Learning Resources from the Japan Foundation - Minato and Marugoto

I just attended a session by somebody from the Japan Foundation who was promoting their online resources, and they seemed potentially interesting for those doing self-study. From the looks of it there aren’t any remotely recent threads on the subject, so I thought it might be helpful to share :slight_smile:

Disclaimer: I haven’t tried any of these properly, so apologies if it’s all terrible. Please report back if you do!

As I understand it, Minato is the umbrella term for their learning resources portal. You can find it at:

By default this page displays the Japanese Courses tab, which shoes you all of their ‘Marugoto’ courses. These are:

  • Designed for self-study
  • Free
  • Available in several languages, not just English

As well as a host of other activities, they include wonderfully awkward videos that let you practice conversing with the computer?! A whole scene is acted out and there are points where the actors will turn to the camera and ask you questions (recorded). If this works well (which it might not), I thought it sounded fantastic for people who struggle to get speaking practice or find it too scary/embarrassing.

They go up to A2 level (JFS, mapped to CEFR), though he suggested a B1 course may be in the works. There is a B1 textbook you can get, I believe.

You can also take the Marugoto course with the support of a tutor. I think these are not free, for the most part, but the site seems to suggest that isn’t always the case.


They are designed to support students in countries where there isn’t good access to Japanese teachers, so you are more likely to be accepted if you are in an area where it’s difficult for you to find tuition.

There is also a “JF J-Learning Site & Apps” tab.

This has a variety of resources, including (but not limited to!):

  • Hirogaru: articles and videos on several areas of cultural interest, with or without subtitles.

  • Listen Together: collection of children’s, traditional and ‘indie’ music, searchable by theme or level of Japanese difficulty, with lyrics available onscreen and as a PDF.

  • Marugoto Plus: a version of Marugoto that you don’t have to sign up for???

  • Japanese in Anime and Manga: adorable site designed to help enrich your appreciation of anime and manga! It just covers things like the ways different characters speak and so on. Not exactly high-level stuff.

So… there you go! I’ve never seen the Japan Foundation’s learning resources discussed on here, so I hope this is a useful contribution to the pool of resources. I wasn’t, like, paid by them or anything :stuck_out_tongue: just was randomly invited to this session and thought the WaniKanians needed to hear.

Like I say, I haven’t tried any of these out, so please let me know if you have any experience with any of them or try them out :slight_smile:


Hey, this is awesome! Thank you so much. Will check it out in the morning.

No probs :slight_smile:


Marugoto has an interactive website called Marugoto Plus, and it’s free of charge. You can watch conversations, learn kanji with visual/animated mnemonics, learn grammar, etc. Unfortunately, only elementary levels (A1 and A2).

just signed up for this. will tell you if I don:t get bored after a day
Edit…Already bored, but that is just because it is at the wrong level for me…Guess I should have read what it was more carefully…


Both websites seem a little bit too messy :sweat_smile: Do they have videos to work on your listening?

Yar, it’s only really appropriate for A1 - A2. Sorry :pensive:


Both? I do agree, though. They’re a bit early 2000s. That’s why I’m willing to pay for resources, I guess!

I’m not sure they have videos specifically for listening, but you can turn off all of the subtitles on their videos.


The one you shared and the one @plantron shared.

Hum… yeah I guess that’s a possibility :man_shrugging: Thanks anyway.

I’m working through Marugoto A2 right now, and it’s fine. It’s got a lot of opportunity to practice speaking & reading because each section has two conversations in it which introduce the grammar from that section.

One thing I don’t like is it treats things like “new concepts” when they’re just a reskin of an old concept; but as I explore more materials this seems to be a common theme in most books.

It also makes a pathetic attempt at trying to teach you Kanji, but you have WK so who cares.

All in all, I would recommend the Try! series of books over Marugoto any day.

Oh, you also might want to check out the Hirogaru resource? It’s not much, but there are twelve topics on different aspects of Japanese culture which have videos you can watch. But I have no idea what level of Japanese you’re at, so…

1 Like

Studying for N3 currently, though I don’t mind easier or harder content than that. Listening to native speech on Youtube doesn’t seem effective for now, at least.

