maker and so many others.
Besides this series, Paolo makes a fantastic range of videos of life in Japan. His love for Japan and cheerful outlook will have you scrambling to get to Japan as soon as possible!
11. Abroad in Japan
Abroad in Japan is a pretty comprehensive intro to travel and life in Japan run by an English vlogger, Chris. Most videos show you how far you can get without entirely mastering the language—which is pretty encouraging!
Different from Paolo, Chris does food challenges and explores a lot of unique places. There’s less spoken Japanese on this channel, but it’s great for anybody who wants to get acquainted with the culture.
He sometimes collaborates with his Welsh friend Connor, who also lives in Japan and has his own YouTube channel. If you’re a YouTube lover and enjoy challenge videos with a dash of cultural immersion, check out both of their channels!
Dogen is a super-talented American who pretty much speaks Japanese like a native. Most of his videos are in Japanese and will give you inspiration for achieving fluency yourself!
He does a lot of videos comparing textbook Japanese and actual spoken Japanese, which might help you to avoid standing out as a 外人 (がいじん) (foreigner).
Dogen also has an incredibly useful series about Japanese phonetics which explores how anyone, no matter what their native language is, can sound like a native Japanese speaker.
13. Rachel and Jun
This adorable Japanese-American couple living in Japan makes videos about everything from cooking for their cats to common Japanese-American cultural faux pas to learning Japanese slang.
While they do have semi-instructional videos about the Japanese language, learners can benefit from their cultural insights and passive use of Japanese in their videos to aid in listening skills.
They also have a separate channel dedicated entirely to their vlogs where they take you around their daily life. And if all you care about is soothing cat videos, Jun has his own channel where he makes the most beautiful delicacies for their cats.
To find great Japanese shows on YouTube, try searching for “Japanese YouTube series” or ブイログ (ぶいろぐ) (vlog). Do a quick search for ユーチューバー (ゆーちゅーばー) (YouTuber) and you’ll more YouTubers.
14. That Japanese Man Yuta
Yuta is one of the first English-speaking Japanese YouTubers. He has informative Japanese culture and language videos, telling you things you should know about Japan.
He also does a lot of videos of street-style interviews, all of which have a translation below. A few hours with Yuta and you’ll have a solid idea of what the cultural norms are in Japan.
When you sign up for his mailing list, you can also get access to a Japanese course taught by Yuta himself, which is a great bonus!
15. Bilingirl Chika
Bilingirl Chika is someone who knows exactly what’s up when it comes to acquiring another language, and she does not disappoint when it comes to content that’s engaging and informative.
She seamlessly switches between English and Japanese in most of her videos, so often there are subtitles for both languages. She’s also got some great tips for traveling and all kinds of cultural insights for you to enjoy.
Originally geared towards Japanese viewers, a lot of her content is now made with English speakers in mind, which will help you on your way to becoming bilingual yourself.
16. Tomoko Tomoko
Ah, Tomoko—so nice, they made you say her name twice! She has a variety of videos giving you direct, concise instructions on simple Japanese that you can immediately apply to your daily life.
Tomoko is the Japanese teacher you’ve always wished you had. She speaks mostly Japanese on her channel and provides subtitles or a translator so you can follow along. She also does live streams of Japanese classes for her engaged community.
She takes you out into the world for lessons, so you’ll know not only what to say but how and when to say it appropriately. Often these are live streams as well!
A former international flight attendant, Chiaki makes videos on her life in England. You can get a novel perspective on living abroad through the perspective of a Japanese person from someone who’s actually doing it.
Japanese people are very curious about how people from other cultures go about daily life, and you’ll have a leg up on talking about this by learning from Chiaki before you make your journey.
There aren’t lots of subtitles for her videos when it comes to living abroad, but this is a great opportunity to practice your listening comprehension. She also has some beauty and fashion videos for your viewing and preening pleasure.
This channel is run by Duncan, a British-Japanese guy who loves wordplay and sharing his thoughts on what it means to be biracial in Japan.
