Give your listening comprehension a boost with Japanesepod101

japanesepod101 review

Studying Japanese as a self-learner is a long journey. Especially when you have a full-time job or full-time studies that demand your full attention. I’m learning for two and a half years now. On and off with very busy months learning Japanese (and completely burning myself out over this) and months where I can’t even keep up with my Wani Kani studies. But it’s probably the same for most of us.

Learning Japanese is a hobby that can be a pretty time-consuming one. This is frustrating at times when you don’t notice any real progress but it can be super sweet when you’re finally able to get a couple of pages of Yotsuba& without any interruption.

If you are just starting on your Japanese journey: Check my guide on how I would start to self-study Japanese

But for me, it’s still a hobby and I set my expectations reflecting this. My main aim was to read manga in Japanese, to read some magazines, and to get through Japan when I’m visiting. I never had any illusions of becoming fluent or anything like that and didn’t even try to get better at my speaking/listening comprehension.

That was a mistake I noticed pretty early on and it’s quite obvious if you think about it. The main reason a language exists is to communicate and if you don’t absorb the unique “rhythm” of the language you’re learning, you will have a pretty hard time understanding written texts as well. At least that’s been the case for me. It’s all about the rhythm.

When I tried to brush up on my grammar skills I used TextFugu back in the day. I’m not too enthusiastic about the website itself (even if the motivational part is awesome and always seems neglected by Japanese study books) but when I signed up I got a 25% off coupon for Japanesepod101.

A website I already heard a lot about but never really looked into. After browsing their site I pretty quickly decided to give it a try. Not only because I trust the tofugu team and their recommendations. These guys were exactly offering what I needed to complement my rather stale Wani Kani + Genki routine. Some good old-fashioned listening comprehension. (And the 14-day free trial gave me the final push).

Update October 2019:

Another two years have passed. I’m now a working man and apart from using the incredible JALUP flashcards (which are now called Nihongo Lessons) not so much has changed in my daily study routine. I signed up for Japanesepod101 again to make at least some good use of my daily commute.

For intermediate learners I can highly recommend the following courses I’m currently going through again:

– Japanese For Everyday Life (Intermediate)
– Advanced Audio Blog

Update August 2017:

I’m studying Japanese on and off for about 6 years now and just started again after a long hiatus for a couple of months (due to my exams). Mixing up your study routine a little is always a good thing especially if you want to start fresh. I haven’t used Japanesepod for quite a while but just re-subscribed a couple of weeks ago and am still amazed by their great content.

The hosts are doing their job well and every lesson is perfectly scripted with a nice mix of grammar, new vocab, and a rather interesting storyline that continues through each season. I don’t always read the lesson notes but it’s already enough for me to just listen to one or episodes when I’m on the go and get some quick Japanese lessons while driving to university or going for a walk.

It was always my aim to update articles on this blog to keep them up to date, nothing changed much for J-pod but I still wholeheartedly recommend them to every Japanese learner. If not only for little tidbits like “おーい” which I read over and over again in よつばと the other day and just heard an explanation for it in a Japanesepod101 episode.

The website, the app, and the pricing

When I first clicked the link to head over to Japanesepod I was a bit skeptical. The website somehow looked a little sketchy to me especially because of all these different languages to learn which are advertised in the lower right half of the landing page. Reminded me a little too much of Rosetta Stone and we all know how great their Japanese “training” is.

All this “learn Japanese fast” talk didn’t sound very trustworthy to me and the “polished” subscription prices did the rest. When they are talking about 4$/month for their basic subscription this only applies if you prepay for one year. If you want to get a monthly payment, the price doubles.

8$ is still alright and a good price for the huge amount of content they’re offering but still. Make the prices more transparent. Otherwise, it gives most people a bad feeling right from the start even if the actual product is pretty awesome.

When. I first signed up for Japanesepod101 about 1,5 years ago you could only use their podcasts and notes on a computer or tablet. Or let’s say comfortably use.

Nobody wants to handle a clunky website on their phones, not when trying to learn as well. Another negative point in this regard was that I love listening to podcasts on the go which wasn’t possible without an internet connection before.

But all that changed with the release of their App. You were now able to comfortably download the podcasts on your phone so you wouldn’t require a steady internet connection to listen to them.


The different podcasts are categorized after the difficulty of the content and for every learning stage, there is already a huge amount of material available.

I’m still listening to the Beginner podcasts but I’d say there are a couple of hundred podcasts in total.  I just received my new Phone and am downloading two Beginner levels. 5 and 5 to be precise.

Both consist of 25 episodes but earlier levels contained much more than that and occasionally surpass the 100-episode mark per level.


And that’s how it looks inside an “episode”. When you’re feeling super diligent you can read along with the dialog with the lesson notes.

I’m just paying for the basic subscription (which is more than enough for me. Just want the podcasts)  that’s why I can’t comment on the review and dialog track features that are still locked.


Let’s finally talk about the Podcast itself

And hands down. It’s awesome. Each episode is around the 15 minutes mark and very well scripted. It’s always a small dialog with two different speakers which is discussed afterward.

