Everyone has their own particular means of studying Japanese, whether it be pouring over textbooks, reading posters on the train or talking to any Nihonjin who’ll listen. My favourite method is simple: I turn on the TV.
Four times a year, Japan’s major televisions stations – NHK, Fuji TV, TBS, NTV, and TV Asahi – premiere around twenty new locally produced shows. In Japanese, these are known as terebi dorama. Unlike anime series’, which can last for years, J-dramas last on average about 10-12 episodes, with each episode running to about forty-five minutes. Most of the storylines are contained and quite simple, so even if your Japanese isn’t great, they’re easy to follow. Majority of the shows are also on crack – Japanese comedies are side-splitting in their absurdity. If that’s not reason enough to start channel-surfing, I don’t know what is.
The spring drama season, which began across most stations this week, is traditionally the highest rating season of the year, so the networks are pulling out their big guns. Highly respected actors who only do one drama a year do it in spring. The holy grail of Japanese timeslots, Fuji TV’s Monday at 9pm, this season will star Nakai Masahiro, the leader of super manband SMAP. His bandmate, Kimura Takuya (voted Sexiest Man in Japan 15 years straight), will also be gracing our TV screens come May. So if you happen to have some free time in the evenings this spring, consider tuning in.
Hancho – 8pm, TBS – About a small group of detectives at a new police station in Harajuku. Sounds like a comedy.
Konkatsu – 9pm, Fuji TV – The son of a tonkatsu restaurant owner pretends to be engaged to a waitress in order to keep his new job.
Atashinchi no Danshi – 9pm, Fuji TV – A debt-ridden girl marries a company president, who squares her debts on the proviso that she be a mother for his six bishounen sons.
Shiroi Haru – 10pm, Fuji TV – After 9 years in prison, a former yakuza tries to pick up the pieces of his life and in the process meets a woman and her strange young daughter.
Rinjo – 9pm, TV Asahi – Centred on a police coroner known for his keen powers of observation.
Aishiteru – 10pm, NTV – A young boy takes another boy’s life and their families attempt to cope with the tragedy.
Ghost Friends – 8pm, NHK – A teenage girl can see dead people and falls for one of them.
Yako no Kaidan – 9pm, TV Asahi – A callous beautician holds his clients in his sway while eluding two detectives on his trail.
Boss – 10pm, Fuji TV – A group of misfit, problem detectives try to prove their worth. This is a very common theme in J-dramas.
Smile – 10pm, TBS – A young half-Japanese half-Filipino man falls in love with a girl who can’t speak.
Meitantei no Okite – 11:15pm, TV Asahi – A series that purports to poke fun at the cliches of the TV detective genre.
Mr. Brain – 8pm, TBS – KimuTaku is a socially inept but doggedly determined neuroscientist working for the police. Starts May 23rd.
Quiz Show – 9pm, NTV – A quiz show that offers escalating rewards but the questions somehow become increasingly personal and incriminating, probing the contestants’ past misdeeds.
Majo Saiban – 11:10pm, Fuji TV – A juror on a high profile case determines to discover the truth for himself as other members of the panel are bought off.
Tenchijin – 8pm, NHK – The annual taiga drama, chronicling pivotal points in Japanese history. Started back in January. (With a cast of hundreds, you’ll be hard-pressed to keep track of everyone.)
Boku no Imouto – 9pm, TBS – Two siblings, complete opposites and always arguing, are brought together by an unexpected incident.