7 Incredibly Useful Songs For Learning Basic Japanese

Anyone who was able to learn hiragana and katakana by listening to these eight catchy songs may be wondering if the same method could work for learning Japanese in general.

I actually don’t think it’s possible—at least not to a very high level—and even though learning with songs can be refreshing as a break from other studies, as the centerpiece of a learning strategy I imagine it would get old fast.

But, and this is important, you can learn a lot more Japanese than just the kana with songs. And as a supplement to learning in other ways, there’s almost nothing better. After all, even if they’re initially incomprehensible, you can still enjoy them.

7 Incredibly Useful Songs for Learning Basic Japanese

What songs you pick matters, however, especially at the start of your studies. Songs with subtitles are better than songs without. Songs that use simple, easy-to-understand phrases are better than songs that don’t. And songs that are sung in a clear voice are better than songs that aren’t.

For all of these reasons, songs made for Japanese kids are great resources to start learning Japanese with, and the following seven songs by TokioHeidi are incredibly useful:

7. はみがきのうた

This song is about brushing your teeth. One of the memorable phrases from this song is when バイキンさん (or Mr. Bacteria) says, やーめて!ハミガキするのはやめて! (or “Stop it. Stop brushing your teeth!”) and then, when the child doesn’t listen, screams for help, たすけてー.

6. スプーンたん

This song is about a helpful spoon making everything more delicious. One of the useful sentences from it is how to ask if something is yummy, or おいしいかい?

5. へんしん!おでかけマン

This song is about putting on your clothes. For being so short it teaches a lot of things. Just one of the simple phrases you’ll learn, for example, is how to say you accomplished something, or じょうずにできました!

4. てくてく歩こう

This song is about a boy walking around all day. Along the way, you’ll learn how to casually greet your neighbor in the morning おはよう to how to welcome your father back home politely, おかえりなさい.

3. おばけのホットケーキ

This song is about a boy joining a lot of ghosts to make pancakes at night. Like the songs before it, and those that come after, there’s a lot of good onomatopoeia in this one. One of the useful phrases you’ll learn to express that you’re full is おなかがいっぱいだよぉ.

2. りんごのひとりごと

This song is about an apple’s trip from the apple orchard to someone’s house. The tune is great and it makes it almost impossible to forget that りんご means “apple.”

1. うんとでろうんち

This song is all about the production of poop and it almost defies description. It’s one of those videos that you’d only expect Japan to make. And you just have to watch it. As for a useful vocabulary word, I’d say this video makes すっきり unforgettable, but there’s a lot of them in this video, so you can take your pick.

But Wait, There’s More

There’s got to be more, right? Whether easy-to-understand pop songs or the opening theme song to your favorite anime, I’m guessing you guys have a ton of songs that taught you a lot and which you can recommend. If so, please share them in the comments below!

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I love reading books in Japanese and plan to start translating them into English in 2015.


7 Incredibly Useful Songs For Learning Basic Japanese — 23 Comments

  1. There’s a music-oriented language-learning series for kids called “Teach Me…” which includes some Japanese books/CDs (look up “Teach Me Japanese” on Amazon). They include translations of well-known English songs like「メリーさんのひつじ」 as well as traditional Japanese songs like 「さくらさくら」. I’ve used them with my kids, and the whole family can enjoy listening to (and singing along with!) simple Japanese songs. There’s also a kana song which is pretty catchy, and I actually sing it to myself while brushing my teeth, like with the alphabet song as a kid.

    • I should mention that the books use ローマ字 so it might not be for everyone, especially if you like to avoid that as much as possible. But it’s worth remembering that the focus is the music/audio, so I think the CDs alone can be worth it, with the books a nice supplement for young children in particular.

  2. I’ve recently taken to this method of learning Japanese in hopes of being able to catch small nuances in pronunciation because I don’t have many people around where I live who actually speak the language, and because it’s easier for me to remember definitions and such. The song I have the most progress on doing this is “とまどい→レシピ”, the opening song for “未確認で進行形” it’s a catchy tune that I enjoyed listening to, so it wasn’t hard to listen on repeat to learn pronunciation as I read the lyrics in japanese, then the english lyrics to know what I was hearing/speaking.

  3. What about AKB48’s Yasai Sisters? Perfect way to learn some vegetable names, plus it’s really cute xD

  4. I don’t think it’s possible to use music for learning Japanese in general either, I know it’s possible :P

    Step 1. Find a song.
    Step 2. Search for the lyrics.
    Step 3. Write them down and annotate in a notebook whilst playing the song a couple of times and singing a long.

    I do this quite often and it’s ideal for learning kanji and vocabulary. Of course, it helps if you read about grammar along side this, otherwise, you won’t get too far.

