Help me learn Japanese via its music!
January 7, 2009 10:48 PM   Subscribe

Help me learn Japanese via its music!

I've been learning Japanese for about a year, and would like to kick it up a notch. I've studied foreign languages before, and found that the way that works best (for me, anyway), is to listen to music in the foreign language, read the lyrics, understand the grammar / vocab (usually with copious help from teachers), and just let the songs earworm through my head all day. That way, it's like a mild sort of language immersion.

So I'm looking for a source of transcribed Japanese music. Any ideas? Some nice-to-have features are:
  • Available online

  • Pre-transcribed (in some form that I could copy / paste / make notes from: so YouTube subtitles wouldn't work so well)

  • Free

  • Earworm-y, but not too vapid would be nice

  • Not so laden with cultural references that a gaijin like me would be overwhelmed.

  • I realize I'm asking a lot, and that maybe no such thing exists. But I bet if anyone knows, it's metafilter!
    posted by molybdenum to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
    Best answer: I learned around 20% of my Japanese from JPOP, so you're on a good track.

    JPOP Suki (search for it) is a torrent site that WILL hook you up with a mass quantity of JPOP, both TV videos and CD rips.

    Subtitles work fine[1] -- just google search a line from a song and you'll find somebody in Japan has transcribed the whole thing. Nearly all song transliterations on the web made for study use romaji, which is rather useless if not counter-productive IMO.

    I recommend finding songs you like and do self-study to translate them. An A-1 resource for this is popjisho give it a URL and it will cleverly translate it in-place for you. IMMENSE time-saver.

    Grammar is a tricky bit but with the Dicitionary of ___ Japanese Grammar series -- Basic,, and (optionally) the new Advanced will help you look up grammar points you haven't learned yet. (I strongly suspect my Japanese instructor in my uni classes was preparing his supplemental grammar lessons from this book).

    Good luck!

    [1] Assuming you can input what you see, which takes a lot of study to learn kanji readings -- which reminds me, cramming ~2000 kanji (meaning and at least ONE reading, preferably a "kun" reading since these are easy to keyboard in) is a recommended 2nd step on your way to fluency.
    posted by troy at 1:17 AM on January 8, 2009

    fixing URL . . . Intermediate
    posted by troy at 1:17 AM on January 8, 2009

    I love Made in USA by Pizzicato 5 and the CD booklet has lyrics in both English and Japanese for sing-a-long/translation joy. Very early '90s but still a total treat.
    posted by freya_lamb at 1:58 AM on January 8, 2009

    Pizzicato Five is great. Masayoshi Yamazaki is also a great artist (one of the few popular Japanese musicians I can stomach), and has great lyrics. I know this is incredibly analog and old-fashioned of me, but how about buying a CD or two, since they come with lyrics? I recommend Stereo or Stereo 2 my Yamazaki.
    posted by zachawry at 4:50 AM on January 8, 2009

    Sung Japanese isn't quite the same as spoken Japanese. Effectively, they are spelling all the words (in hiragana) when they sing.
    posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:12 AM on January 8, 2009

    Twp things to add.

    1) Tokyotoshokan is a nice torrent place for japanese drama/song.

    2) If you use firefox, rikaichan is a decent addon - allows you to highlight japanese words and explanation will pop up.
    posted by jstarlee at 5:28 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

    You may want to try Anime Lyrics. They have a number of the lyrics in both languages, and in some cases they have the kanji as well.
    posted by mephron at 8:22 AM on January 8, 2009

    Best answer: uta-net has a really really extensive library of Japanese song lyrics. You need to register with the site, but it's free and they don't send you anything if you don't want them to. It's searchable by artist, and once you find lyrics that you want to work on you can save them to your own "songbook".

    My friend and I use uta-net pretty extensively for songs we're working on memorizing or translating.

    Also, I have learned almost all of my kanji through singing at karaoke. If you've got a place nearby that has jpop available to sing, I'd recommend hitting it up.
    posted by emmling at 5:54 PM on January 10, 2009

    (oh, and while it's not really a music resource, read the kanji is also good for kanji studying, especially if you're looking at taking the JLPT anytime. and if you need any jpop recommendations, send me a memail. i love talking jpop.)
    posted by emmling at 6:00 PM on January 10, 2009

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