Where to get Your Japanese Listening Practice: The Epic List of Resources!

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Why are you learning Japanese? Many of us dream of travelling to Japan one day, making Japanese friends and getting by in everyday situations!

For this reason, many learners focus on learning how to speak Japanese. But of course, if you want to have a real life conversation with an actual Japanese person, listening is half of the interaction. You need to understand what the other person is saying so that you can respond!

The great thing about Japanese listening practice is that you can do it any time, anywhere. It is one of the easiest ways to create a Japanese language bubble and fit some more Japanese into your day. 

You can listen to Japanese podcasts, radio or music while doing other tasks, such as getting ready in the morning, cooking, walking or driving… or even while at work (depending on your job, of course!)

I recommend listening to Japanese as much as possible from the very beginning of your Japanese language journey. Even if you don’t understand much straight away, you are getting used to the sounds and patterns of the language. In time, this will help you have a more authentic accent and intonation. 

Listening also passively reinforces new words and grammar points that you’ve learned. The more you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it!

Here are some of my favourite resources for Japanese listening practice, at every level.

Websites for Japanese listening practice

My Kikitori 

Kikitori means ‘listening comprehension’ in Japanese. This is a free website for beginners which follows the vocab and grammar taught in the Genki 1 textbook – although you don’t have to be studying Genki to benefit from these listening exercises!

Each exercise has a short dialogue, available at natural speed and slow speed. Listen as many times as you like, then answer the comprehension questions.

Recommended for beginner/lower intermediate students who want more extra listening practice above what’s in their textbooks/language courses, but in a similar style.

My Kikitori screenshot

FluentU

Sure, studying from textbooks has a lot of advantages. But don’t we all study Japanese because we want to understand real Japanese?

FluentU is a (paid) platform that teaches you Japanese through real, authentic Japanese videos. There is a huge variety of content, from dramas and animations to documentaries and interviews. You can watch each video with awesome interactive subtitles in kana/kanji/English (toggle on and off as needed). Click on words in the subtitles for an instant definition and to add to your personal flashcard deck for review.

Read my full FluentU review

FluentU screenshot. You can toggle the English and furigana subtitles off to test your listening comprenhension.

LingoPie

LingoPie is similar to FluentU – the concept is learning Japanese through native videos. The main advantage is that it’s less than half the price of FluentU!

The downside is that it feels more like a ‘work in progress’ than FluentU – it has less variety of content (although they have recently introduced a Netflix collaboration!), the dictionary definitions are sometimes a little dodgy and they don’t have a kana/furigana/romaji option for the subtitles, which is difficult if your kanji isn’t up to scratch.

Read my full LingoPie review

Screenshot watching a drama in Lingopie Japanese showing the interactive subtitles with pop up dictionary
LingoPie screenshot. Hover over each word in the subtitles to see a translation.

Speechling

This free, non-profit website has a huge database of sentences spoken aloud by native speakers. Select your level (beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert) or the topic you’re working on (money, restaurant, health etc) and press play to listen to random sentences in your selected category.

You can use this resources in various ways: testing your understanding/translating the sentences you hear, shadowing, and you can even record yourself repeating the sentences to get free pronunciation coaching.

Screenshot of the website Speechling, a free resource for Japanese listening practice.
Screenshot of the website Speechling

Roudoku Cafe

Looking for advanced Japanese listening practice? On Roudoku Cafe you can listen to traditional Japanese literary works, read aloud by professional voice actors. The website is sometimes a little buggy for me, but you can also listen to all the tracks on their YouTube channel. Also, most of the texts are taken from Aozora Bunko (a free library of works in the public domain), so you can read along if you wish.

Japanese YouTube channels for listening practice

I have a separate post on the best YouTube channels to learn Japanese, covering everything from Japanese grammar lessons to children’s songs. But since this is a post on Japanese listening practice, here are a few of my favourite channels where you can listen to stories and conversations in Japanese only:

Comprehensible Japanese

Simple stories and vocabulary lessons. All in Japanese but with plenty of visual aids, making it perfect listening practice even for beginners!

Sayuri Saying

I really like the Sayuri Saying channel for Japanese listening practice at the intermediate level. Her videos are all in Japanese but she speaks clearly, and many videos have both English and Japanese CC subtitles. There are unscripted conversation videos, travel vlogs and mini Japanese lessons to cover all kinds of situations.

