entertainment

Hulu Japan offers not just movies, but a little education and awesome customer service too

65 Comments
By Casey Baseel

It’s kind of surprising that even with all of the high tech gadgetry you can find in Japan, most people still make a trip to a video rental store when they feel like watching a movie at home. However, online video streaming services such as Hulu have entered the market, and are finally starting to make some headway in changing how viewers get their entertainment fix.

One well-known fact about business in Japan is that in order to succeed in the country, you’ve got to be able to supply excellent customer service, which is just what one of our reporters got from Hulu Japan in this true story.

A while back, one of the reporters from our Japanese-language sister site was on the fence about signing up for Hulu. The service looked like a good deal, and he looked forward to watching movies and TV shows on his iPad while riding the train to and from the office. He did have one concern, though. Would he be able to watch Hulu’s videos, on his iOS device, with English subtitles like at home?

Hold on a sec, our Japanese reporter wanted to watch American movies and TV shows, where the actors and actresses are already speaking in English, with English subtitles?

Actually, many Japanese people who are learning English like to watch foreign movies with the English captioning turned on. Being able to read the dialogue as it’s spoken makes words and phrases that much easier to remember.

So our reporter dashed off an email to Hulu’s customer service center. To his pleasant surprise, he received a response the same day. To his disappointment, though, he was informed that not only were English subtitles not available on Hulu’s entire catalogue, but that at the time English captions couldn’t be displayed on any iOS devices. The representative closed by saying that he would inform Hulu’s content team of our reporters desired feature.

Still, the offer of unlimited movies and TV shows for 980 yen a month was too attractive for our man to turn down, and he made the decision to sign up for Hulu’s service, despite the decreased educational potential.

Even with some lingering disappointment, our reporter was enjoying himself, plowing through the backlog of films he hadn’t had time to see during his daily trips on the Tokyo rail system. From Hulu’s standpoint, they’d gained another subscriber, so it’s hard to imagine they felt bad about the situation. So imagine our reporters surprise when eight weeks later he got a second email from Hulu’s customer service department, even though by that point the streaming company already had two months’ of fees from him.

The courteous and unexpected message opened by thanking him for his previous inquiry. It went on to say that while some of Hulu’s videos do not have English-captioning regardless of what they’re watched on, for those that do, the subtitles can now be displayed on iOS devices. The customer service rep even walked our reporter through the steps involved in changing his settings:

  1. During playback of supported titles, touch the screen.
  2. Touch the round icon locate in the upper right of the display area.
  3. Touch the word “Japanese,” located to the right of the Subtitles heading.
  4. Select English from the menu.

And just like that, our Apple-loving reporter’s wish was granted.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Japanese Avengers Fans Up in Arms Over Shoddy Voice Acting on Blu-ray Release -- Tales of divine customer service from Nintendo, Disney, and other companies in Japan -- iPhone iOS6 Map Takes Our Reporter on a Quest for the Pachinko Gundam Train Station

© RocketNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

65 Comments
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I've had a Hulu Japan subscription for over a year now, and it isn't very good in my opinion. It maybe ok for native Japanese speakers, but for someone who wants to watch in English, too much 'English' content has had the English removed and replaced with Japanese voice over. Especially the documentaries. It's a whole category that is just unwatchable for me.

I'm been meaning to cancel my subscription.

17 ( +18 / -2 )

I wasn't happy with the content in Japan, so I use a VPN and subscribe to Hulu America.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

This article reads like an advertisement for Hulu--how about some balanced reporting? I signed up with Hulu last year, looked at what they had to offer and cancelled my subscription. I now have VPN so going to try Hulu US or Netflix.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Man subscribes to Hulu, contacts Hulu for technical support. Hulu replies.

Crikey! Why is this not world news?

I hope this reporter has recovered from such an amazing experience.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I just sent Hulu Japan a complaint email the other day. They answered in a day but same old drivel about not being able to offer original language and dubbed content of the same shows a la iTunes. Well, I am going to cancel my subscription today. If it wasn't for my kids, I would've canceled it months ago. Now I am watching US Netflix courtesy of Hola.org. It ROCKS.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Can we ask the moderator here to send all the comments in there to Hulu Japan?

I don't know.. maybe with all these, they may see the contempt we have towards their service...

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I've found that they remove content too quickly (maybe the licensing fees are too high?). Things I had hoped to watch again when friends were over, mysteriously disappeared from the catalog. And streaming errors occur for me every single episode, often multiple times. The streaming just cuts out and the browser has to be refreshed (on a very new computer no less).

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Hulu is terrible. I had it for over a year and the main problems with it are:

Content is NEVER updated. Their "new" additions were the same for the entire year.

