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Top 10 Best YouTube Channels to Learn Japanese

Maria Claudia Alvarado Published on November 21, 2023

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If you want to learn Japanese, you’re probably wondering where’s the right place to start. Studying a language with a different alphabet system might seem intimidating, but this shouldn’t discourage you from trying your hand at one of Asia’s most spoken languages. But, to become fluent in Japanese, you need to find a study method that fits your language goals.

Watching YouTube videos is a modern and fun way to improve your Japanese. There’s plenty of high-quality content available online for free that can help you study the basics or test your listening skills. To save you some time, I’ve compiled the 10 best Japanese YouTube Channels.

Best Japanese YouTube Channels: How We Chose Them

To pick the best YouTube channels to learn Japanese, we looked at a few options that were popular with Japanese learners. Then, we reviewed different channels to find the ones that had the most accurate and high-quality resources to help you study the language. Finally, we created this list with the best channels to learn the language based on their content, quality, and the value they offer to Japanese learners of all levels.

1. Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101 is a channel with more than 2,300 videos that cover basic Japanese language concepts like everyday vocabulary, basic kanji characters, and common phrases for different topics. The channel has 24/7 live streams that you can watch to practice speaking and hearing the language or learn the different characters. The videos include the romanization for each character, so you can read and repeat even if you don’t know how to read Japanese characters yet.

The reason why I included this channel on this list is because of the variety of topics it covers. There are Japanese lessons for all levels of learners, including those who are preparing for the JLPT exam. You can start by watching basic vocabulary to become accustomed to the sounds and pronunciation of the language and progressively move to more complex topics like asking for directions, ordering food, or practicing social expressions.

JapanesePod101 belongs to the Innovative Language series, so you know you’re in good hands. You can visit the JapanesePod101 website here.

2. Learn Japanese with Tanaka-san

Learn Japanese with Tanaka-san has 106 videos that teach you the basics of Japanese. Its videos include a variety of flashcards, exercises, vocabulary and phrases, stories, challenges, and cultural notes that explain how to apply the language in real life. Tanaka-san is an animated tiny sushi character that speaks slowly, and all the videos are colorful so they’re fun to watch for occasional practice. Many of the videos also include transcripts or English subtitles to help you understand all the words you hear.

I like this channel because you can practice different skills without feeling overwhelmed by the language. With Learn Japanese with Tanaka-san, you can stay engaged and study the topics that interest you the most. In my opinion, the listening challenges are the most helpful content because you can listen to the language the way you would in daily scenarios, like when taking a train.

3. Dogen

Dogen is a Japanese teacher who has over 300 videos to teach you the language in a fun and modern way. Most of the content focuses on pronunciation and vocabulary, but you can also find videos that tackle cultural topics like the types of snacks and food you can find at Japanese convenience stores, reading your Japanese fortune for the New Year, or what to do during the rainy season in Japan. His videos are brief and usually go from 1-5 minutes, so you can watch as many as you like at a time.

One thing I like about Dogen’s channel is its approach to Japanese pronunciation. Dogen uses graphics that show you when the sound rises or drops in Japanese words. All his videos are in Japanese and have English subtitles, but some of his content might be too complex for complete beginners. He uploads new content every week, so there’s always something new to watch.

4. Japanese Ammo with Misa

Misa’s channel has 306 videos that teach you essential Japanese grammar and vocabulary, as well as Japanese phrases and words you can use to talk about video games, anime, movies, folktales, and much more. You can also watch skits to make your study time more entertaining. All of Misa’s videos have English translations, as well as romanization, to help you with the pronunciation.

I included this channel in this list because of its variety. You can watch her videos to study honorifics, Japanese verbs, and sentence structure, or practice reading manga, making phone calls, and even learn curse words in Japanese. The videos usually last between 5 to 50 minutes. Learners of all levels can watch Misa’s channel to practice listening and speaking, increase their vocabulary, or address any Japanese grammar doubts. You can also visit Misa’s website to find more content.

5. Easy Japanese Podcast

Easy Japanese is a podcast-style YouTube channel presented by Masa and Asami. It has 971 videos that you watch to listen to them talk about different Japanese language and cultural topics like their work, Japanese holidays, the weather, and more. Some of their videos have Japanese subtitles in the Latin script to help advanced beginners associate the pronunciation with the words, but others have no subtitles and are a better fit for more advanced learners. 

Masa and Asami speak in slow Japanese, which makes it easy to understand and listen to the pronunciation. They don’t use any English in their videos to make the experience more immersive and realistic. While this might sound a bit intimidating, Masa and Asami break down complicated words to explain their meaning. I think this is the best way to learn to communicate in Japanese without having to constantly rely on English. They upload a new video every day, so there’s plenty of content to help you study.

6. Nihongo no Mori

Nihongo no Mori has 779 videos completely in Japanese. All the videos on the channel are completely in Japanese and are aimed towards N1 to N5 Japanese students. They go over content you might find in the JPLT exam, including timed practice tests and essential words, but you can also study Japanese with songs or watch vlogs. The videos include Japanese subtitles, but won’t teach you to read Japanese characters so you need to be familiar with Hiragana and Katakana to understand the content.

