How to: Learn Japanese Through Music

Japan Languages
by Jessica Aves Jun 13, 2011

In Japanese lingo, music videos are called PV (promotional video) instead of MV (music video). Thanks to the creativity of music video directors, there are several PVs where Japanese text is built right into the concept of the PV. These clips make excellent learning tools for improving your reading speed.

Plain Japanese

Sakanaction (サカナクション) – Aruku Around/A Look Around (アルクアラウンド)

The band claims that this fun, kinetic PV was done without use of CG. (“Aruku” means walk and it’s a pun on English for “look”; the “around” is also a pun in that this video can loop infinitum.)

Slang and alliteration


Text everywhere! DADA will get stuck in your head.

Karaoke practice

Lots of videos by Takahashi Yu (高橋 優) – Shounen de Are (少年であれ), Fukuwarai (福笑い), or Honto no Kimochi (ほんとのきもち). He’s pretty consistent with all that text.

Advanced learners

HiGE (髭 ) – Oboreru Saru Ga Wara wo Motsukamu (溺れる藁をもつかむ)

It’s a rebus puzzle juggling Japan’s three lexicons and English letters shot in stop-motion.

Text only

Cee Lo Green – F**k You

One of the videos for Cee-Lo Green’s “F**ck You” song featured only text on-screen in English, so Warner Music Japan decided to translate it to promote him in Japan. It’s not a 100% accurate translation, but if you can read it, it’s pretty funny. F**k You was also translated into Spanish and German.

Unofficial “Fansubbing”

There are an uncountable number of fans, fangroups, and translation teams that add their own Japanese, Romaji, and English translations to PVs, variety shows, and commercials. Some purposely time the subtitles so you can sing to it like a karaoke video!

Although the accuracy of the translation is often hit or miss, the comments will reveal if the job was well done or not. “Fansubbers” host their work on places like Youtube, Daily Motion, and torrents for other fans. The most infamous torrent group is JpopSuki, known for their presence in pop music territory. Their torrent tracker got so popular that it’s now invite only (psst! Twitter!), but you can still find their videos on Youtube like Bennie K’s “Sunrise”. I’m also quite fond of the fansubbing group Mognet.

Other recommendations

Misia, Arashi, AKB48, Remiromen, The Southern All Stars, The Pillows, Bump of Chicken, Sakamoto Maaya

Have fun practicing!

*Author’s Note: The History Channel lists the record-setting date for Sukiyaki as June 15th, 1963. The June 15th, 1963, issue of the weekly Billboard Magazine lists Sukiyaki as #2. However, June 15th is a Saturday and the coinciding issue states that it’s the “end of the week charts.” Due to print delays of the era, the information probably is accurate but was unable to be reported until the next issue – which was June 22nd, 1963.

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