JapanesePod101 Review – Is It Worth It?

Japanesepod101 Review
  • Amount of Material Available
  • Teaches Natural Japanese
  • Effectiveness
  • Lessons are Fun
  • Price
  • Value

Japanesepod101 Review Summary

Out of all of the materials, courses, and programs I have used, Japanesepod101 taught me the most useful and real-world Japanese. The teaching is excellent and most of the lessons are interesting. There is a massive amount of lessons (beginner to advanced) on their site, with more added each week.

However, things like their site navigation, audio explanations, and Premium Plus service have room for improvement.  

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links. This means that if you click and purchase something, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) to help support this site. Learn more

Learning Japanese is both fun and frustrating. It’s fun to learn new words and grammar, but it’s frustrating when you get “stuck.” Sometimes you can’t understand Japanese concepts, or worse yet, you feel like you are not improving at all.   I have been studying Japanese for over 13 years, and I felt “stuck” many, many times. Over the years, I have tried a lot of different programs, courses, and books to learn Japanese. 

I have been using Japanesepod101 since 2011, and it became one of the best resources I have used to improve my Japanese. It helped me get past a lot of those times where I felt stuck.

In this Japanesepod101 review, I’ll take you into the member’s area so you’ll know exactly what to expect if you sign up. I’ll provide as much detail as possible to help you decide if it’s the right fit for you or not.  

*Updated: May 27th, 2021

What is Japanesepod101?

Japanesepod101 Video Lesson of Woman having a conversation with a man

If you have ever searched for the best way to learn Japanese online, there’s a good chance you have come across Japanesepod101. The Japanesepod101 website offers a massive collection of audio, video, and written lessons for all levels (3,800 as of this writing). Whether you’re a complete beginner or an advanced Japanese student, you have a ton of material to study.  

Their audio lessons are the heart of their teaching method, and they do an amazing job at teaching Japanese grammar lessons and words.  

They also have a lot of video lessons on their site. Many of these videos teach you things you can’t find in most books. 

Things like Japanese gestures, slang words, and answers to common questions that Japanese learners have. All of their material is organized into 6 different categories:  

  • Absolute Beginner
  • Beginners
  • Intermediate
  • Upper-Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • Bonus Material

The best thing about the Japanesepod101 website is that you can access many of their lessons for free (no credit card needed).  

If you sign up for a free account, you’ll be able to access the first 3 lessons of every pathway (unit). You’ll also have access to the 2-4 new lessons that are added each week for 3 weeks (after that, they become archived, and you’ll need a paid membership to access them).  

I have been using their materials for years now, and while it’s not perfect, I think it is still the best resource to learn Japanese out there. So, let’s go right into the premium member’s area to see how they teach you Japanese.

Japanesepod101 Audio Lessons

Japanese for Everyday Life Audio Tracks on Japanesepod101

The heart of JapanesePod101 is their audio lessons. These lessons are usually10-20 minutes long, so it’s easy to finish one or more per day without feeling overwhelmed.

Each lesson usually focuses on a specific grammar point or topic. Most importantly, you are taught how to APPLY what you learn and use it in everyday situations.

There are lesson notes that go over the grammar/lesson in more detail, along with the audio files.

Both the audio lesson and notes can be downloaded.  

Format of the Audio Lessons

Japanesepod101 Audio Lesson Dialogue

Most audio lessons started with a dialogue in Japanese. For example, there might be an employee talking to his boss about his work.

The teachers then break down the dialogue and explain it in detail. They teach you the vocabulary words and useful phrases used in the conversation. This is followed by an explanation of the target grammar in the dialogue.  

The teaching at Japanesepod101 is top-notch. There is usually a native Japanese speaker (or two) and a native English speaker on the audio tracks. This means you hear native Japanese being spoken that will have a natural translation from the native English speaker. Most of the dialogues are interesting and make learning Japanese quite fun. 

The best part of the lessons is that they teach you things that many books don’t. They teach you real-world Japanese and how to use it naturally. This gives you the confidence to use what you learn IMMEDIATELY.

The native Japanese speakers give very insightful advice on speaking natural Japanese. They also talk about Japanese culture, phrases used in daily life, expressions, and provide insights about Japan.  