There is usually a specific grammar point used in the dialog which will be explained in the discussion as well as the vocabulary of each lesson.

And that’s what I like about Japanesepod101 they’re talking about the small Japanese dialog as if a Japanese newbie would be in the room with them but without trying too hard.

The speakers for the dialogues are always Japanese natives so their pronunciation is flawless but the discussion is led by the man behind the podcast, Peter Galante. He is fluent in Japanese and as a big bonus, as an English-speaking native, you will get perfect explanations of all the different grammar points and vocab.

I’m currently listening to the Beginner level where he is usually having the discussion part with Natsuko Kawamoto. It’s great to have her giving explanations of Japanese words and grammar points and to make things perfectly clear Peter sums things up in between.

Every speaker so far has done an incredible job. What’s so great about this mixture is that you get some “inside knowledge” about the Japanese language and learn how you would express something but also why another expression wouldn’t be used in a specific context in Japan.

It’s the same in every language. You can learn a lot of vocab but without having any experience of how people are talking in the country you couldn’t possibly know which term to use casually and what’s been “the shit” five centuries ago.

Really, consider me a Japanesepod fan. The episodes are scripted throughout. There are no holes in the conversations but nonetheless, it’s still a very “light” conversation with an occasional joke in between.

I just feel comfortable listening to the podcast and virtually hanging out with the team.

What to expect from using Japanesepod101

Using Japanesepod101 alone and expecting to learn Japanese from it would be a little naive but as a supplement to have among Wani Kani and Genki, I can absolutely recommend it. And you should know by now that I only recommend the stuff that I love and use daily. Or better: Would love to use it on a daily basis

Learn Japanese with

Coupon Codes (links attached)


The link above contains an affiliate link, so if you want to support the site just make your subscription using the link. It’s always highly appreciated and really helps to keep the site running.

Subscribe here

Please let me know your thoughts about the podcast. Are you using it as well?

Comments 30
  1. Hey man! First of all I really really like your blog (both the aesthetics and the content). Thanks for all the great entries you´ve done so far. I was a bit skeptic of the “scammy” looks I find JPOD101 to have re: their marketing strategies, but based on your post I tried them out on a free trial for 7 days and have to confess I´m quite liking it. It seems very “Assimil-esque” If you have used Assimil for any other language… which is something brilliant for the type of learner I am at least!

    I have now decided to go for it and suscribe for around 6 months, though still not sure whether to go for the Basic or Premium version (not interested at all in the Premium plus one) considering I am also going through Genki 2 (+ Remember the Kanji) at the moment and will mostly use it for listening practice and vocabulary/grammar reinforcement… What do you recommend?

    1. Sorry for the big delay in my reply but somehow I missed it. I always recommend to pick the basic plan because after all you want the podcasts itself. I personally didn’t take any notes from their podcast and never tried using it with an SRS. I mainly wanted it for some listening practice/immersion method. Maybe it’s a great tool to use their in built SRS combined with their podcasts and their very own version of Japanese 2k which was once “invented” by a company we now know as I have yet to try out their approach. Maybe it’s worth it and a good deal.

      My recommendation for you: Stick with the Basic plan and concentrate on Genki + RTK. Maybe throw in WaniKani while you’re at it. It’s a great way to reinforce your RTK knowledge and learn some Kanji readings and a lot of vocab while doing so.

      1. Hey! No worries at all. Thanks for taking the time to respond back to me. I fully agree and I already entered the basic plan, it´s been great so far even from the motivational perspective as I find sticking to one resource when learning languages (as I was with Genki) can bore me out. My plan now is to still have the Genki as the main resource, learning 5 kanji a day with RTK which is going great so far (will also investigate Wanikani a little bit to see If I´d like it as I see it recommended a lot indeed) + JPOD101. Thanks man, superb blog!

          1. Interesting, thanks for sharing that. Right now I´m using RRTK deck (the one created by the people advocating for the MIA/AJATT method) which gives you the most common 1000 kanji, but will see how Wanikani would stand against it for my purposes. I´m only planning on learning the readings as I encounter them in vocabulary, for example in JPOD101 or Genki itself so as not overload myself with info I won´t necessarily use… so we´ll see. Thanks man!

  2. I first found JapanesePod101 I don’t know how many years ago, but I must have been looking up Japanese language stuff for it to have come up. They do have a “free” tier, but there is a price of endless advertising. Like you wrote in the article, it’s very off-putting. I never did sign up to upgrade and, eventually, just completely unsubscribed. I’ve returned to my Japanese language learning and I’m looking up audio stuff. Somehow, I’m still on the fence about signing up again.

    1. I would recommend giving them another try. Just go for a month with their basic subscription and take it from there. The tons of shows don’t make their convoluted site any easier to navigate – but the content is actually very good. There are a bunch of great Japanese podcasts for Japanese learners around but JPOD is as professional as it gets when it comes to the shows itself. Found nothing better. Really a shame that they distract so much from their actually great content with dubious marketing tactics.

