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Issue 9: J-Book Review

March 4, 2010


Forget generic studio recordings, listen to real Japanese!

explanation-3awhiteistening is, just like speaking, an important part of learning Japanese. There’s a broad variety of Japanese audio material ranging from audio CD’s, books to podcasts. While I think podcasts are great, I do often like to have a book as a supplement to it.

Most books on listening comprehension use voice actors and studio recorded conversations, while easier to understand, it’s simply not the same as real natural speech heard in daily life. What’s great about this book『Live from Tokyo、生の日本語を聞き取ろう』is that it uses audio conversations from real-life situations in a real life environment. No voice actors, just natural conversations between Japanese as you would hear it on the ‘street’.


Studio Audio vs The Real Thing
Studio recorded audio material is great to listen to and learn from but in real life people talk in various ways. Different speed, tones and voices might suddenly sound unfamiliar to the untrained ear, making a conversation difficult to follow. People in everyday life talk in their own way, pronunciation isn’t as heavily emphasized as a voice actor would do and the notorious Japanese machine-gun-speed-talk is in full force. To get a feel and train yourself for it,『Live from Tokyo、生の日本語を聞き取ろう!』provides audio material taken from real-life situations in, like the title says, all kinds of places in and around Tokyo. Whether it’s buying something at a convenient store, getting a train ticket or experiencing a tea ceremony, 2 audio CD’s as well as an accompanying textbook provide great audio material.

explanation-3aThe Textbook & Method
The accompanying textbook (which I have to mention has a great layout and color photos) has 17 chapters each covering a topic. Each chapter consists of 3 sections and features 3 different conversations/audio. After reading the topic outline in the first section, you listen to the audio clip and at the end of it there will be a question. At this point it’s ok if you can’t follow everything, section two takes each dialog and lists key expressions and words with Japanese explanation followed by English, Chinese and Korean. After studying these, listen to the dialog again and try to answer the question. The final third section shows a full transcript of each dialog as well as the question.

Extra reading sections provide you with more interesting information and bits of knowledge regarding each topic. At the end of each chapter a mini quiz in JLPT style will test what you have learned in the previous dialogues. The back of the book has a vocabulary list and a separate “teacher’s” booklet holds all the answers as well as full transcripts of the mini quizzes and more reading (actually they’re more like pointers for the ‘teacher’ to do in class).


The book is recommended for all levels of Japanese learners, I don’t agree. Because of the natural speed (machine-gun-speed-talk) and heavy use of『丁寧語 (ていねいご、polite speech)』,『敬語 (けいご、respectful language)』and『謙譲語 (けんじょうご、humble speech)』it is more suited for intermediate to upper intermediate learners. Beginners need not try (gomen ne).




The main attraction of『Live from Tokyo、生の日本語を聞き取ろう!』are its two audio CD’s with almost 70 dialoges. While not every clip has clear spoken dialogues and you might have to listen to them over and over again, it’s as real as it gets to actually being in and around Tokyo. This let’s you develop an ear for real-life spoken Japanese. The beautifully designed book and the many topics make it excellent study material for listening comprehension and the added JLPT style quizzes prep you along the way for JLPT. Because the book is so allround and complete, it can even be seen as a stand alone study book in addition to being a (luxurious) supplement to your Japanese studies.

Book Info
title: Live from Tokyo、生の日本語を聞き取ろう!
pages: 147
dimensions: 25.7 x 18.2 cm
extra: CD x 2 • teacher’s supplement
language: Japanese – English – Chinese – Korean
publisher: ASK (
ISBN: 978-4-7890-1357-4
special Chokochoko rating: 90%

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Chet Atchison permalink
    March 9, 2010 6:46 am

    There is a lot of info on here. I’m really really jealous cause I wish I knew what half of this blog means. I like what you’re doing and thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment on my design blog.

    • March 9, 2010 2:44 pm

      Nah, not enough info yet, blogging can sometimes take quite some time so I still have lots of stuff to add 🙂 Thanks for stopping by too!

  2. March 9, 2010 8:25 am

    that sounds nifty! Now, to convince myself to actually use it IF I get it…

    and thanks for your comment the other time – it’s been a really long time!

    • March 9, 2010 2:46 pm

      I know! 超久しぶり!Nooo, finish whatever books you still have left untouched! (goes for me as well haha) 😀

      • April 5, 2010 7:46 am

        I got the book (finally!)
        and I must say I totally went Orz
        I couldn’t understand a word that they speak. Oooomigosh!

      • April 5, 2010 9:37 am

        It’s a really nice book eh? And about the Japanese audio, welcome to the REAL Japanese! Just listen to it over and over and itll become more familiar. But indeed some of the machine-gun-speed talk is so fast, you’d swear they swallowed whole sentences. BUt the good thing is, if you can understand eveything effortlessly, you’re pretty much 上級 level! Something to look forward to! 🙂

  3. March 11, 2010 7:47 pm

    Ah. A book. Another book. On my list. But, alas I have neither the time nor money to buy anything (or read) anything right now 😛 I do agree that blogging can take what seems like forever. I am, of course, insanely jealous of your awesome blogging powers… ^_^

  4. nekesu04 permalink
    March 13, 2010 1:21 am

    I couldn’t help but notice the MP3 player, it’s so small and cool looking. Might I ask what kind it is? And awesome blog btw, nice clean design.

    • March 13, 2010 10:59 am

      Thanks! You can get it at (the one in the right sidebar right?), they have all kinds of mp3 players which you can plug in your blog/website. 🙂

      • Andy permalink
        June 23, 2012 6:52 pm

        Hi there! The mp3 player on the sidebar is also very cool, but I was wondering if you could let us know what kind of mp3 player ‘device’ is in the header photograph? I’ve been looking for a tiny mp3 player to listen to music on and it looks perfect! Please let me know, thanks.

