We all know that immersion is the best method for learning Japanese. One of the best ways to do that — is to watch Japanese TV series from the comfort of your home while munching popcorn.
Regardless of your reasons for studying Japanese, you can access plenty of resources to help you out.
Of all options, binge-watching TV shows are getting popular in the era of on-demand video streaming. It is a guilty pleasure for people from all parts of the world.
Who among us has not made the promise of “Just one more episode?” Only to end up finishing the season overnight?
What if you could be free of all the remorse and have non-stop enjoyment for hours?
The solution is simple: use the TV show more than intended! Yes, that’s right!
You could learn and improve a tricky language like Japanese from the convenience of your couch. It can be so much fun that you would not realize the amount of productivity you derive from it.
How and in what way? We’ll find out!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- How can TV shows improve your Japanese language?
21 Must-Watch TV Series for Learning Japanese
- 1. Doraemon (ドラえもん) — 1970
- 2. Why Did You Come to Japan? (YOUは何しに日本へ？) — 2013
- 3. Can I Come to Your House? (家、ついて行ってイイですか?) — 2014
- 4. Alice in Borderland (今際の国のアリス) — 2020
- 5. Laugh and Be Patient (笑ってコラえて) — 1996
- 6. Food You Don’t Eat, and You Don’t Like (食わず嫌い)
- 7. Dancing Sanma Palace (踊る！さんま御殿) — 1997
- 8. Followers (フォロワーズ) — 2020
- 9. World Great TV — 1990
- 10. Good Morning Call (グッドモーニング・コール) — 2016
- 11. Switched (宇宙を駆けるよだか) — 2018
- 12. Erased (僕だけがいない街) — 2017
- 13. Midnight Diner (深夜食堂) — 2009
- 14. I Am Reiko Shiratori! (白鳥麗子でございます!) — 2016
- 15. Terrace House (テラスハウス) — 2012
- 16. Haikyuu!! (ハイキュー!!) — 2014
- 17. The Blue Period (ブルーピリオド) — 2017
- 18. Life-Love on the Line (Life 線上の僕ら) — 2020
- 19. Shabekuri 007 (しゃべくり007) — 2008
- 20. From Today, It’s My Turn!! (今日から俺は) — 2018
- 21. The World Unknown To Matsuko (マツコの知らない世界) — 2011
- Final Words on studying Japanese with TV Series
How can TV shows improve your Japanese language?
Watching TV shows could be a great way to learn Japanese. Japan has a wide range of shows to offer. From dramas to anime to variety shows, the possibilities are endless.
Japanese TV series are unique in their content and structure. You will find a mix of goofy and humor-based shows. Even for those seeking soft romances or melodrama, there is no room for disappointment.
If you learn Japanese through movies or TV shows, you will understand the language in everyday conversations. The visuals and expressions also aid it.
Did you know that our brain remembers the things connected to whatever we like faster?
For example, you are more likely to remember the words and phrases you pick while watching a show than reading it from a textbook. So why not make the best use of time where efficiency meets fun?
They also repeat some sentences in the show. This makes it easier for learners to follow and pick vocabulary from.
You would understand how to use a phrase when you hear the people on the screen speak the language. Also, the requisite inflections would sound like an actual speaker instead of the textbook version.
Watching Japanese TV series helps you learn grammar and unfamiliar words and transports you to modern-day, real-time Japan.
The variety programs show you trending cultures, customs, and viral phrases. All this makes you feel you are actually in Japan and exploring the people and social life there. Also, you gain various aspects of the Japanese language.
Where can you watch Japanese TV series?
When you decide to watch Japanese shows, the next step is where to watch them. There are two broad types of platforms — Japanese or from other countries.
For example, websites like TV Japan, NHK WORLD, FNN Prime, TBS Japan, Crunchyroll, Abema TV, dLibrary, Nippon TV, and many more have exclusive Japanese content.
You also have a wide range of channels that cover Japanese TV Series. This includes Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Viki, YouTube, and AsianCrush.
There is a wide variety of Japanese TV series and films on Netflix. There is something for everyone, from romance to drama to mystery to action.
You can enjoy talk shows, documentaries, anime, and Netflix originals. If you like, you can watch as much as you wish whenever you want.
