This article is contributed by Chad Emery, a freelance writer and editor who loves learning about other cultures and languages. Chad has a passion for travel and is always looking for an excuse to explore new countries or visit his friends dotted around the globe.
Are you learning Japanese and looking for a way to stay motivated? Or maybe you just need to brush up on your skills. Either way, watching movies is a great way to learn and improve your Japanese skills. And since Japanese is one of the most spoken languages in the world and Japan has a world-renowned film industry, there are a lot of Japanese movies and series to choose from.
This article will show you some of the best Japanese movies that are great for picking up new words and phrases and improving your Japanese comprehension skills without leaving your living room. So to get started, all you need to do is press “Play” on any of the content below to start learning!
1. Howl’s Moving Castle
Sophie’s life is dull and uneventful working at her late father’s hat shop. All that changes when she meets a wizard named Howl though. The two quickly become friends, much to the disdain of the evil Witch of Waste. The evil witch casts a spell on Sophie to turn her into an old woman, and Howl must use all of the magic he knows to try and make Sophie young again.
Howl’s Moving Castle is a classic Japanese anime film directed by the iconic Japanese director Hiyao Miyazaki. If you’re an anime lover, Howl’s Moving Castle is the perfect way to learn new words and phrases in Japanese. The dialogue is simple and easy to follow, and the story will have you hooked from the very beginning. The imagery is also stunning!
2. Spirited Away
Spirited Away is another anime from Hiyao Miyazaki. The story follows Chirio, who finds an abandoned theme park with her parents. After Chihiro’s parents are mysteriously turned into pigs, she meets Haku, who tells her that the theme park is full of supernatural creatures. Throughout the film, Chihiro works to find a way to free her parents from the horrible curse put on them.
Similar to Howl’s Moving Castle, the vocabulary used in Spirited Away is straightforward and the story is easy to follow. You’ll also learn important topics that improve your Japanese communication skills, like commands and how to address others. The main message of the film will also help you understand more about Japanese culture.
3. Grave of the Fireflies
If you’re a history buff, Grave of the Fireflies is a must-see on Netflix. The story follows Seita, a young boy who gets separated from his sister after an American firebombing during World War II. The film portrays a heart-wrenching tale of survival and shows the real impact that war can have on everyday people.
Outside of improving your vocabulary and communication skills, Grave of the Fireflies will also help you understand more about Japan’s history and culture. Watching it will show you a different perspective of the war and how it affected ordinary people in Japan.
4. Good Morning Call
If you’re not a fan of anime, there are also plenty of live-action Japanese movies and series available on Netflix. One of the most popular series is Good Morning Call. This show is a Japanese shōjo manga series that follows Nao Yoshikawa, who moves away from her parents to live in the city. There’s a problem though: She was a victim of a scam. The apartment she is moving into has also been rented to Hisashi Uehara, a popular boy from her school. The two decide to live together to make rent more affordable, but they also decide to keep their living arrangement hidden from their classmates.
Good Morning Call is a lighthearted comedy with a simple and straightforward storyline. The writing is clear and uses common vocabulary words. Watching this show will also give you a glimpse into the lives of Japanese teenagers. You’ll definitely pick up some useful slang as well as learn how native Japanese speakers speak with each other.
5. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is another live-action Japanese series. It’s about Meshiya, a small restaurant in the back alley of a bustling district in Tokyo. The restaurant looks like any other ordinary restaurant from the outside, but Meshiya is extraordinary once you go in. Only open from midnight until 7 am, the chef at Meshiya (known as the Master) cooks whatever his customers want. Coming from all walks of life, the customers bond with each other and the Master over his delicious food.
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a really cool series not only because of its stories, but because of how useful it can be for Japanese learners. You get to listen to a variety of people discuss a lot of different topics related to life in Japan. Of all the options on this list, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is probably the most immersive one.
The 5 Japanese movies and series mentioned above are just a few of the many Japanese-language choices you can find. If you’re interested in improving your language skills while learning more about Japan’s history or culture, these five options are the perfect place to start. Before you know it, you’ll be speaking Japanese like a native speaker!
Have you watched any of these films before? Let us know in the comments which one do you like the best! If interested in learning a foreign language through watching films, you can also check out our complete list of 47 Foreign Movies for Language Learners.