Watching Japanese TV 日本でテレビを見る
Japanese TV shows are often good-natured, colorful, and totally mindless
Credit: asahi TV
Japan is well-known by the rest of the world for it's crazy shows!
On the small screen
Many visitors want to watch Japanese TV during their trip to Japan. However, it can be pretty incomprehensible to Western eyes!
Japanese television is well known for its eccentricity. Basically, Japanese TV falls into three main categories: dramas (TV series), celebrity talk shows, and shows dedicated to food.
Japanese dramas are often interesting, or at least informative. They include among them the famous NHK taiga dramas. However you need to understand quite a lot of Japanese to enjoy them. In general, visitors might need to wait to get back home and enjoy the subtitled or dubbed versions, if available.
Talk shows (or variety shows, as they're usually called in Japanese) and game shows account for the vast majority of Japanese TV. The presenter, assisted by a panel of local or national celebrities, comment on a series of topics in a humorous way. Fascinating to watch, but again it requires a knowledge of Japanese, as well as an understanding of the (pretty unique) humor and culture of Japan.
Finally, there are the programs dedicated to food. These serve as a kind of advertisement for specialty restaurants in towns and cities all over Japan. Appetizing to be sure, but any comments about the food are generally limited to an "umai!" (delicious!) and a quivering close-up of a mouthful of the dish suspended on some chopsticks.
Through the eyes of others
What about documentaries or politics, you say? There are virtually none. The news is primarily confined to serious NHK public television broadcasts. Movies and cartoons are generally found on satellite channels, not broadcast on channels in hotels, although you'll find them occasionally.
Ultimately, watching Japanese television is a fun experience, as it allows you to see Japan the same way that the Japanese do, and gain a better understanding of their character and tastes.
A non-Japanese presencce
It's interesting to note the significant presence of foreigners on Japanese television. The Japanese seem to be fascinated by the view that others have of their country, and many programs revolve around it. As a result TV crews regularly film in touristy areas of major cities, with the hope of interviewing foreign tourists on various subjects. So don't be surprised if you find yourself on Japanese television!