Downloading is not available for most of them. Still, a few streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc., allow you to download Japanese television series. So we need no internet connection to view them later.
There is a lot of free content available. Yet, for full access to all videos and premium features, most ask for a paid subscription plan.
21 Must-Watch TV Series for Learning Japanese
Now the only question that remains is, where do I begin?
I have curated a list of the top Japanese TV Series that will launch you into the world of Japanese learning.
Yes, that’s right. So for that, here are 21 superb TV shows to help you improve your Japanese language — there is something for everyone!
1. Doraemon (ドラえもん) — 1970
All you late teenagers and young adults would surely recognize this famous cartoon from childhood. This old favorite, Doraemon, is originally a Japanese cartoon and a very famous one.
The story of innocent childhood, friendship, and fantasy themes like time travel and gadgets will make you keep watching.
This could be a fantastic starter for all young beginners. The episodes are brief, and the story is very light-hearted as it is a comic cartoon for children.
The language and conversations are elementary and mundane. Thus, it makes it the top TV show to learn Japanese from on this list.
2. Why Did You Come to Japan? (YOUは何しに日本へ？) — 2013
“Why did YOU come to Japan?” is an interview show popular on television in Japan. Osamu Shitara and Yuki Himura host the show, a celebrated pair of comedians.
It follows foreigners who come to the airport and follow them through their activities and adventures as they travel and explore the country.
Through the show, you’ll meet a diverse group of people who all share one thing in common: Love for Japan.
Because most of the persons questioned will speak elementary Japanese, this is ideal for beginners.
Even if they don’t, you’ll hear their English without the Japanese voice-over and be able to see the Japanese translation on screen. This will help you pick up the basics of Japanese and help with levels of JLPT like N5.
3. Can I Come to Your House? (家、ついて行ってイイですか?) — 2014
‘Can I Come to Your House?’ or ‘Can I follow you home?’ is a reality and documentary-style show. The show involves a camera person who asks strangers on the street permission to follow them home.
If they agree, the camera person follows them to their home and interviews them about their story and lifestyle.
The stories that are uncovered through this show are often touching and inspiring. It traces the life and struggles of ordinary people, giving a great insight into the people’s everyday lives.
The language you would learn would be primary and based on everyday conversation.
4. Alice in Borderland (今際の国のアリス) — 2020
This show is one you can not miss out on for all the squid-game fans. Based on a similar context, they threw three teenagers into a parallel universe where they must win games to survive.
The story is gripping and has a lot of suspense. Yet, despite the dark themes, the bonds and companionship the players form to ensure they survive. And how they deal with friendships and betrayal makes the show rich and intriguing.
The language could be a little challenging to follow for beginners. Still, for intermediates and advanced learners, this show is the perfect go-to for furthering your Japanese skills. Plus, it can benefit you if you aim for a career requiring Japanese.
5. Laugh and Be Patient (笑ってコラえて) — 1996
Laugh and Be Patient is a reality show that features a panel of guests and regular and guest hosts who typically toss a dart at a map of Japan. Then, the host or presenters will travel to that location.
The ones who travel then converse with the locals about the region and popular activities in that locality.
They seek elderly folks or tiny children to converse with since they say amusing things. The panel then discussed their experience.
This is an incredible Japanese TV series to learn the language and the cultures of various parts of Japan.
6. Food You Don’t Eat, and You Don’t Like (食わず嫌い)
This show is the go-to for all the foodies who want to explore Japanese food. Again, based on the panel and guest mode, this reality is dedicated to exploring the cuisine and delicacies.
The show’s highlight is the humor and one-liners that keep you hooked.
This show is a must-watch as it covers all the food-related words you can learn. It would be beneficial for navigating through Japan and knowing what you want.
7. Dancing Sanma Palace (踊る！さんま御殿) — 1997
Sanma Akashiya, one of Japanese television’s “Big Three” hosts, invites guests weekly, usually comedians or TV stars, to Dancing Sanma Palace’s show.
They all discuss their experiences on various subjects, such as marriage, economy, language, everyday problems, etc. They also explore the reasoning and legacy behind the Japanese society on the show.
Even if the subjects seem heavy, the discussions are light-hearted, making the show delightful.
As a result, you’ll not only learn a lot of Japanese, but you’ll also get a deep dive into Japanese practices and culture!
