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What are the most popular Japanese TV shows?

36 Comments
By cinnamonellie, grape Japan

Japanese TV has a wide variety of genres including variety shows, news, sports, dramas, broadcasts. Among these programs, I will introduce you to the most popular shows favored by the Japanese audience, some so popular that even you might’ve heard of. Below is my ranking of the most known and loved Japanese TV programs:

1. Why did you come to Japan? (You wa nani shi ni Nippon e? /Youは何しに日本へ)

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A show well-known abroad and very famous nationwide is "Why did you come to Japan?" The show is presented by the comedy duo Bananaman and you can watch it every Monday evening on TV Tokyo. The staff goes to various airports in Japan, but mainly Narita Airport, and they start interviewing foreigners who come to visit Japan.

They usually ask why they came to Japan and even tag along during the visitors’ itinerary in Japan. It is a very interesting show and even as a Japanese, there are a lot of things you can learn about Japan’s culture, events, and travel spots while watching the show.

2. Sekai no Hate Made Itte Q

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"Sekai no Hate made Itte q" is again a popular series that can be watched on Nippon TV. In this show, comedians or Japanese celebrities travel around the world and they experience the culture of other countries by participating in different events or festivals. The show is really fun to watch and the comedians are hilarious.

3. Mezamashi TV

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"Mezamashi TV" is a news program that can be watched during the weekdays, every morning on Fuji TV. It has a fun corner called the Mezamashi Janken (Mezamashi Rock Scissors Paper) and if you win, you get points and at the end of every week, you can participate in the lottery and win great prizes.

4. Downtown Now on Fuji TV

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"Downtown Now" is a variety talk series that features the Downtown comedy duo, Sakagami Shinobu as regulars plus another celebrity or comedian who joins them as a fourth member.

They usually head to the meeting place (izakaya or bar) where the special guest for the night is waiting. The show is a talk show where we find out more about our special guests while drinking. Recently, they had Eiji Wentz, a Japanese singer and actor, also a former member of WaT, as a special guest and they cleared up the mystery behind his quick return to Japan after only one year a half in London.

His purpose was to study English and get to polish his singing and acting skills, but only after a short period, he returned to Japan, and instead of taking up musicals, he took up a lot of variety shows, the reason why everyone was confused. The show is fun to watch, especially if the special guests in one of your favorites. You get to know a lot more about your favorite Japanese celebrity and maybe discover new things about their personality.

5. Kis-my Busaiku

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Another variety show of Fuji TV is "Kis-my Busaiku" where the Kis-my-Ft2 are the hosts and during the show, each member has to prove how cool they are. The name “Busaiku” means “ugly”/” unappealing” and the hosts need to prove that they are the opposite. They get a scenario with topics such as “Your girlfriend wants to have plastic surgery?” or “Your girlfriend found out you were with another girl on the day you were supposed to meet her but you suddenly canceled” and the members need to do the right thing and deliver the right words.

They do so by putting a little scene and then, the audience and female judges give them points. The highest in rank is the coolest while the last one becomes busaiku. I am sure this show will get you hooked because it captivates the hearts of the audience from the start.

6. 有吉ぃぃeeee! (Ariyoshiiieeee!)

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A TV Tokyo Show that is named after our main host, the Japanese comedian and singer Hiroiki Ariyoshi. He and his three comedian friends plus a special guest that is usually a female singer or model, go to a Japanese celebrity house to play games online games. Watching it always puts me in a great mood and their jokes always get me laughing.

7. Getsuyou kara Yofukashi (Monday Late Show) on Nippon TV

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"Monday Late Show" variety show’s hosts are Matsuko Deluxe and Kanjani8’s Murakami Shingo. They usually talk about the current hot issues in Japan and society. They show another side of Japan and it also has a bit of dark humor and sarcasm and it has many fans around Japan because of how straightforward and fun the show’s hosts are and also the interesting topics they talk about.

These were the top TV shows popular in Japan and we would love to hear your personal opinions and recommendations if you have any.

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© grape Japan

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36 Comments
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Popular TV shows if you are in your 20s and a girl.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

“Are you not entertained !!!” (Maximus voice)

well that’s all I could come up with after reading about the shows. Stopped relying on TV shows for entertainment back in the mid-eighties. Not even the popular Simpsons was worth the time.

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3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's amazing how much of Japanese TV just kind of blends together. There are a few standout or at least somewhat interesting shows, but for the most part they all follow the same formula and seem to have the same rotating roster of 30 to 40 actors/actresses/manzai/Johnny's/talent. These are the same folks that you see non-stop every day on commercials as well, so that somehow makes it even less interesting. Japanese viewers like familiarity, I guess.