There are mostly B-grade dramas, and most if not all are missing seasons. This is because Hulu has to share the dramas with the likes of Netflix, which has a much stronger library of content.

The movies are also B-grade / C-grade. 1000 yen a month is not much to ask, but it's way too expensive for what little there is on offer.
5 ( +6 / -1 )

My wife and I cancelled it.

1) The selection is actually quite limited and, as has been said, more of the B-grade variety.

2) After watching Breaking Bad seasons 1 and 2 we were disappointed to come from our New Year's holiday to find it's been no longer available.

(This author's articles tend to be of the fluff variety)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Waste of time and good money, I never gave them a single yen. Want Hulu, go Stateside but in general its not as good as it once was.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I have being subscribing to Hulu Japan for over a year now... Have to say.. there are some good stuff but very rare. I particularly loved when they begun to show Saturday Night Live.... but then for some reason there is no new episode since last July..

I have been tempted to cancel my subscription, but I fool myself thinking that soon Hulu Japan is going to get much much better...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have been on the edge for a few months about cancelling Hulu.

As everyone has said, the selection is pretty bad. It seemed about half the new movies they put up last month were straight-to-DVD fare from Steven Segal`s 2000-2005 period. It also pisses me off to no end how they only offer some US movies dubbed into Japanese. I tried watching Starsky and Hutch (the Owen Wilson/ Ben Stiller movie) a couple of months ago and for some reason Hulu is incapable of showing that in English. By no means was that an isolated incident.

The TV show selection is pretty limited too, unless you like Korean dramas and horrible, horrible Japanese dramas. They get one or two decent ones, but often for a short time and even then only 1 or 2 seasons (Breaking Bad, the Wire, etc). The majority of the American ones are low-popularity network garbage that got cancelled after a couple of seasons and are obviously cheap.

This article reads like an infomercial paid for by Hulu and really is awful.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I have some nits to pick with Hulu, too--like running the first few seasons of "Mad Men" but then not coming up with the rest of them, and then removing the show entirely--and some of the movies on offer don't let you turn off Japanese subtitles (which is a complaint I have with WOWOW too--everything is on digital tracks these days, you'd think it would be a relatively easy thing to accommodate). They do, however, update content weekly, though perhaps not with the programming we'd all like.

All of these issues basically come down to licensing. Content owners generally have very different standards for licensing in the U.S. vs. international markets, and I suspect the Japanese market is probably one of the most challenging for a company like Hulu to try to operate in, in terms of licensing. I noticed, for example, that all eight seasons of "24" only turned up well after WOWOW had finished running them, so there is probably an issue with negotiating around exclusive contracts, etc. And of course they can't provide Japanese content subtitled in English unless it already exists somewhere else--Hulu is not in the business of subtitling.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Relying on a Japanese company to provide your entertainment is a waste of time.Even my cable provider puts on rubbish that is from yonks ago.But thank God for technology.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

What started out as praise for Hulu and turned horribly wrong. Another complaint I have, they should indicate when they are going to pull a TV show from the menu. I started watching a series, I can't recall which one. I got about 5 episodes into the 1st season then when I came back to watch the next episode season 1 had disappeared although season 2 was still there. To reiterate, very disappointing.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Another complaint I had is that last year they put The Shield on. I started watching season 1 and looked forward to enjoying all 7 seasons again of what is a great show. 12 months later, season 1 is still the only season available. Very disappointing.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I cancelled it after a month, thought the general image quality was pretty poor and the overall choice was not worth the money.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It would be fantastic if this comment section started a landslide of cancellations/complaints/requests to Hulu and forced them to upgrade the product to something similar to the paid version in the US.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Nessie

awesome! I had never heard of mediahint. Installed the the chrome extension on my mac OS and navigated to Hulu stateside and it works. Can be installed on Firefox too. When using Spotflux the speed drops to about 5Mbps but with mediahint I still get 200Mbps.

Seems to work with ABC, that will make my wife very happy! NBC seems good coverage for Sochi?

Cool, works with UK BBC/ITV/Channel4/ too!

That's the best discovery in some time, own you a beer!

@drlucifer

the way to go might be Hulu paid on your iPad and connect to your TV via AppleTV? Check out the Media Hint recommended by Nessie.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@ namaman. exactly. i haven't heard many good things about the english content which is why i'm holding back from subscribing . maybe we'll be lucky & they'll see this & work on that prob as well .

