YouTube isn’t just a place to watch people eat copious amounts of food or play video games.
It’s also a fantastic resource for learning a new language.
We’re not just talking about watching Japanese lessons on YouTube, either (though that’s certainly a helpful way to use the streaming platform for language learning, and one we’ll address later on in our list).
You can easily learn Japanese and all about the culture by watching Japanese shows, binging Japanese music videos and following people living abroad in Japan.
It’s not too good to be true!
Learning a new language can be expensive when it comes to buying online lessons or taking a formal class. With YouTube, you can get a pretty decent Japanese education for the grand total of $0.
Check out our awesome guide to learning Japanese with YouTube below!
4 Ways to Learn Japanese with YouTube
Below are four unique and entertaining ways to learn Japanese with YouTube.
But before you dive into YouTube, you’ll want to brush up on your active watching skills with FluentU.
FluentU will give you the foundation you need to understand and learn from the channels below. Use FluentU’s annotated subtitles, flashcards, vocab lists and personalized learning services to prepare for watching YouTube videos unaided. You’ll be glad that you did!
1. Watch Japanese YouTube Shows and Broadcast Channels
Ever just want to kick back and binge-watch some fairly short YouTube videos? You can certainly do this by watching Japanese YouTube shows and public broadcast channels. While we only cover a few of them below, there are a ton of different broadcasting services in Japanese available on YouTube.
To find great Japanese shows on YouTube, trying searching for “Japanese YouTube series” or ブイログ (ぶいろぐ) — “vlog.”
Rachel and Jun
This adorable Japanese/American couple living in Tokyo has a great channel to watch. Rachel and Jun make 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 vlogs to aid in listening skills.
This channel features a mixture of spoken English and Japanese. Almost all their videos feature English and Japanese subtitles as well.
Anybody who loves アニメ (あにめ) — anime has surely heard of the streaming service Crunchyroll, the most accessible purveyor of anime in the U.S. Though one usually has to pay to remove ads on their website and enjoy anime episodes, all the content on their YouTube channel is available for free.
The content consists largely of anime reviews, many of which are in English, but the rest of the channel is your one-stop shop to check out new anime trailers. Almost every anime trailer on Crunchyroll’s YouTube channel is in spoken Japanese with simultaneous English and Japanese subtitles. It’s a great resource to study up on Japanese listening and comprehension skills and each trailer is very short, so one could study a trailer a day and learn the language in chunks.
Since the anime trailers are vastly different from each other, you can expect varying dialects of Japanese as well as different levels of formality (including slang). Talk about variety!
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.
Each video on NHK World is mostly in Japanese, but some advertisements and promotional videos feature spoken English. All the videos on this channel include English subtitles.
Due to the nature of this public broadcasting channel, you can expect a varied mix of Japanese accents and speaking speeds.
2. Watch Japanese Music Videos
It’s no secret that watching Japanese music videos or listening to Japanese music can aid in memorizing certain spoken words and grammar concepts. Below are just three fun Japanese songs to utilize in a sea of rich Japanese music on YouTube.
A quick search for ミュージックビデオ (みゅーじっく びでお) — “music video” can bring up a ton more content as well.
きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ – PONPONPON — Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – “PONPONPON”
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu takes all the stranger aspects of modern Japanese culture and just sort of slams them all together against pleasant lyrics and unique electronic music. This music video from Kyary is entirely in Japanese and features English subtitles.
さユり (さゆり) -ミカヅキ (みかづき) — Sayuri – “Mikazuki”
This catchy J-rock music video from Japanese singer Sayuri is not just visually entertaining, but musically entertaining as well. The video is ideal for intermediate and advanced learners to study, as there are no Japanese or English subtitles available.
オリビア・オン (おりびあ・おん) – 恋に落ちて (こい に おちて) — Olivia Ong – “Fall in Love”
This touching song from Singaporean singer Olivia Ong is sung in a mix of English and Japanese. This is a great video for beginners to watch, as the Japanese is very slow and easy to keep up with. Plus, you can enjoy kanji, romaji and English subtitles simultaneously.
3. Follow Japanese YouTubers
There’s a certain charm to unscripted or low-budget content. It doesn’t feel forced and it’s certainly entertaining. These three YouTubers definitely fit that bill.
Do a quick search for ユーチューバー (ゆーちゅーばー) — “YouTuber” and you’ll find even greater YouTube stars.
HikakinGames features the very high-energy Hikakin, a Japanese YouTube gamer and “human beatbox.” In his videos, Hikakin plays video games by his viewer’s requests and also performs his beatboxing skills with other musicians.
This is definitely a channel for more advanced learners, as Hikakin speaks very quickly (earning his title of “human beatbox”) and no English subtitles are available on his videos.
はじめ (Hajime) is a super popular Japanese YouTuber who does pretty much everything, 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.
Remember how we mentioned that YouTube isn’t just a place to watch people eat copious amounts of food? Well, you can also enjoy that kind of video while brushing up on your Japanese!
Aside from the occasional life update video and product reviews, 木下ゆうか (きのした ゆうか ) — Yuka Kinoshita makes videos in the Korean 먹방 — “mukbang” style. Mukbang is essentially an “eating video” popularized in Korea. It’s a phenomenon in which a YouTuber will eat copious amounts of food on camera while chatting with the viewer as if they’re eating together. Yuka is definitely one of the most popular Japanese mukbang YouTubers around.
This is a great YouTuber for beginners to watch, as her videos almost always have Japanese and English subtitles. She speaks in conversational Japanese as well, which is somewhat slow and simple to understand.
4. Subscribe to Japanese Language Channels
Last but not least, Japanese learners can absolutely benefit from Japanese 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.
JapanSocietyNYC is a unique language channel because it features both English and Japanese lessons along with insight into Japanese culture through different videos. Ever wanted to learn how 酒 (さけ) — saké is made or what festivals are like in Japan? This is the channel for you.
Langfocus’ host tackles the odds and ends of just about every language around. Be sure to search his channel for “Japanese” to find his Japanese language videos.
This YouTuber channel is great for every level of learner who might be stuck at certain language crossroads. Are you still confused about Japanese sentence structure? Are you stuck trying to understand how kanji works? This channel breaks everything down perfectly. Langfocus collaborates with native speakers to provide Japanese audio samples in their videos as well.
Like Langfocus, Eko Languages focuses on a ton of different languages. For Japanese, you can find a video for just about every language need from this channel. Learn Japanese while you sleep, study typical questions and answers and brush up on daily life vocabulary. Every video is super informative and also features Japanese and English subtitles.
It’s pretty exciting to know that there are several different ways to learn Japanese from YouTube. The beauty of it is you don’t have to pay a cent and you can also access any of these great channels in your free time. As always, finding time to practice fluency can be difficult. With YouTube, you can relax and binge watch as many videos as you’d like!
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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