10 Must-See Japanese Shows to Add to Your Watchlist (2024)

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Here’s a great list of Japanese movies, dramas, and shows that will take you for a dive into Japanese culture.

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After a series of successful installments on Japanese movies and dramas, we’re back on the topic by popular demand. This time, we’re throwing in more variety to the list, which includes our favorite travelogues, cooking show, and documentary that you can watch across different channels. While you’re at home, let’s make the most of your downtime and take a dive into Japan and its culture with us!

Also, here’s another good news to share: Netflix has started releasing 21 films from the legendary animation house Studio Ghibli on its global network starting Feb 1, 2020. That means fans in Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America will get to stream the beloved classics, such as Spirited Away,My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Arrietty, among others, in their native languages. More on this here.

Wish to take your evening entertainment to another level? How about hosting a virtual Netflix Party?

10 Must-See Japanese Shows to Add to Your Watchlist

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1. James May: Our Man In Japan

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For those of you who are not familiar with James May, he is the former legendary host for Top Gear. In his debut travelogue released by Amazon, May embarks on an epic journey across Japan, from north to south, to gain a genuine understanding of the people and culture.

The series is not as in-depth as I would expect, but it is still charming nonetheless. With his signature deadpan humor, James May is articulate with his curiosity and bewilderment toward the Japanese way of life and thinking. Take it easy – you’ll have a fun time discovering Japan through James May!

Watch James May: Our Man in Japan on Amazon Prime Video.

2. Adrift in Tokyo 転々

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Adrift in Tokyo is an offbeat Indie-style comedy. It follows a debt collector who asks a law student burdened with 800,000 yen of gambling debts to join him on a walk across town in Tokyo. As they journey together, they start to form an unlikely friendship.

Oddball characters, obscure dialogues and at times ridiculously wacky, this might not be the movie for everyone’s taste. But if you can embrace the quirks and let it play out, you’d find Adrift in Tokyo more enduring than it first appeared. Underneath the jokes and randomness, there is a complexity to the story. It’s a great movie that shines a light on individual citizens that we often overlook in the society. You’d feel like you have taken a really good walk on the streets in Tokyo.

Watch Adrift in Tokyo on Amazon Prime Video.

3. Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents Documental

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InDocumental, Hitoshi Matsumoto, one of Japan’s most revered comedians, hosts a challenge for 10 fellow comedians on a set. The participation fee costs the contestants one million yen each. The goal is to make each other laugh in 6 hours. The last person to stay in the room without laughing wins. The winner is awarded a 10 million yen prize and bragging rights as the funniest comedian.

Imagine being put in a room with a group of really funny people, and you are not allowed to laugh.

Watch Hitoshi Matsumoto Presents Documental on Amazon Prime Video.

4. Terrace House

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Terrace House is a Japanese reality television show franchise consisting of five series and one theatrical film. It follows six young, beautiful strangers that move in together into a house in Tokyo, looking for love and personal growth while living under the same roof.

As it’s unscripted, Terrace House is not quite like any reality TV you’ve seen before. Maybe because it’s full of enticing food, romance, and good looking cast, the show has become a cult hit in the US. We at Just One Cookbook team cannot help but adore the show.

At a closer look, Terrace house is a quiet study in human connections and behaviors, in particular to the Japanese context. Nami says it’s a critical show to watch to understand a Japanese person. Take her word by it. Allow yourself to savor the slow moments, even some overpolite interactions that may confuse you as an outsider, you’ll come to grasp the culture intimately. While you’re binge-watching, treat yourself with some homemade Okonomiyaki or Onigiri!

Watch Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020 on Netflix.

5. Giri/Haji

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Smart, suspenseful, and superbly shot, Giri/Haji is a near-perfect crime thriller with a surprisingly sharp sense of humor.‘ – reviewed by Rotten Tomatoes.