A very small problem in the grand scope of things, but scanning the program listing every night while staying at home under quarantine is not an inspiring experience.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

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11 ( +12 / -1 )

With just one or two tiny exceptions, Japanese TV is utter rubbish. Over 95% of it is not worth watching at all. The most annoying aspect for me is knowing that TV revenues from advertising and NHK fees are huge, but they do so little with the money. It's an insult to the viewing public.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Japanese TV has a wide variety of genres including variety shows, news, sports, dramas, broadcasts

Err, documentaries, nature programs, quiz or game shows with the general public.... About 80% of Japanese tv just seems to be celebrity vehicles, people paid to laugh at each others' "jokes".

The one program I do like is the Japanese Antiques Roadshow "Nandemo Kantei-dan". Instead of middle-class ponces on the UK programme who feign interest in experts' description and are there for a free valuation, the Japanese program puts on no pretenses and cuts straight to the chase of the grubby issue of what the thing is worth. A large number of the backstories are from handymen who say "someone gave this antique instead of paying me", often a hanging scroll that proves to be fake.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I gave away my TV a long time ago, but these are some of the programmes I use to think were worth watching:

That Darwin nature documentary after the Sunday evening NHK news - no stupid tarentos, just nature and a bearable cartoon character.

Puzzle Quiz Attack 25, although I preferred the two previous hosts. Imagine that, ordinary people using their brains, instead of watching tarentos win prizes or money for themselves rather than for charity.

Close Up Gendai, before the presenter was fired by Abe minions.

Can't really stand the idiotic antics from most tarentos (except perhaps Matsuko Deluxe), eating or hitting each other with inflatable mallets, or programmes based solely on Japanese self-ingratiation and ego stroking, like Cool Japan and Why did you come to Japan? Basically asking foreigners why they came to the land of milk and honey, and what they think of natto.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

Most of the TV shows are full of mindless drivel, self-love and obsession with foreigners' impression of how magnificent Japanese culture, food, people, etc is in the world. They gear it to bobbysoxers and airheads who are prone to believing that everything these pinheads say is true. They basically have little knowledge or expertise in anything but people are willing to watch because they are famous. There are the same core 'tarento' on a large number of shows for decades and the routines barely ever change. I mean, how many years of episodes can an over the hill comedian dress up as some creature and upon entering the stage everyone is laughing and are truly amazed? Or, hey, let's go to a foreign country and our only purpose is to find a Japanese person there, not actually explore and tell you about the culture. My wife says that after working hard all day, people don't want to have to use their brain. It shows (pun intended) in the programming. Thank goodness for cable TV and the internet!

16 ( +17 / -1 )

I find food shows here recently are absolutely disgusting. You know the ones where people go out and just shovel the food into their mouths without chewing.

Teaches the kids terrible manners

9 ( +11 / -2 )

I learned Japanese watching the dramas back from the 90s that were great. Now there is nothing that I want to watch on Japanese TV.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

weeee.....look at me being stupid on TV...about sums up 60% of Japanese TV programming.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Close Up Gendai used to be very good.

My least favourite programme, and one which I'm sure Japan apologists thinks is "hilarious", is where they get that comedian Dejima to walk around overseas and basically hassle people for help in shouty broken English which he hams up to the max. I'm sure they must edit it, because nobody he accosts is the least bit bothered about some total stranger coming up to them, touching them, and shouting "HEY YOU! BURIJJI! BURIJJI!" (bridge) in their faces to get directions. If you are that rude to people in real life, sooner or later you will get shoved and possibly even punched. Japanese themselves strongly resent foreign Youtubers like Logan Paul using Japan simply as a backdrop for idiotic pranks. Overseas is not fair game for Japanese tv either.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Ha !

I through my TV out the window a few years ago.

All mindless rubbish !!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I don't have an actual TV, instead we use Hikari TV hooked up to the computer. We have Japanese shows, more limited I think than the digital receiver/TV but we never watch any of them.

I can't even remember when we lasted watched Japanese TV?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japanese TV - guys trying to look cute and attractive, girls trying to look cute and attractive, comedians who are not funny, eating food / filming food, tarentos ( no talent ), acting dumb, news : 95% Japan, 5% rest of the world. with cable, things will get a little better, but still... ... without cable, you can maybe enjoy some morning show and some dramas at night... i mean occasionally you will find some good stuff here and there but...

the thing is, Japanese TV is interesting... before you start living in Japan.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Popular != Good

You know the ones where people go out and just shovel the food into their mouths without chewing.

On the odd occasion they do chew, it's with their mouths open, while talking. Disgusting.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

OK, that covers children's TV. How about the other programmes or channels that for grown adults?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The only good TV shows in Japan right now are 水曜日のダウンタウン and ガキ使。And 相席食堂 in Osaka.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

"The show is really fun to watch and the comedians are hilarious... ...I am sure this show will get you hooked because it captivates the hearts of the audience from the start... ...Watching it always puts me in a great mood and their jokes always get me laughing..."