You’ll find out it’s not always easy being a ハーフ (はーふ) (biracial) and Duncan explores this idea further by sometimes inviting his brother onto the channel. Besides this, he makes videos about pop culture, bizarre news stories and social media trends.
As a fluent English speaker himself, some of his videos have English subtitles, so you can practice your Japanese listening skills while not missing out on the meaning.
Why not take things to the next level by following an actual Japanese YouTube star? Hajime is one of the top Japanese YouTubers with over ten million followers to his name.
He does pretty much everything in his videos, including completing comedic challenges, answering fan questions and interviewing other Japanese YouTubers.
The Japanese spoken on his channel varies significantly, especially when he’s interviewing other people. This is a good channel to watch for learners who want to understand the speed at which casual conversational Japanese is spoken.
Why Should You Learn Japanese with YouTube?
It’s almost a no-brainer, but there are a number of reasons why you might want to incorporate watching videos into your language-learning routine.
- Study anywhere, anytime. Even the busiest of schedules should be able to accommodate some routine video-watching. All you need is a decent internet connection and a tiny bit of discipline. On the bus, during your lunch break, over breakfast or before bed, you can always find time to watch a Japanese video or two.
- It’s your window into contemporary Japan. An annual trip to Tokyo isn’t necessarily realistic for everybody and that’s okay! YouTube is a free way to access excellent, up-to-date information on what Japan is like today. So there’s no need to break the bank before you’re ready to get on that plane!
- Tune your ear to different speaking styles. Most people learn Standard Japanese, known as 共通語 (きょうつうご) (common language). But there are several regional dialects and speaking styles that are worth getting familiar with. There are also so many different styles of speech even within Standard Japanese that getting acquainted with them can prove beneficial.
- Give your memory a boost with visual aids. You might find that you associate a word with the narrator’s expression when he or she uses it. Other times, videos use animations and images to help you remember a word or visualize a kanji. It’s much more effective than trying to drill a list of isolated words into your brain!
- The sheer diversity of content is amazing. If you’ve ever dreamed of designing your own study plan, YouTube is the way to do it. You can watch recorded Japanese lessons or go the authentic route and learn through songs, movie reviews, interviews, animations and so much more. Your study plan can evolve as you improve your language skills and grow as a learner!
- Become part of a community. Regularly using YouTube can help you become a part of a unique community of language learners like yourself. Browse through the comments on videos and leave your own comments and questions—someone might be happy to help and you might even get your question answered by the YouTuber!
How to Effectively Use YouTube to Improve Your Japanese
So you’re sold on YouTube, but how can you make sure you’re doing it right? As you probably know, it’s very easy to get distracted on YouTube and get sucked into an endless cycle of cute animal videos.
Here are a few tips to keep you focused:
- Identify your immediate needs. Are you looking to learn new words, find out about the different お祭り(おまつり) (festivals) in Japan or get on top of the latest slang? Make sure you’re clear on what your immediate needs are so you can target them efficiently.
- Find a channel and stick with it. Once you know what you’re looking for, scout around. After you explore and find at least one channel that you know fits your needs, be loyal to it. You’ll progress much faster if you stay focused and you’ll be able to measure your progress more effectively.
- …But stay open to relevant videos from other channels! That doesn’t mean you need to block out all other channels until you’re bored out of your mind! For example, you might find that one YouTuber does a Monday morning dialect routine that cracks you up. Be open to videos that complement your normal routine, too.
- Keep a notebook near you. We have some bad news for you: “passive watching” is not enough. Keep a notebook with you and write down any new words, expressions or grammatical forms you pick up as you watch. Don’t forget to come back to them regularly. Remember: It’s okay to rewind.
- Follow your favorite YouTubers on other social networks, too. A huge plus of following a YouTube channel is interacting with your favorite YouTubers and becoming a part of their community. This often means you can contribute content, make requests or give them your feedback.
So, when you feel like you’re getting tired of the same old Japanese language practice sessions, learn Japanese on YouTube, instead.
If you enjoy learning with videos, check out FluentU, a language learning platform based on authentic video content. There are interactive subtitles, quizzes and other amazing tools to improve your Japanese skills even further.
You’ll be on your way to fluency in no time!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)