However, there is one thing I don’t like about the audio lessons.

The grammar explanation is very clear and easy to understand, but it can be a little short at times. After teaching you the target grammar, they refer you to the lesson notes for a more detailed explanation. 

The explanation in the lesson notes is excellent. It’s easy to understand and has enough details for you to learn the grammar. However, I think it would be nice if they talked about these details in the audio tracks as well.

A Tour of the Paid Membership Area: Audio Lessons

Japanesepod101 Audio Lesson Vocabulary List

Over the past few years, the look and features of the Japanesepod website have been improving. The new layout of their lessons makes learning the material much easier.  

The lessons load quickly, and everything you need to learn the material is conveniently located on the same page.

When you press play to start the audio, it will open up a player on the bottom of your browser (I use Google Chrome). On that same page, there is a written transcript of the Japanese dialogue, so you can easily follow along.

If you scroll down, you’ll find the list of vocabulary words used in the dialogue (with audio). With a click of your mouse, you have the option to hear each vocabulary word being said by a native speaker at normal speed or slightly slowed down.

I found this to be helpful when I was learning new words. You can also add any of these vocabulary words to the flashcard system on their website and even take a quiz to test yourself. You can also choose to display the vocabulary with or without the English, romaji, and kana.

You also have the option to record yourself to practice your pronunciation.

If you scroll further down the page, you’ll also find the lesson notes, which provides a detailed explanation of the grammar with example sentences. You’ll also find the lesson transcript and a list of kanji for you to study.

Having all of these materials in one place makes it very easy to study and learn from. Each lesson provides you with listening, speaking, reading, and kanji practice.  

Japanesepod101 Free Sample Lesson

The best way to see if Japanesepod101 is right for you is to check it out for yourself. Here’s access to a free lesson (no sign-up necessary) so you can see it for yourself:  Say Hello in Japanese No Matter What the Time of Day

Japanesepod101 App

Their Innovative Language app makes it a breeze to access their audio and video lessons on mobile devices. The app starts up quickly and runs very smoothly. I used it when I was on the train or had to wait in line somewhere.

Japanesepod101 Video Lessons

Learn the 5 Japanese Phrases your teacher will never tell you!

The video lessons are excellent too. Some of them are even better than the audio lessons. I feel that most of the videos support the material you learn in the audio lessons.

There are Q&A videos like the “Difference between morau and kureru” or “Is house uchi or ie?”

There are also videos to teach you new words (restaurant verbs, tongue-twisters, slang verbs, etc.), reading comprehension, and written Japanese (hiragana, katakana, and kanji). 

My favorite is the “Ask Risa” series. In those videos, Risa answers questions like “How Do You Get a Japanese Girlfriend?” or “Can You Learn Japanese From Anime?”

The video lessons also have the same study options as the audio files (vocabulary words, line-by-line transcription (for premium members), quiz, etc.). The videos can also be downloaded to your computer.  

What Can You Learn from Japanesepod101

The main focus of the lessons is to teach you how to speak Japanese. You’ll learn how to speak polite Japanese for formal situations, as well as casual Japanese for hanging out with friends. There are also talks on business Japanese, Japanese slang words, and even tips on learning Japanese.

In addition to this, there are resources for the JLPT, guides to learn how to write Japanese (katakana, hiragana, and kanji), vocabulary lists covering many different topics (including the 100 and 2,000 most common words in Japanese.  

There is also a forum to ask questions, but it doesn’t seem that active these days. However, if you have a question about a lesson, each audio and video lesson has a “comments” section. You can ask your question there. The Japanesepod staff has answered virtually all the questions I have seen! That really impressed me. It’s like having your own private tutor.  

Reading & Listening Practice

Japanesepod101 Extensive Reading in Japanese for Intermediate Learners

Reading is a great way for intermediate and advanced students of Japanese to improve their skills. There are lessons dedicated to reading, listening comprehension, and even learning Japanese through songs on Japanesepod101.com. They also covered specific topics like Japanese words to use on social media, holiday words, questions and answers, and much more.

