Japan Podcasts

Here is a list and reviews of great and noteworthy  podcasts, ranging from light distraction and entertainment related to Japan and Asia at large to political commentary, hard news, and Japanese language learning.

For those of you not familiar with the term ‘podcast,’ we’re talking about audio and video subscription-based programming available for hourly, daily, weekly, biweekly, etc download.  Most of the podcasts listed below are available through homepages of the individual providers, however, they are all available through Apple’s iTunes podcast directory.  All of the podcasts listed here are free and so is the iTunes download (which I highly recommend and is available for both Mac and PC users).  iTunes is the most popular media playing/organizational software, and is well-worth downloading for easy podcast access alone, especially since it is free.  It will give PC users a small glimpse of how much better everything is with Apple.  Download iTunes for free by just googling it or through the Apple website, then use the directory to download free podcasts, or to purchase music, movies, entire seasons of popular television series, whatever.  Once you subscribe to the podcast (no registration required, just click on the podcast), then they will download regularly after that.

Best of YouTube (Video)
Light, Quick and entertaining, this podcast allows you to get a daily glimpse of a few of the more light and short amateur videos that appear on YouTube.  Stay in touch with the popular site content, get a little benign entertainment each and every day, with this video sampler.

Happy Tree Friends (Video)
Here is some free, violent animation, from these furry, Itchy and Scratchy-style (of Simpsons’ fame) animation is fun for adults who like that sort of thing.

The Onion (Audio)
The Onion is a satire news service.  Most of the podcasts are only 15-20 seconds long, more than anything it is funny just to read the headlines.  When I just checked it was “Florida Man Dies Totally Differently Than He Lived.”  I used to read The Onion on the web from time to time, then I found the podcast a few months back.  There aren’t that many good comedy podcasts out there.  It starts out with a news maker tone, then a great announcer voice giving the headline and what would be the first summary paragraph of a new service.  They’ve been around for a long time before they started the podcast, and it is well done.

BBC Radio NewsPod (Audio)
I’m a big fan of non-American news sources.  The BBC, or course, has a long history of liberal politics, anti-Americanism, and Bush hating in particular (although of course they got their ass handed to them over the ‘Blair is a liar’ fiasco.  Still, if you can listen with filters, as an informed consumer, this podcast is well-put together.  It’s a nice news sampler, with just enough international and domestic mix, and in any case is superior to the NPR Shuffle.  The NewsPod has a clear liberal bias, but not nearly as much as the Documentary Archive.

Asia Pacific Forum (Audio)
A fairly far-left selection (more than the average mainstream media.  Despite the title, it has more or a NYC, than a LA feel to it.  They handle a lot of issues through interviews on immigration law, education policy, and WW2 internment perspectives.  Despite its leftism on every subject, I can say that it’s not hateful (unlike MSNBC’s Olbermann, HBO’s Maher, et al).  I commend them on that point, although unfortunately it also dry, and I can’t usually make it all the way through.

Documentary Archive (BBC) (Audio)
BBC has been doing documentaries forever, and they know how.  They are the perfect length, about 20-25 minutes, sometimes in multiple parts.  For anyone who thinks the BBC is not biased (although recently their own internal monitoring and investigation into the matter confirmed that it has a strong liberal bias, especially their Five Live program), it is nowhere more glaring than in this podcast.  They do a lot of pro-Muslim fluff pieces on subjects like the 6 Day War, Palestinian Occupation, and the partitioning of Pakistan and India, when India gained its independence from Great Britain.  It’s either that, or they are spending 20 minutes trashing Jamaica in a “Coming Out” documentary for being a Christian country, which has democratically outlawed “buggery” and frowns on open homosexuality.  We must never question the tenants of any religion, especially Islam, but there is no problem trashing Christianity or Judaism (as long as it is done indirectly through harsh criticism of Israel).  That’s the motto.  Still, they’ve been doing audio broadcast documentaries longer than probably anyone else in the business, and they are worth listening to.

