Pods and Inspiration (Or, How I Remained Sane in the Grips of 2020)

Despite the myriad distractions of the modern world, the noise pollution, and all those 21st-century distractions, we are extremely fortunate to live in the Age of Information. I don’t know about you but I for one am prone to info-overload with a somewhat sadistic habit of opening dozens of browsers, windows which I proceed to overload with content, intent on returning… eventually… only to result in a frozen computer.

It’s a work in progress. I am a work in progress.

Still, despite all that, we are quite fortunate! And I want to take this time, as I complete the final touches of the Floating World, to share some of the podcasts, blogs, sites, and content that helped me through the ethereal and too often beligerant film that was Two-Thousand and Twenty.

Of That Which Kept Me Sane Through 2020.
Ranking #3 in the world’s countries (measuring economy, quality of life, opportunity, & education), Japan is home to an extraordinary array of cultures and lifestyles. May these pods and resources provide you with countless hours of inspiration for the months to come.


Japan Station: From the broadcasts of Japankyo.com, Japan Station

Isaac Meyer’s History of Japan: This podcast, assembled by a former PhD student in History at the University of Washington, covers the entire span of Japanese history. Each week we’ll tackle a new topic, ranging from prehistoric Japan to the modern day.

Japan Times: Deep Dive A great conversational and informative dive into the stories behind Japan’s headlines. The Japan Times is one of the oldest sources of English-language information about Japan, and it’s great to see them moving into podcasting.

NHK World Even though I don’t listen to this much anymore, I feel obliged to include it for the sake of completeness.  It’s the news. In English. Read to you by NHK. It is always exactly what you expect it to be.

Japan Eats Everyone loves Japanese food, but if you really want to understand it you should listen to Japan Eats. Each week, New York-based food writer Akiko Katayama and her guests dive in-depth into a specific Japanese dish, drink or aspect of Japanese food culture.

Uncanny Japan Every month Thersa Matsuura explores a different and little-known area of Japanese culture, folklore, and language. Uncanny Japan leans towards the creepy side of Japan, which is kind of a refreshing counterpoint to the cuteness that permeates modern Japanese culture.


News in Slow Japanese Each week Sakura picks an article from the news and reads it to you twice. Once is slow Japanese and once at regular speed. It’s a great way to practice your listening skills. They don’t link to the podcast on the site, but a quick iTunes search will turn it up.

Bilingual News Despite the title, this is not really a news podcast. Each week, Michael & Mami read a few current event stories in both Japanese and English and then chat about them while bouncing back and forth between the two languages. It’s perfect for making sure you can talk about current events with your Japanese colleagues.

Japanese Pod 101: You have to buy a separate subscription if you want access to the full library of Japanese lessons and learning tools, but their free podcast and video lessons are well worth your time. A few times a week, Japanese Pod puts out lessons ranging from the very beginner to intermediate levels.

セラムーンSarah Moon: The “Pretty Translator Sarah Moon” shines between two distinct, yet glowing celestial worlds. She at once captures an entertaining approach to shedding light on Japanese culture, particularly for those Otaku out there, while dishing out lessons for aspiring translators (such as yours truly). What makes her work so powerful is her approach, breaking down familiar anime into their linguistic components providing key insight on the craft and work of translation. What’s more, she has a phenomenal series out offering guidance through the Japan Time’s Genki textbook series, for those learning Nihongo!


Samurai Archives Japanese History Podcast This is the official podcast of the Samurai Archives History Forum. The emphasis here is less on historical storytelling and more on a detailed analysis of specific events in Japanese history.  The hosts also discuss how historical events still influence Japanese society today.


When I first starting maintaining this list, I actually listened to all of the English-language podcasts about Japan. However, since independent podcasting has grown so much in Japan, I can’t possibly keep up with them all. I don’t want to leave anyone out, so I’ve extended my Japan-podcast list to include podcasts that I don’t listen to regularly, but that are created by people passionate about their subject, and that have been recommended to me by podcast fans in Japan

With so many new independent podcasts being created (and abandoned) all the time, I’ll need your help to keep this list current. Please let me know if I’ve overlooked anyone.

Abroad in Japan Abroad in Japan is the podcast companion to one of the biggest English-language YouTube channels in Japan. It features Chris Broad’s sarcastic take on life in Japan.

Beyond Huaxia: A college history of China and Japan—minus debt, dorms, and diplomas. Hosted by Justin Jacobs, professor of history at American University. IndianaJonesInHistory.com

Got Faded Japan Johnny and his friends get drunk and talk about Japanese events, music, and sub-culture. Got Faded Japan was one of the first English-language podcasts about Japan and is still going strong after more than 10 years.

Inside Japan Originally called the ALTInisder, James rebranded to reflect the range of topics he covers. There is a lot of English-instruction-related content, the show also covers culture and current events.

Japan 2.0 David and Matt are two friends that seem to have a great time podcasting about Japan’s pop-culture, little-known festivals, and off-the-wall fashion trends.

Learn Japanese Pod Alex started podcasting as he was learning Japanese to share his journey to fluency. He and his Japanese friends team up to help others learn Japanese and to share tips he wishes someone had shared with him.

Tofugu Tofugu is one of the biggest Japanese-language learning sites out there, so it was only a matter of time until they expanded to podcasting. Lots of mini-lessons and practical advice on speaking everyday Japanese.

Tokyo on Fire If you are a Japanese policy wonk, you need to be listening to Tokyo on Fire. In short, weekly videos, Tim Langley and Michael Cucek tear apart a current event and explain what they think the Japanese press is overlooking. Tim seems to be taking some time off. Hopefully, he’ll release some new episodes in 2020.

Tokyo Speaks This podcast introduces you to a wide cross-section of Japan’s international community. There are interviews with entrepreneurs, artists, social advocates, salarymen. and people are still trying to figure out who they are. Early episodes were recorded in the back of the host’s 1999 Chevy Van, but the podcast has a more fixed address these days.

Voices in Japan Podacasting from (usually) snowy Sapporo, Burke and Ben talk about what it’s like to live in Japan. They talk about work, studying Japanese, customs, holidays, traditions, and anything else that comes to mind in their weekly show.

Pods On General Topics

The New Books Network: Covering everything from Literary to East Asian to African Studies. From Anthropology to Medicine. If its a topic, they likely have a podcast dedicated to it! “a consortium of author-interview podcast channels dedicated to raising the level of public discourse by introducing scholars and other serious writers to a wide public via new media. Covering 90+ subjects, disciplines, and genres”

Stuff You Should Know: Covering just about any topic with an air of comedy, wit, and a just the right dash of intellect, Josh and Chuck are brilliant hosts who will, and do, captivate starry eyed listeners regardless of topic. Seriously, I once listened to an hour long podcast on Lawsuits… why? Because they’re just that good! On that note, so far as podcasts are concerned, anything from the “How Stuff Works” network is worthy of a subscription.

What the Folklore: “A comedy podcast that exposes the absurd side of folklore. Each week we read a story, fix plotholes and create new ones, and invent unintended connections between tales.”

I’d love to hear what you’re listening to, the pods and inspiring coming your way. Drop a comment below!



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