In recent years have sprung up like mushrooms apps that promise miracles in language learning. It’s a shame that learning Japanese or any other language with apps alone is practically impossible!

Many people think they can learn a language by spending a few minutes a day on their smartphone, but the reality is quite different. Apps make learning a language even easier, they’re not very useful even for the basics. At most you can learn a few phrases for a trip!

That’s why I’ve chosen a handful of useful apps for Japanese, which you can use to support your study. Better to install a few but good apps, so you can fill the remaining space on your mobile with language material 😉

Almost all Japanese apps use the same databases

If you’ve already tried to search the store, you may have noticed how many Japanese apps there are. In fact, most of them are very similar.

For example, almost all English-Japanese/Japanese-English dictionaries use the same databases (JMdict/EDICT, KANJIDIC2 etc.). So it means that, apart from a few differences, they are almost identical in terms of content.

The main problem with these databases is that they have too much information: you may come across readings that are completely useless to know and kanji with too many meanings. Other times they have inaccuracies between the examples/vocabularies.

It’s okay to use these dictionaries (I use them myself), but you have to be careful and avoid learning the information you don’t need. If you are in doubt you can check a Japanese dictionary.

The same identical information can be found in word list based apps, for example in those apps that group vocabulary to be known for JLPT or multiple choice vocabulary/kanji tests. This kind of app only those that I most discourage, even for other reasons.

First of all, avoid learning words only through a list, because you risk learning the wrong use of words and thinking that the translation corresponds exactly to the Japanese word (one of the most common mistakes among Japanese students). It is always better to learn a word within a context.

Regardless of the fact that the beginner may be faced with unhelpful kanji to know, at least at the beginning. This is the case with きれい (kirei) which is almost always found in hiragana, but you may find it written in kanji 奇麗 /綺麗. Databases and dictionaries rightly report kanji writing as well, but the beginner who only follows a list of words cannot know a priori that these kanji are not necessary for the JLPT N5. Only by coming into contact with language texts can he know which version is most common, there is no other way. That’s why it’s important to immerse yourself in the language.

Use the vocabulary lists only for review and be careful when you find particular readings. Also pay attention to lists of kanji only with readings, it is not uncommon to come across mistakes!


If it’s not the first time you’ve seen this site, you’ll probably know how much Anki cares about recommending for the study of Japanese. If you are looking for a flashcard program this is, in my opinion, the best ever.

How does it work? The program is organized into decks of cards, each card contains information to be stored (sentences, words, grammar, etc..). Anki automatically regulates the appearance of cards at certain intervals of time depending on how difficult you think it is to remember / understand certain cards. The more a notion is repeated at regular intervals, the more you can remember it and will hardly forget it.

Not even Anki can completely replace the study of a language: it was very useful for me to memorize words but I would never have reached this level without reading or listening to material in Japanese.

It’s also better to create your own personalised cards as much as possible: the more you insert elements that are familiar to you, the easier it is to memorise new words. I also recommend avoiding word-only cards as much as possible and inserting whole sentences.

As an alternative to the app there is also Ankiweb, the online version of the program.


Another application that I consider very useful, not only for Japanese. In this virtual notebook you can mark interesting words to remember, articles in Japanese that you are interested in reading, add images to them… Instead of taking note in a normal notebook or creating several Word files, I prefer to use this program to mark everything I think useful to remember.

An alternative similar to Evernote is OneNote, but I don’t have much to say because I’ve never tried it.


It often happens, perhaps too much, to forget the kanji that make up the various words, fortunately there are applications that can help to overcome this problem.

This is the case of this app that covers the 1006 kanji that you learn in primary school in Japan, presented according to the school order. By choosing any level you can try different quizzes to review the kanji.

Each school level is divided into several parts, each of which has 5 kanji to test. It may be a bit uncomfortable to navigate from one part of the menu to the other, but I enjoyed this choice: finishing each challenge is a matter of minutes and does not take too much time.

For each question the app shows a word with a covered part, to be completed by writing the exact kanji on the screen. If you don’t know the answer there is the possibility to call for help, which makes the solution appear on the screen.

Very similar to this app is 中学生漢字(書き取り編) . It doesn’t add any new kanji compared to the previous app, but it contains new words and readings for exercise.

NHK Easy Japanese News

The app (I don’t think official) of the website NHK News Web Easy, a site to read simplified news in Japanese with furigana and audio. This app makes it easier to consult the site from your smartphone.