Well, I don’t know if they’ll be suitable, but the Hirogaru videos do… exist?!

You can watch either with or without subtitles, and the associated ‘articles’ with each topic actually also contain transcribed audio clips. They might be too easy and if so there’s probably not that much content, but… It’s a much prettier website than the others?!

1 Like

I just noticed this thread and thought I’d comment since I’ve been studying with Marugoto since September 2016. The reason I’m using that book is that there is a Japan Foundation site in my city (Toronto) and they offered courses using their own materials, naturally.

I can’t say that I really like Marugoto as a book or even as a teaching concept, but I suppose it does the job. I’m currently still using the Marugoto book (Now on A2/B1 or “pre-intermediate”) but in a small private class setting with my former teacher from the Japan Foundation who is very good. I don’t mind using the book outside of the Japan Foundation in a course where the book isn’t the sole focus, and also, I prefer A2/B1 to the previous A2-2 (advanced beginner).)

The strengths of Marugoto from my point of view is that it provides good materials and exercises to strengthen listening, and reading to a lesser degree. In fact, you can register for free at marugoto.org and download all the audio materials for free. I think you could use the book+audio successfully for self-study as long as you were willing to look up confusing parts on the web or in other reference books.

The weaknesses of the Marugoto course (I’m speaking of the classroom/book combo) are more numerous by far than the strengths from my point of view.

  • The books are poorly laid out for reference work. By that I mean that you can go through the lessons fairly easily, but forget about going back a couple chapters to review a particular point. It’s really hard to find anything.

  • This is because rather than being explicitly ordered by grammar points as might actually be helpful, they are ordered by contextual situation, like for example Appliance Shopping, or Spectator Sports , or Going to a Museum. The idea behind that is that the course will provide you with the language necessary to speak within these contexts. I find that idea laughable. I just want to learn the grammar to allow me to speak in any context, and if I’m very interested in a topic, I’ll research vocabulary for that. It’s not a dealbreaker, but as I said, it makes referring to past grammar lessons difficult, and also in a classroom, it means you’ll need to tolerate four weeks of talking about nothing else but, say, Online Shopping or Volunteering at a Festival. I was pulling my hair out with some of these.

  • The kanji instruction is weak (which is why I’m here).

  • While you can learn grammar effectively from the book, the explanations in English are slight at best, so you might never get what something means in English if you are unable to figure it out from the context. This of course is more of a problem for self-studiers. In the classroom, a good teacher can help out with that.

  • I find in general the Japan Foundation is very bureaucratic and tends to take itself way too seriously, so I can’t really recommend it as a place to take classes if there are better options available.

I hope this helps someone who is considering using this material.


Thanks, @Radish8! That looks like an interesting site.

Thanks for commenting! It’s nice to hear what somebody who’s actually used them thinks of the materials, as I was just sort of passing on the information as it was presented to me. I can’t remember whether I mentioned this before, but my teacher was also a bit unimpressed by the fact that all of the online videos feature the kansai dialect.

That said, it’s potentially a way for people to gain access to a tutor if they’re in an area where that’s difficult (maybe even for free?!), which I think is one of the main reasons my ears pricked up. I realise it’s pretty easy to find online tutors these days though, so even that is not necessarily a particularly big draw.

1 Like

Haha – Kansai-ben is always a bonus for me. I haven’t watched the ‘minato’ videos, though I will give them a try for a chance to hear some sweet, sweet kansai-ben.

The regular Marugoto audio files are definitely not kansai-ben. My critique of those is that they sound as though they were recorded by professional voice actors who normally do voices for anime, and thus not exactly like the way people actually speak, at least not in my experience.

1 Like

Hey @Radish8, I looked at the Minato website, and even registered for a course there (which I won’t bother completing), but I didn’t see any videos. How do I get to those wonderfully awkward videos you mentioned? You sparked my curiosity.

Awesome!! Thank you so much for sharing!

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 365 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.