This is a perfect Japanese TV series if you wish to become an ESL teacher in Japan, as it shows the society and how things work.
There’s a lot of conversation about food, as you’d expect in this Midnight Diner Japanese TV series. The language is ideal for picking up new words and phrases.
8. Followers (フォロワーズ) — 2020
If you are looking for a J-Drama to keep you at the edge of your seat, watch Followers on Netflix.
The story follows the lives of women living and working in Tokyo, especially Limi Nara. There are many aspects of this city that this photographer loves to capture.
In an Instagram post, Limi shares a picture of aspiring actress Natsume Hyakuta. Upholding her standing and status in blooming Tokyo while following her ambitions and social networks collide in Natsume’s life.
You’ll find many words, phrases, and structures in this show. Although this is meant for the upper intermediate level, the subtitles use moderate kanji for easier understanding!
9. World Great TV — 1990
Since 1990, this studio-based entertainment show has been one of television’s most well-known and popular Japanese variety shows.
The program focuses on introducing selected TV shows and breaking news worldwide. The content is varied, and it includes a wide range of shows, most of which are humorous and enjoyable.
Even though this show exposes the contents of foreign television shows, the language is translated and shown in Japanese, with no English.
The program can be a little tough to follow at times. Still, the rest is simple to follow, thanks to visual aids and Japanese subtitles on the critical content.
10. Good Morning Call (グッドモーニング・コール) — 2016
Good Morning Call is a cute rom-com is a typical high school drama.
It tells the story of Nao, a high school senior who finally gets to rent her ideal apartment, but she’s in for a surprise.
She is shocked that she must share the flat with Hisashi, her famous and attractive classmate no less. They discover they’ve been duped and have rented the flat, but they agree to share the rent and live together.
But, of course, they must also keep this a secret from everyone around them.
This drama is perfect for starters. It entails introductory and teenage talks that would be required to sail through the Japanese culture.
11. Switched (宇宙を駆けるよだか) — 2018
In this show, Ayumi, a popular high schooler, is overjoyed after the boy she likes asks her out. But unfortunately, her classmate, Zenko, switches bodies with her out of jealousy.
Ayumi must find a way to persuade Zenko to change their minds before it’s too late.
This Japanese Tv series has solid moral lessons, such as highlighting the pain of bullying and demonstrating how jealousy may push someone to take extreme actions.
12. Erased (僕だけがいない街) — 2017
This Japanese TV series is excellent for all fantasy lovers. It tells the story of a young guy with a peculiar superpower known as “revival,” which permits him to travel back in time.
When horrible things happen, he’s transported back in time to figure out what’s causing them.
His mother was murdered one day, and they accused him of being the perpetrator. So, he naturally desired to return to the past to save his mother. However, after eighteen years in the past, a mystery emerges.
Because it’s primarily everyday interactions, the vocabulary used in this show is relatively simple, and the lines are easy to comprehend. Plus, Erased will help explore the different dialects of Japanese.
It’s an excellent program for intermediate learners to hone their listening skills because it focuses on school life with a few spooky twists. If you intend to take Japanese NAT Q4 or JLPT N4, this can help.
13. Midnight Diner (深夜食堂) — 2009
This heart-warming show is about a scar-faced guy who owns a restaurant that only opens at midnight.
Each episode follows the regular customers as they go about their daily lives, revealing the issues and problems they want to solve.
All customers’ narratives are heartfelt, seamlessly transitioning from their dinner meals to their personal life. It pits the consumers and the owner, who ties their stories together and brings them their comfort food as they want it to be.
14. I Am Reiko Shiratori! (白鳥麗子でございます!) — 2016
In Japan, they considered this show a classic rom-com. Reiko Shiratori, a super-rich girl from the countryside, is the plot’s main character. She follows Tetsuya to Tokyo to express her liking for him.
The confusion she creates through her hesitation to be straightforward with her feelings makes it a humorous show. The show beautifully conveys Reiko’s delicate sentiments and confusing actions.
Further, because the main character is extremely wealthy, she speaks in an exquisite and aristocratic manner.
The dialogues in this show are primarily informal daily chats among young people. Understanding them is simple. This TV show can assist you in Japanese proficiency tests.
