JapanesePod101 Review: Is It Worth Your Money?

By Donald Ash | How To Learn Japanese - For Beginners

Hey gang!  Before we even get started with this Japanesepod101 review, I want to let you know that YES, I am an affiliate for the Japanese pod.

If you decide purchase this program through any of the links on this page, I do earn a commission for it.  

However, I do want you to know that I would NEVER recommend anything that I haven’t tried myself.  

That being said, Japanesepod101 has been and continues to be an effective study tool for me.  As of 2017, I am currently both a member and user.  

JapanesePod101 Review: Is It Worth Your Money?

Phew! Now that all of that stuff is out of the way. Instead of giving you all of the flowery reasons for why you should buy Japanese pod, let's try a different approach.  Let's do a no-punches-pulled, Japan Guy analysis of this Japanese learning system.  What's good about it? What's bad about it? Let's compare, contrast, and do everything in between! Sound good? Here we go!

JapanesePod101 Review: Is It Worth Your Money?

A Review of Japanesepod101.com | Recommended Japanese Levels: ALL


Does Japanesepod present lessons in a way that's clear and easy to understand? 

Well, yes and no..

YES: Each audio lesson has a very clear structure to follow. This makes it easy for you whether your a newbie or an expert.

NO: There is so much content available in this system that it can be easy to get lost (yes, even with the learning paths).


Does it work? YES!

I judge a self-study system by how much I'm able to retain and recognize out in the real world. 

There are several lessons with Japanespod where I had AHA moments while speaking, listening or seeing real Japanese right here in Tokyo.

Learning a language means being able to SPEAK IT! Basic and Premium members don't have much of a chance for output.


Less expensive than taking Japanese lessons in a brick-and-mortar classroom.

More expensive than a one-time payment for your run-of-the-mill, Japanese textbook.

YES, there is a monthly fee for JPod101,

BUT because the system delivers more value than what you pay, the price is more than fair.


I tried Japanesepod years ago before becoming a consistent member. I tested the waters first, and when I needed to cancel, everything was quick and easy. Solid support on the billing side.

The lesson side appears to have decent support as well.  

There are regular responses to questions about lessons in the comments section, not to all of them, though.

More support for Premium Plus Members?


Japanesepod101 is one of many language learning programs jointly partnered with the company Innovative Language. This program started back in December of 2005 and has been helping Japanese language learners improve ever since. In essence, Japanesepod is a comprehensive, online, Japanese-learning platform. It’s basic, premium, and premium plus plans are designed to allow desktop and mobile users easy access to Japanese language and Japanese cultural lessons at a reasonable price.


Going through one-hundred Japanesepod lessons has given me a chance to really see the ins and outs of the program from a user’s perspective. Here are a seven things that I REALLY like about Japanesepod101:

  • 1. How To Learn Japanese Using Bite-Sized, High-Quality Lessons
  • 2. A Building Block Lesson Structure
  • 3. Real, Everyday Japanese
  • 4. Intuitive User Interface
  • 5. Learning Paths
  • 6. Great Japanese Review If You Need It
  • 7. Line-by-Line Audio
  • 8. Community

...(Click each section below to read more)...

1. How To Learn Japanese With Bite-Sized, High Quality Lessons

2. A Building Block Lesson Structure

3. Real, Everyday Japanese

4. Intuitive User interface

5. Learning Paths

6. Great Japanese Review If You Need it

7. Line-By-Line Audio

8. Community



Japanesepod101.com is without a doubt, one of the best, most extensive, listening-based learning programs out there. BUT it would be a crying shame if I told you all of the benefits of this system without mentioning any of the weaknesses. ALL programs have shortcomings.  Yes, even good the good ones. Here are four cons of Japanesepod:

  • 1. Lesson Overwhelm
  • 2. Slightly Cheesy Dialogue at Times
  • 3. The Lesson Notes/PDF
  • 4. The Voice Recorder

...(Click each section below to read more)...






​No system is perfect, but Japanesepod could still be the right fit for you.


  • The self-study Japanese student who needs a bit of method to the Japanese madness
  • All skill levels

    While this review focuses mainly on the beginning Japanese student, there are great study tracks for complete newbies, beginners, intermediate, and advanced students.

    Even for those who feel like your Japanese is intermediate and above, you’ll find a slew of lessons that’ll give you a run for your money.

    Trust me...I know from being humbled firsthand 😉
  • People studying Japanese on a budget

    We’ll get into actual price in just a moment, but it’s super reasonable, and I might have a special, Japan Guy deal just for you)
  • Japanese Learners preparing for the  JLPT 
  • Students who struggle to hear what’s being said in daily Japanese conversations


  • Lazy Asses – Sorry to be blunt, but if you’ve gotten this far in this japanesepod101 review, odds are you’re truly looking to improve. Much of JP101 is listening based, but you do have to actively listen, put in work, do the assignments, say things out loud, and practice (for God’s sake!) to get better.

