Learning Japanese grammar can be tough, especially as a self-studying beginner. Traditional methods of learning grammar typically involve a human person explaining things to you in a classroom setting, or reading grammar textbooks and web pages online. But eventually, your eyes may glaze over from reading so much! So what then?
There’s a treasure trove of channels teaching Japanese, generously offering those invaluable, hard-to-grasp-on-your-own grammar explanations for free.
Whether you’re learning Japanese by yourself or looking for a supplement to your Japanese classes, I strongly suggest getting your butt on YouTube. There’s a treasure trove of channels teaching Japanese, generously offering those invaluable, hard-to-grasp-on-your-own grammar explanations for free. I only discovered Japanese grammar channels when I was studying for the N2, and I wish I’d taken advantage of them sooner! So if you’re curious, there are plenty of angelic YouTube sensei waiting to explain particles and sentence structure to you in a way that fits your learning style.
In this article, I’ll give you some advice on how to learn Japanese grammar on YouTube effectively, and whether you should watch videos in your native language or Japanese. But if you’d like to skip that part, go ahead and jump straight to Ian’s and my recommendations for the best YouTube channels for beginners. They’ll be categorized based on the language in which they’re primarily taught, English or Japanese. We’ll also be sure to mark when a channel has videos that follow along with a certain Japanese textbook, like Genki or Minna no Nihongo. We tried to only mention channels that have:
- A good amount of beginner content
- Plenty of grammar-focused content
- Clear explanations of grammar points
But other than that, this article will include a variety of teaching styles, from formal graphics on a screen to casual sit-down with a native speaker to “teacher doodling on a whiteboard.” This way, you can try out a few different formats and pick the ones that tickle your fancy.
So what are you waiting for? Join me in a horizontal, face-down position and plank your way to having the goodest grammar. It’s one of the few kinds of binge-watching that will add brain cells to your cranium, not subtract.
Tips for Studying Japanese Grammar on YouTube Effectively
You might be wondering how anyone could possibly educate themselves on YouTube when there are all kinds of marble races, mukbangs, and maze-solving squirrels to distract you. It’s true, staying focused can be a challenge! But here are some tips to hopefully give yourself your best fighting chance.
Setting yourself up to tune out distractions and focus, even for just one or two short videos, will help you get the most out of your YouTube learning sessions.
I’ve found that it helps to make a playlist with all the Japanese grammar videos you plan to watch later. Bookmark it, or make sure that when you type the playlist’s title into your browser, it automatically suggests that page. Then, when you’re armed with some free time, a bag of Cheetos, and maybe a notebook, go right to that playlist. Don’t stop at the home page or browse your subscriptions, no matter how tantalizing they are! You can check those out after you study, not during.
Alternatively, once you find a channel you really like, you could dedicate yourself to finishing one pre-existing playlist of that creator’s videos. For example, tell yourself you’ll watch two videos a day from Miku Real Japanese’s grammar playlist, and stick to it. I used this strategy for the N2, and it worked pretty well! Since I knew I only had to spare about ten to twenty minutes a day, it wasn’t too hard to keep up the habit. And following just one playlist at a time helped keep me from feeling disorganized and overwhelmed with options.
In fact, you might even want to make a separate YouTube account that’s only subscribed to Japanese learning channels. Without all those slime ASMR videos you’re subscribed to on your main account, I bet you’ll be even more focused on Japanese. YouTube will probably start recommending you other Japanese channels too, so you can fall deeper into the rabbit hole. Just make sure you don’t forget to log into this account regularly, or you might forget it exists. 🙁
Setting yourself up to tune out distractions and focus, even for just one or two short videos, will help you get the most out of your YouTube learning sessions. Thanks to autoplay, you might even find it hard to stop once that playlist gets going.
Should I Watch Videos in English or Japanese?
Okay, now you know how I think you should study grammar on YouTube. But here’s your next step to ponder: Should you watch grammar videos taught in Japanese or in English/your native language? There are quality channels in both camps, so it really depends on your level of Japanese comprehension.
In my opinion, the sooner you can start venturing into learning Japanese in Japanese, the better. This might be less scary than you think — especially in beginner videos, the teachers often speak slowly and clearly so as not to lose you. Thus, if you’ve taken a few Japanese classes and/or are familiar with some vocabulary already, you might be able to understand more than you’d expect.
Channels like Meshclass and Onomappu offer videos in Japanese with official subtitles in Japanese, English, and other languages as well.
However, if you’re a true, from-zero beginner, you’ll probably want to start with videos taught (or at least subtitled) in English/your native language and work your way up to simple Japanese with no subs. Listening comprehension takes time to build, so there’s no shame in starting out easy.
