I love AKBINGO! It’s one of my all time favorite Japanese variety shows, right on up there with Gaki no Tsukai. (P.S. if you haven’t already heard of Gaki no Tsukai, do yourself a huge favor and check that out as well.) Over the past century, we’ve written a few posts about the stars of AKBINGO!, AKB48, and how they’ve taken over Japan, seduced China, made babies over the internet, and played God. While not for everyone, AKB48 is still insanely popular.

Lesser known (I think) is the band’s variety show, AKBINGO! Like I said, it’s one of my favorite variety shows to watch for study/immersion/etc. If you haven’t heard of the show before, you’re probably in for a treat.

AKBINGO! With English Subtitles

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I’ve included a few videos with English subs for those who aren’t as far along in their Japanese studies, but these videos will give you a good feel for the show. I really like that every show is different with tons of different games, skits, and performances. Every show is a new experience and there’s plenty of band members for you to pick favorites from. Even I have a favorite, but more on that later.

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Since this is a variety show, the cast members speak much faster and sometimes even talk over one another. As such, the show can be a bit harder to understand than your usual drama, so variety shows are more for upper intermediate to advanced learners in my opinion. But even if you don’t understand much of what’s being said, you can still enjoy all the visuals and follow along with the games which is quite enjoyable.

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Another bonus to the show is that it features both male and female speakers with largely unscripted dialogue. This gives you lots of exposure to raw unedited Japanese that’s very natural. If you’ve mastered learning with dramas (click here if you haven’t), variety shows are one step up in difficulty and will help take your listening skills to the next level.

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Like I mentioned before, AKBINGO! along with Gaki no Tsukai are two of my favorite Japanese variety shows, but they’re by no means the only good ones out there. Just look at TORE for example. And for whatever reason, the best AKBINGO! videos from YouTube were of the punishment dodge ball game, but the show has plenty of other games as well.

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Another great thing about variety shows is that for the most part you can come in at any time and enjoy what’s going on. Variety shows are probably my favorite thing for passive learning since there’s not a story you need to follow along with and you can just jump in and start paying attention anytime you want to, enjoy it for a bit, then come back and pay attention again later. Variety shows make for great passive background noise.

AKBINGO! in the Raw

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And here’s one of the better AKBINGO! videos on YouTube with no English subtitles included. If you’re a Japanese master, this will test your skills with all the chitter chatter going on. Can you keep up? And for those of you who aren’t at that level yet, you can see that it’s still pretty fun to watch even if you don’t understand much of what’s being said. What do you think?

Another nice thing about variety shows like this is that they often subtitle random dialogue in Japanese at the bottom of the screen which is nice, assuming you can read (if you can’t, click here for practice). Sometimes it’s done for dramatic effect and other times it’s done when someone says something too quietly or people are talking over one another.

One potentially bad thing about AKBINGO! though is the inconsistency of the shows, at least for those who can’t understand the dialogue very well. Some shows are more dialogue heavy than others, and some don’t even include any games or skits at all (gasp!).

John’s Favorite AKB48 Member

Okay, so almost everyone who has more than just a passing exposure to AKB48 has a favorite member and I am no exception. Since I’m sure all of you are just dying to know who my favorite member is, it’s Sae Miyazawa. She’s always been my favorite. Is it her height? Her short hair? Her smile? I dunno, I just think she’s cool.

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To be completely honest, I haven’t been keeping up with AKB48 happenings as much as I used to (I know, shame on me, right?) but I actually don’t think Sae is a member of AKB48 anymore and has moved on to something else. Well, she’s still my favorite anyway – deal with it.

Music! Music Everywhere!

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Another potential benefit of AKBINGO! (or detriment, depending on your tastes) is the inclusion of lots and lots of AKB48 music. I’m actually not a huge fan of their tunes, but I do really like the song included here. Most of their stuff is too sugar sweet J-poppy, but I actually think this one is pretty cool.

There’s also another version of this music video (the non-dance version) which is way better in my opinion, but for whatever reason it isn’t on YouTube just yet. You can check it out here though, and I recommend you do so because it’s pretty entertaining.

So tell me, what do you think of the show and AKB48 in general? Do you have a favorite member? Any other cool variety shows to share? Let us know in the comments!

  • CD

    This show is what got me into AKB! Sae has temporarily moved to SNH48.

  • Anon

    Not so sure this is the most useful Japanese to emulate when learning the language.

