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Cultural Learning Aids for Japan

Posted: 7th August 2018 09:29

One of the best ways to improve your Japanese is to immerse yourself in the culture. The best way to do this, of course, is to visit Japan and, better still, enrol onto a language course so that you can surround yourself with other students also looking to become fluent. Before you go, however, it is possible to get a head start in the cultural and linguistic immersion. Japanese film, television, music and literature has an international appeal and is readily available all around the world. Here are our top recommendations on what to check out before you go.


Beginner – Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi

Perhaps the most well-known Japanese animated fantasy film, Miyazaki Hayao’s story is about a young heroine who enters the spirit world to save herself and her family. As Japan’s highest grossing film, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) is a coming-of-age story portraying Japanese generational conflicts.

Intermediate – Batoru Rowaiaru

Satirising Japanese society and particularly their sometimes torturous television shows, Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale) follows a group of teenagers who are forced to enter a fight to the death game by their government. Not for the faint-hearted, this script will challenge your ability to understand Japanese through the hysteria and the screams; Hunger Games eat your heart out!

Advanced – Jusan-nin no Shikaku

Jusan-nin no Shikaku (13 Assassins) is the 2010 remake of a 1963 movie which details the fast-paced story of a group of samurais in early 19th century Japan defeating an evil tyrant. The complex language and volatile settings will challenge and captivate you in this modern retelling of an old epic.


Beginners – You wa nani shi ni Nippon e?

Typically quirky, this reality programme is set in an airport where presenters ask arrivals why they have come to Japan. From Japanese-fluent working foreigners, to tourists with sushi and anime on their minds, the language is easy to follow and is often translated.

Intermediate – Burichi

Watch Ichigo and his friends at the Soul Society fight to protect the human world and the spirit world. The language in Burichi (Bleach) can be confusing at times but, it’s easy to find episode that have subtitles to help you through.

Advanced – Kaseifu no Mita

From the television series Asadora, Kaseifu no Mita follows the story of a family grieving over the suicide of their mother and the housekeeper they hire. Winner of seven awards, this story is dramatic and emotionally gripping, and will test your language skills as you grapple with the plot.


Beginner – Base Ball Bear

This four-piece band is similar in style to iconic Britpop band Oasis. A lot of their music revolves around nostalgic tales of teenager life, so the vocabulary shouldn’t stretch you too far whilst still being memorable and fun.

Intermediate – Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

This American super group includes members from Lagwagon, NOFX, Swingin’ Utters and Foo Fighters so to say it is not your typical entry on the list is something of an understatement! Famouf for releasing pop covers in their iconic punk rock style, the band chartered new territory when they released Sing in Japanese, an album consisting entirely of covers from Japanese artists and groups.

Advanced – Babymetal

Babymetal are a Japanese metal band with questionable song titles and lyrics. With a discography that includes Gimme Chocolate and Headbangya!! Accompanied by a large amount of noise, if you can understand them through the racket then you’re doing an excellent job.


Beginner – Singeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) is one of the most popular animes of recent times and the Manga is equally entertaining. The comic strip style will help you associate the speech with the visual story of Eren and Mikasa as they join the Survey Corps to fight against the Titans.

Intermediate – Stories You Find For Yourself

This series of short stories will introduce you to some of the biggest names in contemporary Japanese literature such as Haruki Murakami, Banana Yoshimoto and Otsuichi. It is also ideal for those still learning Japanese as you can simply skip a story if you are having difficulty following the narrative.

Advanced – Nejimaki Dori Kuronikuru

Written by one of Japan’s most highly regarded authors, Nejimaki Dori Kuronikuru (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) begins with the story of a man looking for his cat and ends up as a convoluted, random tale involving a psychic prostitute and scarred war veteran in the suburbs of Tokyo.

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