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5 Japanese Dramas on Netflix to Study Japanese

Looking for something new to watch on Netflix and want to brush up on your Japanese at the same time?

By 5 min read

There are a lot of good (and bad) shows on Netflix Japan. If you’re learning Japanese, some can be excellent learning tools. If you’re a beginner, you could switch to the kid’s sections and watch a few episodes of Miffy or Pokémon, but for intermediate and advanced learners, I’ve picked some of my favorites dramas to challenge your listening and reading skills.

Here are five dramas on Netflix right now to help with studying Japanese.

Death Office (2019)

The death office is where deceased people have to pass through to do all the necessary paperwork (in the Japanese administration way, of course) before going to the afterlife -or worst. You have different sections based on death like by disease, by accident, from natural cause or suicide, etc. We follow the journey to the afterlife of Michiru, a kind and cheerful girl who finds herself helping the “customers” and the staff of the death office despite being dead herself.

This series is a slice of life with different characters for each episode, making it very easy to watch- and there are only ten episodes! Overly polite keigo (honorific speech), as well as one’s death cause, won’t be a secret for you anymore thanks to Shimura, the death office officer in charge of the whole bureau, and his god-like customer care.

  • Genre: Crime, Mystery, Fantasy, Slice of life
  • Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime
  • Japanese level: N3

Alice in Borderland (2020)

Three friends carelessly wandering in Shibuya find themselves trapped in a parallel world where they have to play deadly games against strangers to survive.

If you liked the Hunger Games movies, Liar Game manga or the recent K-drama Squid Game, you’ll enjoy Alice in Borderland for sure. This drama is an excellent tool for learning conversation dynamics or just casual daily conversation in Japanese vocabulary. If you have N3, you might not follow everything due to grammatical forms you only see in spoken language, but all the vocabulary shouldn’t be a problem.

Fun fact: Shibuya’s striking empty streets, including the Shibuya crossing you see at the beginning of the series, was actually done in an outdoor studio.

  • Genre: Survival, Suspense, Mystery
  • Where to watch: Netflix
  • Japanese level: N3~N2

What Did You Eat Yesterday? (2019)

What Did You Eat Yesterday? is about two things: home cooking recipes and the joy and struggle of gay couples in modern-day Japan.

Vocabulary is centered on cooking techniques and everything related to the gay scene in Tokyo while having a decent amount of daily and work-related conversations.

A warning for LGBTQ+ viewers, this show tends to over-exaggerate with its characters, but that (hopefully) doesn’t take away its enjoyableness.

  • Genre: LGBTQ+, Romance, Comedy, Cooking
  • Where to watch: Netflix
  • Japanese level: N4~N3

The Ingenuity of the Househusband (2021)

Tatsu was a legendary yakuza, feared and respected until he suddenly disappeared from gangster society to become the most meticulous, dedicated, detail-focused househusband.

From the same series as the anime version, also on Netflix, The Way of the Househusband is more focused on Tatsu’s life and personal story. On the other hand, the Ingenuity of the Househusband is only about tackling chores and housework tasks.

On top of acquiring vocabulary for your daily Japanese life, you will learn how to remove burning stains on your pans, clean your cloudy and hazy bathroom mirror and into which recycle bin a pen goes in Japanese.

Plus, there are only nine episodes so far—more reason to watch it ASAP.

  • Genre: Comedy, Slice of life
  • Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime
  • Japanese level: N5~N4

Suteki na Sen Taxi (2014)

Edawakare is the driver of a very special taxi. Indeed, his cab is made to bring you back at whatever point in time for you to choose a different path in your life or to fix a mistake—with a fee, of course.

On top of showing you some introductory sentences for taking a taxi in Japan, this short series of only 12 episodes will teach you through the misfortunes of Edawakare multiple customers how to avoid the worst mistake while in Japan.

Japanese learners will notice the play on words with 選択せんたく and タクシー, literally translated as the “choice taxi.”

  • Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Slice of life
  • Where to watch: Netflix
  • Japanese level: N2

Wakako Zake (2015)

Are you tired of the old salaryman Goro enjoying meals during his work trips in the Solitary Gourmet drama series? Or did you binge Midnight Diner and are looking for more than just Japanese recipes and Shinjuku night stories? If so, Wakako Zake (Wakako’s alcohol) is the show you are looking for.

Wakako Murasaki is a young and dynamic office lady (OL in Japanese). She has an assistant and is very successful at the age of 26, but she has a secret she can’t reveal, especially not to her male colleagues and superiors.

So every evening, on her way from work, she enjoys a different drink and a different meal at a different place every night.

Unlike the two other Japanese dramas mentioned above, Wakako Zake is all about discovering places, mainly in Tokyo, which offers drinks and food, while educating you about what type of sake (alcohol) goes with which dish. Everything is described, from texture to taste to colors, in the same way as Solitary Gourmet, but with a female voice-over. Something you rarely find in Japanese textbooks!

  • Genre: Gourmet, Educational
  • Where to watch: Netflix
  • Japanese level: N3

What are you watching on Netflix Japan? Anything good? Do you watch shows in Japanese or with Japanese subtitles? Let us know in the comments!

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