Listen to Japanese Podcasts via iTunes Hone your skills and your ears

    menu of Japanese podcasts

    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.

    itunes country setting USA

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

    itunes country setting Japan

    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.”

    menu in itunes store

    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.

    itunes category menu

    “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.

    itunes whats popular recommendations

    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.

    JUNK podcasts menu

    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!