    As much as I want to give you a metal doohickey that you can jam into the back of a input on your neck, and before you can say "Agent Smith," you’re fluen...that tech doesn’t exist yet my homies.
  • Students who prefer to learn by reading. Everybody learns in different ways, I think this system caters primarily to the auditory learners and secondarily to the visual ones. If you learn better through text, this program might leave a bit to be desired (especially for beginners)


What would a Japanesepod101 review be if we didn't take a look at pricing!

Of course I wouldn’t mention this to them directly (lest they raise the price of their membership) but for what you get with Japanesepod101 I think it’s underpriced. The one-month, Basic Plan starts at $8.00/month, the Premium Plan starts at $25.00/month, and the Premium Plus Plan starts at $47.00/month.

In addition to the monthly plans, there are savings built in if you decide to go with one of their larger plans (see the price breakdown below). Which one am I using? I’m currently using the 3-month, Premium which runs me $66.00 every three months (or $22.00/month).



$25 / month



$66 / 3 months



$120 / 6 months

12 - MONTH


$180 / 1 year

24 - MONTH


$240 / 2 years

The price tables above show the breakdown of the premium plans (because that's what I'm using AND because I didn't want to price you to death). There are one, three, six, twelve, and tweny-four month plans for Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus Memberships.  Which one is the best? It really depends on your budget. I recommend choosing a plan that you can comfortably afford that stretches your Japanese limits. 

A major difference between the Basic and Premium plans lies in many of the lesson-specific tools and Japanese resources you get (the voice recorder, line-by-line audio, customizable flashcards, grammar accuracy checker, and others that I've had a chance to delve into yet).  

Japanesepod Premium and Premium Plus plans differ because of the Professional Assessment, Personalized Learning Program and 1-on-1 Instruction that you get (I can't speak on whether these services match or exceed their value because I've never used them). 


The lowest initial price for JPOD is $8.00 (1-month, Basic) while the highest price is $549 (2-year, Premium Plus)


In this case you can actually go to the Japanesepod101.com website to purchase any of their plans. But to make this japanesepod101 review even more useful to its readers, I do have a special offer for those who would like to try the this system out. If you’re interested you can Click Here For A JapanesePod Coupon


I’m certain a lot of Japanesepod101 reviews wouldn’t admit to being a JPOD101 fanboy, but I am. There were three lessons that I loved…

1. “Be Sure to Listen For Japanese Tsunami Warnings” (Upper Beginner, Season 1)
Why did I love this lesson so much? Because it triggered a very scary memory. I’ll never forget being here for that 2011 earthquake and tsunami. I remember how much blogging on this very site helped me cope with the fear I was feeling back then.

These are realities that expat foreigners should be aware of. And this lesson is especially relevant:

2.”Getting Around” (Survival Phrases, Season 1) Yes, this is another basic lesson. Why do I like it? Because it teaches you the super essential 「(subject)はどこですか?」((subject)wa doko desu ka?) point. This one question has proven to be sooooooo useful during my stay here in Japan:

3. “Where It’s At” (Newbie, Season 1)This lesson shows how funny Japanesepod can be. To me, learning Japanese shouldn’t always be so formal and serious. Where’s the fun in that?!? I’m a huge proponent of the “learning should be fun” philosophy. After going through some of the lessons, it seems like Japanesepod creators might feel the same way.


I'm going to say "no." Not because Japanespod isn't a good system, because it is. I say no to this question because "best" is relative. Regardless of which Japanese study methods are most touted, or most popular, you really have to judge what style of learning works best for YOU.  If Japanesepod gets you fluent, then it's the best system for YOU! The only way to find out the real answer to that question is to get in there, actually use it, and see how effective it is for you. 


Because Japanesepod is a standalone product, you won’t see Amazon reviews posted for it. All things considered, if I had to give it rating based on the Amazon five-star system. I would give it 4.4 out of 5 starts. Nope, that’s not a misprint! I genuinely feel like this system is the real deal, even if you go back and look at lessons that may have been recorded a while back, they still hold up.

If we were measuring based on the A-F grading system (in many American schools) I’d say it's in the B+ range. For any of you Japanese self-study students out there who are looking for a method to get quality Japanese instruction (while not perfect) I really think the JapanesePod System will go above and beyond your expectations.


