I am a huge fan of using podcasts to learn Japanese! You can listen to them anywhere, anytime: while walking, doing housework, in the bath, falling asleep… you can sit down to study with a dictionary and notepad in hand, or you can listen to them passively as you go about your day to increase your input and create an immersion environment.
I’ve collected this huge list of the best free Japanese learning podcasts at every level. Whether you are looking for beginners Japanese language lessons or native level, all-Japanese podcasts, you will find something on this list.
Enjoy, and share any other favourites in the comments!
Japanese podcasts for beginners
At the beginner level, you need a Japanese learning podcast that introduces new words, phrases and grammar in a simple format with English explanations. These are our top picks.
JapanesePod101 have an ‘Absolute Beginner’ series of podcasts that are probably the only way to learn Japanese from podcasts from zero. All the other podcasts on this list – even the beginner ones – assume you’ve covered the basics and are not suitable for complete beginners.
The catch is, you need to sign up in order to access the full course. Usually you would have to pay. But at the time of writing, they offering their full ‘Absolute Beginner’ pathway for FREE.
This includes around 90 podcasts/audio lessons from the complete beginner level, plus lesson notes, quizzes, writing worksheets and other study tools on their website. I would definitely hop on this offer if you are looking for podcasts to learn Japanese for complete beginners!
LearnJapanesePod (not to be confused with the similarly-named show above) is one of the best podcasts if you’re looking for free audio lessons at the upper beginner/lower intermediate level. They teach basic Japanese words and phrases, along with Japanese culture and random fun stuff.
It’s presented by British Alex and Japanese Ami-sensei. The podcast is presented mostly in English, but they generally teach a short dialogue in Japanese and relevant words.
There are lesson notes on the website, and they also have a pretty active discord server so you can practise your Japanese and chat to other learners.
The podcasts are on the longer side (40 mins to 1 hour).
Beginning Japanese Phrases
Super short recordings introducing just one word or phrase per lesson. Explanations in English. Recommended Japanese podcast for beginners to grow vocabulary!
Fun Japanese Listening
Short podcasts (5-10 minutes) taught mostly in English. Each episode introduces a different Japanese expression or grammar concept. Some episodes talk about different methods and strategies to learn Japanese, for example, how to start learning kanji. Lesson notes and example sentences on the website. A great bite-size podcast to learn Japanese for upper beginners.
Japanese with Shun
Shun talks about various topics including travel, Japanese culture and his experience learning languages. He tried to use mostly grammar from the textbook Genki 1 (JLPT N5). Episodes are about 5 minutes of talking in Japanese, with a round-up of new vocabulary (with English translations) at the end. Great for beginners with a few months of study under their belts, who want to start listening to Japanese-only content beyond the textbook.
Japanese podcasts for intermediate learners
As you move beyond the beginner level I recommend switching to podcasts that are all in Japanese, to increase your input and create an immersion experience! This might seem difficult to start with, but the more you listen, the more you will understand.
Stick with the same podcast for a while to get used to the podcaster’s voice, and remember that most podcast platforms have a feature that lets you slow down the audio.
These Japanese podcasts don’t use much/any English, but they generally speak slightly slower than native speed and adapt their language for learners, so they are perfect for the intermediate level.
Nihongo con Teppei
Teppei chats about various subjects in Japanese. The podcast is in Japanese only, so it’s not for complete beginners, but his way of speaking is pretty easy to understand. The podcasts are short and easily digestible. A great first step when you’re ready to go beyond ‘lesson’ style podcasts and start immersing yourself more in natural Japanese.
Kevinvin sleepy Japanese
Kevinvin records short monologues on various topics. His calm and deep voice makes these podcasts ideal for listening to as you fall asleep – although of course you can listen to him at any time! All in Japanese, but he speaks fairly slowly and occasionally provides translations for difficult words.
Miku Real Japanese
Miku chats about language learning and Japanese culture. Many of her podcasts are conversations with other Japanese teachers and YouTubers. They speak casual, everyday Japanese. I find sometimes the speaking speed is a little fast, but the podcasts are fairly short so they’re a great way to ease into listening to natural Japanese.
This is a newer podcast so she doesn’t have a huge back catalogue but you can also check out her YouTube channel.
日本語 with あこ (Nihongo with Ako)
Ako-sensei’s podcasts are short chats in Japanese only at intermediate and advanced level. Look for the handy emoji guide in the podcast titles:
🚲：A little easier than other episodes. Most grammar is N4 level.
🚃：About N3 level
🚀：For advanced learners
At the lower two levels she speaks slowly, but the advanced and interview podcasts are closer to natural speed.
よ・み・き・か・せ JXTGグループ 童話の花束
Children’s stories read aloud. Only a limited number of episodes. These episodes are in Japanese only and written for Japanese children, not language learners, but I put them in the intermediate category since the language level is not too high. All original stories that were written for a contest.
Learn Japanese with Noriko
Regular short episodes discussing Japanese culture, language learning, travelling, Netflix shows and all kinds of other things! All in Japanese.
Let’s learn Japanese from small talk!
Two female Japanese students chat about various topics. All in Japanese, but they occasionally explain difficult words. They also provide a word list at the end of the podcast and on their website! I like this one as it reminds me of listening to my Japanese friends chatting over coffee. They speak at a fairly natural speed so it’s great for exposure to natural Japanese.
Unfortunately they are not producing new episodes regularly any more, but there is a big back catalogue for you to work through!
Yuyu chats in Japanese about subjects such as Japanese history, Japanese university life and job hunting. You can find the same episodes with subtitles in Japanese on his YouTube channel. Great podcast for listening practice at the upper intermediate level.