The ultimate app for reading practice in Japanese. Not only does it contain tracks from NHK News Web Easy, there are also fairy tales and news from other sites divided by level of difficulty. It also has an integrated dictionary, you can enable/disable the furiousness of words belonging to a certain level of the JLPT and you can review the words through a flashcard system.

But the most interesting thing is that you can insert your own songs, so it’s even easier to check the meaning of the words without switching from one app to another.

Japan Radio

Even if your Japanese level is low, you can use the radio to do some passive listening. Unless you want to discover new Japanese songs, my advice is to avoid internet-only radios and listen directly to Japanese radios, so you can also listen to the dialogues that take place between the various program guests.

Another similar app I found is Radio Cloud (only for Android). It broadcasts the various programs of several famous Japanese broadcasters (TBS, Nikkei, Tokyo FM…) that are impossible to listen to outside Japan, except with this unofficial app. It also allows you to save the various audio tracks on your phone.

An excellent app to practice writing or speaking Japanese with native speakers. Basically it’s free, but if you want to add more languages and other utilities you need to pay a registration fee. If you are only interested in having a language exchange with Japanese, the free version should suffice.

If you often make mistakes, don’t forget to add these phrases to Anki, so you won’t have to go through them again.

Hiragana Quest

To study Japanese everyone starts from hiragana and katakana. Hiragana Quest is the app for learning hiragana and katakana born from the collaboration between Go! Go! Nihon and one of his former students. The system offered by this app is innovative, different from the usual learning systems based on the mere memorization of characters. In Hiragana Quest, in fact, each character is divided into small segments that each represent a character or an object. From the union of these characters and objects come out funny stories, which characterize each character and make it easier to remember.

This app also has two mascots, two cute kittens, Hirako and Katako, who will follow you step by step through the studio, making it even more enjoyable and fun. To download it go to The app is for both iOS and Android.


Imiwa? is one of the most used free Japanese learning apps. It has an excellent search system, which allows you to find kanji either by drawing them on the screen or by writing their pronunciation in hiragana or romaji. For each kanji Imiwa? provides the different pronunciations, the number of strokes and the compounds with other kanji. In addition, in addition to the translation into several European languages (not always there is Italian), are always given sample phrases on how to use the word you are looking for.

There is also the possibility to create personal folders where we can save and divide words according to different categories, as well as a session dedicated to the study of kanji for the JLPT, the Japanese language certification exam. A small flaw is that translations of some words or phrases are not always very accurate. The app is for iOS and works even when you are off-line.

Anki and Ankidroid

Anki is probably one of the best applications to quickly store a large number of kanji. This app will allow you to import kanji and words from textbooks and turn them into electronic flashcards (cards with a question written on the front, to be turned just to check the answer). From here on, the whole program will do. You will find yourself just looking at the kanji that will be presented to you and try to guess the exact pronunciation and meaning. Also, based on the grade you give to the kanji (difficult, easy or normal), Anki will decide how long you want to present the same card again.

To make sure that the program performs at its best, it is recommended to use the app at least once a day, but since the tests are very fast, it will not take you more than 20 minutes.

You can download the app for both iOS and Android. Unfortunately, for owners of iPhones and other Apple products, Anki is charged and not really cheap.

Yomiwa and Wagyo

These two Japanese learning apps are available on iOS and Android. They’ll come in handy when, for example, you’re at a restaurant in Japan and want to know what’s on the menu. Both applications work in more or less the same way, using your mobile phone’s camera you can scan the kanji on the menu, for example, so you can have an immediate translation of what it says.

While Yomiwa is only available on iOS, Wagyo is also available for Android. However, for Wagyo there is a daily limit of 10 free translations, beyond which the app becomes chargeable.

Obviously these are just some of the myriad Japanese learning apps that can be found on iOS or Android as support in learning Japanese. I think, however, that the applications I have presented are more than valid and easy to use both for newcomers to the language and for students who have already completed their studies.

Try searching for apps in Japanese only

Surely there are other apps (especially in Japanese) that are worth mentioning, but I dwelt on those that really can be useful for your study of Japanese.

If you already know a bit of Japanese you can try to search the Store app only in Japanese, so you can do reading/listening exercises. Of course, there are also several Japanese video games, but I didn’t think I should add them to this list.

If you liked this article and you found it useful not to forget to share it, it could also be useful for your friends who study or want to learn Japanese!

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