Military History Podcast
Here is a great example of how the internet is breathing new life into the spoken word, whether it be talk radio, podcasts of audio downloads of political television interviews.  There is the famous story of how those who watched the Nixon JFK debate on TV overwhelmingly though that JFK won, while the opposite is true of those who listened to the debate on the radio.  I listened to this podcast for months, without knowing anything about its narrator/creator.  After it became one of my favorite podcasts, I did notice that the name of the creator was George Hageman.  I assumed it was a white American in his 40’s, probably a veteran, perhaps a teacher or professor, certainly a history buff.  Well, after a few months of regular listening, I finally googled his name and discovered that he was a 15 year old high school student from Seattle, and incidentally half Japanese, half Caucasian.  I was surprised, yes, but more than that, I was so happy that I didn’t know, because I might not have taken it seriously.  If he had listed that in his description, it might have even been relegated to the “juvenile listening” section or some such.  If confined to traditional mediums, Hageman never would have had a chance to be taken seriously I think.  It reminds me of the frustration I often felt when I was in grade school, junior high school, and high school.  People talk about being able to join the military and not drink (which is ridiculous, of course), but considering that one can join the military at even 17, in many cases a military age young person can’t even see and R-rated movie.  But far worse than that, is the fact of not being taken seriously, being profiled for deviant behavior, being confined to idiotic mandatory educational programs run by agenda-driven special interest teachers’ unions, etc, etc.   I would never condone murder or violence against innocents, but the frustration felt by the Columbine murders I understood well.  I couldn’t believe at the time how special interests were able to ignore the statements of the murderers as to why they did it and instead blame guns and video games—unbelievable.  There was a huge mistake made there and a lost opportunity to prevent future incidents, by addressing the repression felt by students in public education settings.  But I digress, this podcast is the best history broadcast that I have found anywhere.  The “military” label should not be a deterrent to anybody not interested in battles, etc.  It is just a recognition of the fact that nearly all important historical events have had some military action element.

MacBreak Weekly


Windows Weekly with Paul Thurrott

Poem of the Day
This is a nice little download that gives one a glimpse of a wide range of modern and contemporary poets.  The readings are hardly every longer than 2-3 minutes, and cover a pretty wide range of authors.  It’s a podcast that anybody could turn out fairly easily, and I’m glad that someone actually is.  I was delighted to see, on numerous occasions, names like Charles Bukowski and Ogden Nash, which could bring a smile to ones lips on any dreary commute to work or short break from the to do list of life.

NPR Religion
I think this is the best that NPR has to offer in its broadcasting.  Their religion coverage tends to be diverse and insightful (more so in the case of their domestic coverage) for the most part, although it can sometimes be a bit dry, as seems to be the signature of NPR.  It is annoying when media types think that dry phraseology and affected British accents will imply non-bias.  I like this podcast, there are interviews that you can’t find on any other non-local broadcasts.  Just watch with filters as always.  You can learn a lot about the Mormon Church, if you can filter through the fact that they only cover the church when it’s a story about discrimination against gays by the Latter Day Saints or some such, if you see what I mean.

Wall Street Journal What’s News
The Wall Street Journal is one of the last great non-local, American newspapers of our time.  It is a great shame to see once great newspapers like the “Newspaper of Record,” New York Times, turn into such a rag.  I always knew that much of our great print material of the past would fall by the wayside in the face of the digital media explosion, but it still brings a tear to my eye to see it happen to even our most famous publications.  The Wall Street Journal is one of the last of our greats of ‘ole to still me great.  Two quite different tales of NYC, which conjures up images of newsstands with colorful owners, headline shouting boys wearing flat caps, and spinning front pages as scene segways in old black and white movies.  The recent deal to sell the longtime family owned publication to News Corps. (Rupert Murdoch) troubles me.  Both sides say the newspaper won’t change, but I’m skeptical and nervous.  Let’s hope for the best.  This podcast is by no means a representation of the entire paper.  The genius of the Wall Street Journal is in its paper pages, but this podcast is worth downloading and gives one a glimpse of the headlines.

NPR Shuffle
NPR is innocuous enough, in a liberal, sometimes boring way.  It’s not as good as BBC Newspod, which is similar in the sense that both podcasts are selections from across the range of different shows on their respective networks.  NPR Shuffle is more diverse, offering even music and author interviews, but it is more dry and not put together as well.  It’s also a lot shorter and gives you less.  It’s good though to listen and contrast it with BBC.  NPR includes about as much British content as the BBC includes American content.  This is definitely one of the podcasts where one might one to skip ahead out of boredom here and there.

60 Minutes Podcast – Selected Segments

60-Second Science

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