Near perfect it is. Giri/Haji (“Duty/Shame” in Japanese) is possibly one of the best shows to watch this year. Produced by the BBC, this TV series is a cross-cultural, cross-boundaries genre that fuses action, crime, love, animation, family drama, clever dialogues, and humor in one.

The story starts with Kenzo Moro, a Tokyo police detective who heads to London to bring back his brother, Yuto, a yakuza gang member (played by Yosuke Kubozuka) who has just killed a rival yakuza boss’ nephew. If Yuto is not returned to Japan, there will a potential gang war. While Kenzo is on his mission, he encounters a number of characters that further the twists and turns of the affair. Back in Tokyo, things are also getting more colorful and intriguing.

It’s not always easy when a show trying to meld different elements into a storyline without coming across as overindulgence, but writer/creator Joe Barton somehow manages to nail it masterfully in Giri/Haji. I’m sold. It’s a great story worth staying up for!

Watch Giri/Haji on Netflix.

5. Only Yesterday (1991)

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In this fast-changing world, haven’t we all found ourselves vulnerable to the demands of life at some point? A timeless animation film by Studio Ghibli, Only Yesterday couldn’t be more relevant than ever.

Set in the background of 1982, the story follows Taeko Okajima, who is in her late 20s, unmarried and working an office job in Tokyo. Tired of the societal pressure of settling down and the hustle of city life, she escapes to the countryside for a break. While traveling on the train through the night, all her memories of herself as a schoolgirl in 1966 started to flood back. As the scenes switch between the present and the past, Taeko begins to reflect upon her life, and wonders if she has been true to her truest self.

Only Yesterday not only tugs at your heartstrings, but it also sets out to capture your imagination with its brilliantly stylized details and colors. Watch it and find yourself on a journey of rediscovery!

Watch Only Yesterday on gkids.

6. “Floating Weeds” (1959)

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Floating Weeds is a remake of Yasujiro Ozu on his own 1934 silent black and white classic.

Expounding on the metaphor of ‘floating weeds’ or ukigusa (浮草), the film explores the universal themes that speak of the complexity of family relations and the unforeseeable force of our own life journey.

The story revolves a middle-aged actor who leads a traveling Kabuki troupe returns to a small town and reunites with his former lover and their illegitimate now-grown son. When his current mistress discovers the affair, she gets jealous and sets out to break the family apart. Worried that his son might fall for the trap, he has to decide if it’s better to reveal the secret to his son by acknowledging his paternity. In the end, the troupe leader is again back on the road and continues to drift down the river.

The visual artistry of the director is highly demonstrated in this film. It’s rich in emotions and atmosphere.

Watch Floating Weeds on Kanopy.

8. Dining with the Chef

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This long-standing cooking show has been a favorite on NHK. Hosted by the adorable Chefs Saito and Yu Hayami, you’ll learn how to cook Japanese dishes at home with ease.

Watch Dining with the Chef on NHK.

9. Wild Hokkaido

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Explore the treasured landscape and seasonal beauty of the northernmost of Japan through this 60-episodes short program.

Watch Wild Hokkaido on NHK.

10. 10 Years with Hayao Miyazaki

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Get up close with Hayao Miyazaki with this exclusive 4-part documentary chronicling the creative process of the legendary Japanese filmmaker.

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More on Our Japanese Entertainment Radar

  • 12 Favorite Japanese Movies to Watch
  • 12 Japanese Movies to Watch – JOC’s Readers Choice
  • 7 JapaneseMoviesto Add to Your Watchlist
  • The Best Japanese Dramas to Stream on Netflix

Let us know what other topics you want us to cover.We’re here for you!

10 Must-See Japanese Shows to Add to Your Watchlist (2024)


What is the code for Netflix Japanese show? ›

Anime — Code 7424
Anime Action2653
Anime Comedies9302
Anime Dramas452
Anime Fantasy11146
4 more rows

What are Japanese shows called? ›

Dorama (ドラマ) is a general term used in Japan to refer to drama series and soap operas, regardless of the country where they were filmed or produced.

