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Recently, I became a huge fan of podcasts. I thought they were a lot lamer than they really are, so I was surprised when I actually took a look at the Podcast section in iTunes. Now, I’m listening to NPR constantly, especially Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, and This American Life. This went on for a little while, then I realized that maybe it was possible to listen to Japanese podcasts as well. It would be great for passive Japanese listening practice, and even more importantly, it would be free. Still, in the past I had tried to download Japanese music from Japanese iTunes, and it denied me because I didn’t have a Japanese credit card (though later on we’ll talk about a way around this, according to one of our readers, at the end of the article).

First, let’s take a look at the pluses and minuses of listening to Japanese podcasts. I think it’s important to keep these things in mind, due to the varying types of language the podcast hosts use.

The Goods:

-Great for just hearing the language. It’s easy to subscribe to a lot of podcasts and just listen to them in the background, even. Doesn’t require any extra time to do this, which is very important for me.
-Get’s your mind used to the sounds that make up the Japanese language, and unlike music, podcasts consist of people talking, not singing, so language and pronunciation doesn’t get altered for the purpose of a nice musical sound.
-Podcasts are free, and who doesn’t like free? On top of that, many of them are high quality shows, as in, these are shows from real radio stations made into a format for your computer / iPod.
-Wide Variety of Topics for you to listen to. More variety means you can find what you like.

The Bads:

-A lot of the language that is used is very slangy. Depending on your level of Japanese, this could be a good or a bad thing. Although it’s good to learn how to speak casual Japanese, it’s even more important to learn formal “textbook” Japanese. Though many people will tell you otherwise (and they just don’t know better), it’s very important to know how to talk to people depending on the situation, and casual slangy talk isn’t appropriate in many many situations. As long as you keep this in mind while listening, you’ll be fine.

So How do you get these Podcasts?

*Quick note. I’m using iTunes 7.7. Things could change with future versions, though I feel like for the most part it’s going to be a similar step by step process. Using the directions below, you should be able to figure it out even if your version is a bit different. Alright, here we go!

First, get yourself iTunes, if you don’t have it already. You might need to create an account at this point, though I don’t think you will need to, since Podcasts are free. Scroll down to the very bottom of the iTunes store front page, and you should see something that lets you change your location.

Now, change this to the Japanese store, or, “日本.”

Right here, your store should change to the Japan one. Luckily, most everything should stay in English (except for the titles of the songs / podcasts). Now, on the top left area of the store, there should be a section called “iTunes Store.” Click on “Podcasts.”

From here, you have many options. You are in the Podcast section. Pretty much anything you click on will be a Podcast that you can subscribe to. Here is what I’d suggest you do, though. Below “iTunes store”, after you click on Podcasts, there should be a category (カテゴリ) section, so you can narrow the potential shows down. I like comedy, so that’s what I’ve been subscribing to.

“Video Podcasts” is another available option. That’s another potential section you can take a look at, but not really what we’re talking about today. It’s an awesome section, and I totally recommend it, but I’m going to continue talking about the audio based section for now.

Another thing you can look at, if you don’t want to bother with cateogries, is the “what’s hot” section. Usually iTunes will provide you with a list of popular / staff picked Podcasts for you to look at. There’s some good stuff here, as well.

It really just depends on the type of stuff you like. If you want ot hear really formal Japanese, maybe you should check out the government section. If you want to listen to something with a lot of energy, check out comedy. If you want something nice and simple, maybe you should listen to something from the kids section. Really, the potential is limitless, and there is so much content, and most importantly, it’s really easy to find and download, legally, for free.

I started out by subscribing to “JUNK Podcasts,” which you should be able to see here. I plan on branching out, but I have way too much to listen to still, so I’m going to hold back until I catch up to the most current episodes.