The listening comprehension section is good, but I love their reading practice. The reading practice has an audio track to accompany the line-by-line text, as well as tons of other options to help you learn. You can change the display of the text to kanji, hiragana, romaji, or English.

There are audio files for each line of text, which makes it convenient to practice. There is also an option to record your voice to check your pronunciation. All of these options provide an outstanding way to improve your reading.

JLPT Material

Japanesepod101 JLPT Lessons

While Japanesepod101does have resources to study for the JLPT, I feel that the material they teach is not specific enough to pass the JLPT. 

There are 3 resources to study for the JLPT on the Japanesepod website:

1. JLPT Kanji (JLPT Levels N5 – N1)

The kanji lessons are pretty good. There is a short but informative video for each kanji lesson. In the video, you’ll learn each kanji’s reading and common word(s) using that character. Any new vocabulary/kanji in the lesson can be saved to a flashcard deck or your word bank for future studying.

2. JLPT Multiple-Choice Assessment Quizzes (JLPT Levels N5 – N2 Only)

The multiple-choice assessment quizzes are very short. While it can be useful, I feel that it’s missing a lot of information you would need to pass the JLPT.

3. JLPT Master Course (Levels N5 – N2 Only)

These “courses” are just organized lists of their audio lessons, combined with the multiple-choice assessment quizzes mentioned above.

Having all of the audio files organized according to the JLPT level makes studying the material very convenient. All the grammar you need to know for each level of the JLPT (N5- N2 only) is right there at your fingertips.

However, in my honest opinion, I feel that the JLPT material on their website isn’t enough to pass the test.

For levels N4 – N2, I would recommend that you purchase JLPT study guides and ONLY use the Japanesepod101 as a supplement.

For the N1 level, you will 100% need to use other resources to help you pass the test.

Since the JLPT N1 uses older grammar patterns that are more common in writing than in conversation, you won’t find some of these grammar patterns on the Japanesepod101 website.

This is because Japanesepod101 focuses more on useful Japanese you’ll hear and use in everyday situations. The last time I checked, 19 grammar patterns were being taught on Japanesepod101 for the JLPT N1 level.

I recommend the Sou Matome and Kanzen Master books. I have also used both these books for the N2 and N1.

Also, check out my “How to Pass the JLPT N2 on Your First Try” guide. While this post talks about the JLPT N2, the tips given will help you pass any level of the JLPT.

Japanesepod101 Review Pros: What’s Good?

  • Learn Japanese for the real-world with NATURAL expressions that you will use to communicate. 
  • The speakers in the audio tracks teach more than just the target grammar pattern or vocabulary. In each lesson, they give insights about natural Japanese, culture, nuances, and much more. I found this to be the best part of the lessons.   
  • Skilled teachers make the material easy to understand, and the dialogues in the audio tracks are entertaining. Some lessons have multiple-part stories, like a mini-drama series.
  • I LOVE the new format of their lessons. It makes studying and learning the material very easy and efficient. The dialogue, vocabulary words, written explanation, grammar audio explanation, lesson transcript, and kanji can all be found on the same page (on a desktop computer).
  • Audio and video lessons has a comment section where you can ask questions.
  • The Japanesepod101 app for mobile devices is simple and works very well. You can play both the audio and video lesson with the app.

Japanesepod101 Review Cons: What’s Bad?

  • The biggest con for me is that some of the grammar explanations in the audio lessons were short. The explanation of the grammar on the audio track is clear and easy to understand, but is often short. To learn the details of the grammar, you are instructed to read the written explanations in the lesson notes. The lesson notes are very good, but it would be nice if Japanesepod101 provided more details of the grammar in the audio track as well.
  • The material at each level is taught by different people with different personalities and teaching styles. While all of the explanations were easy to understand, I found some lessons drier than others. You’ll probably like certain teachers more than others as well. This can make language learning more difficult since you might not enjoy the teaching style of a specific teacher.
  • So many different resources on the website that it will take a while to discover all of the features Japanesepod101 has to offer. However, their new “pathways” course makes it easy to know what to study next.  
  • While the 1-on-1 teacher option (Premium Plus) is good for asking questions or getting feedback on written work, communication is done via text, with no live conversations. To work on your pronunciation, you send voice recordings to your teacher. If you want to become good at speaking Japanese, this option won’t help you at all.
  • Premium Plus price (1-on-1 teacher access): Costs an additional $22.00 per month. You will get weekly assignments and a personal assessment from a teacher. It’s not worth it to me. If you have more time to study, finding an online tutor to have live conversations is a better option.