Nあ～ casual nihongo
As you would guess from the name, this is a great podcast for listening to casual Japanese! Dai sensei and friends chat about casual topics from dating to drinking parties. They use slang and sometimes Kansai-ben (a dialect from the Kansai region). You wouldn’t want to repeat some of the language from this podcast to your boss, but it’s great if you want to understand everyday language spoken by young people.
Casual Nihongo haven’t put out any new episodes since 2021 but there are enough old ones to keep you busy for a while.
News in Slow Japanese
It is notoriously difficult to get used to listening to the news in a foreign language! News in Slow Japanese is a podcast designed to get you over that hurdle. It’s aimed at intermediate to advanced learners, JLPT levels N1, N2, or N3. The concept is very simple: a native speaker reads a news article at a slow pace. You can also listen to the same articles at native speed. There is no translation or explanation in the podcast, but you can find the texts (and translations) on their website.
Another podcast to get used to understanding the news in Japanese. Hosts Michael and Mami read out news articles then discuss them in both Japanese and English. They have an app which features the text of the news articles they are discussing. Although this podcast uses some English, Mami’s Japanese is native speed and can be pretty tricky for lower levels. These longer podcasts (2+ hours) come out weekly and they’re great for a deep dive into the language for discussing current affairs in Japanese.
Kyotopia podcast is dedicated to ‘the language, culture, music, and events of Kyoto Japan’.
The hosts chat in both Japanese and English, but the Japanese is spoken at natural speed.
Advanced Japanese language podcasts
At the advanced level, you can move beyond content created for language learners and listen to real Japanese podcasts created for native Japanese audiences!
At this level, your options are wide open! The best advice is to look for Japanese podcasts that match your own interests. You can browse the top ranking podcasts in Japan here. Or try googling ポッドキャスト with the name of your hobby or interest and see what comes up.
Here’s a small selection of popular native Japanese podcasts to get you started:
4989 American Life
A Japanese woman living in California talks about her daily life, impressions of America and cultural differences between the US and Japan. Although this podcast is created for native Japanese speakers (not as a learning tool), her Japanese is very clear and easy to understand. Also, her podcasts are mostly scripted monologues, which are much easier to understand than the more spontaneous chat show/interview podcasts on this list. And you can find transcripts on her website here!
Overall, this is the easiest podcast in the ‘advanced’ category and I highly recommend this podcast as an entry point into native Japanese podcasts for immersion.
NHK is Japan’s national broadcaster. Their podcast channel releases news programmes several times a day. The episodes are a mix of 5 minute headlines and longer programmes. As you would expect from a news programme, the language level is high but the pronunciation is very good.
Interviews with Japanese cultural figures and personalities including writers, comedians, actors, sportspeople and more. New 20 minute episodes 5 times a week.
A married couple talk about dating, love and various lifestyle topics, and answer listeners’ questions agony-aunt style. They have easy voices to listen to and it’s a little calmer than some chat shows.
Comedy chat show in which two Japanese women discuss dating. Has the vibes of a drinking party with your girlfriends in podcast form. Regular new episodes of about half an hour each. NSFW!
An entertaining history chat show that is one of the top ranking podcasts in Japan. Transcripts for older episodes on the website.
A chat show about language and linguistics. The level of Japanese is pretty high (they talk fast!), but the presenters’ style is fun and conversational. Topics include Japanese dialects and unusual surnames.
Japanese learning podcasts for all levels
These Japanese language podcasts deserve a category of their own because they create content at all levels, from beginner to advanced!
Let’s Talk in Japanese!
Japanese teacher Tomo chats in Japanese only on topics mostly related to Japanese language or culture. He has podcasts at every level from N5 (beginner) to N1 (advanced). The levels are marked in the titles of each episode. Transcripts for older episodes on the website.
The Real Japanese Podcast! 日本語で話すだけのラジオです！
Japanese-only chats with Haruka at levels N4-N1 (levels are indicated in the titles). She covers all kinds of topics but mostly related to Japanese culture/life in Japan. Recent topics have included LGBTQ rights in Japan, school lunches and payment methods in Japan. Transcripts available on her website.
We already mentioned this in the beginners section, but I should include it again here because they actually have lessons at every level.
The latest 10 or so podcasts are available for free for anyone on their Apple Podcasts feed. But if you become a member, you get access to the full archives – over 500 audio lessons, plus all the extras on their website or app. Basic membership starts from just $4/month.
I’ve used JapanesePod101 to learn Japanese for several years and I personally recommend them. However, the free stream on iTunes is a bit confusing because it contains a mix of lessons from different courses at different levels. It’s much easier to navigate through their website or app where you can see recommended playlists by course or pathway.
JapanesePod101 are currently offering their ‘complete beginners’ pathway FREE for a limited time! This is probably the only way to learn Japanese from podcasts from zero (all the other podcasts on this list assume you’ve covered the basics) so I would strongly recommend this offer for complete beginners.
More resources to learn Japanese
If you enjoyed this list, please check out my other round-ups of free native materials to practise Japanese:
- Best YouTube channels to learn Japanese
- Epic list of resources for Japanese listening practice!
- Free websites for Japanese reading practice
If you learn well by listening, but you want to go beyond passive listening and add in some more structured learning, you might be interested in these audio-based courses and resources:
- Pimsleur (review / website)
- FluentU (review / website)
- Rocket Japanese (review / website)
- JapanesePod101 (review / website)
Did I miss out your favourite podcast for learning Japanese? Please share in the comments!
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.