While I can’t claim to be a Japanesepod expert, I am currently a member (As of 2017).  So if you have questions about this system, I’ll do my best to answer them. You can use the comments section below or the “Contact Me” form in the menu bar at the top of this page.
I truly hope you found this Japanesepod101 review useful.


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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of thejapanguy.com blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
  • I used Japanesepod101 back in the day when I was at uni. I listened to it every day walking to class. It 100% helped me in lessons and gave me an advantage over my classmates. I’m sure it’s way more advanced these days, but I really appreciated the series back then. Highly recommend it!

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Charlotte! I know Japanesepod has been around a minute and it’s great to get another person’s perspective so people don’t just have to hear it from me. I think’s pretty awesome, too! Being a self study person, it helps give me some clarity on some of the stickier points of Japanese grammar.

  • nicobottema

    Love your honesty 😉

    • Thanks, nicobottema! 😀
      I really want people to know potential negatives. Even though I like it, there are downsides to everything.

  • I’m also a JapanesePod101 user and I don’t earn a commission 😉

    Yeah, it pretty much does what is says in the tin. A bit of negativity first…

    I get lost sometimes when the presenters go off script and have side discussions.

    Sometimes the vocabulary transcript misses words or puts them in a different order.

    The site can be painfully slow to load Media files.

    On the plus side…

    Dialog is friendly and occasionally funny, but it comes across as being “natural” rather than put into a forced setting

    Flash cards and word banks are a big help

    The lessons build up, so you’ll find yourself repeating bits from previous lessons – and then realising you’ve learnt a lot

    The mobile app is really useful for commute-time learning as you can download lessons rather than rely on streaming

    Eric flirts with everyone (come on, tell me that doesn’t happen!)

    I’ve tried Berlitz and a couple of others and frankly this one is streets ahead. My other half, who is Japanese, rates the conversations as well.

    Like you say, give it a go. Download the free podcasts and then jump in for the 2 year discount.

    Just remember you’ll only get out of it what you put in.

    • Whoa! Thanks for sharing, Ross! You pretty much nailed it, man!
      I 200% have to agree with every word you’re saying. It’s not the perfect, be-all end-all solution to learning Japanese, but you really can get a lot from it, if you work it hard enough.

  • Nicolás Castañeda

    Thanks man!! This was very usefull. I’ve just started to get serious with me learning japanese after a few months of listening to the japanesepod101 podcast. I’d bought my japanes textbooks recently (Genki among them) and now I’m trying to put myself a self learning rutine to make some real progress with my japanese.
    I was wondering if the premium suscription was worthwile now since I was encountering exactly the problems that you wrote (I was listening to the Survival Phrases and Newbie Season 1 series)…. I’m really glad to know how different can be one series to the next one; there’s a lot of content to explore and very few guidelines as what’s what in the website.

    I’ll try to progress following your recommendation for the podcast series then along with my textbook rutine.

    • I’m really glad you found this review useful, Nicolas. Japanese isn’t always easy to learn but it can truly be a fun and interesting language learning journey. I’m in the trenches, just like you, and I sincerely hope you get true value from things I’ve recommended. Give me a shout in a month or two to let me know how you’re progressing. Rooting for you!

  • Heaven Lee

    Can you recommend it to an 11 year old i have been studying japanese culture and japanese language is one of my grades

    • Honestly, I do think JapanesePod101 was designed for the self-study adult (at least it feels like that).

      BUT there are quite a few lessons with dialogue that focuses more on aspects of Japanese life that’s specific to a younger audience. It wouldn’t be my first recommendation for an 11-year old, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you wouldn’t get something useful from it.

      This is one of those situations where’d I say try it (with your parents’ permission of course) and if you don’t think it suits you, cancel at the end of the trial. I don’t know if that’s the best answer, but I hope it helps.

    • Patrick Harnett

      The free trial and even the free lessons are good. While you have the free trial running, download heaps – there is so much you can get. The survival series and culture classes might be a good starting point.
      (as a side note, I did try the “premium” subscription for a while, but I found it wasn’t worth the price.)

  • Patrick Harnett

    Interesting – but I didn’t see a reference to the fact you can use the site for free and there are a lot of free resources. I forget how long I’ve been a subscriber (10 years, and US$10 isn’t so much), and some parts of the site are great and others . . . . not so good. I did visit Peter G and their office about 8 years ago to say thank you, and was interested when he featured in a JapanTimes article recently.
    Way back when they started it was even more cheesy, but also a good concept and it helped me get from zero to a bit more than zero (I use a lot of other tools, but I learn the language slowly).
    One thing in your review above, is about “Jpod isn’t for lazy people” needs to be extended to learning Japanese isn’t for lazy people – I try to fit in an hour a day (roughly – every day), and the language is hard.

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