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I was watching Breaking Bad in Hulu..but the series wasn't complete & never got to see nor know the ending of that said series. I wonder why? And I have no one to ask.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

@ Goodwill_Hunting I have all the same problems you do. Are you using a wireless connection. I thought that maybe my problem with the streaming errors. Not sure.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Last time I checked, they didn't seem to offer any English programs that weren't already aired via cable tv, skyperfect, hikari tv, etc. But since those providers have crappy on-demand and mobile services, I guess Hulu is OK for people that need to watch on the go.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm a long time subscribers of Hulu Japan, and I green with each and every complaint. I feel like we are being held hostage. BUT the Google movie selection is getting pretty good...other than that no other options.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I haven't heard anything good about Hulu. sounds like the shows on offer is very half a$$ed!

I remember about 10yrs ago when the condo/apt I was in brought in cable, after a month it was clear that new material was extremely limited so didn't watch much, then next thing I get is a notice saying the cable service is being removed from the complex & then it was all gone whether I wanted it or not haha, due to some stupid residence committee that DECIDED for everyone that they shouldn't have the service LOL!!

Since then I haven't really cared & just rent a few dvds the old fashion way now & then!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I agree with everyone above. Yes the customer service is good but the selection suck. And like most users, I've been planning to cut my subscription, but haven't gotten round to it yet.

They count on that. Us not getting round to it.

What we need to do is set a mass defection date. Let it be known that we're quitting until they start giving 1) non-dubbed documentaries; 2) follow-up seasons for TV series.

Feb. 28th, anyone?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think the writer forgot to mention that all of these companies like Hulu,Skyperfect,Hikari TV etc. have great sales talk,attractive prices but once you sign up you will notice that they suddenly discontinue TV series,change times or days they air them and have these annoying commercial breaks every 10 minutes.

Japanese people do not know what quality TV programming means because they accept whatever companies sell/offer them. When you want new customers you should add the option of having programmes in bi-lingual and inform people when they will change air time/date.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Hulu Japan is great for households who need the Japanese subtitles and dubbing. But if you only want US movie and television content in English you're better off getting a VPN and subscribing to Netflix.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

i cancel my Hulu Japan few months ago, now i have two router, one Router for my two Apple TV Via VPN using Hidemyass, i have everything from the US, Hulu Pro, Neflix, Disney Junior for the Kids, HBO GO and Many others on Demand Channels, no problem with the bandwidth since my WANis a Cisco router small business RV 220w and the one using the VPN is ASUS rt-n66u Running Tomato Router OS behind the Cisco, work Great!! Hulu Japan Sucks, all the Documentaries are now with Japanese voice over, useless!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If I'm in the mood for B-rank fluff I just go with YouTube. You'd be surprised what's on there...and for free!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

drlucifer. After reading some of the post here I am tempted to get a VPN and subscribe directly to the US Hulu or Netflix. So can someone advise me on which gadgets to get and what to do to subscribe

You basically need a suitable router to log into a VPN connection (DDWRT are best), a vpn or DNS subscription (both around $5 per month), and a US credit card (to pay for Hulu, netflix, etc).

VPNs give you a US IP address, try StrongVPN or do a search. DNS servers do some kind of bypass of the location check and streams faster than a vpn, try unblockus. The vpn or DNS servers should have instructions on how to use the service. There are apparently ways to buy a US debit card online if you don't have a US credit card.

Oh, you need a device to watch the stream from, e.g., Roku, Apple TV. There are usually hoops to get the application, like iPad requires a US iTunes account, which requires a US address, but not a credit card.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

While I agree with all the complaints, there really doesn't seem to be any other option available in Japan.

I wrote to Hulu and asked about them supplying English subtitles to the Japanese content. Their reply was just a simple, "We do not offer that service at this time"

While their reply was quick and polite it offered no solutions or even a suggestion that they would do this type of service in the future.

On the other hand, when I rent DVDs from the store, they often have both language options so that I can use it for study if I need to. At least with English foreign videos.

Sorry to say, but Hulu gets a "C" grade from me. Unfortunately, there are no better options here.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Namaman, that is correct. I have Hulu too and all of the documentaries are dubbed in Japanese despite being Discovery Channel and National Geographic shows. That is a major disappointment about the service. The TVs series and movie content is a very mixed bag including many random, obscure movies and shows. I recently saw what was available on US Hulu, it is 1000 times better. I don't understand if Hulu Japan is designed for Japanese people or foreigners. I watch on Apple TV and even though all content is either subtitled in Japanese or dubbed in Japanese all of the movie and show descriptions and menus are in English. It's a bizarre service.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hulu Japan is worse than not only the paid US Hulu servce but even the free US Hulu in terms of offered movies and tv shows...ugghh.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

After finding Hulu Japan not up to the grade, I started using the unotelly.com service ($5 a month), plus a U.S Hulu subcription ($8 a month). If you have an apple T.V you can use the same service to get the U.S Apple T.V lineup (comes with things such as ABC, and a range of other free services).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Agreed with other posters, the selection is SUPER LIMITED (like 200 titles only), most movies are B movies and are only available for 1-2 months.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I use a Roku 3 and a VPN. Have US Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc. Hulu Japan shows were to old and not so much English.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks for these comments.