Not sure where you stand? Test out both! Try watching with Japanese subtitles, English subtitles, and no subtitles to see what works for you. Channels like Meshclass and Onomappu offer videos in Japanese with official subtitles in Japanese, English, and other languages as well. As long as you’re not over-relying on subs to the point of tuning out the language of instruction, following along with them will still help you get used to hearing the language while also understanding enough to actually learn something.
If you are interested in watching videos in no-crutches Japanese, how do you know when it’s time? Generally, you’re ready for the next “step up” when it feels just above your current level. This means you have to work a bit to understand what you’re watching, but not super hard. So if you’re feeling challenged in a good way, but not throwing your laptop out the window and shaking your fist at the crabigator, you’re probably in the right zone.
Our Best Japanese Grammar YouTube Recommendations for Beginners
Alright, enough babbling about how to watch grammar videos, and onto the “who” and “what.” After mining the depths of YouTube for way too many hours, I’ve panned out some gold in the form of every Japanese grammar channel I think is worth your time. Some channels we chose have lots of subscribers, and some have shockingly few, but all have something different and valuable to offer a beginner in Japanese.
First up are the channels taught in English for some easy listening, recommended by me and Ian. Then, I’ll talk about my favorite channels taught in Japanese, for those who like masochism…I mean, a challenge.
Listening to natives will help your pronunciation and pitch accent sound more natural, so you’re not coming away with any funky accents or well-intentioned mistakes.
But don’t worry, I (brutally) forced myself to focus only on YouTubers whose content is fit for beginners. For the purposes of this article, that ranges all the way from “never seen a hiragana or katakana in my life” up to JLPT (Japanese-Language Proficiency Test) N4-ish. Both N5 and N4 contain pretty basic grammar, so many channels skip N5 and go right to N4 as the lowest level they teach. For reference, if you’re level 5 on WaniKani, you know about 〜80% of N5 kanji/vocabulary, and at level 11, you know about 〜80% of N4 kanji/vocab. You can use this metric to help decide which grammar videos to watch, or just experiment.
Also, as a disclaimer, I’ve tended to include more native Japanese-speaking YouTubers than non-natives here. Listening to natives will help your pronunciation and pitch accent sound more natural, so you’re not coming away with any funky accents or well-intentioned mistakes.
Anyway, grab some clothespins and a bottle of eye drops, because as of right now, you’re not allowed to blink. You might miss some juicy bit of grammar teaching!
Channels Taught Primarily in English
Want to start out easy with videos taught in English? No problem — check out these overviews of eight different Japanese grammar channels that might be up your alley. From friendly YouTubers who teach from a textbook to creepy robo-sensei putting things in their own words, there’s something for everyone here.
Especially if you’re a beginner, try a few of these channels on for size to see how they fit your learning style. Eventually you might want to move on to lessons taught in Japanese, but watching videos in English is still an excellent way to start building a strong grammar foundation!
Japanese Ammo with Misa
Since launching in 2014, Misa has built up one of the biggest, most comprehensive, and most well-regarded Japanese language-learning channels on YouTube. Starting with a “Japanese Lessons for Absolute Beginners” video course series, Misa’s channel has blossomed into one of the most in-depth references for English-language mediated Japanese instructional content.
Beyond that initial series, Misa has expanded into a wide range of of videos, covering topics in Japanese such as in-depth guides to specific particles, slang terms like やばい, commonly confused components such as the usage of に vs で and more.
What sets Misa apart is the nuance and depth she’s willing to put into her videos. There’s of course the forty-minute video on some of the differences between the usage of は vs が, a two-part series on the explanatory use of the の particle totaling nearly an hour and a half, and two videos on causative form totaling just over an hour, among others. Other Japanese learning YouTube videos, especially those in English, tend to go much shorter, covering primarily the surface-level knowledge and leaving the nuance for monolingual Japanese sources, or for a learner to discover on their own through acquisition.
But through Japanese Ammo with Misa, that level of understanding becomes accessible to a much wider range of people.
Really, the only flaw with Japanese Ammo with Misa is the organization. Since releasing “Japanese Lessons for Absolute Beginners,” Misa has rarely put together a similarly comprehensive course, or otherwise organized their videos into series or categorizing videos that cover similar topics. But the videos that are there form an extremely thorough foundation of Japanese grammar that can take you pretty far. I’d recommend you either go through videos in reverse-chronological order, skipping anything that doesn’t seem relevant, or simply watch the videos on topics you’d like to learn. You surely won’t be disappointed!
