If you want to learn Japanese in a fun, engaging, and reliable way, you should watch Japanese TV and movies. After all, this is a scientifically proven method for learning a foreign language and has the added benefit of exposing you to Japanese culture, traditions, history, and societal norms.
In this post, we will look at this learning method in more depth. Then, we'll list 7 of the best Japanese TV series and films to stream and detail what you will learn from each. We'll then finish with some FAQs and list some further Japanese viewing material on Netflix.
Whether you prefer drama, romantic comedy, or anime series, there is something on this list for you if you are learning the fascinating Japanese language! So, let's get started.
Learning The Japanese Language By Watching Japanese TV Shows
Engaging with fun and well-made Japanese shows and movies is a far better way of studying Japanese than learning from a textbook.
You can work on your listening skills, learn colloquialisms, and absorb the grammar rules organically, rather than studying them on the page.
Information that you take in while engaged and having fun is much more likely to stick. What's more, learning a language in the real-life context of a TV show is far more authentic than rote memorization techniques, such as vocab lists.
For more access to great Japanese TV shows and films, sign up for Lingopie. This streaming service offers great Japanese language shows and films which are optimal for language learning.
You can watch this content on Lingopie with dual English-Japanese subtitles and create interactive flashcards with new vocabulary.
1. Three Dads
This Japanese series tells the comedic story of three guys living together who find a baby abandoned in their home when they return from work. There is a note asking them to look after the baby as it is their child.
They do not know which man is the father and all take on some responsibility. Many adventures, mistakes, and learning curves unravel for these three friends-cum-dads.
What You'll Learn
Learn about ideas of parenting, traditional family units, and gender roles in Japan. By watching this Japanese series, you will also pick up on Japanese colloquialisms and slang from the three main characters.
2. Swimming in The Dark
Yuji Tomioka is a 38-year-old man who has never dated a woman. He is a lonely security guard in a supermarket and works the night shift. One lonely night, he sees a shooting star and wishes he had a friend.
When he meets and falls in love with his mysterious new neighbor, things begin to change. This is one of the best Japanese dramas on Lingopie and it is perfect for intermediate learners.
What You'll Learn
In this Japanese drama, you will get a fascinating look into food, work, and public life in Japan. Watch a young man navigate day-to-day social interactions and awkward encounters in a suburban town.
Be sure to make note of the language and levels of politeness he uses in each social scenario.
3. Insane Love
In this short movie, Chinatsu and Yuta are a couple who have been dating for two years.
One day, while Chinatsu is alone at home, she receives a visit from a woman who brings news that will deeply shake her relationship with Yuta.
What You'll Learn
This is a great watch if you want to work on your Japanese listening comprehension, which will definitely come in handy when you visit Japan.
You can watch the first episode on Lingopie. This is a great way to learn colloquialisms commonly used by young people and Japanese societal norms, all while having fun!
4. Strange Love
This short Japanese movie is ideal for advanced learners. It tells the story of Takashi, a young boy, who has an accident and is helped by his classmate, Ayako.
However, things get complicated because Ayako used a forbidden method to help Takashi.
What You'll Learn
The more complex narrative and language explored in this movie make it a great study for learners who want to dive into the nuances of the Japanese language.
Learn about the school system and the way young friends relate to one another in Japan.
5. Death Cash
Yuka Minami, a university student, has the ability to see other people's deaths even when she is not present.
Since the mysterious death of her friend, whose body was found surrounded by 10,000 yen bills, other mysterious deaths begin to occur.
Yuka works with Detective Takeshi Wakamoto to uncover the truth about these mysterious deaths.
What You'll Learn
This Japanese drama/thriller TV show is a great watch for intermediate-level Japanese language. Learn Japanese ideas around death and mourning and pick up police and crime-related vocabulary.
If you are a beginner, don't be put off by this. It's a great chance to check out Lingopie's dual-subtitle feature as you watch!
6. Countdown Travel
Taiga and Kanako are a young couple who have been married for three years. However, in this short movie, something seems to be bothering Taiga and shaking their relationship. Kanako is not the same girl he met and fell in love with.
What You'll Learn
This is a good watch for picking up domestic vocabulary and also for studying how relationship dynamics might look in Japan. Moreover, the dramatic love story makes it a compelling and gripping watch.
7. Meet Again
In this short TV episode, our main protagonist, a quiet young woman called Saya, bumps into an old flame, Shinya, unexpectedly. Their reunion is tense and brings up many questions for Saya.
The scene takes place in a café and the drama unfolds in front of the man and woman who work there. The two women in this episode explore themes of love and loss.
What You'll Learn
Meet Again is a great study of small talk and social relations in Japan. The conversation can be awkward and quiet, so you have to tune in and pay close attention, but a lot of useful café-related vocabulary is used.
Check out this short program if you want to hear some examples of the past tense in Japanese.