けんさんおかえり / Japanese with Ken

Another great channel for unscripted, natural Japanese conversations. I especially like the videos following Ken to places like the hair salon, sushi restaurant and coffee shop – ideal training for anyone hoping to visit (or live in) Japan!

Nihongo no mori

Recommended for JLPT grades N1, N2 and N3. Engaging JLPT grammar and vocabulary lessons taught in all Japanese.

Japanese podcasts

I am a huge fan of podcasts for learning Japanese! You can listen to them in the background while working, commuting or cleaning, or sit down and study them thoroughly with lesson notes. There are podcasts for all levels and interests. 

Make it your goal to listen to at least one Japanese podcast every day and just see how your level improves!

I have a huge list of podcasts to learn Japanese here, but here are some highlights:

Nihongo con Teppei

Teppei records short podcasts where he chats about various topics. The podcasts are in Japanese only, but his speaking is very slow and deliberate. This is a great podcast for simple Japanese listening practice and immersion at the upper beginner/intermediate level.

Miku Real Japanese

Miku’s podcast is perfect for intermediate learners who want to practise listening to natural Japanese. She talks a lot about Japanese culture and also studying, motivation and life! The episodes are about 30 minutes long so you can really get stuck into each topic.

4989 American Life

Recommended for upper intermediate/advanced learners looking for authentic native Japanese content! In this podcast, a Japanese woman living in the US chats about daily life and cultural differences. She posts full transcripts on her website so you can read along and study words you don’t know.

Japanese radio stations

Although I do love podcasts, radio can have a few different benefits. Most radio stations will expose you to a variety of input: talk, music, news, weather and so on. Also, you can just put it on without having to choose a specific show to listen to. 

Radio is great for passive listening; something to play all day in the background without too much thought, but you’ll be getting that steady drip-drip-drip of Japanese into your brain!

The hard part is finding a reliable source to stream Japanese radio stations outside of Japan. Here are a few I’ve found:

Radio Garden

Radio Garden lets you explore radio stations around the map and it has a number of Japanese radio stations. 

TuneIn

TuneIn is another website/app that provides access to radio stations, shows and podcasts around the world. You can use the ‘explorer’ option to find live radio broadcasting from Japan, or search by language to find specific shows. I found many of the podcasts etc are out of date though, so refer to my podcast post instead.

Instant Audio 

Instant Audio is a simple-to-navigate website with a selection of world radio stations broadcasting live.

Audee

A Japanese website where you can listen to a selection of talk radio shows from around the country. 

Sakura Radio 

Sakura Radio is a Japanese-language internet radio station serving Japanese speakers in the US. It broadcasts 24/7 and you can listen live through their website or app, or listen to their various shows in podcast form on Spotify or other platforms.

Radiko

Radiko is the most comprehensive hub for streaming Japanese radio stations and shows but unfortunately it is only available in Japan. If you use a VPN, you can bypass the region lock. I have also heard there is a browser extension for this purpose although I haven’t used it myself.

Simulradio

Simulradio is a Japanese directory of radio stations, organised by region. The links will take you to the individual station sites, where you can sometimes stream the radio directly or find other ways to play it, although access can be a bit hit and miss!

Note for UK listeners: unfortunately in late 2022 most radio streaming apps/sites have blocked access to overseas stations from the UK for licensing reasons. Since I’m currently in the UK, I couldn’t test out many of these apps myself, but  I believe they are still available in the US and other countries – perhaps readers can let me know in the comments what is working for you!

Japanese audio courses

JapanesePod101

JapanesePod101 is an audio-based resource for learning Japanese, so of course it can be a great source of listening practice! Each lesson is based around a short dialogue in Japanese, which the presenters then break down in English, explaining any new grammar and vocabulary. 

There are literally thousands of audio lessons in the archives, and you can narrow them down by various ‘pathways’ which match your needs. There are curated playlists focusing on listening practice for beginners, such as this one.

A screenshot of the 'Japanese listening practice for absolute beginners' pathway at JapanesePod101

Basic audio lessons are available for free, but if you have a premium account you can go in and access extra benefits such as line-by-line playback.

Due to the fact each audio dialogue is pretty short, I think JapanesePod101 is a great resource for listening practice for beginners. At higher levels, JPod is still useful for the grammar explanations, but you will want to look elsewhere (podcasts, videos etc) for more extensive listening practice.

