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Introduction to Japanese Television

Are you curious about modern Japanese culture or are you perhaps even planning a stay in Japan soon? One thing that is an obvious aspect of any modern society is its style of television entertainment. The majority of Japan’s television entertainment, meaning anything that is not news or educational programming, is comprised of the following categories.

J-Drama Japanese drama, or “J-Drama” as it is often referred to internationally, is the term for the various story based serials that air on Japanese television. Japan’s shows of this kind differ from those in places such as the US in various ways. One of the main differences is that a show usually has a certain limited number of episodes with a beginning and ending, rather than the same show running season after season for many years. There are exceptions, but rarely if ever in a primetime slot. If popular, a show will likely be seen again soon as a movie involving a new cast in a theater production or again on television, as studios appear relatively keen on recycling successful stories. A further example of this is the fact that many serials which make it to television have already been successful graphic novels known in Japan as “Manga”.


Anime is the term for Japanese animation that is so popular around the world today. Surprisingly enough, there is not as much anime on Japanese television as one may expect. Anime serials, like Japanese dramas, often have a set number of episodes with a beginning and end. This does not mean the end of a set of characters though, as popular anime will reincarnate as dozens of different variations of the same general concept.

Variety Shows If there is one place where variety shows have not gone out of style, and seemingly won’t, it is Japan. The literal plethora of variety shows is rather mind boggling and many videos of Japanese zaniness on international video sites, such as YouTube, are from these often wild and wacky shows. These are the shows that last through the years and also act as a platform for introduction and popularization of new talent. Actors and actresses, comedians, music entertainers, politicians, and more try their hand at such things as dressing in a diaper and bonking people on the head with an oversized squeaky plastic hammer. Comedians are obviously a common sight also and gimmick or slapstick styles are ridiculously popular. You know it’s a comedian’s moment in the spotlight when you see him or her doing their repetitive slogan or gimmick on 10 shows in a single week or possibly even one day.

Game Shows

Game shows in Japan are really just an extension of variety shows and generally only involve those people being marketed as celebrities. Considering how a few celebrities are repetitively marketed and occasionally seem to appear in half the primetime shows and commercials in a day, it would likely be nice to give more of the populace a chance to win something. The marketed celebrities probably have a reasonable amount of cash and goods already. Regardless, it is yet another chance to see this week’s popular comedian doing their gimmick while skydiving for oranges or some other such creative challenge.

Food Shows
Possibly yet another extension of variety shows, food is evidently an extremely popular topic in Japan and food shows even have their own celebrities. These are generally people who are most noted for their ability to gorge themselves rather than show how to cook something delicious. These shows are also yet another place to showcase marketed celebrities and also international guests. There are 2 words which are possibly the most repetitively and unbelievably emphasized on Japanese television. One is “oishii!” and the other is “umai!”, and both essentially mean “delicious!” Food shows in Japan repeat those words again and again, so be prepared.

Enjoy Japanese television as it is actually an entertaining way to learn the language.