Friday, June 07, 2013

Websites for Foriegn TV Shows in Japan

There are many things I love about Japan, but prime time TV is not one of them. Even though I generally prefer time wasting computer games over mind dulling TV, there are times when I long to see some good 'ol Western TV shows.

Of course, there is always the video store, but everyone lives within walking distance or even driving distance of a rental shop. Not to mention, there is often a paltry selection (although every video store seems to have 24 for some reason) and new releases aren't always so new. Sometimes dramas and movies are up to a year late, if you are lucky to find them at all. Also, new releases are triple the cost to rent as compared to older shows and flicks

So what's a man to do? Being upstanding, law abiding citizens, we all know that downloading pirated material is a big no-no in Japan. In some cases you can order DVDs from online retailers if you don't mind shelling out for international shipping and have a DVD player that will work for that specific region. And of course, you can even shell out for a VPN provider that will allow you to watch Netflix and American Hulu.

However, there are one or two free (or nearly free) options floating around. One of the biggest Hulu-esque websites in Japan is known as Gyao. The company offers a range of ad-supported dramas, regular TV shows, and even full movies in cooperation with Yahoo Japan. While most of the content is domestic or Korean, there are an odd smattering of US and UK television shows available to watch. If you feel like practicing Japanese, you can watch lots of classic anime like Ranma 1/2 and Dragonball. Most are subtitled (jimaku 字幕), but some shows are only available with Japanese voice overs (fuki-kae 吹き替え). The service requires the latest version of Microsoft Silverlight to function so make sure your browser is up to date.

Gyao also offers a free iOS app and an Android app for watching shows on the go.
One of the big problems with Gyao is that the foreign films and TV shows are constantly rotated. In order to see back episodes, you have to shell out cash on a per show or per episode basis. Also, the selection of shows seems to be totally random, with shows appearing and disappearing suddenly.

Finally, as it is an ad-supported service, you have to watch the obligatory commercial from time to time. Also, the screen will randomly shrink down from time to time to make way for banner ads. If you are using non-premium Gyao then you cannot watch total full screen movies, which means you have to make sure to move your mouse from time to time to keep your laptop monitor from going dark or set your monitor to not to dim.

Another choice is the popular American website Hulu. Unfortunately, the Japanese incarnation of Hulu is not ad-driven but subscription based. Accessing any Hulu content in Japan will set you back 980 yen a month. But on the plus side you will get a pretty comprehensive selection of videos to chose from including lots of full length movies. Hulu also has an app available on the iTunes app store and Google Play.

Unfortunately, there are no services quite like Netflix which offer streaming and mail order DVDs, but NTT's Flets fiber optic service offers an optional Hikari TV option that allow for English language TV packages as well as pay-per-view movies. There is also a mobile option (for an extra fee of course) that allows you to watch your subscribed channels on your smart phone or tablet.

Know of any other good websites that have a collection of free or reasonably priced non-Japanese shows? If so, let us know in the comment section.

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