Full JapanesePod101 review / website

More Japanese audio courses 

Other popular audio-based Japanese courses are Rocket Japanese and Pimsleur. Again, they are great for listening at a beginner level, but as you get to a higher level of Japanese you’ll need to add in other listening practice, because the dialogues can be quite short.

Full Rocket Japanese review  / website

Full Pimsleur review / website

Japanese shows

The best place to watch Japanese shows online for you will depend on your location, because some shows and streaming services are region locked. Here are some popular and legit websites to watch Japanese shows online that are mostly available worldwide.

(Note: these mostly have a subscription fee)

Viki

Viki from Rakuten is a streaming service specialising in Asian dramas (Japanese, Chinese, Korean and more). There’s heaps of content you can watch for free (with ads), or an optional paid service to remove ads and open up more content. The shows are all in the native language with optional English subs. Filter by ‘Categories’ to see shows from Japan only.

Netflix 

Netflix (which I’m sure needs no introduction!) has a decent amount of Japanese content, from dramas to movies to anime. Some of my favourites for Japanese listening practice are Terrace House, Old Enough!, Midnight Diner, and of course the Ghibli movies. The Japanese content is generally available with the original Japanese audio, and you can usually choose between English or Japanese subs. Tip: even many English-language shows have Japanese audio versions – check and see!

Amazon Prime Video 

Amazon Prime has a number of Japanese shows and movies included with Prime subscriptions. This includes some unique Amazon Original dramas and some other popular shows.

Disney Plus 

I don’t believe Disney Plus has original Japanese content, but I’ve discovered that a huge number of the shows and movies have optional Japanese audio. Many people find it useful to watch their favourite well-loved movies in their target language because they already know the plot, which gives them a leg up on understanding. So if you’re a Disney buff, try watching your faves in Japanese next time!

Abema

Abema is a major Japanese TV streaming service with a large number of live channels. Unfortunately it’s only accessible in Japan (or through a VPN).

FluentU

Watch selected Japanese shows and videos with interactive subtitles (click for an instant translation) and save the words into your own flashcard deck.

Full review / website

Lingo Pie

A cheaper, but less polished, version of FluentU. They have recently added selected Netflix integration so it looks like the content selection will be improving!

Full review / website

News in Japanese

These two Japanese news channels have 24 hour live streams available. Great for advanced listening practice, or just to keep playing in the background for passive exposure to Japanese.

Japanese music

Lots of people find that it’s much easier to remember words when you put them to song! So listening to Japanese music is a great source of Japanese listening practice, and will also help you remember new vocabulary in the form of lyrics.

For beginners, Japanese children’s songs and folk songs are usually a hit. They tend to be slower and simpler. There are several websites and YouTube channels that introduce popular songs, along with the lyrics for you to study. Here are a few resources:

Toyama University Japanese Songs page

List of simple and traditional Japanese songs with lyrics, sorted by Japanese level. Click on the tiny ‘Japanese Page’ icon top left to get the lyrics in hiragana, and ‘Vocabulary List’ for translations.

Bom Bom Academy and Red Cat Reading

Two YouTube channels featuring popular Japanese children’s songs with lyrics.

But of course, you can use any kind of Japanese music you like for your Japanese listening practice! It would be impossible to list music to please everyone here, so try Googling for recommendations of Japanese artists in the same genre that you listen to in English.

Speaking Japanese!

Many learners overlook this, but speaking and listening are totally intertwined skills! When you are having a real live conversation in Japanese, half of the interaction (give or take) will be listening practice. 

There are lots of ways you can get Japanese conversation practice even if you don’t live in Japan, such as affordable online private tutors and online language exchange partners.

Find more resources in our separate post on Japanese speaking practice.

How do you get your Japanese listening practice?

There are lots of different ways to get Japanese listening practice. Whether you prefer YouTube, podcasts, movies, radio, watching the news or something else, the important thing is to find what works for you, and do it as much as you can!

Do you know any other good resources for Japanese listening practice? Let us know and we can add them to the post!

And don’t forget to check out our related posts for more free and cheap resources to improve your Japanese!

Related posts:

Japanese listening practice: the epic list of resources! Whether you prefer podcasts, YouTube, radio, Netflix or good old listening comprehension drills, find the best sources for Japanese listening practice (beginner, intermediate, advanced) here.

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Rebecca Shiraishi-Miles

Rebecca is the founder of Team Japanese. She spent two years teaching English in Ehime, Japan. Now back in the UK, she spends her time blogging, self-studying Japanese and wrangling a very genki toddler.

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