How to Download Japanese Music on iTunes Japan

Now, this is all theoretical. I haven’t confirmed this by trying it out myself (too poor!), but one of our regular commentors, クリス, says this works (so, it probably does). If you navigate the iTunes Japan store, and try to buy some music, it will tell you to set up an account in Japan, with a Japanese credit card. To get around this, all you need to do is get an iTunes gift card and use that instead. It’s just that simple, aparently, and a lot cheaper than trying to buy a ridiculously overpriced Japanese music CD. There are also TV shows, etc., just like the US iTunes, so that might be worth checking out as well (if you want to be legal about it, which we totally recommend and advocate). If anyone else has tried it out and can confirm that it works, let us know in the comments! Also, thank you クリス for the tip!

*EDIT 8-22: Ah Ha! So you need a Japanese gift card. Thank you for the clarification in the comments!

So, any Japanese Podcasts you’re listening to now that you’ve read this?

  • http://solo-kun.com solo-kun

    I've been getting my stuff from iTunes Japan for over a year now using the method described. When I first set it up tho, I did have to provide a Japanese address…

    I'll definitely check out some podcasts &c once I get some free time. Hadn't really thought about using it as a learning tool.

    Thanks.

  • Dan
  • fredydb327

    This is really cool! I'm gonna try it.

  • WOTDsctoo

    A friend of mine on Lang-8 talks about listening to podcasts for English practice. I thought it would be a good idea for Japanese practice, but never really took the initiative to investigate it further.

    Now I definately will! I think I'll take up that kids section recomendation. XD

  • http://www.sebbylearnsjapanese.blogspot.com/ Sebby.Japan

    This is really cool, maybe I will use it to learn Japanese later on. Right now I'm still a noobie, so I feel this is very much beyond and above me.

    By the way, if someone is new to learning Japanese (like I am right now) I would love to hear from you. I write a blog about my experiences, and I'd like to know how they compare to yours. Please write me at http://www.sebbylearnsjapanese.blogspot.com

    Bye!

  • Popkornage

    I'm pretty sure about the gift card thing that you have to buy an iTunes gift card from Japan, and have it shipped, or (if you know someone who lives in Japan) get a Japanese person to read out the serial for you on the phone or something. I'm pretty sure it's the same as iTunes Canada/ iTunes US. I live in Canada, and our iTunes video section sucks, really bad. We only have a couple of TV series' available. Anyway, I went to the US for shopping for a day and bought a Gift Card for iTunes US, and made an American account using the gift card. And now, I have some American (that also air in Canada) shows on my computer.

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    If you are going to try this out, please make sure to get a Japanese iTunes gift card. I can't confirm that the US iTunes gift cards work for this method of buying Japanese content from the iTunes (Japan).

    If you are wondering where you can buy a Japanese iTunes gift card, you can navigate over to the Japanese online Apple store (http://store.apple.com/jp) and purchase a card from there, OR visit one of my favorite sites, the JBox (http://www.jbox.com/SEARCH/itunes_card) which is basically the same way of getting the card, except the ordering process is in English.

    Posted on the site, there are detailed instructions on how to get your Japanese content once you have ordered and received your Japanese iTMS gift card. Follow the directions on the JBox site and you should be able to get your Japanese goodies with ease.

    PLEASE NOTE: The cards obviously come at a slight premium. A 1500¥ card, which is worth just under $13 in US currency costs $18 at the site. A 3000 card, worth closer to $25, costs $35. That means that individual tracks, which would normally cost between $1.25 and $1.30 based on the Yen/US dollar conversion rate, will set you back about $1.75 to $1.80. For the convenience and access to the foreign store, that's not too horrible a deal.

    TIP: If you actually plan on buying actual content from the iTMS, you might want to check the US/Yen exchange rate before buying. I suggest buying content when the exchange rate for the US dollar is higher than average. With the way the US economy is right now, you want to get the most bang for your buck, so by checking the exchange rates before buying, you'll probably be able to get 1 or 2 more songs out of your gift card. IMO, a low exchange value would be 106¥ for $1, and something higher would be 110¥ to 112¥ for $1. Just something I thought you'd like to think about.