I suppose it must pay quite well to write this sort of stuff.

...your favorite Japanese celebrity...

What a curious notion.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Japanese tv is absolute trash. Anyone over the age of five who thinks it’s funny or interesting needs a reality check.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I used to watch Youは何しに日本へ as I could identify myself with some of these foreigners and I also considered it as an entertaining resource for Japanese culture and travel information. The closer I looked at the show, the more I realized that it is purely self-pandering and self-affirmation. "Please tell us, dear gaijin, why we are so awesome."

Maybe I put in too much thought and social analysis. After all, Japanese TV does not really require lots of brain cells.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Japanese TV is a world of self preserving marvel. The kitsch and bizarre design of TV studios, the plethora of familiar faces on every – single – channel, the audience chanting in wonder when presented with basic facts, the audience chanting twice as hard in awe after the presented basic facts are carefully explained and confirmed in a short clip, all the elaborate boards with stickers-covered secretes and mysteries, the daily calorie-free rations of OISHIIs and UMAIs over the bestest plates of meals discovered for that day, the familiar tone of your elementary school teacher with which you are presented the information and assured everything will be just fine, the floating heads living in the corners, the cartoonish subtitles jumping out every moment…

I don't know, all I'm saying is for the most part watching Japanese TV somehow annoys me and it's not my cup of tea. If other people like it, who am I to judge.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I stopped watching the Sumo more than 10 years ago and use to watch all those Samurai shows. Sports channels are probably good.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not really a fan of any Japanese television, but I can tolerate ItteQ, and occasionally Why did you come to Japan, although I find Bobby Ologin’s narration extremely annoying. If my wife has TV on, I’ll just do other things, but whenever I hear that ‘take-a-bite’ sound effect, it’s all I can do not to fly into an absolute rage. Don’t really know why but I HATE that sound effect.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The late night comedy shows used to be pretty raunchy and no-holds-barred. Politicians, famous figures, etc were all fair game. The Pro-baseball Association made a complaint when a comedy show did a skit involving a bidet toilet designed as baseball legend Sadaharu Oh. From then on comedy shows shied away from mocking prominent figures other than other comedians.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

although I find Bobby Ologin’s narration extremely annoying

I’ve met Kondo Bobby Ologun several times. He is from a wealthy family, speaks perfect Japanese, English and French. The idiot character he plays on TV is over the top and exploitive. There was a segment on a show where he went to meet his family, and he still played the idiot character, and his relatives were looking at him like “WTF?”

An African American friend of mine (sorry for the cliche) straight up said, “I hate that (N-word) for perpetuating the stupid black stereotype.”

4 ( +4 / -0 )

*Ologun. No disrespect meant.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

gogogoToday 07:06 am JST

Popular TV shows if you are in your 20s and a girl.

The mentioned ones? Wow, no. Except 'Kis-my Busaiku', definitely not.

You can hate Japanese TV, that's fine and understandable, but you shouldn't put them all together if you don't know these shows.

That said, from that list I used to watch 'Mezamashi TV' (not anymore, too early for me) and currently only watch 'Getsuyou kara Yofukashi'. It's actually pretty funny, showing the quirky and stupid side of Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I remember a couple of years ago there was a documentary about a Syrian refugee family and their life in Japan. Shocked is a strong word, but I couldn’t believe this was on Japanese TV.

Nowadays the TV collects dust and serves as an occasional table cloth hanger for when we eat.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Most of the TV shows are full of mindless drivel, self-love and obsession with foreigners' impression of how magnificent Japanese culture, food, people, etc is in the world. They gear it to bobbysoxers and airheads who are prone to believing that everything these pinheads say is true. They basically have little knowledge or expertise in anything but people are willing to watch because they are famous. There are the same core 'tarento' on a large number of shows for decades and the routines barely ever change. 

So true. Totally mindless, with the exception of the evening NHK news. I really don’t care for characters and talento (I have little clue why they are there.) I just like the news reported by real journalists, and that’s it. I do like some of the drama mysteries, though. I really don’t understand the fascination with TV programs about over eating.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

jp tv is rubbish,you must pay nhk high fees for...nothing.really worthless.if no internet,amazon prime,netflix and youtube...tv in Jp is not needed at all.

uneducative,boring,over commercialized.stupid...you use best word.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The only show I regularly watch is "The non fiction"

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Have to agree that most Japanese TV is crap. However any show with Downtown in it is worth watching

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

tooheysnewToday  09:02 am JST

However any show with Downtown in it is worth watching

Really? How so? They don't appear to be much different from any of the other owarai/manzai acts.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese TV does not have a “variety of genres”. Most of the programmes are indistinguishable from one another. Same people on them too. Just awful.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sekai no Hate Made Itte Q is a pretty good program, there are a few I like watching, but I will miss any show with people eating.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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