Frequently Asked Questions: Japanese Dramas
What is Japan's most popular TV show?
One of the most popular Japanese TV shows is called Terrace House. This is a reality show filmed in Japan that has been compared to Big Brother.
In Terrace House, three men and three women from different walks of life live life together under one roof and non-fiction drama unfolds.
Another classic is Samurai Gourmet. It follows Kasumi, a former Japanese salaryman who is now retired, as he discovers the joys of eating and drinking. This awakens his inner persona - a wandering samurai living freely in Japan's age of civil war.
You can find Terrace House and Samurai Gourmet on Netflix.
What are Japanese shows called?
There are many shows online that you can watch to learn the language and culture of Japan.
One such show is called Atelier. This is a coming-of-age drama set in a small high-class lingerie design house called Emotion, which is based in Tokyo's Ginza district.
The drama deals with the fashion industry and a young woman's struggle to find her place in this world. It is similar to The Devil Wears Prada but with the exciting energy of Tokyo city.
Or, watch Million Yen Women, in which five mysterious Japanese women move in with an unpopular novelist, Shin, to who they pay a million yen per month to manage their home. This is a huge sum of money, and part of this deal is that he is forbidden to ask them questions.
What Japanese shows should I watch?
A great Japanese language show, set partly in Tokyo and partly in London, is called Giri/ Haji. A Tokyo detective named Kenzo Mori searches the London underworld to find his allegedly deceased brother, Yuto, who was involved in a brutal killing. Giri/ Haji translates as Duty/Shame.
For a teen drama, watch The Queen's Classroom, which tells the story of a new teacher in an elementary school in Japan. She uses unorthodox methods to discipline her pupils.
One 12-year-old manages to withstand her strange punishments, while the rest of the class begins to fold under the pressure.
Are there any Japanese shows on Netflix?
Yes! There are loads of great Japanese dramas on Netflix, including Followers, which follows an aspiring actress' rise to fame thanks to a candid Instagram post. Watch as several women in the big city cross paths and navigate life problems together.
Also, you will find Switched on Netflix. In a plot twist similar to Freaky Friday, Ayumi's perfect world evaporates when her envious classmate, Zenko, steals her body, her boyfriend, and her life.
Japanese Shows and Movies On Netflix
Finally, here are some final recommendations for fun and interesting Japanese movies and shows on Netflix.
Watch them in order to develop your listening comprehension and cultural awareness of Japanese customs and life.
- Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
This show is set at a diner that only opens between midnight and 7 am, hence the name; Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Master, who runs the midnight diner, offers philosophical advice to the diners.
Each episode stands alone and focuses on one customer, whose stories and problems form the basis of the episode.
- Good Morning Call
When Nao, a high school girl, gets to move into her dream apartment in the city, she is surprised to discover that the most popular boy in school is also moving in.
They realize they have been scammed into moving into the same apartment, but agree to share. However, as romantic feelings develop, things get complicated.
- Jimmy: The True Story of A True Idiot
This is the story of a foolish man rising to fame as a comedy legend in the 1980s. Choose this 9-part series if you are looking for light-hearted entertainment.
- Ju On
On the other hand, check out Ju On if you like to be scared. In this 6-part show, a paranormal researcher searches for a haunted home in which something terrible happened to a mother and child long ago.
- The Naked Director
The Naked Director is a semi-biographical comedy-drama series based on a non-fiction novel Zenra Kantoku Muranishi Motohashi.
This is the story of the Japanese adult movie director, Toru Muranishi, who often de-robed to film his pornographic movies, hence his name, the Naked Director.
This Japanese anime is based on a manga series of the same name. It tells the story of a high school made up of all different species of animals. When a herbivore is murdered, a wolf student is suspected.
- Great Pretender
Finally, when Japan's greatest swindler attempts to con the world-class crook, Laurent Thierry, he gets more than he bargained for. The two con artists go head to head in this comedy anime.
Remember that watching anime is a great way to engage with Japanese art and culture as it is beloved and very popular in Japanese society.
Summing Up: The Best Japanese Shows and Films For Learning Japanese
Now you know that watching TV and movies is a proven and engaging way to learn Japanese. Check out our guide "Best way to learn Japanese" as an additional resource.
It is a natural and enjoyable way to absorb the language and culture of Japan authentically. Hopefully, you have been inspired to start watching TV series and movies made and set in Japan!
As you have seen, there is a huge variety of options, from reality TV like Terrace House to the touching drama Good Morning Call and the story of a young wolf's life in an anime world where animals go to classes.
No matter what your personal tastes are or what level of Japanese you are studying, there is plenty of content for you on Lingopie.
Remember, you can learn languages with Lingopie and benefit from interactive flashcards and quizzes, as well as a dual subtitles feature in English and Japanese.
Sign up to a 7-day free trial and try it yourself!