        1. Please let me know about your second experience with them when you’re ready :) And make sure to use their app. Makes everything much more straightforward and clear (but check the in-App subscription price. It’s a little more expensive than subscribing directly through them).

  3. Looking at the pricing…I’m actually going to being paying the yearly number all at once, not the monthly number, correct? So if I want $10/mo I have to pay $240 up front. If I actually want to pay monthly I’m looking at $25/mo…

    1. Yes, that’s correct and the one thing I don’t like about Japanesepod101. Their upselling techniques feel fishy even if it’s now common practice among all the in-app-subscriptions.

  4. So this looked interesting and i checked the price. I was not happy. I either have to pay for a whole year to get at the amount they say or pay like 25/month. As interesting as this looked, this is a disgusting practice i will not support.

  5. Here’s a fun fact . I met the new owner of Chinese Pod last year. He told me a story of how awhile ago some “investors” from Japan came to China to look at “investing” in Chinese pod and went around scribbling lots of notes… Anyway a few months later Japanese pod began and no…they never invested. Lol! What’s always put me of Jpod is their hard sell, you sign up for free and get bombarded to death with up grade e mails that I always end up putting their mails in the spam folder. It’s always puts me off. Anyway I may try them again one time in the future as I just use IKnow.

    1. It’s worth to try their premium podcast but I completely understand that you#re put off by their selling tactics. They should just make the whole pricing more transparent and stop overselling their product. But definitely give it a try. Really helps to get a feeling for the language and the episodes are really well produced.

      Thanks for sharing that anecdote. Never knew that there was a Chinese original behind the whole idea.

  6. Another great write up pal. I’ve been on the fence about this service for a couple of years, but this write up has me leaning towards finally giving it a go!

  7. For beginners there is no better podcast that this one. I subscribed for 6 months I think in the beginning. But after a year or two, I recommend stepping it up to REAL input! Movies, manga etc. At first it will be hard, but you can do it!

  8. Hi Jakob,
    always a pleasure to read your recommendations !
    As I’m not a native english speaker and you neither (or maybe I’m wrong ?), I would like to know how much the english used is difficult. I mean I’m not really afraid by basic conversations, but grammar explanations might be a sensible point. Anyway I’ll try it to answer myself.

    1. Sorry for the late reply, just arrived back home from vacation.
      I’m German but don’t have any problems to understand any of their explanations and I’m sure you won’t have any either. Everything is kept very simple and if you read the lesson notes as well (which I think is necessary to get the most out of the podcast) you will even get a written explanation of everything.

  9. Thank you for the review. I have been on and off subscriber of JapanesePod101. The website is huge, has a lot of different information about possible different situation in Japan. I like some content a lot, except… Way to much time wasted on introduction of Peter Galante. I mean, I understand they want people to recognize that the podcast is from, but… there should be some limit. From the podcast time, half of the podcast is explaining what the website is about, how many different languages it has, and how I should subscribe because it is so great. There is no need to introduce the members of the podcast, honestly, who cares? All I want to hear is the dialog in Japanese and explanation. And if the authors want to be mentioned, why not just leave it at “About our team” on the website? Anyway…
    It’s just my 5 cents regarding way too much marketing on the website, and that made me to unsubscribe from them. So, if they put so much energy in the premium content and advertise it so much, what about having premium content without advertising the premium content in the premium content? :)
    I agree with you about transparency. The website and the concept is great, but their marketing strategy is a failure in my humble opinion. :)

    1. I think it’s nice to have a small introduction each time so you always know who the speakers are and get the feeling that you know the persons a little when you’re listening to the podcast a lot. Which lessons have you done maybe the introduction-part gets more? But so far I wasn’t bothered by it at all. Sorry to hear that it put you off.

      But yeah, the marketing in general can be a bit annoying. I never tried their free stuff and honestly, wouldn’t really know where to look for it. Are you maybe using something else to get some listening comprehension? I’m pretty pleased with Japanesepod101 and think their podcast is awesome but it never hurts to try out alternatives.

      1. I don’t think they have free stuff? I tried the premium membership a while ago. Introduction is nice, but if you listen 10-20 podcasts at a time, then it gets a little bit too much.
        I use listening exercises for JLPT N3 nowadays + Graded Readers and NHK Easy News. Hopefully after getting to know N3 vocabulary, I can watch tv shows and etc. :)

  10. Nice, that’s great to hear. Have been considering it for some time now (been listening to a few of the free podcasts), but I think you just gave me the final push.

    When I sign up, I will of course remember to use your link. Keep up the good work with this website! :)

    1. Thanks a lot for your support Wikzo. Try the podcast, I’m sure it’ll help you a lot with your Japanese studies. Especially if you have a long commute or just like to listen to some podcasts regularly it’s a great way to complement your Japanese studies.

      How are things going at your end, have you ordered some manga?

      1. Thanks. It’s going okay here. Been too busy with university stuff, so I am mostly keeping up with kanji learning on WaniKani :)

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