Best Practices for Watching Japanese TV

I may have developed a dangerous habit over the winter break. I learned about TVer in late November and didn’t really do anything with it until New Year’s rolled around, which is when I got nostalgic for 年末 programming. So I watched a bunch and then decided that watching J-drama was an effective way to study Japanese.

Which is how I ended up with an 8+ hour/week television habit. This is a surprise even to me. I tried watching some J-drama on Netflix last summer, but nothing really hooked me. I think the fact that you only have a week to watch shows on TVer combined with the anticipation of new releases has sharpened my interest.

In addition to the four shows I wrote about in the newsletter this month, I’ve added:

A manga artist still struggling to get established gets wrapped up in a murder mystery when one of her junior high classmates (with whom she recently reunited at their reunion) is pushed from a bridge. She herself also seems to be targeted. Does it have something to do with the time capsule they dug up?

This show is…fine. There’s one very bizarre character who makes the whole thing worth watching. And the scenes from Yamagata stand out and make me a little nostalgic for Tohoku. I could take or leave this show.

A woman is found passed out in the woods wearing a white coat. She turns out to be a medical prodigy, but she remembers nothing about her past. Is someone following her?

This one is middling…but fun enough that I end up watching it while doing kanji practice. Another I may end up skipping depending on how busy I get.

A recent addition to my lineup! Nakagoshi Chikara has just moved to a new apartment complex with his family. He’s a bit OCD and has a good heart, so he has trouble keeping himself out of other people’s business, especially if they need help. What secrets are people in his building keeping?

This show is quirky and fun, although maybe a bit too pure…at times it does feel like it’s being written with social lessons in mind. But I’m more likely to stick with this show than some of the others.

Ninety Nine’s going into their 23rd season of ゴチになります! So of course this one is on the list. I think it’s the only non-drama I’m watching right now. Are there any other variety shows out there worth following?

Alice in Borderland
Ok, this is a Netflix addition, and I’m watching it slowly, but I’m a good chunk in. Imagine a bizarro Japanese version of Squid Game. It’s like that. Not quite as good as Squid Game, but higher production values than any of the shows listed above and relatively interesting.

A couple things I’ve noted after watching 40+ hours of Japanese TV in the past month:

– Subtitles/closed captions are a critical tool, but you need to practice watching with and without subtitles. I noticed a striking difference when I actively use the subtitles and when I have them off. It’s almost like practicing two different skills. Ideally you would not use them, but I think they are such a terrific way to confirm vocabulary and grammar points that you may not be catching all the time. If you’re just reading the subtitles, however, I think part of your listening brain does turn off, to a certain extent. I don’t feel terrible about this because I know a lot of viewers in English-speaking countries use closed captions religiously in their native language because it can be difficult to hear things on TV. But I’d try balancing the two. I keep subtitles on and try to shift between focusing on the audio and then confirming something with the text when I need to.

– Make watching TV an active practice by targeting specific grammar patterns. I was struggling to fine tune some of the conditional grammar patterns (〜たら、〜ば、〜なら) at the end of last quarter, so while watching I kind hunt these sentences down and (when I’m able to) copy them into a document I’m keeping. This gives me the ability to compare usages against a wide spectrum of examples, all of which are from ostensibly natural, native interactions (even if fictional). You could look for specific verbs, intransitive/transitive usages, passive constructions, causative constructions, etc. Go wild. Fine tune this practice to your own needs.

What am I missing? Are there any good shows out there I should be watching?

3 thoughts on “Best Practices for Watching Japanese TV

  1. I have found Japanese reality TV to be a terrific source of listening practice. I’m currently watching Love is Blind Japan, which is nonsense, but a good chance to listen to people speaking real Japanese to one another (so important for those of us who don’t live in Japan). I watch a lot of anime as well, but am wary of picking up artificial language from those kinds of sources.

  2. Yes – Terrace House too, although given how it ended, I feel conflicted about watching it. When there’s no other program that I’m excited about, I rewatch Terrace House episodes and congratulate myself on understanding a little bit more than I did last time.

    I tried watching Future Diary but I got through two episodes and just couldn’t any more…

    I can’t watch anything without English subtitles on yet, but I read somewhere – I think it was on the Tofugu blog – that it’s a good idea to watch something over and over until you can turn off the subtitles and still follow it. I’m working on that with My Neighbour Totoro.

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