Despite the huge cultural differences, television shows in Japan aren’t all that different from those in the States.
There are plenty of reality TV shows, game shows, dramas, talk shows, and of course, anime.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular TV shows in Japan.
There are plenty of reality TV shows in Japan, ranging from those that follow celebrities to those that document the lives of everyday people.
1. Terrace House
Terrace House is a reality show where three men and three women live in one house while they get to know each other and start dating.
The show is popular for its unscripted and realistic portrayal of dating.
Filmed in a similar style to Big Brother, where the cameras are inside the house and there are no camera crews to talk to, Terrace House gives viewers a fly-on-the-wall look at the highs and lows of dating.
Wolf is a dating show where each of the contestants finds someone to fall in love with.
The catch though, is there is a wolf amongst the players who can’t fall in love.
The wolf has to trick the other contestants into falling in love with them while trying to figure out who the wolf is.
3. Bachelor Japan
Bachelor Japan is, as you might have guessed, the Japanese version of The Bachelor.
The show follows one man as he goes on dates with a group of women to find the one that he wants to marry.
The show continues to grow in popularity because of the drama, fantasy dates, and rose ceremonies.
Anime is, of course, huge in Japan because it’s where it originated.
There are a ton of different anime shows, but here are some of the most popular ones.
4. Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan is a dark and gritty anime about humans who have to live in fear of giant man-eating Titans.
The story follows the main character, Eren Jaeger, as he fights to protect humanity from the Titans.
Naruto is a long-running shonen anime about a young ninja who dreams of becoming the Hokage, the leader of his village.
The show is action-packed, with lots of ninja battles and betrayals. It’s also funny and heartwarming, with a strong focus on the power of friendship.
6. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an anime about two brothers who are searching for the Philosopher’s Stone to save their bodies from a horrible accident.
The show is set in a fictional world where alchemy is a science and covers themes of morality, family, and war.
7. Death Note
Death Note is an anime about a high school student who finds a notebook that allows him to kill people by writing their names in it.
The show is popular for its psychological thriller elements and moral grey areas.
8. One Piece
One Piece is a shonen anime about a young man who dreams of becoming the Pirate King.
The anime is set in a world where pirates rule the seas and the government is corrupt. The main character, Monkey D. Luffy, has the power to stretch his body like rubber.
He sets out on a journey to find the One Piece, a treasure that will make him the Pirate King.
Japan has no shortage of game shows, many of which are based on American shows.
Here are some of the most popular ones.
9. Takeshi’s Castle
Takeshi’s Castle is a Japanese game show that was inspired by the American show Gladiators.
The show features a series of physical and mental challenges that contestants have to complete to win.
10. Brain Wall
Brain Wall is a game show where contestants have to contort and fit their bodies through holes in a giant wall as it approaches them, or they’ll be knocked off their platform.
Funny costumes and commentary add to the entertainment factor.
11. Most Extreme Elimination Challenge
Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, or MXC for short, was a game show where contestants have to complete physical challenges while being subjected to various hazards, such as fire, electricity, and explosives.
These challenges were fairly impossible to do, which made for some hilarious moments.
12. Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!
Here is a Japanese game show that’s best known for its “No Laughing” challenge, where contestants have to try not to laugh while being subjected to various forms of comedy.
The show is also popular for its “Human Bowling” and “Endurance Fruit and Vegetable Basket” challenges.
Japanese dramas are often shorter than their American counterparts, but they pack just as much of a punch.
Here are some of the most popular ones.
13. Extraordinary Attorney Woo
This show follows a young, autistic lawyer with a photographic memory who joins a law firm to help solve cases.
While the cases are often interesting and complex, the real draw of the show is seeing how the main character uses her unique abilities to solve them.
14. Crash Landing on You
Yoon Se-ri is a wealthy heiress and playgirl who falls off her yacht and somehow ends up on a North Korean mountain.
There she meets Ri Jung-Hyeok, a soldier who defects from the army. The two must struggle to survive in the wilderness while also hiding their true identities.
15. A Model Family
This show is similar to ‘Weeds’ or ‘Breaking Bad’.
A professor who’s a little short on funds accidentally steals money from a drug cartel and starts making more money by selling drugs.
Meanwhile, his family is oblivious to his illegal activities.
16. Café Minamdang
A former criminal profiler now works as a fortune-telling fraud.
He disguises himself to be more attractive to entice people to use his service, which is where he scams them out of their money.
It isn’t all bad. He gets involved in the cases that come to him and he helps them solve their problems.
Pachinko is an epic drama that follows a Korean family over four generations.
The story begins with a young woman who is sold into marriage to a rich Japanese man.
The story follows the family as they experience war, prejudice, and love.
Everyone loves a little action and adventure.
It allows us to live vicariously through the characters and escape our mundane lives.
Here are some of the most popular action shows in Japan.
18. Kamen Rider
Kamen Rider is a tokusatsu franchise created by Shotaro Ishinomori.
The series takes place in a world ravaged by Shocker, an international terrorist organization that has turned people into cyborgs and monsters to take over the world.
However, one man named Takeshi Hongo was able to escape and become Kamen Rider 1.
He is joined by other Kamen Riders, each with their own unique abilities, as they fight Shocker to save the world.
19. Alice in Borderland
If you’re into manga, you may have come across this title before because Alice in Borderland is based on the manga of the same name.
The story follows a group of friends who find themselves transported to a strange world where they must play games in order to survive.
With the help of each other, they must use their wits and skills to survive the games and find a way back home.
20. Vinland Saga
This Viking anime series is loosely based on the manga of the same name.
The story follows Thorfinn, who goes on a quest for revenge after his father is killed.
Along the way, he becomes involved in the politics of the Viking world and must choose between his personal desires and the greater good.
Where To Watch These Shows
Most of these tv shows can be watched on Netflix.
The more popular animes are available to watch in the U.S., but unless you’re planning to travel to Japan, Netflix will block access to most of them.
You can also watch a few of these shows on Apple TV. Pachinko is one of the shows that’s available to watch with a subscription.
And you can watch most of the game shows for free on YouTube.
Simply search the game show name and you’ll have access to hundreds of clips from the episodes, and even some full episodes.
They may not have subtitles, but for most of the shows, you won’t need them to understand the slapstick humor.
Japan has a wide variety of TV shows to offer, catering to all sorts of audiences.
Whether you’re looking for an intense drama, a funny game show, or an action-packed anime, Japan has something for you.