Noun Town Review: Should You Learn Japanese in VR?

What if we tell you that there’s a way to make studying more fun and (literally) immersive? We all have those days where studying seems like a grueling task, and we’d rather do just about anything else than sit down and focus on our Japanese. Enter Noun Town.

Noun Town is a new virtual reality game released in December 2022 for the Meta Quest and SteamVR. By playing as a character visiting an island, you pick up Japanese (or one of its other five languages) as you complete tasks, play mini-games, or talk to locals around the area. The more you learn, the more vibrant your surroundings turn and the more characters you can meet!

So, this all seems pretty amazing: no boring lists of vocabulary or trying to imagine what a Japanese conversation looks like! But, can you learn Japanese with Noun Town effective? How does it even work? How will using this game improve your Japanese? Not to worry – we’ll take you step by step through the game so you can answer all of these questions and more! Got your VR headset ready? Let’s start playing!

learn japanese with nountown review
Image courtesy of

How to Learn Japanese with Noun Town Through VR

Alright. You’ve got your headset on, plenty of space around you, and a quiet learning environment. You’re ready to have some fun and learn Japanese with Noun Town… but now what? What happens next? Let’s jump into the game and see what happens.

When you first open up the game, you’ll see the title card, a little robot, and a menu asking you which language you would like to learn. Once you select your desired language (Japanese, in our case), you are transported to the deck of a simple yet futuristic airship. This is the starting point! Looking around, you’ll see the same little robot that was next to the title card. He’s hovering above a desk with a bright yellow exclamation mark over his head – we should probably go over there and say hello!

So, right off the bat, we are able to learn Japanese in both an audiological and visual way!

Once we make our way to the desk, we can also see data about how many days we have played, what items we should revise (i.e. review), how many words we have learned, and how much time is left until our learning break is over (more on this later)! Turning to the robot, we hit the button to talk (differs depending on your gaming system).

The robot introduces itself as Lexibot (as in lexicon) and shows us how dialogues happen in the game; you’ll hear audio (usually Japanese, unless talking to Lexibot) and see Japanese or English words written on a display screen. So, right off the bat, we are able to learn Japanese in both an audiological and visual way!

By talking more with Lexibot, we learn that the whole island of Noun Town is grey, and we need to learn Japanese in order to bring the color back!

nountown vr review learning japanese

Our First Task at Noun Town

When we finish talking with Lexibot and make our way to the island of Noun Town, we see one spot with color in the immediate monotone surroundings – that’s our cue to go over there! We meet Lexibot again, and he guides us to the café – our first “learning space.” Learning spaces are areas where we learn new Japanese words related to a certain topic. So here, we will be learning words mostly related to a café!

Lexibot then gives us the run-down on how learning spaces work; in each space, you will find a Learning Kiosk. This is a display that has a list of all the nouns we can find in the area. The kiosk gives us a list of five nouns to start us off. (By focusing on only a few words at a time, you’ll be more likely to remember them later!) We have to go locate those items in the space (in our case, in the café) and pick them up; you can easily tell which items we are supposed to find by the yellow exclamation marks above them! By lifting the object to your ear (i.e. actually lifting your hand to your head), you can hear the Japanese pronunciation of its name with both male and female voices.

By pressing certain buttons, we can see more details about the item, such as its English name and the Japanese romaji. Then, by saying the item’s Japanese name out loud, we can temporarily give it color! Of course, it only changes color when we use the correct pronunciation; if you do it wrong, the object will stay grey, and a little pop-up will appear asking you to try again. But, by actually seeing the object you’re learning about, it will be easier to associate the Japanese name with the item!

Once we find all of the words on the list and pronounce them correctly, we can permanently give the objects color by taking a short quiz. During the quiz, you see pictures and English translations for the five words. You then need to say the correct Japanese name with the right pronunciation. (If you struggle with the pronunciation, you can also select the correct word from a romaji list).

And congrats! Finishing the quiz means that you’ve taken the first step to bringing color back to Noun Town!

Not so fast, though. We don’t want to rush through all of the words in our efforts to help the island, only to end up forgetting them all! Once we finish the quiz, a timer appears at the kiosk which shows a recommended wait time before we learn new words. (We can also see this back at the desk on the airship!) 

Taking breaks in-between learning new words gives your brain time to absorb the new information. When the time is up, we can then continue on with the next small group of words. (You can also skip this break if you would like). In the meantime, you can check out a list of relevant verbs or some grammar lessons at the kiosk!

New Friends and New Games at NounTown

Next, Lexibot guides us out of the café to see our impact on the island. But wait! What is that? Oh! We meet our first islander on the way out! When we go up to them to talk, the islander greets you in Japanese, with the corresponding romaji written on the display. It’s almost like we’re in Japan, not Noun Town! If you’re not sure if you understood them, you can simply hit the translate button, and the display will show the English translation.

You also have the option to hear the speech again as many times as you need! Once they finish talking and you feel like you understood them, you can select a question from a list to ask. (The more words you learn, the more you can unlock of this list!)

You then see the Japanese translation of the question and can ask the question out loud to have the islander respond! The islanders will all respond in different ways, just like people will in a conversation. They will also greet you differently depending on what time of day it is!