    Music helps you to remember in a number of ways:
    1. You get a catchy tune accompanying the vocabulary and kanji in your head.
    2. There’s often subtitles on Japanese media and once you’ve wrote it all down, sometimes you can revise by just watching the music video.
    3. In music, words and phrases get repeated a lot, especially in the chorus, the repetition helps a ton.
    4. There’s often cool sound effects and stuff that help you remember specific words, one song in particular comes to mind for me. 地球ブルース337 by Kick the Can Crew.
    In the chorus, there’s a part that says 踊れ!(チャチャチャ~)笑え!(ハッハッハ~)and in one of their verses it says 携帯(beep beep).

    To me, this is a fun, AND super effective learning method and I can only think of one con.
    Since it’s music, a lot of the time, the grammar isn’t superb, so it’s not amazing for grammar, but who learns a language with just one method?

    • I agree that learning grammar outside of songs is more useful. More importantly, though, I think the things you’ve added to just listening to a song are great, and the excitement and value you’re getting out of improving this way is fantastic. Would only add to keep on keeping on! I’d love to see how far you could take your Japanese with this method and what other songs you found the most helpful in doing so.

  5. Can we get a romaji sheet for each of these? Most of the words are ones I don’t know yet and I have trouble distinguishing them as separate words in a sentence. To see it as “Watashi wa ikimasu ni” with the spaces between them would make looking them up in the dictionary WAY easier. I’ve been putting off learning this language long enough and I really want this to help me. I went google searching for romaji transcripts of these but found nothing so far, meaning I have to be a jerk and ask someone who’s either fluent or who’s already learned these to make one.

    • Don’t waste your time on Romaji. The sooner you learn Hiragana the better. Find a free app for your phone or buy Kana Conqueror from this site. It should take you no more than 4-5 hours to learn Hiragana to a comfortable level. It is next to impossible to make any serious progress with Japanese without taking this crucial step.

      If you already know Hiragana and just want to be able to look up the lyrics, then try jisho.org. The site accepts Hiragana and can translate full sentences, too.

      • Rereading my comment, I feel I come across a bit harsh. That was not my intention. This is a subject that is close to my heart and I feel strongly about pushing people to make the switch as early as possible, as using romaji will slow down learning significantly until you make the switch.

    • I was about to say something like what Jesper just said. So second that.

      The missing spaces in Japanese is one of the reasons why kids material is actually really hard to use as a complete beginner. You have no clue where one word end and the next start. You will get a feeling for that when you start doing sentences and learn some grammar. Recognizing grammar will help you pick out where words start and end :)

      • To add to all this, and to make sure it doesn’t sound too harsh (it wasn’t meant that way). Learning hiragana is fun and relatively easy too. If you’re not ready to jump right into an Anki sentences deck you might instead find it useful to use Tae Kim’s Guide to Japanese (http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar). As I mentioned, if you can start recognizing grammar like particles and conjugations you will be able to pick out words better.


  6. Jesper T and Silwing, thank you both for your comments, you were not harsh. :) (and as someone who used to be (and, um, sometimes still am unintentionally) harsh, I can detect that ;) ) I do know all the kana by now (but continue practicing with a kana quiz app anyway) it was just a matter of not being able to learn the vocab to pick up on the grammar. It all blends together, and just like English, “to” can be part of a word rather than just “to.” I’m an over-analyst by nature, like being zoomed into a big picture to see detail, and I can’t change that (possible OCD…). Perhaps what works for normal people just won’t work for me, I’ve noticed. One reason I’m studying kanji radicals rather than ONLY memorize the definitions of the symbols. I love this language and want to know as much as possible.

    Those links will be really useful, too, thank you so much for all this! :D

    • Answer to your question:
      Go to jisho.org and type in your sentence. The algorithm breaks your sentence into separate words. Not only that, it separates the particles by turning them red. For example type this and see what happens: 僕らの未来は手の中

      I was in a similar situation as you. Here’s my 2 cents on romaji:

      a. One of the the most important (and basic) challenges that any Japanese learner faces is separating words (i.e. knowing where one word starts and ends, and whether the words is a grammar particle or part of a word). This is normal, and a natural progression. It takes only 2-3 months to get the hang of this, as the brain adapts, and you develop am internal feel for things.

      b. However, if you use Romaji/artificial space creator like Jisho), this would no douby make this challenge easier, however, it would trick your brain into taking the easy way out. Consequently, it stops adapting and it might take you a very long time to develop a feel for stuff. However, I recommend using jisho.org for the first month of your Japanese studies to ease the transition.

      Note: I have a full real time convertor that can convert japanese sentences into Romaji and add the spaces. Although O think jisho.org should suffice for stufy purposes, if you REALLY need the Romaji one, reply to this mail.

      • I completely agree about spaces and particles. In the beginning everything is just one big mess and you will wondering why Japanese doesn’t have any spaces. 2-3 months later you will be wondering why you ever needed them.

  7. ハンバートハンバート ー 同じ話

    This song is relatively simple but contains some very useful casual phrases such as どこにいるの? and 何をしてるの?

    Oh and it’s not a kids song!ハンバートハンバート ー 同じ話

    This song is relatively simple but contains some very useful casual phrases such as どこにいるの? and 何をしてるの?


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