Once you reach an upper-intermediate level of Japanese, your options for study materials really begin to expand.

The bad news is that it takes a lot of work to get to this level. I remember when I was still at a rather low level, I used to dream of reading novels in Japanese (and sometimes wasted money buying books that were way too difficult for me).

Anyways, if you keep studying consistently over a long period of time, you will reach a higher level of Japanese. And when you do, studying Japanese by playing games on your mobile device (iPad, iPhone, etc.) is just one more awesome thing that you’ll get to do.

I got a really big translation job that I was working on in November and December, which kept me pretty busy. In my free time, though, I also got kind of obsessed with an RPG that I downloaded onto my iPad.

Chaos Rings III

Studying Japanese via Mobile Games

The game I played was Chaos Rings III. There were two main reasons that I chose this game:

1) There is a lot of dialogue. Which, in turn, means a lot of Japanese.

2) There is usually audio to accompany all of the dialogue. (In Japanese, we’d say that they 読み上げる / yomiageru / “read aloud”)

This can be really helpful if you can’t read some of the kanji that appear in dialogues.  Also, reading and listening to conversations can be a great way to learn new phrases and all that good stuff.

Japanese games with Japanese audio

One downside, though, is that (being a Japanese game) there is also some ridiculous content that you probably don’t even need to know or understand… and would have embarrassing results should you ever use it in conversations.

Japanese Video Games for Studying

Like, this dialogue has the word 鋭角 / eikaku in it, which means “acute.” As in, “an acute angle.” Not sure how relevant that is to my Japanese studies.

As an interesting side note, though, last night I was reading a book in Japanese on my Kindle Voyage. I’m reading The Two Moonsby James P. Hogan, which, in Japanese is called 星を継ぐもの / hoshi wo tsugu mono. So, I’m reading, and the word 鋭角 / eikaku appeared! I couldn’t believe that it came up so soon after learning it. But then, that’s how it always seems with new words.

To be fair, though, that book is so unnecessarily wordy and technical that it’s going to melt my brain before this is all over. So I’m still going to go ahead and say that I don’t need to know the word 鋭角… although it wouldn’t be too hard to guess the meaning of it, anyways, once you know the kanji.

It just occurred to me that I should write an email about reading in Japanese and English on a Kindle. Look forward to that, please.

Wow, I’m digressing.

 Downloading Japanese Games onto Apple Devices

Chaos Rings 3 for Studying Japanese

Look at all that Japanese! One bad thing about games is that they often use super difficult kanji. Like this dialogue has 憑  “possessed” (Reviewing the Kanji #2428) for 憑りつかれる / toritsukareru, which isn’t even one of the Joyo Kanji. Messed up, man.

Since I’m using Apple devices at the moment, that’s really all I can write about with any semblance of knowing what I’m talking about.

The good thing about Apple devices (such as iPhones and iPads): If the operating system is set to Japanese, then the games and apps you download will automatically be the Japanese version (assuming that it’s localized for Japanese). So that’s easy.

The bad thing about Apple devices: It’s not easy accessing the Japanese iTunes store.

There are so many Japanese-language games, apps, etc. that appear in the Japanese language store, but never make it to the iTunes stores for foreign countries.

With Amazon, getting around this problem is really easy, because you can simply go to Amazon.co.jp instead of Amazon.com, and they’ll let you use a credit card from the US, New Zealand–wherever.

Chaos Rings 3 Characters

However, with iTunes, you have to have either (1) a credit card from that country or (2) an iTunes gift card bought in that country.

I’m not sure I’ve ever met a non-Japanese person with a Japanese credit card. (I could write 100 pages about my problems with the Japanese banking system).

One option is to buy iTunes cards from Play-Asia.com. I’m pretty sure you can buy a 3,000 yen card from this page (although it does have a pretty heavy markup).

As a side note, Play-Asia.com is pretty much the only resource I know of (aside from eBay) for buying Japanese video games and hardware.

At the moment, I’m living in Japan. So I can also buy iTunes cards and/or video games and ship them to the US, if anyone out there is interested. For iTunes cards, you can just tell me whatever amount you want, then add $5 to it, plus Paypal fees for sending me the money. For hardware and all that, it depends on what you want.

If you’re looking for a rare item, though, I probably won’t be able to get it very easily, as I’m in Sapporo, Hokkaido at the moment. That said, I can probably find someone in Tokyo to send it to you.

So, yeah, feel free to contact me if you need something.

Long story short, I think that video games can be a really interesting way to supplement Japanese studies. Especially for RPG’s, you can log dozens of hours of gameplay… which in turn means dozens of hours of studying, right?

The downside is getting to a high enough level to actually be able to enjoy the game. Even then, it might be a struggle. I played Skyrim on PS3 in Japanese last year, and (as you might imagine) there is some really difficult Japanese in that game. But! They do have lots of dialogue with accompanying subtitles… which is fantastic for Japanese study nerds like myself.

Skyrim is packed with dialogue

Skyrim is packed with dialogue

Best of luck with your studies, everyone!

Also, sorry if this article was kind of all over the place. Last night I think I had one too many beers at 回転寿司 / kaitenzushi (“conveyor-belt sushi bar; revolving sushi bar”).


p.s. Free Japanese right here, yo:


Yo! I'm Niko, the founder of NihongoShark. I'm also a Japanese translator, writer, and all-around language nerd.

I created this site to help as many people master Japanese (any language, really) as possible.

Uh, what else? Well... I live in Tokyo, Bangkok, Sapporo, Saigon, San Diego, Tokyo, Chiang Mai, Portland, Oregon! So if anyone wants to meet up for a refreshing nama beer, I'm probably down for that. Or a coffee. Learning Japanese is tricky-tikki-tavi. But we're in this together. ファイト!

Good luck with your studies!


p.s. If you like my articles, you may very well love my daily lessons.