To the uninitiated, Japan can seem overwhelming. All those city crowds, that quirky culture, a difficult language and copious amounts of delicious but unfamiliar food can be hard to navigate. Similarly, for someone who’s in the know about Japan, there just always seems to be so much more to know.
Travel to: Japan
With new podcasts being released every day, it’s time to hop on the bandwagon. These are the best podcasts to listen to if you’re travelling to Japan:
Learn Japanese from Zero!
If you’re looking to improve your Japanese before travelling to the Land of the Rising Sun, the Learn Japanese from Zero! podcast provides bite-sized pieces of grammar, vocabulary and culture in video format to get you as acquainted with the country before you visit you could ever hope to be.
We can all agree that one of the best things about Japanese culture is its food. Everything from sushi and sashimi to sake is covered in this podcast by New York-based food writer Akiko Katayama. She and her guests discuss a specific dish, drink or aspect of Japanese food culture in each episode, the perfect stomach-growling way to get excited for your trip to Japan.
Japan is a combination of chaos and peace, new and old, straight-edged and quirky. It is a perfect contradiction.
While in Japan, we explored cities big and small, and while we truly loved all of it, but one of our favorite experiences was exploring the mountain town of Nagano. Just a 3-hour train ride from Tokyo, this town hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and is remarkably stunning in the wintertime. We walked through a snowy forest that looked like a scene straight out of a movie, and got to see monkeys soaking in a natural hot spring.
If you plan to travel to more than one city while in Japan, our biggest recommendation would be to purchase the Japan Rail Pass. While it is kind of a big investment, it ends up being huge money saver in the long run. We have detailed information about this pass and how to get it in advance.
It might sound silly, but we are genuinely envious of anyone visiting Japan for the first time. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of discovering the quirky and captivating pieces that make up this country for the very first time. It is a county that quickly becomes addicting, and many travelers find themselves visiting time and time again. – Katie and Ben, Two Wandering Soles
Tokyo on Fire
For people who want to know the current events in Tokyo and Japan or anyone interested in politics, this podcast takes a current event and discusses it, including what they think the Japanese press is overlooking. Tokyo on Fire makes for stimulating listening and will leaving you feeling more ingrained in Japanese news and society.
Japanese Pod 101
This is a free language learning app which takes you through lessons according to your skill level. It doesn’t simply just teach you stock phrases, but the meanings behind words so you can understand grammar more effectively and apply it to your practice and travels in Japan.
News in Slow Japanese
Ever feel like you want to partake in conversation but it goes too fast for you when learning a language? Well, this podcast solves your dilemmas by reading news in slow – but not too slow – Japanese. The stories are then read again at a normal conversational speed, meaning you’re actually able to track your progress – bit by bit understanding Japan will seem easier! The app will also give you an array of new vocabulary while keeping you more informed; talk about a win-win.
History of Japan
You can’t argue that Japan has a unique, fascinating history, and when you’re travelling, your adventures will become that much more memorable if you know the stories behind the places you’re visiting. This podcast delves into the history of Japan with history scholar Isaac Meyer telling stories of significant Japanese events of the past.
Samurai Archives Japanese History Podcast
This podcast not only takes a historical event in Japan but puts its focus on analysing it, including how it may influence Japanese society today. It’s the official podcast of the Samurai Archives History Forum, and some lively discussions can take place with plenty of food for thought.
My first onsen experience was the highlight of my trip to Japan. I’ll never forget bathing in bubbling hot water surrounded by lush forest and lightly falling snow, especially as to bathe in a Japanese onsen you have to be completely naked! I was extremely nervous at first but once I’d learned the etiquette it was a surprisingly relaxing experience.
I recommend first time visitors to Japan enable data roaming or pick up a mobile Wi-Fi device when they land as the numerous train lines and bustling streets can be tricky to navigate without GPS. – Jayne, Girl Tweets World
If you want a hilarious and entertaining podcast about Japanese subculture, this is it. Every episode, two expats take a strange and wonderful facet of Japanese life and explore it with humour. Expect discussions on everything from Japan’s impressively diverse vending machines to its themed cafes.
Expat and popular YouTuber Kevin O’Shea (currently living in Kobe) discusses various aspects of Japanese life he finds interesting, which as you can imagine, is a very broad topic. He muses on what life is like as a foreigner living in Japan (so you’ll become accustomed to what you may find peculiar, in turn, better preparing you for your trip) and talks to guests from all around the country.
Precisely what you might be looking for if you’re travelling on a budget in Japan. This podcast breaks down the myth that Tokyo is insanely expensive, giving tips and tricks on how to save money throughout the city. It covers a range of ways to save, from food to festivals and getting around the country. One thing’s for sure: the host, Chris Kirkland, knows his stuff.
While my trip to Japan was nothing short of magical (nothing quite beats sipping matcha at a centuries’ old Buddhist temple, just hours after channelling my inner Harajuku girl on Takeshita-Dori!), the absolute highlight of my stay was a visit to the Mount Fuji Shibazakura Flower Festival. That’s when the valley surrounding the Mountain, a magical site in its own right, transforms into a fairy-tale like oasis as it becomes covered with pink and violet blossoms. Strolling amongst the flowers, with the iconic snow-capped mountain dominating the skyline, was something I’ll never quite forget.
The annual celebration that take place around April and May so if you too want to experience the beauty of Shibazakura Flower Festival, be sure to visit then! – Marta, A Girl Who Travels