    PS: Did the comment system change? Doesn't seem that the site is using the Disqus commenting system anymore.

  • WOTDsctoo

    Oooooh! I 've heard of this method of using a Japanese gift card before, but I thought paying for shipping wouldn't be worth it. I never thought of getting someone in Japan to give me the number! XDD Haven't tried the method with the US card either.

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    I forgot to add this, if any of you are fans of the BokeTsukkomi kind of comedy acts, you should check out some podcast channels from Banana Man.

    Also if you want to find different podcasts other than the ones provided on iTunes, you can check out http://voiceblog.jp/ for types of podcasts/blogs. The site is setup like any other blog site, except the blogs are in a voiceblog/podcast, or however else you want to call it. It's another alternative to translating Japanese blogs, with the perk of listening to what their blog is about. I hope you guys find the site useful.

    [ ! ] And I'm answering my own question here, but no the comment system didn't change, it was my stupid iGoogle RSS feed opening the site in a different format (-_- ')

  • http://www.luiyuming.com astrorainfall

    Hey Koichi, that's a great post. I don't have a TV so I feel a little gutted I can't leave it on to just keep listening to Japanese sounds. Will check out the podcasts you suggested here.

  • Aaron

    Right now I listen to Bakushou Mondai Cowboys (TBS Radio Show), Sakamoto Mayas “地図と手紙と恋のうた”, コラムの花道, Yomiuri Online, and occasionally I listen to the free Japanese Pod 101 lessons, most people find that Peter guy to be pretty annoying and I can't blame them. Anyways i'm still not at the level where I can understand everything but its good listening practice

  • http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vbWl4aS5qcC9zaG93X3Byb2ZpbGUucGw/aWQ9MTYyNTc4NjM= クリス

    If you are going to try this out, please make sure to get a Japanese iTunes gift card. I can’t confirm that the US iTunes gift cards work for this method of buying Japanese content from the iTunes (Japan).

    If you are wondering where you can buy a Japanese iTunes gift card, you can navigate over to the Japanese online Apple store (http://store.apple.com/jp) and purchase a card from there, OR visit one of my favorite sites, the JBox (http://www.jbox.com/SEARCH/itunes_card) which is basically the same way of getting the card, except the ordering process is in English.

    Posted on the site, there are detailed instructions on how to get your Japanese content once you have ordered and received your Japanese iTMS gift card. Follow the directions on the JBox site and you should be able to get your Japanese goodies with ease.

    PLEASE NOTE: The cards obviously come at a slight premium. A 1500¥ card, which is worth just under $13 in US currency costs $18 at the site. A 3000 card, worth closer to $25, costs $35. That means that individual tracks, which would normally cost between $1.25 and $1.30 based on the Yen/US dollar conversion rate, will set you back about $1.75 to $1.80. For the convenience and access to the foreign store, that’s not too horrible a deal.

    TIP: If you actually plan on buying actual content from the iTMS, you might want to check the US/Yen exchange rate before buying. I suggest buying content when the exchange rate for the US dollar is higher than average. With the way the US economy is right now, you want to get the most bang for your buck, so by checking the exchange rates before buying, you’ll probably be able to get 1 or 2 more songs out of your gift card. IMO, a low exchange value would be 106¥ for $1, and something higher would be 110¥ to 112¥ for $1. Just something I thought you’d like to think about.

    PS: Did the comment system change? Doesn’t seem that the site is using the Disqus commenting system anymore.

  • http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vbWl4aS5qcC9zaG93X3Byb2ZpbGUucGw/aWQ9MTYyNTc4NjM= クリス

    If you are going to try this out, please make sure to get a Japanese iTunes gift card. I can’t confirm that the US iTunes gift cards work for this method of buying Japanese content from the iTunes (Japan).

    If you are wondering where you can buy a Japanese iTunes gift card, you can navigate over to the Japanese online Apple store (http://store.apple.com/jp) and purchase a card from there, OR visit one of my favorite sites, the JBox (http://www.jbox.com/SEARCH/itunes_card) which is basically the same way of getting the card, except the ordering process is in English.