While I do overall enjoy Hulu, the complaints are valid. No question they are seeing these and are appropriately red-faced.

Looking forward to improvements, Hulu! Thanks, though, for what seems like a fair start.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Perhaps we should form a support group of aggreived Hulu Japan users!

I am feeling more empowered to cancel my account after reading the comments.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks for the comments I will not be signing up for it. Also! I couldn't see how to play on iPad as it requires FLASH player

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Drlucifer, check my comment above

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Hulu Japan was so bad I cancelled the free 2 week trial before it was even close to finished. They have the most pathetic and limited selected of Japanese movie titles I have ever seen. Who ever wrote this article must have 1. Been paid off to do piece on Hulu by Hulu or 2. Have little to no knowledge of Japanese or western media therefore they are unable to realize how limited the selection is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@drlucifer don't think I can answer your question entirely. I have the 200Mbps fiber optic and the provided router comes with wifi too. That also provides the cheaper IP phone, especially for international calls.

I have a refurnished mac mini server which is my media center and connected to my TV and surround sound audio via hdmi. Its also connected to a display but in my case, everything is in the same room. The hikari router is connected to the TV. I also use two iPads which can connect to the TV or the mac mini server which is good because there are many rooms. I mostly connect my iPads to my computer with Tonido which also works outside my home provided I'm on the internet. I could stream to my iPad, and from there to my TV via hardwire, Apple TV or Air Display.

You don't mention if you are using Windows/Mac?

When I want to watch Hulu Stateside or anything which requires an American connection I turn on my Spotflux and navigate to the site. I could also use a paid version of Spotflux on my iPad and achieve the same result. We also watched ABC but that now needs a cable id/pass, guess I need to talk with my bros in NY?

I use Expat to watch the UK BBC.

If you don't want to have your computer connected to your TV then I guess you will have to go the way of a VPN router and I know nothing about them? Sorry!

This site should be able to give you answers. http://watch-us-tv-in-japan.blogspot.jp/2011/02/my-vpn-router-is-in-mail-asus-rt-n16.html

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I use Expat to watch the UK BBC.

The MediaHint plugin also works, Zichi, but there doesn't seem to be a similar option for Apple users.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

drlucifer: Presently, I am subscribed to au Hikari T.V would I still be able to use it with a VPN router without any compartibility issues Are there any other affordable VPN routers that can meet my needs ?

There are many "affordable" routers out there if you are willing to flash the ROM with a DDWRT build. Some are under $100, e.g., Linksys E1200 for $45. You may need to go to the U.S. (e.g., Amazon) to get one. Look at the DD-WRT.com website, it has a list of compatible routers/ROMs and instructions on how to flash the router. So, you will need to do some research to find a suitable router that has a DDWRT ROM. Tomato is a comparable open source router ROM, but I have no experience with it.

Routers should allow you to log into your hikari TV from within the router. I don't know much about hikari TV though, so I may be wrong. From there, the VPN in the router makes a connection (after entering the VPN server IP address, login name, and password) to the VPN server, or you put the DNS web addresses in the router. All devices connecting to the router are passed to the VPN, or the DNS server.

I find the DNS servers to be less problematic and better at streaming.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Zichi thanks alot for the detailed explanation of the setup of your network. Well I have Aterm BL172HV with an imbedded VDSL modem as home Gateway that acts as a DHCP server, the AU Hikari TV box is connected to the gateway, 2 wireless LAN routers are connected to the gateway , a Macbook, ipad and , windows notebook and android tablet all connect to the internet through the 2 wireless LAN routers and windows desktop PC is connected to one of the lan ports of the gateway. I can watch Fox, CNN and BBC, disney and most other programs on AU hikari, I just needed variety that the whole family can watch during weekend thats where Netflix or Hulu stateside come into play. I have learned alot and will think carefully which option to try.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Guys guys!! If you stream from the computer or ipad to the TV is suck, because there is no Dolby 5.0 from Netflix, the picture is not HD. And you need to have the computer running to watch anything, don't be cheap, get the Apple TV, a router and pay for a VPN service, with the router you can even have your phone, ipad and computers using the same VPN connection at the same time, is like you in the US, remember, there are many apps that you can only install from ITunes US, if you do the router way, there is no limit to what you can see or install, because you will have two connection in one, the Japanese IP and the US IP via the VPN, and the connection is encrypted.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Cheers, Zichi. Glad it worked.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm a Hulu Plus subscriber here in Japan. After reading the above long list of complains (which I also share) I was surprised that no one pointed out the actual reason of WHY Hulu does what it does in Japan.