Miku Real Japanese
Another great English-language mediated Japanese learning YouTube channel is Miku Real Japanese. Miku’s videos tend to be of the shorter variety, but that’s not to say they’re less effective. Miku’s videos usually present a Japanese grammar form, give a few examples of some of the most common uses, and offer a quick test to check your comprehension. This is a great way to just get a grasp of a grammar point you might not have understood before, or a quick refresher on something you need to review.
Miku uses a lot of humor, and is fond of dressing up in costume to partake in solo-conversations through the power of editing. These are funny interactions, and the humor can help what’s taught to stick in your mind better than just a dry textbook explanation. Additionally, there are times where Miku does a deep-dive on a topic. For example, not every typical textbook teaches the sentence ending particle っけ, which indicates something you’re trying to remember, but Miku has a great video introducing this particle!
Additionally, Miku’s begun branching out a bit, offering the real Japanese she mentions in the title of her YouTube channel in different settings such as reading kanji on the street, in specific settings like an izakaya, or through real conversations that are available as both videos and podcasts, and among the best immersion audio you can find.
Overall, Miku Real Japanese is a great resource, especially for lower-level Japanese learners. While it’s not quite as comprehensive as some resources, the humor and pushing the language usage beyond hypotheticals and into real situations make this a great source for Japanese learners looking to expand their knowledge of foundational Japanese grammar.
Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com
Pairing with their extremely popular podcast series, JapanesePod101 also offers an extensiveYouTube channel catalog, featuring hours upon hours of Japanese language-learning content.
It’s hard to overstate just how much content is available here, and the sheer range. To call their catalog “scattershot” would be the understatement of the year (well maybe not quite, but it’s a lot!) As I’m writing, JapanesePod101 has 3 different livestreams currently going, and sorting their videos by “most viewed” will show you a bunch of Japanese children’s songs, as well as a video promising to teach you all the basics of Japanese in its four-hour runtime, or an eight-hour video that they suggest playing to learn while you sleep. For anyone familiar with JapanesePod101’s podcast, this all might sound familiar.
Despite allll that, there are a lot of useful videos there. JapanesePod101 certainly doesn’t shy away from long videos. They’ve got an hour-long video covering all hiragana and another covering all katakana characters, plus hours and hours of listening comprehension or conversation practice videos that are super helpful. Additionally, there are other helpful videos mixed in, like their “Ask a Japanese Teacher” series.
Overall, JapanesePod101 has a lot of content — maybe too much! While a lot of their videos are helpful, there are a lot of videos that cover the same sorts of beginner-level content again and again, or videos that just aren’t so useful. Even so, through their guides to kana, particles, and listening comprehension videos, JapanesePod101 offers a lot to a student just trying to get the basics down. Just don’t expect to go to bed and wake up fluent anytime soon.
Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly
Oh Cure Dolly. Among Japanese language learning channels, and probably among YouTube channels at large, Cure Dolly is something of an oddity. Not long after VTubers first burst onto the scene in late 2016, Cure Dolly was using a digital avatar to put out Japanese language learning content. Like other VTubers, Cure Dolly assumes a character — in this case as a sort of robot to help educate you in Japanese. The model used is that of a semi-realistic young woman, and all dialogue is delivered through a voice changer, so there won’t be any native Japanese speech here. The channel is also most likely run by a non-native speaker of Japanese, so keep that in mind!
It’s less and less common for a learning resource to have its own “barrier to entry” so to speak, but Cure Dolly remains. From the presentation through graphics and a voice changer, to the thumbnails and video titles, and even the descriptions given, Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly is very much an “it works for you or it doesn’t” scenario. Some online learner reviews describe Cure Dolly’s videos as a sort of revelation, commenting that through Cure Dolly’s unique delivery and explanations they were finally able to understand a concept that had been troubling them for some time.
While they might not work for everyone, a few of their videos seem to be really interesting, such as the grammar explanations for もう and まだ, and some of the more abstract concepts, like the Japanese use of kanji, or on the usage of こと.
Really, it is an interesting perspective, and might be just the thing you need to shock you into understanding something you’re stuck on, despite the weirdness. But take it with a grain of salt; Cure Dolly has a tendency to present their way as the only way, or as a shortcut to some kind of deeper, truer meaning. What’s there is a valuable resource, but your mileage may vary.
Yuko-sensei teaches Japanese professionally at colleges, as well as through her own online language school, Smile Nihongo Academy. However, she also makes free content on YouTube. Her channel focuses on grammar, conversation, and particles, with some kanji and vocabulary lessons too. Some of her videos follow along with the Genki textbook, and some are marked by JLPT level.