    Posted on the site, there are detailed instructions on how to get your Japanese content once you have ordered and received your Japanese iTMS gift card. Follow the directions on the JBox site and you should be able to get your Japanese goodies with ease.

    PLEASE NOTE: The cards obviously come at a slight premium. A 1500¥ card, which is worth just under $13 in US currency costs $18 at the site. A 3000 card, worth closer to $25, costs $35. That means that individual tracks, which would normally cost between $1.25 and $1.30 based on the Yen/US dollar conversion rate, will set you back about $1.75 to $1.80. For the convenience and access to the foreign store, that’s not too horrible a deal.

    TIP: If you actually plan on buying actual content from the iTMS, you might want to check the US/Yen exchange rate before buying. I suggest buying content when the exchange rate for the US dollar is higher than average. With the way the US economy is right now, you want to get the most bang for your buck, so by checking the exchange rates before buying, you’ll probably be able to get 1 or 2 more songs out of your gift card. IMO, a low exchange value would be 106¥ for $1, and something higher would be 110¥ to 112¥ for $1. Just something I thought you’d like to think about.

    PS: Did the comment system change? Doesn’t seem that the site is using the Disqus commenting system anymore.

  • Maciel

    =[ i have nothing to do with ipods or iphones or anything so i cant really do this lol

  • ChuanMing

    I think I'm the only person on this world not owning an iPod. And I recently saw your videos on Youtube, this blog is very good and humorous. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.tofugu.com Viet

    You don't need an iPod or iPhone in order to listen to podcasts. All you need is iTunes and a computer.

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  • St

    If you're just going to listen to it on your PC, you might just as wel download KeyHoleTV. It's free, and you get moving pictures with that order.

  • Maciel

    oh ok thanks
    i've got iTunes so ill try

  • http://altf4.net lawnmowerlatte

    Thanks for all the info クリスさん。I tried to buy one from the Apple Store Japan with no luck. It didn't like my shipping address (I think). Do you have to be in Japan to have it shipped to you?

  • http://altf4.net lawnmowerlatte

    Thanks for all the info クリスさん。I tried to buy one from the Apple Store Japan with no luck. It didn't like my shipping address (I think). Do you have to be in Japan to have it shipped to you?

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=chokudori クリス

    If the Japanese Apple site won't sell you the gift card, you can also try buying it through iTunes, but somehow I think it will decline your order unless you actually have an actual Japanese address. I should have thought of that before posting the instructions. However, you are still able to by from the other site I mentioned, JBox.com. You shouldn't have any problems ordering from their site. I bought the ¥1500 gift card to access the Japanese iTMS.

    Also keep in mind that the gift cards have an expiration date, so if you plan on using it to access podcasts and other free content from iTMS Japan, make sure you actually use it to buy other content. Would seem like a waste of money if you only used the card to get free content.

    And to answer your question, JBox doesn't require you to be a residence of Japan to have their goods shipped out to you, however, I can't say the same for the Apple online store.

  • http://dubiouslysalubrious.blogspot.com Hezaaa

    I'm ashamed I never thought of doing this to get my NPR fix while away from the US, but THANK YOU. A ridiculously good idea for learning languages too.

  • http://bennegan.blogspot.com bennegan

    japanesepod101.com. It's been a huge help to me.

  • http://www.digitalnetworks.co.uk rikku

    If you are dedicated to learning Japanese I'd thoroughly recommend http://www.japanesepod101.com whilst a lot of the podcasts are free, you can also subscribe via the payment option. This includes a learning center which contains PDF files readable by your iPod so you can see a word for word transcript of the lesson. I have been learning Japanese on and off now for a year and the podcasts have helped so much! The topics included in the casts are incredibly divese and they even have a regular feed on Japanese culture.. check it out it's very worth while!!