15. Terrace House (テラスハウス) — 2012
Terrace House is a Japanese reality television show. As they build relationships, cameras follow their daily lives in this engaging romantic and comedy show.
This story has six strangers, including three women and three men from different walks of life. As they get to know each other and date, they live together under the same roof.
This is a superb Japanese TV series to keep up with new words, slang, and everyday expressions. You also get to know many romantic pickup lines.
16. Haikyuu!! (ハイキュー!!) — 2014
Haikyuu is a Japanese manga anime based on the volleyball game.
The story’s lead characters, Hinata Shoyo and Kageyama Tobio, are high school characters who are highly passionate about volleyball. The seasons show their progress along with the stories of all their teammates.
This heart-warming show explores the emotions and struggles of young teens to follow their dreams. Even those who do not know about volleyball can easily understand, as the show explains, every aspect of the game.
The language is beginner and relatable, as the dialogues are between youngsters and school-going characters.
17. The Blue Period (ブルーピリオド) — 2017
Japan is a master of animation, and this beautiful anime shows the intricate symbols and meaning that art can convey.
It is very inspiring as the main character starts a new passion from scratch and with almost no skills for it.
It deals with teenagers’ feelings and hardships while graduating from school into adulthood. The show is picturesque and inspiring, with many values you can appreciate.
The language is introductory and easy to understand, which makes it a perfect show for all the young adults and art lovers among you.
18. Life-Love on the Line (Life 線上の僕ら) — 2020
It’s a must-watch for anyone looking for a Japanese LGBT show. During a game of walking on the white line on the sidewalk, Akira Itou and Yuki Nishi meet and fall in love with each other.
As their relationship blossoms, each episode follows Akira and Yuki through different parts of their lives. From their teenage years to their adult years and beyond.
In time, Akira is under pressure to conform to society’s expectations and grow up. Meanwhile, Yuki longs to live in a fantasy world where they can freely love.
19. Shabekuri 007 (しゃべくり007) — 2008
The Nippon TV program Shabekuri 007 comprises seven high-profile comedians with different weekly guests with no scripts.
Some things guests say might surprise you! This TV program features gossip in a more public setting, just as we all enjoy a little gossip.
This Japanese TV series is for advanced learners. Unless you aim for NAT Q2 or JLPT N2, it would be hard to understand the discussions.
20. From Today, It’s My Turn!! (今日から俺は) — 2018
Takashi Mitsuhashi becomes an offender when he transfers to a new high school to refresh his image. But a meeting with Shinji Itou, who also had the same idea, led them to become Japan’s top gangsters.
Itou and Mitsuhashi struggle to win supremacy over other high school gangs in Japan’s fun episodic series set in the 1980s.
This show has tons of laughter scenes and entertaining plots. This show can help you enhance your Japanese language abilities if you are an advanced-level learner.
21. The World Unknown To Matsuko (マツコの知らない世界) — 2011
Otaku is a term that describes people who are obsessed with their hobbies to the point of being experts.
One of Japan’s most famous TV personalities is cross-dresser Matsuko Deluxe. A regular hobby turns into something way over the top of his show, where he hosts ordinary guests in the “world.”
Matsuko’s shows are divided into two or three segments, with in-depth explanations and funny comments.
This show is suitable for intermediate Japanese learners and also modern cultural studies.
Final Words on studying Japanese with TV Series
Here’s a word of caution. Japanese TV Series alone is not enough to learn the language.
Studying Japanese with a teacher or at an academic center can be highly beneficial. Japanese language learning apps are also available.
You can improve your listening skills by watching TV shows. Besides, expanding your vocabulary can give you a deeper understanding of Japan’s culture, history, and customs.
This enjoyable and achievable task will probably motivate you to take it on. Studying Japanese has become much more enjoyable and convenient.
At this point, I’m sure you’re convinced to take up this fun challenge. With these 21 TV shows, something as sincere as learning Japanese became more fun and more effortless!
These are just a few TV shows to learn Japanese. The above can be a good starting point for improving your language skills and enjoying yourself simultaneously.
You can learn the language and Japanese lifestyle through television shows. So go on and start this quest to learn Japan’s language and culture.
Do you have any suggestions for Japanese TV series that have been missed? Let me know in the comments what you think.