Where can I find Japanese TV shows? ›

The 22 Top Places to Watch Japanese TV Online
  • Crunchyroll. This blog post wouldn't be complete without Crunchyroll. ...
  • Hulu. Another great option to watch Japanese TV online is Hulu. ...
  • Amazon Prime Video. ...
  • HBO Max. ...
  • Viki. ...
  • AbemaTV. ...
  • TV JAPAN. ...
  • TBS Japan.
Jun 28, 2023

How do I unlock Netflix secret menu? ›

There are two ways to access the secret menu: If using a computer, open your web browser, type netflix.com/browse/genre/ as the start of the URL and end it with the code representing the genre you want to browse. On a TV, you simply type the code into the search bar.

How do I see hidden movies on Netflix? ›

There are two ways to access the secret collections. You can do it from any desktop by typing 'netflix.com/browse/genre/' into the URL and adding a unique ID code. Alternatively, if you use Netflix on a TV, you can simply type in the code to the 'search' bar.

Is anime big in Japan? ›

Anime is arguably one of the most well-known staples of Japanese culture. It's not just popular in Japan, either. The anime culture is so huge that it's been a well-documented and well-memed phenomenon all around the world since, well, forever.

Do most adults in Japan watch anime? ›

Kadokawa Game Linkage found similar results in 2020. They estimated an audience of around 35 million, or 37%. That's not bad. However, that also means a majority of the Japanese population – over 60% – doesn't consume anime at all.

Is American TV popular in Japan? ›

The Japanese, perhaps the world's most avid TV watchers, are getting hooked on American television dramas.

Do Japanese call it anime? ›

In Japanese, the term anime is used to refer to all animated works, regardless of style or origin.

What do Japanese call anime? ›

In Japanese, anime is written as “アニメ” (literally, “anime”) and is short for the word animation (アニメーション or animeeshon). The rub is how the word is used, both in Japan and abroad.

Why is anime called that? ›

The word anime is a shortened form of the Japanese word animēshon, which means "animation." While anime has its roots in Japan, it has since spread to other countries, and today, anime can be found in many different languages, including English.

What Japanese TV channels are English? ›

Local Japanese TV Channels

Most foreign TV shows and movies are dubbed into Japanese (rather than subtitled), but it's possible to tune into bilingual and English-only programs on NHK, Fuji TV, TV Asahi, TV Tokyo, and more.

Does Netflix have Japanese shows? ›

If it wasn't something that was going to interest a lot of people (like Lost or Games of Thrones), the television networks wouldn't buy it. But now everyone can watch Japanese, Korean or many other countries series from almost anywhere in the world with Netflix.

What is the most popular Japanese TV channel? ›

NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) is the big daddy of Japanese TV stations.

How do I get Japanese shows on Netflix? ›

Netflix subscribers can unblock Japanese Netflix from anywhere in the world with these simple steps:
  1. Sign up to a VPN.
  2. Download the app to your device of choice (the best VPNs have apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and more)
  3. Open up the app and connect to a server in Japan.
Jun 8, 2023

What is 9875 code on Netflix? ›

What is 9875 code on Netflix? 9875 is the Netflix secret code for true crime documentaries. You can put this number after the URL in your browser's address bar. Secret codes are Netflix's gateway to titles tied to a specific genre.

How can I get Japanese Netflix in the US? ›

Thus, to access Japanese Netflix in the United States, you should follow the simple steps I talked about. Get a quality VPN like ExpressVPN, connect to one of its servers in Japan, and you'll get an IP address from this country. Now, the platform will see you as if you're located there, giving you access as a result.

How do I turn on Japanese on Netflix? ›

iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet
  1. From the Netflix app home screen, tap the profile icon or Menu .
  2. Tap Manage Profiles.
  3. Select the profile you want to edit.
  4. Tap Audio & Subtitles Languages.
  5. Select preferred languages from Audio & Subtitles Languages. The new languages will automatically save.


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