  • missingno15

    I’ve been watching AKBingo! ever since 2009, so hipster I am

  • Emily

    And for Morning Musume fans, there’s always the old episodes of Asayan, Hello! Morning, and Haromoni, Hello Pro! Time, and the current Hello! Satoyama Life. Lots of history there ^-^ /bias

  • Afaf Khan

    It’s a bit different, and probably makes me a creepy fangirl, but I like watching certain talk variety shows that air live on Nico Nico. They involve actors from the Prince of Tennis musicals (usually, 3 actors host one show of their own) so, yes, men! But I wanted to say that you mentioned that variety shows are harder than dramas etc etc. I disagree! In these shows, the conversations don’t extend beyond the normal, but in drama/movie/anime where there could be crime investigation, samurai grammar, or even business terms…..

  • obakechan

    How did they know? I was just watching the latest episode and LEARNING JAPANESE from it

  • 古戸ヱリカ

    A UFO! This time, I AM saying it was aliens.

  • John

    Yeah, I agree with you as far as vocabulary and grammar and all that goes, dramas will probably most often be more difficult in that respect depending on the drama and the subject manner. I do think that variety shows are harder in the respect that the people usually talk faster and it’s more likely to have more than one person talking at the same time, etc. Maybe the difficulty just depends on the person, and also the shows, haha. Both are difficult in their own way!

  • John

    Well if you’re a guy, definitely not – but it’s great for listening practice at the very least.

  • John

    Yeah, that’s what I thought :(

  • Megan

    How I wish morning musume still had a variety show :(

  • rapchee

    is it only me freaking out over the electrocuting? O_o
    other clips were funny though


    “Ganbate kudosai…” Haha!

  • John

    Aw, one of the Sae videos is no longer available on YouTube :(


    yo, what happen you like gaming lol!

  • lauren

    I wanted to share this since I came across it and other people might
    find it funny too. I coudlnt’ catch everything they said so itried
    searching with quotes.

    so this is oriental radio doing their buyuuden neta and the transcript of their song was on this japanese blog
    the video might get removed so if you want to download it go to
    but anyways
    here’s the blog site


    二人:デンデンデンデ デンデンデデンデ デンデンデンデ デンデンデデンデ デン!デン!デン!
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:最初はグー じゃんけんポン!
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    二人:ハイ武勇伝 武勇伝 武勇伝デンデデンデン
    中田:くぁ~!虫歯に… 虫歯に… 虫歯にぃ~~虫歯に殺虫剤噴射!
    二人:ハイ武勇武勇武勇武勇伝 武勇武勇武勇武勇伝デンデンデデンデン
    意味はないけれどむしゃくしゃしたから小学生にビンタした デンデンデデンデン
    二人:デンデンデデンデデンデ デンデンデデンデンデ
    ギュンギュンギュルンギュンギュンギュ ギュンギュンギュルンギュンギュンギュ

    ooh found another one!
    trasncript: … amp;page=1

    known about them from years ago but i was only able to see a couple of
    their buyuuden song at the time and then a couple months after that they
    removed all the videos and I was so sad. now it looks like alot it got
    uploaded back up so i gotta wtach it all before it gets removed or
    download it…

  • sandra03

    ahaha I loved the russian roulette clip, so funny. i love kat-tun cartoon, i’ll have to check this one out too. i can’t do it without subs yet though will have to find some subbed episodes :)

  • Andrea Williams

    I’m not so into variety shows or dramas but there’s a now-cancelled show that I watch for conversational comprehension purposes. The show is ‘Domoto Tsuyoshi no Shoujiki Shindoi’. There were over 300 episodes made, ending in 2009. Most of them are uploaded on the various Chinese video hosting sites (very few English subs, of course). I like Tsuyoshi as a musician and as a (relatively?) intelligent talento, plus he speaks with some sweet Kansai lingo. The show involves the host going to restaurants, shopping, sightseeing, doing sports or whatever while chatting casually with various celebrity guests so you get to hear lots of useful language.

    Here’s one episode with English subbing:

  • Dmdndi

    Well it’s just daily Japanese . I don’t see the harm

  • Jessie

    I prefer Johnny’s but thanks..

  • Gord

    Finally, a justification for watching AKBingo episodes over and over again. Thanks a bunch.

  • Akari

    I have listened to a few of their songs, and I like them. I think, becuase there are so many in the group, it almost sounds like a choir, and they blend their voices very well. :) I think River, Beginner and The Wind is Blowing (?) are my favorites. :) And I totally agree that this variety show is awesome. Haha It’s very entertaining, and the members of the group are very cute. :D

  • Gentlementleman

    Finally someone who is writing aboit AKB48! lol
    I thought this day would never come before the world ends. ^^

  • Yaviiniia

    I was only fourteen episodes from the end of Yugioh! Duel Monsters and you had to go and get me hooked on this show. Fie upon thee! Fie, I say!
    (It’s really fun though! I wish I knew who they all were but I’m beginning to recognize some of them. I’ve never been interested in AKB48 before now.)

  • Chris Taran

    Hello! Morning is still my favorite Japanese variety show.