  • Maciel

    i just skipped the whole post because i thought it was only for the ipods or iphones but now i read it and im listening to stuff =]

  • http://rainbowhill.tumblr.com/ jrfiction

    I'm with rikku, japanesepod101 is excellent and they have all the dialogue available for download as well, but… why pay for it when you can listen authentic Japanese for free.

    NHK World Radio has a never ending supply of radio broadcasts and a very useful Japanese lesson series with class notes in Japanese and English. http://www.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/radio/pro

    You don't even have to have an iPod, you can enjoy the podcasts on your computer, I've hooked up the feeds for my phone.

    Don't pay for it! There are countless authentic texts, spoken and written, online.

  • equath

    Heh, I was in the process of looking around for Japanese podcasts for my zune, and I thought to myself, “huh, I wonder if tofugu has a podcast I've never noticed before.” So I came to the site, and this is what I found as the top article. :)

    So far I've added japanesepod101, learn japanese @ japancast.net, Yomiuri News, and ふぁんた時間 (short fiction as japanese audio books): http://podfeed.podcastjuice.jp/app/rss_convert….

    To add podcasts for the zune that don't show up in the market place you just have to go to collection>podcasts>”add a podcast”. From there you have to copy in the url of the feed for the podcast you want, so the real issue is finding that url.

  • equath

    Btw, I would be interested in hearing from anyone who has a way to actually study for the JLPT 2 listening section.

  • emiko

    very cool! yayay!

  • Najomie

    I know this is an older post but still…
    WOW, this is awesome, I love this !! I'm listening to learnjapanesepod.com !! They are alot of fun!
    Thanks

  • http://www.globalracingschools.com Motorsport Experience

    This japanese duo is just hilarious.

  • http://www.pimotor.com pimotor

    This is a cool way of learning Japanese.

  • http://www.globalracingschools.com Motorsport Experience

    I think iTunes is probably the first Non-Japanese player to capture a big market share in Japan.

  • http://www.ezbusinessneeds.com Singapore SEO

    Very cool recommendation. Thanks

  • http://www.thesinisterscribe.com Hope

    Just tried this and found FM Osaka. Thanks! Great Tip for learning any language you can find on iTunes.

  • http://www.thesinisterscribe.com Hope

    Just tried this and found FM Osaka. Thanks! Great Tip for learning any language you can find on iTunes.

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  • http://twitter.com/bradjohn123 brad john

    nice idea to learn Japanese podcast via iTunes.it will really helps to the people.

    Learn Japanese

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  • natnat

    You can buy Japan iTunes prepaid cards from http://www.japan-codes.com
    It’s an online store that sells gift cards, game cards from Japan.

  • Anonymous

    I love  listening to Japanese podcasts! I find podcasts more immersive than Japanese music – and sometimes more enjoyable. I enjoy listening to TBS podcasts, especially “Dig”. Dig podcasts are usually 30 – 60 minutes, which I enjoy, and they talk in formal language with a wide variety of people. They talk about serious things sometimes and sometimes they are laughing their heads off so it is a good balance.

    I am going to head to iTunes and download a whole bunch of podcasts!

  • Anonymous

    (make sure the store is set to the country your info is registered in) 
    1.download a free item in itunes or run an update on your apps
    (this causes you to login – verifying your account with a payment already attached) 
    2.NOW change to Japanese store      
    (or any other country’s language you may be studying ) 
    3.download to your ♥s content

  • hikaru1412

     I paid like 80 bucks for the 300ish 2 year thing they offered cuz I found a coupon code online. Well worth it.

  • Chris

    Excellent. Many thanks for this. I was looking for so long for suitable Japanese podcasts, but to no avail. This pointed me in the right direction and I have finally downloaded a couple. Happy listening!

  • Rouillie Wilkerson

    Thanks for making my life easier!

  • SD

    Do you know any good listening practice apps etc. for beginners just to get used to the speed and stuff apps etc. that I can play on my iPod? :D I’m finding listening to be pretty challenging…