Have you hit a plateau in your Japanese language learning that you just can’t seem to push through? Maybe you’re prepping for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) this December, or you have trouble picking up Japanese with coworkers and friends?
It might be time for you to put down the pricey textbooks in favor of this free, quality language study method: watching Japanese 実況プレイ or Let’s Plays on YouTube.
If you’re not familiar, Let’s Plays are gaming videos where someone plays through a video game while making commentary on it. The genre has actually gained crazy heights of popularity in both English and Japanese corners of the internet.
No matter what the language, Let’s Plays are a perfect way to wind down after a long workday. But if you watch it in Japanese then you get the added benefit of guilt-free listening practice.
Here are five of the most popular and entertaining Japanese Let’s Plays to get you started.
1. 2Bro: The fearless FPS brothers
One of the most popular 実況プレイ channels on YouTube with 2.5 million subscribers, 2Bro is appropriately named for the two brothers who started it all, 兄者 (Anijya) and 弟者 (Otojya). Otojya, whose name comprises of the kanji for “little brother” and “person,” is the star of the show with a swoon-worthy voice and impressive gaming skills. Both he and his big brother are particularly fond of FPS (first-person shooter) games, which is the majority of the content on 2Bro’s channel. If you’re looking to improve your conversational listening skills in Japanese, check out a video where they play in pairs or groups.
2. Hikakin Games: The gaming giant
With 4.2 million subscribers, Hikakin Games is the top subscribed Japanese gaming channel on YouTube. It’s run by the excitable and enthusiastic Hikakin, whose main vlog channel is the second most popular YouTube channel in Japan with 7.3 million subscribers.
On his gaming channel, Hikakin plays a variety of child-friendly games including Zelda, Super Mario, Pokémon, and Minecraft in a series that he calls “Hikakura,” a play on his name and the Japanese nickname for Minecraft, “Maikura.” Here he is playing gaming and cultural phenomenon, Fortnite.
3. Retoroto: The budget-friendly baka-gamer
Retoroto is a gamer who seeks out free (or extremely cheap) games for laughs. The result is a lot of buggy game physics and hilarity. A majority of his videos feature a genre of games called バカゲー (bakage) or “dumb games,” but you’ll find a wide range of game types on his channel. If you like novelty or weird cult games, he may be right up your alley.
One of my favorites is when he downloaded a free Japanese mobile game called “Skipping Class!” where the goal is to escape the watchful eyes of your enraged sensei as he tries to drag you back to your classroom by the ear. Yes, it’s just as wild as you think.
4. Pocky: The fast-talking fiend
Pocky plays all sorts of games, including FPS, indie, and VR (virtual reality) games. On top of his gaming videos, he also posts vlog videos once in a while, which allows a fun glimpse into the world of a Japanese gamer with a top-secret identity. He also speaks quite fast, which is a good challenge for intermediate to advanced Japanese levels. While gaming he shares his thoughts, confusion, and amusement with his audience, and the results are always fantastic.
5. Kiyo: The multiplayer master
Kiyo is a hilarious gamer who positively shines in multiplayer mode. He often invites friends on his channel to join in the fun for games like Wii Party or Minecraft, and also does several IRL (in real life) games as well. His video with fellow gamer Fuji led to new heights of hilarity in their playthrough of Super Bunny Man. It even has English subtitles, so it’s perfect for anyone looking for an easy transition into Japanese Let’s Plays.
Learning a language is tough, but using inventive study methods like watching Let’s Plays are a way to hack Japanese study to make it painless. Next time you get lost in the sea of textbooks and graded readers, try taking a guilt-free break by checking out some of these Japanese gamers.
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