I included Nihongo no Mori in this list because of its approach to Japanese grammar. Each grammar video is labeled with its respective Japanese proficiency level, so you can start with the basics and move on to the next to expand your knowledge. They cover topics like how to apply similar words in context (like every and every time, ごとに and たびに), or the meaning and origin of different Kanji. If you want to become fluent in Japanese, Nihongo no Mori can be a valuable resource to develop your Japanese skills.

7. Japanese with Hanako

Hanako is a native Japanese speaker currently living in the United States. While many of her videos focus on vocabulary and phrases for different scenarios, her channel also has videos that teach you useful information about life in Japan. There are listening challenges, etiquette tips, cultural notes, pronunciation practice, and much more. Sometimes she uses English to clarify the language, but it’s recommended to have at least a basic understanding of Japanese to get the most out of her content.

Hanako provides a balanced method that makes her content fit for advanced beginners or intermediate Japanese learners. All her videos teach you something new about Japan, and she always includes notes to teach you the correct way to use the language to fit into Japanese culture without overwhelming you. Because Japan puts a lot of weight on politeness, I think this makes Hanako’s channel a great resource to study Japanese while you learn about the culture.

8. Learn Japanese from Zero!

Learn Japanese from Zero! has 743 videos that teach you basic Japanese and give you tips to learn the language. The content is presented by George Trombley, a fluent Japanese speaker and book author. Most of the videos go over verb conjugations or show you the right way to structure Japanese phrases, but he also has stories that introduce you to new vocabulary words. You can also study famous anime or Japanese quotes to see how grammar is used in real life.

In my opinion, this channel is perfect for complete beginners who want to explore the language. George explains each topic concisely and gives you examples to help you see the difference between similar verb forms and words. His stories are also helpful because they use real situations to show you how to interact with Japanese native speakers. He uploads a new video every couple of days, but you can also check his website to learn more about his method and books.

9. ToKini Andy

The ToKini Andy channel has 351 videos for beginner to intermediate Japanese learners. His channel is aimed at self-study students, but he has videos where he uses the Genki Japanese textbooks so you can watch his videos to supplement your study routine and clarify different topics in the books. He also offers livestreams so you can ask him any questions you have about the language. 

In my opinion, the videos that explain the meaning and stroke order you need to follow to write the different Kanji characters are the most helpful. With Andy’s videos, you can start practicing writing and learn how adding a line can change the meaning of a word or sentence. All his videos are arranged in playlists, so you can start with lesson 1 to learn the most common Kanji first before moving on to more advanced content.

10. Speak Japanese Naturally

Speak Japanese Naturally is a YouTube channel focused on teaching you Japanese pronunciation. It has 237 videos where you can listen and repeat to develop your conversational skills. The channel deals with the Kanto dialect and shows you how to intonate words, build phrases, use common vocabulary words, and more.

Japanese pronunciation can be tricky, and changing the sound in a word can change its meaning. I included this channel in this list because of its helpful listening practices and exercises. You can listen to different types of Japanese speakers, like children and older people, and simulate all types of scenarios like going to McDonald’s or shopping at the supermarket. Even if you’re a complete beginner, the Speak Japanese Naturally channel can help you develop your Japanese conversational skills.

Different Ways to Learn Japanese 

There are different ways to learn Japanese, so it’s important to find the study method that fits your learning style to keep you motivated. Japanese textbooks are often the best way to learn the alphabet because they have clear examples that teach you how to write each character in the correct stroke order. If you are looking for more interactive study tools, there are Japanese apps that can teach you the basic words and phrases you need to communicate. A Japanese online course, on the other hand, can be a good option if you want a comprehensive study tool that progressively builds upon what you previously learned.

You can also find free resources online like news articles or Japanese language podcasts to help you develop the rest of your skills. YouTube videos are great tools that can teach you how Japanese is spoken in real life, but you can also watch movies or TV series to learn the way the language is used amongst native Japanese speakers. Remember that constant study and practice are necessary to see progress and become fluent in Japanese.

Best Japanese YouTube Channels: Final Thoughts

There are many YouTube channels you can add to your study routine to keep you engaged in the learning process. Watching videos to learn a language is a modern study method. It allows you to choose the skill you want to practice. You can use Japanese language videos to go over complicated grammar topics in a simplified way or use listening challenges to prepare for the JPLT proficiency exam. Many YouTube creators on this list have channels with a mix of language and cultural lessons, so you can learn how the language is used in real life and apply it in the right context and with the appropriate level of politeness. There’s something for everyone on this list, whether you’re an expert or want to start learning Japanese, so watch a couple of videos to see which channel you like best!

Maria Claudia Alvarado

Maria Alvarado is a content writer and translator from Lima, Peru. She graduated from the Savannah College of Arts and Design in 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Writing. She is fluent in Spanish and English, has intermediate knowledge of French and German, and is learning Japanese. She hopes to bring consciousness about the importance of language learning through her articles and aspires to learn as many languages as possible.

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