Friday, November 27, 2009

TV Japan

If you're looking for a way to improve your Japanese listening skills and can afford it (and already have cable), I highly recommend signing up for TV Japan. It's basically an international broadcast of NHK, Japan's national television network. Although this means a preponderance of shows about old people and their farms, there's still quite a lot to recommend.

Here are the shows I watch regularly.

Welkame ウェルかめ
This is NHK's current 15-minute morning drama, known in Japanese as 連続テレビ小説 (continuing television novel). It's about a girl from Tokushima who works for a small magazine (something to which I can relate) while her family runs a minshuku (inn) for pilgrims doing the 88-temple circuit. At first the Tokushima dialect made it tough for me to understand the Japanese but I'm getting the hang of it. (Did I mention most shows on TV Japan have no subtitles?) And if you're wondering about that title, it's a combination of the English word "welcome" with the Japanese for turtle, "kame."

Music Japan
It's not that I'm the biggest fan of current J-pop, but I am the biggest fan of Perfume, who co-host the show. And there is the occasional good artist like Kimura Kaela.

The worst named show on the channel is also one of the few bilingual shows. Like Music Japan, it's a music show but with a broader focus than just what's on the Oricon charts, so you get stuff like jazz and classical too.

Cool Japan
Also bilingual, this one takes foreigners around Tokyo and shows them things that are "cool," like fake food in the windows of restaurants and otaku in Akihabara. However, the show's been on for quite a while now so they're running out of cool things to show off so lately the themes have tended towards things like waste disposal.

There's lots more too, including the Taiga Drama, which NHK does every year. Right now it's Tenchi-jin, which has English subtitles. I haven't been watching this (even though it's about samurai) because the show runs for all 52 weeks of the year. Unless you get in on the ground floor it's hopelessly complicated.

It's come to the point where I hardly watch US TV anymore. If I turn on the TV it's to watch TV Japan. I can record the shows I want on the cable DVR and watch them any time. The only draw back is the price. $25 a month is pretty pricey, but it is nice to be able to sit on the couch and watch Japanese TV in good quality as opposed to on YouTube.