  5. March 20, 2010 9:19 pm

    I have this book, so I would echo the sentiment that it is not for beginners. Even having passed JLPT2 in December, some of the quick-fire speech on the audio CD is ridiculously fast. I wish you all the luck in the world…

    • March 21, 2010 12:08 am

      YOU’RE BACK!!! And I just read it on your blog, CONGRATS!!! You must’ve been estatic when you received you certificate! So now you’re my rolemodel and now Im definitely convinced by this book (hearing you also have it).

      Thanks! I will share the story as soon as it’s my turn in December! 😀

  6. March 26, 2010 6:59 am

    While I’m not even learning Japanese you make me almost want to buy the book! Kind of reminds me of fellow students in Spanish who’d complain the “Spanish on the street is so unclear”… well, excuse me, but that’s LIFE! And actually that’s the fascinating part of language, the different colloqialisms, accents and dialects. Speak the standard, and enjoy the real!

  7. October 24, 2010 3:35 am

    Thank you for showing us these books! This one looks so interesting but alas, I am only in my 2nd year of Japanese D: May I ask how many years of Japanese would one take to be able to start handling this book? Thanks XD

    • October 24, 2010 10:47 am

      Hi Maya, thanks for visiting. How many years of Japanese study ofcourse depends on your own effort. This book is for intermediates and upwards, so if you fall into that catergory, you’ll be able to get most out of this book. I guess after you finish your second year (again, depending on your learning speed and level), you could use this book.

  8. Applen permalink
    December 15, 2010 5:06 am

    Hi. I completly stumbled into your site here, looking for some listening material. Have to day im really impressed with your site & the above review. About the book; do they use real collqual expressions & or local accents/vocabulary? The only thing i remember learning from one of Japanese friends was to add ‘sa’ onto the end of everything-sa.

    • December 15, 2010 12:15 pm

      Hi Applen, thanks for visiting!
      The book uses all kinds of speech, from casual to respectful since you would encounter that in everyday Japanese life. And because it’s taken from real life situation, you’re learning how people actually talk.
      The -sa thing is very casual and makes things sound a bit slangy. So it’s not suited in formal situations.

  9. Andini Rizky permalink
    May 18, 2012 4:43 am

    Thank you. You’ve helped me find a book for my own learning. They have “Live from Seoul”, too in the series. (I’m learning Korean). Thank you for giving me the idea to look for similar books. Oh, and the audio sample in this post is not working. Have you deleted your files? And I feel a bit disappointed Korean is not in your radar anymore. But you’ve reviewed 3 Korean books! Why quit now?Oh, well. 🙂

  10. Andy permalink
    June 23, 2012 6:59 pm

    I just finished the advanced series of Japanese courses as well as the Japanese major at UCLA! My sensei recommended this book (Live in Tokyo) as well as “日本語上級話者への道”, “Formal Expressions for Japanese Interactions”, and “Rapid Reading Japanese” (Japan Times). These are all excellent books for improving your reading and speaking at the intermediate and advanced levels. She also recommended playing news reports from NHK or TBS, etc. and repeating what they say identically as they’re saying it (rhythm, pitch, tone, aizuchi), while also coming up with your own response opinions (in Japanese, of course). As sensei said, your brain is a muscle and you have to train it daily in all aspects of learning a foreign language! 一二、一二! 日本語の勉強を頑張りましょう!

    • Squire Starsquid permalink
      June 23, 2012 7:12 pm

      Hi Andy,
      Great recommendations! I’ll definitely check them out. I also agree on the NHK news reports, you can learn so much new vocab and expressions from it, not to mention specific usage of certain word combinations. Best of luck!
      About the MP3 player, you can actually apply different skins and the one I chose is also one of the available skins (which you can modify to your liking as well)

      • Andy permalink
        June 23, 2012 7:35 pm

        Thanks!! I’m glad we share a passion for studying Japanese language!

        Also, I think I actually meant the mp3 player that’s in the picture at the top of this post, as in the picture of the textbook Live From Tokyo with the little gadget next to it that looks like it has a touch screen with headphones plugged in. I would really like one!

  11. Squire Starsquid permalink
    June 23, 2012 9:55 pm

    Ah, then you need to upload your audio file (your own webspace) and use the following code:


    – switch web color ‘988a6c’ and ‘fbcf00’ for your own color

    • Squire Starsquid permalink
      June 23, 2012 9:57 pm

      Put the brackets directly in front and behind the html code, it should be one continuous string of code.

      • Andy permalink
        June 23, 2012 10:47 pm

        Ahh, thanks so much for the detailed tips!! I’ll definitely use it on my blog :]
        What I actually wanted to know is the name and/or model number of the device I’ve circled in red in this picture:
        Sorry for the misunderstanding!!

  12. Squire Starsquid permalink
    June 23, 2012 11:34 pm

    Lol, I missed the ‘…with headphones plugged in…’ part, duh.
    It’s a Philips ‘Go Gear’ mp3 player. It’s a nice little mp3 player and I love the button usage.

    • Andy permalink
      June 24, 2012 7:19 am

      Hahaha, it’s okay, I figured my inquiry was pretty confusing since the actual music player on the page is more prominent. All in all I ended up learning a lot more from my pestering questions, but thank you so much for everything!

  13. January 28, 2014 2:24 pm

    Its true the recorded voices in language courses are over precise and slower than usual, but for the beginner there is no other way to start. If immersed straight into rapid multi dialect speech at the outset would only serve to make learning painfully slow yet, immersion into natural every day speech is essential so its a great shame I have never seen a course that takes the beginner from the necessary slow deliberate soundings through the intermediate and advanced stages with ever increasing speed and variance of dialect. Course makers, are you listening?

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