All the skipping around of seasons, incomplete series, etc. is designed to increase physical purchase / DVD rentals of the series.

Japanese people consume media so much differently than folks in the west. While Hulu in the States is seen as a content provider, Hulu Japan is more of a content advertiser. They get you hooked on a series, but then if you want to see all of it, you have to go to Tsutaya and rent it or Tower and buy the boxed set. It's all an advertisement.

Once you accept that, it's easier to understand what's going on. That being said, it still completely and totally sucks. My wife and I keep it for Walking Dead.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Is it supposed to be funny when you have Season 1, Season 3 but no Season 2 for some shows? It is like watching half of a movie, there are too much missing series to make me come back to Hulu Japan. Where is Carnivale? Californication? Nip Tuck? and many others, they said they signed with HBO and other studios but too many things are missing, some shows are just too old and seen too many times (Murder, She Wrote...etc)

My guess is that there is some pressure or sabotage coming from Skyperfect TV and J-Com. I went back to torrenting.

The Walking Dead Season 4 is back BTW...

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Not especially good costumer service, but good all the same. I wish other Japanese services were as helpful. Perhaps they have adopted the US customer service system.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I guess I'm one of the few that is relatively satisfied with Hulu. Although I am disappointed there are many shows with incomplete seasons, like 30 Rock, The Sopranos, The Office and The Wire and their selection of movies isn't very good, I'm still able to enjoy the other shows they offer. I finished season 3 of Walking Dead and just finished season 1 of Person of Interest. I'm now enjoying season 1 of Sherlock.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Also! I couldn't see how to play on iPad as it requires FLASH player

The iPad version works just fine--you have to download the Hulu app first, of course.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have subscribed to Hulu for close to two years now and am really disappointed with the scant movie library. After reading some of the post here I am tempted to get a VPN and subscribe directly to the US Hulu or Netflix. So can someone advise me on which gadgets to get and what to do to subscribe

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't have any kind of special router for my VPN. I subscribed to their service and downloaded the connection tool from their website. I connect directly from my computer to the VPN servers over my regular router with no additional settings on the router.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@drlucifer,

You don't need anything except Spotflux. There's a free version with limited ads and a small scription version without the ads. I run the free version. Gives access to America so you can access Hulu Stateside. Works very well. I also have Hikari TV so I can state no problems with that. I've used Spotflux since it was released.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Thanks Zichi, will give it a look.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't intend to use my computer to stream so I wonder whether with only Spotflux or just software I would still be able to stream and watch on my T.V screen

I have my computer plugged into the TV. I stream US netflix right to my TV.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The_True; If I get a VPN Router, how do I connect it to the home Gateway ? That is which gets connected to the WAN port of the order.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The DNS option is better than using a VPN regarding content streaming because you can achieve direct connection with the media station ex. hulu and avoid the “middle-man”. Personally, I am using UnoTelly which is similar to Overplay. Perhaps you should check UnoTelly as well if you haven’t done so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Be warned, you can't subscribe to American Hulu without access to an American credit card. They will not allow payment with overseas credit cards.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Thanks The_True and Viking68. If I understand you guys very well I need 1.) A VPN Router like Cisco router small business RV 220w or or ASUS rt-n66u stated by The_True, I must confess that I need to do some research on which VPN router to get as the price of the Cisco RV220W is steep about 27,000yen at rakuten 2) I need a streaming device like Roku3 about 10,000yen

Subscribe to a VPN Service like HideMyAss, StrongVPN or VPN4All or Overplay VPN So besides the requirements I have stated above, would I have to apply separately to Hulu and Netflix if I want to stream from them. Presently, I am subscribed to au Hikari T.V would I still be able to use it with a VPN router without any compartibility issues Are there any other affordable VPN routers that can meet my needs ?
-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Thanks Strangleland and Zichi, I don't intend to use my computer to stream so I wonder whether with only Spotflux or just software I would still be able to stream and watch on my T.V screen ?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Witch router did you get for VPN?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

drlucifer here is the tutorial http://wiki.hidemyass.com/DD-WRT_PPTP_Setup

and here is the photo of how does it work http://strongvpn.com/vpn_routers_new.shtml

hidemyass is cheaper and better tho.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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