Yuko-sensei teaches using graphics on the screen, often taken from the class materials she uses to teach outside of YouTube. She also occasionally includes her own handouts, which are downloadable so you can follow along. Her lessons are very visual, using cartoons and diagrams to clearly illustrate her points. This channel has a good variety of content, from listening practice to Genki lessons in order, to Japanese sentence structure. Her videos on particles are especially popular!
If you want some videos that follow along with Genki, or are interested in learning from a certified Japanese instructor on YouTube, Yuko-sensei’s channel could be a helpful resource for you.
NihonGoal is a YouTube channel by Rose, a non-native speaker of Japanese living in Japan who teaches Japanese grammar, kanji, and vocabulary. Most of her lessons follow along with the Minna no Nihongo textbook. She also labels her videos according to JLPT level sometimes — you can check out her playlist titled “Japanese Grammar Lessons for JLPT N5 and N4.”
Her teaching style uses color-coded graphics on the screen to break down each point of the lesson step by step. If you’re looking for example sentences, you’ll find lots of them here. Rose states that even if you don’t have the Minna no Nihongo books, her videos have you covered, and it does seem to be true. NihonGoal has a ton of content, including both beginner and intermediate-level videos that go all the way up to JLPT N3 aligned content.
Rose’s videos go in order according to the Minna no Nihongo textbooks, building on previous content, but you can pick up wherever you want. If you’d like to use this textbook series (officially or unofficially) to learn Japanese, NihonGoal is a very thorough resource that may help you understand the lessons more deeply.
Shiro Neko Japanese
Shiro Neko Japanese is a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching simple Japanese grammar in a visual way, using a cute cat named Shiro. In fact, the channel name, “Shiro Neko” means “white cat” in Japanese. This channel offers a wide range of content, from grammar to pronunciation to themed conversation lessons.
Many of the lessons follow the curriculum laid out in Genki 1. If you are using Genki 1 for learning Japanese, this channel would be an excellent supplement. Each video contains a dialogue (sometimes original, sometimes from Genki), along with a breakdown of phrases and grammar. However, perhaps the most useful parts are the designated “Practice” and “Takeaway” sections found in some uploads. Here, you have an opportunity to practice what was taught in the lesson as well as answer content-related questions.
The narration is clear and done by a native-Japanese speaker. While the overall speaking quality isn’t bad, some viewers may find it boring or lacking emotion. Aside from this, romaji is used everywhere, so even beginners and learners without any hiragana knowledge can follow along.
In terms of teaching style, while simple grammar patterns are laid out well, some explanations can still get complicated and sound a bit copy-and-pasted from a textbook. For example, the video titled Conjugate from DICTIONARY form to TE form (Verb Conjugation #4) tends to use standard textbook terms, like “group 1 verbs.” Also, Shiro Neko concocts inventive “hints” to remember things that you may find fun and helpful, or convoluted, depending on your preferences.
All in all, Shiro Neko Japanese’s lessons are very structured, quick, and full of endearing illustrations. If you prefer a more textbook-like teaching style, but with adorable characters and scenarios, then you might fancy this channel. While far from a complete Japanese language learning resource, it’s a useful supplement, especially if you’re using Genki.
JpLaunch is a YouTube channel that teaches grammar, vocabulary, and listening based on JLPT level, as well as kanji writing. Typically, their videos use only simple graphics, text, and sometimes memes, with no faces shown. This is one of the few channels run by a native Japanese speaker that teaches N5 grammar, along with their “Basic Japanese for Beginners” series.
The videos tend to be between fifteen and thirty-minutes long, with an in-depth look at each topic. The narration can be a bit monotone, but the explanations are still very clear and understandable. JpLaunch’s greatest strength is in systematically breaking things down slowly in a way that’s not too overwhelming.
Since the videos are on the longer side, this means they’re also able to showcase several different variations of the same grammar point. Their content is so detailed that you could probably use this channel as one of your main grammar resources. So if you prefer a slow, thorough, visually minimalistic teaching style, definitely check out JpLaunch.
Channels Taught Primarily in Japanese
Now that you’ve perused some videos taught in English, what about videos taught in Japanese? No pressure if you’re not there yet, but immersion can be super useful for upper-beginners to start getting accustomed to native speech patterns.
I couldn’t write this article without throwing in some of my favorite channels taught in Japanese that still have relatively beginner-level content (up to JLPT N4-ish). The first two channels on this list even have English subtitles, which you can lean on for a little extra support. So if you’re looking to dip your toe into learning Japanese grammar in Japanese, here are four channels with sensei who teach slowly and clearly in Japanese!