Neutral Points

Here are some things that are either good or bad, depending on how you look at it:

  • Some of the lessons have multiple part stories, just like a TV series. So you’ll have to listen until the end if you want to hear the conclusion. Most people find this exciting, and makes them excited to study more. However, if you’re busy and can only study once every week or two, you might forget what happened in a previous episode and need to go back to get back into the story.    
  • Peter, who I believe is the founder of Japanesepod101, is also in some of the audio lessons (particularly the lower intermediate level). In some lessons, he often jokes around and can go off-topic at times. Some people find this annoying, while others love the lighthearted humor and questions he asks. I enjoyed his commentary. Since he isn’t a native Japanese speaker, his pronunciation can be a little suspect at times. However, I liked this too since I could hear the difference between the native and non-native Japanese speakers.

Japanesepod101 Subscription Levels: Free, Basic, Premium & Premium Plus

There are 4 types of subscription levels for Japanesepod1o1. Here’s a breakdown of what you get at each level.

Free Account

Is Japanesepod101 really free? Yes! Their free account is 100% free. You just need to sign up with your email address. With a free account, you’ll have access to the first 3 lessons of every pathway. That ends up being a lot of free content!

You’ll also have access to all of the new lessons (2-4) that come out each week. However, the new lessons get archived after 3 weeks. You’ll need a paid membership to access it then.  

After you sign up for a free account, you will probably be offered a one-week trial of the premium subscription level for $1.00. This is a good option if you want complete access to all of the lessons and tools on the site. 

**Please keep in mind that if you sign up for the $1.00 trial, you will automatically be charged for a one-month subscription if you don’t cancel. I ended up paying monthly for a few months (totally forgot about it). 

Now I have a lifetime membership, so I don’t have to worry about being charged each month.  

Basic Subscription

The basic subscription level will give you access to all of the audio and video lessons available, along with the accompanying lesson notes. You’ll also have access to 100 items on their “Japanese Core Words & Phrases” list.  

However, you won’t be able to watch the videos in HD quality.

Premium Subscription

When you have a premium subscription, you’ll have access to all of the lessons and the study tools (flashcards, voice recording, quizzes, etc.).

You’ll also have line-by-line descriptions of the audio in the lessons, which is very helpful.

You can also watch the video lessons in HD and have full access to the “Japanese Core Words & Phrases” list (2,000 items).

This is the subscription level I recommend that most people get. With the study options and features, I feel this level provides the most value.  Be sure to use the 65% off coupon below if you choose to sign up!

Premium Plus (+) Subscription

The difference between a Japanesepod101 Premium and Premium + subscription is that you’ll have 1-on-1 access to a teacher.

You’ll have access to everything a premium subscriber has, but you’ll also get a personal assessment, weekly assignments, and a personalized study plan.  

This sounds awesome at first, but there’s one big downfall.  

The “1-on-1” access to a teacher does not involve direct communication like Skype, Zoom, or a video chat. Instead, you communicate with your teacher through written messages or voice recordings. 

I’m sure that doing the lessons and communicating with your teacher will improve your Japanese. 

However, the price is almost double a Premium subscription ($47.00/month vs. $25.00/month). Is it worth it?

In my opinion, no, it is not worth it. If I paid $47.00 per month, I would want to have at least one hour of live speaking practice/lessons with my teacher. This would be great if you could have this chat at the end of the month to review your studies.  

If you want to learn Japanese quickly, I would get the cheaper premium subscription and use the money you saved on an online tutor. You can find great Japanese online teachers at sites like italki or verbling. You can also ask these online tutors for help with any material you study on the Japanesepod101 site.

However, the premium plus membership is a good option if:

1. You don’t have much time to study and can’t fit a private tutor into your schedule. You can ask questions anytime via texts, so it’s quick and easy to get help.