When we eventually say goodbye to the islander and make our way outside, you’ll notice that the one specific spot with color has gotten bigger; look at the impact we’re having already! Lexibot lets us know that as we color more of the island, we get to meet other islanders and explore other areas, such as a zoo, a restaurant, and more. All of the areas we can go to are places you might visit in real life, so the words you learn are ones you will actually use. Plus, as you learn more words, you also unlock new activities inside of the Learning Spaces.

learning japanese with noun town
Image courtesy of Noun Town (press kit)

Speaking of activities, if you want to head back to the café, you can try out the first one – Learning Rush. This is an activity where islanders come up to you asking for specific items and you have to give them the correct ones as quickly as you can. Only words you know are used, so it’s a good way to practice what you’ve learned! (If you get stuck, you can see a picture of the object they’re asking for.) Grab as many as you can within the time limit to create high-scores! (One thing to note, however, is that some players have experienced difficulty in getting the islanders to take the items you give; sometimes, you have to drop the item on the tray [instead of placing it] or throw it at the islander! Not good practice if you want to work in a café someday!)

There are a variety of games in Noun Town, with Learning Rush being just one of them. The good news is that once you find a new game, you can play it as many times as you would like – just another way to review!

Almost a Noun Town Expert!

By now, you’ve learned just about everything you need to know about how Noun Town works. But, there are still a few things left to cover! Heading back to the airship, we learn that we can actually decorate the deck of the airship! We do this by using a fabricator to make copies of the items we have learned the names of; so, the more names we learn, the more options we have for decorations!

We also learn about SRS. SRS is a system that keeps track of your learning and alerts you for when and what you should review. It’s also used in popular flashcard apps like Anki.

Reviewing is a key factor to making new information stick with you in the long run, so having a system that tracks this is super helpful! The more times you get something correct, the fewer times you will get alerts to review it; review times range from every 30 min to 30 days (depending on what you need). You can access the SRS at the same desk that we first meet Lexibot at.

And that’s it! You’re officially ready to go off and start bringing more color to Noun Town. Do you feel like you remember everything? It’s ok if you don’t; Lexibot will follow you around with helpful hints and tips if you ever get stuck. The developers of Noun Town also created a Discord where you can ask for help from other users as well as give suggestions about game play!

learning japanese with nountown

Learn Japanese with Noun Town: Our Review

Well, you’ve now been introduced to Noun Town and seen how it works. But, what did we learn from this? Is Noun Town an effective tool for learning Japanese? Is it worth trying out?

Overall, our impression is that Noun Town is a great tool that’s geared mostly toward beginner learners. Its biggest positive points are that you can effectively expand your vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and learn good studying skills!

The nouns that you can learn in Noun Town cover a wide range, such as numbers, colors, food, and many other useful items. The game ensures you learn words you can actually use in everyday conversations, so you’ll be more likely to remember them. The pronunciation practice is also amazing; when studying, it can be hard to know if you’re saying something correctly or not. With Noun Town, you receive immediate feedback and the chance to hear native speakers say the words as well. Plus, by actually talking out loud with the islanders, you get to have practice conversations without the added pressure of speaking to an actual person. This is definitely beneficial if you’re nervous about talking in Japanese!

The game also gives you plenty of review, whether that’s with the SRS alerts, the flashcards on the loading screens, or the games that reinforce newly learned words. The more you practice using these skills in Noun Town, the easier it will be for you to use them on your own. Plus, Noun Town only takes a few minutes a day, so you can easily get in your study time during breaks from other VR games!

Check out our other Japanese learning reviews:

Final Thoughts on Learning Japanese with Noun Town

Noun Town can’t replace other forms of studying, such as textbooks and going to classes. There are 75 grammar lessons in the game, but Noun Town doesn’t place much emphasis on these. Regarding reading practice, the Japanese words are automatically written in romaji, so there’s no chance to get better at kana. You can change the words into kanji, but there’s no furigana that will help you to read it. There’s also nowhere for players to practice writing. Perhaps these things will change with future updates, but for now, you will still need to leave Noun Town and use traditional learning methods.

To learn Japanese with Noun Town for yourself, head to the Steam and Oculus stores. On the fence?  Steam offers a free demo in their store so you can see if it will be effective for you!

If you’re still struggling with Japanese after playing Noun Town, or ready to move on to more advanced learning, why not check out some of our classes at Coto Academy? We don’t offer any VR lessons (yet), but we do have online lessons!

Check out our website, register a free account and browse online Japanese lessons at your whim!

Alright, ready to immerse yourself in learning Japanese? Ready to stop procrastinating when studying? It’s time to grab your headset and get coloring!

Fill out this form for a free level check and course consultation at Coto Academy!

Is Noun Town good for learning Japanese?

Noun Town is a great tool that’s geared mostly toward Japanese beginner learners. Its biggest positive points are that you can effectively expand your vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and learn good studying skills

How do you learn Japanese with Noun Town?

Noun Town is a new virtual reality game released in December 2022 for the Meta Quest and SteamVR. By playing as a character visiting an island, you pick up Japanese (or one of its other five languages) as you complete tasks, play mini-games, or talk to locals around the area.

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