Onomappu is a YouTube channel hosted by Hitoki, a native Japanese speaker who is also fluent in English and Chinese. The videos generally have subtitles available in several different languages. Hitoki speaks slowly and clearly about Japanese grammar points, vocabulary, advice for speaking naturally, and other topics related to language learning. The way he employs learner-friendly language while still keeping his Japanese pretty natural is impressive.
Watching Hitoki’s grammar videos feels like listening to your friend kindly explain something that you didn’t quite “get” during class. His teaching style is engaging and personable enough to keep you hooked, which might be helpful if you have trouble concentrating on more structured content.
In particular, his onomatopoeia series is a real gem. Hitoki makes use of props, gestures, images, key words, and copious examples to really give a sense of what each onomatopoeia feels like from a native speaker’s perspective.
The content of at least one of the videos may be inappropriate for kids, and the host’s sense of humor might not be for everyone. However, if you enjoy more casual, conversational learning, this channel can help you get a better understanding of some nuances of Japanese grammar and vocabulary outside of a textbook.
Meshclass Japanese is a YouTube channel with a wide variety of content related to Japanese grammar, JLPT prep, conversation, pronunciation, business Japanese, interview phrases, and more. While the videos are meant as a supplement to Meshclass’s free and paid online courses on their website, they’re a helpful resource on their own as well.
The videos are led primarily by a native speaker named Tezuka-sensei, with a small supporting cast. Most come in at just under ten minutes, keeping the information concise while still offering a thorough explanation of the content and sections to test your knowledge as you go. Tezuka-sensei’s teaching style is also slow and clear, with a gentle manner.
Additionally, almost everything about the videos is in Japanese, including the explanations. This makes them great for in-depth immersive learning, especially for people with some basic knowledge of Japanese already. And if you need them, most videos have subtitles in many languages, so you’ll probably get something out of it even if you can’t yet follow Japanese speech.
Necota’s Japanese Language Classroom
Necota’s Japanese Language Classroom is a YouTube channel designed for Japanese learners who are studying for different levels of the JLPT. Most of her videos are short, running between five to ten minutes.
In this channel, a native Japanese teacher, Neco Necota, explains different grammar points. She teaches entirely in Japanese, and example sentences aren’t usually translated into English, so you’ll likely need some understanding of basic Japanese to get the most out of this channel. However, Necota speaks slowly and clearly, a feature well-suited to beginners. She also uses stuffed animals, illustrations, gestures, and graphics to keep you interested in watching the video.
In each lesson, Necota provides lots of example sentences, using a simple “__ + __ = ___” formula to teach most grammar points. She also teaches you different contexts in which you can use the grammar while incorporating other useful expressions and vocabulary. This channel will help you understand how to use the target grammar in real life, as well as learn the meaning and nuance.
じゃぱすた /Let’s study Japanese
じゃぱすた/Let’s study Japanese is a YouTube channel run by Mana, a Japanese teacher who focuses on listening, JLPT grammar, and conversation practice. Mana’s videos use simple cartoon animations and graphics to literally illustrate situations where the grammar might be used. There’s no English used here, so these videos are truly immersion learning.
For Mana’s easiest content, check out her にほんご きほん (“Basic Japanese”) series, then her N4文法 (“N4 Grammar”) videos. Her teaching style tends to be textbook-like, grouping verbs into “group 1,” “group 2,” and so on. However, these sections are sometimes broken up by the animation segments, where she acts out stories and does voices for different characters to make it more engaging.
If you’re looking for organized, clear instructional videos to learn Japanese in Japanese, じゃぱすた is a great option. Among all the Japanese teachers on YouTube, Mana does one of the best jobs enunciating and speaking clearly for beginning learners. You may need to look up some basic linguistic terms in Japanese though, as well as make sure you’re at a level where you can follow Japanese speech without too much difficulty.
Japanese Bunpō and Chill
Ah, YouTube… who knew it was good for anything other than being a couch potato? Now that you’ve checked out some Japanese grammar channels, I hope you’ve found some more learning resources to add to your rotation. Maybe next time you get stuck, you’ll turn to the YouTube search bar for help instead of a wall to bang your head against. Then, of course, you should throw on some chillhop lofi beats to calm down/study verb tenses to.
All in all, these days, there’s no reason to take it out on the architecture when there are so many Japanese grammar YouTube channels for beginners out there. Find your favorite, marathon their videos until your brain is miso soup, and bask in the glow of your enhanced smarticalness. And don’t forget to like, subscribe, and ding that bell for more totally tubular round-ups on the Tofugu blog!