2. You want structure in your studies. The premium + plan will give you a personalized study plan and weekly assignments hand-graded by your teacher. This takes the guesswork out of choosing what to study next.

Having a personal teacher also motivates some people to study more. 

3. You are shy. It can be a little nerve-racking to speak to a stranger in a new language.

Communicating with the Japanesepod teachers by text and email is much easier and less intimidating than video chatting with someone.  

Japanesepod101 Price

Japanesepod101 Subscriptions' Price List

The basic level is $8.00/month (becomes cheaper with multiple month subscriptions).

The premium level includes all of the lessons plus access to all of the tools on their website for $25.00/month. There is enough material to take you to an advanced level in all areas of Japanese. 

The Premium + membership costs $47.00/month. If you know you will ask many questions (that can’t be answered on the forum or lesson comments), you should go with this option. If you are just starting, it’s probably better to start with the premium membership and then upgrade later if you still want a private tutor.

I feel that these prices are very reasonable for the amount of material you receive. But if you decide to get a premium subscription, readers of The True Japan can get our special discount (65% off!).

Japanesepod101 Discount Coupons

As a thank you for visiting my site and reading this Japanesepod101 review, here is a coupon for a huge 65% discount off of any basic or premium subscription.  

This is by far the BIGGEST discount you’ll find anywhere. Japanesepod101 often runs special deals, but they are usually around 30% off. If you are planning to subscribe to Japanesepod101, don’t pay the full price!  

Japanesepod101 also offers a 60 – day, money-back guarantee. If you don’t like the material or are not satisfied in any way, just let them know, and you’ll get a refund. 

*Important: If you do get a refund, you’ll only get a refund for the remaining days left on your membership. So, if you get a 1-month membership and are not 100% satisfied, it’s better to cancel right away instead of waiting one day before your membership expires. Their customer service is excellent, though, so you can always email or call them if you have any questions or comments.

Premium Plus Membership: Private 1-on-1 Access to a Teacher

The 65% discount above only applies to a Basic or Premium subscription. If you want the Premium + subscription to have 1-on-1 access to a Japanese teacher, you can use this coupon here:

Click Here to Save 20% off a Premium Plus Membership

A “Secret” Membership Option

It seems like they don’t openly market this, but Japanesepod101 offers a lifetime membership option. If you are serious about learning Japanese, this subscription will probably save you a lot of money in the long run, especially if you are at a beginner to low intermediate level.

The only downside is that they only offer a lifetime membership for the Premium membership, so you’ll have access to everything on their website, but you won’t have access to a private, 1-on-1 teacher like the Premium + membership above.

I was a member of Japanesepod101 for over two years, paying the fees every month. Some months I was so busy that I didn’t have much time to study Japanese. So, I pretty much wasted my money during those months.

Now that I have the lifetime membership, I never have to worry about paying each month, and I am free to take breaks whenever I need without wasting my membership time. The amount I paid over those two years was enough to pay for a lifetime membership.

I couldn’t even find a way to access the lifetime membership sign-up page from their website. But after some searching, I found it. 

If you’re interested, you can access the sign-up page here:

Click Here for the Lifetime Membership Option

Is Japanesepod101 Worth It?

The massive amount of lessons and materials makes it an excellent way to learn Japanese online. I feel that the options that come with the Premium subscription provides an excellent value for the money.  

The new format of the lessons (with everything on one page) and study options make Japanesepod101 hard to beat.  

I enjoy listening to the audio lessons, and I learned a lot from them. The teachers have a talent for breaking down complicated Japanese grammar and make it easy to understand.

The best part about the lessons was not just learning new grammar…it was the advice on HOW and WHEN to use it that was the most valuable to me. It does an excellent job teaching you how to speak natural Japanese that you can use right away with native speakers.

If your goal is to learn Japanese and attain fluency, Japanesepod101 can make your journey a lot easier. It was the best decision I have made for improving my Japanese.

If you’re not sure if Japanesepod101 is for you, I would suggest getting a free account and trying out some of their lessons.

If I missed anything in this Japanesepod1o1 review, please let me know! I know how much of a struggle it can be learning Japanese, so if you have any questions at all, feel free to send me a comment or email. I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can!


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