What Makes Japanese Television Different From the Rest of the World?

  • Media affects our lives in many aspects. It can reflect the society and what is happening now, it can connect us with other countries and entertain us. In my country, political satire shows, observational comedy performances, and news satire programs are mainstream. But in Japan, TVs can be very different. I have noticed Japan has a wider selection of variety shows and other shows that encourage viewers to engage with the host of the show. Another thing to mention, Japanese drama are quite different from the drama I am familiar with in many aspects. In this topic, I would like to introduce 6 things I have noticed about Japanese TVs and TV shows that are very different yet very interesting!

    1. Special Remote Control Buttons

    This may sound bizarre, but Japanese remote controls are very different in shape and features compared to those I am familiar with. Believe it or not, the iconic blue, red, green, and yellow buttons are capable of transmitting data through your TV screen to the TV company. Yes, with one click on your remote control, you can actively engage in many Japanese TV shows that ask their viewers to vote or send their thoughts by pressing these colored buttons on their remote controls. For example, a TV presenter can ask you to vote: if you like pizza, press the blue button, if it’s not your cup of tea, then press the red button, if you hate pizza, press the green button. After selecting your answer, press the “d” or “Data” button on your remote control to submit your answers and check what other viewers think about pizza!

    One famous TV show by Fuji TV is a special show called “Mezamashi Janken” or “The Alarm Rock, Paper, Scissors” in English. Participating in this show is easy, the first Rock-Paper-Scissors alarm on a weekday starts at around 5:57 AM and 7:09 AM on a weekend morning. The TV host will challenge you to win against her in a rock-paper-scissors (janken) game. To submit your answer, use one of the colored buttons: blue for rock, red for scissors, and green for paper. You get 20 points for winning, 10 points if it is a tie, and if you lost, you will still be able to get 5 points for participating. Mezamashi Janken is held at 4 different times on a normal weekday and 2 times on a weekend. Depending on the time, you might be challenging the newscaster, a famous talent, or your favorite anime character.

    So what happens when I collect points? Once you accumulate 100 points or more, a special keyword will be available for you during the broadcasting of the show. Use that special keyword to submit an application and if luck is on your side, you might win a special present!

    Here is Mizuki Nana challenging you to win against her in janken and the prize for that week was the amazing Sony Lens-style Camera QX.

    If you are living in Japan and interested in this show, Fuji TV has provided a webpage for all the information you might need to participate. Check the official website (Japanese only) for Mezamashi Janken FAQ, or if you can read Japanese, get engaged with the latest updates through their official Twitter account and Facebook fan page.

    2. Asadora

    “Asadorama,” or “asadora” for short, are probably one of the few serialized TV shows that can be watched every day in Japan! Generally, Japanese people are too busy with their jobs, making it very common to watch dorama (serialized Japanese television drama) once a week. “Asadora” or “morning drama” introduces a system that is very convenient for those who don’t have time to watch TV. The first asadora was introduced by Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) which is the national public broadcasting channel in Japan. Asadora is different from other dorama as it broadcasts every day (sometimes every weekday) from 8:00 to 8:15 AM and rebroadcasts on the same day from 12:45 to 1:00 PM. Even if you are too busy to be watching asadora at home, with the NHK On Demand service, you would still be able to catch it on your smartphone or tablet.

    You need to be in Japan and read some Japanese to understand the system requirements and to download the application from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, or you can watch it online on the NHK On Demand website (Japanese only). Though some TV shows/dorama might require extra fees. Oshin, Amachan, and Massan are some of the notable and largely successful asadora in NHK’s history.

    3. TVer

    Pronounced as “tee-ver,” TVer is a free service sponsored by Nippon TV, TV Asahi, TBS, TV Tokyo, and Fuji Television. It’s a service that is very similar to NHK On Demand except that it’s completely free. TVer is a special service dedicated to people who are busy with their jobs or family, those who missed the last episode of their favorite TV show, and those who don’t like committing their time to watching TV shows. It provides TV shows, drama, and anime that were broadcasted on Japan’s most famous channels to their viewers on the internet through their website (Japanese only). If you are living in Japan and can read Japanese, you will be able to tell that the website is very user-friendly. With the TVer service, you can check shows that were broadcasted yesterday or the day before and you can check shows that are about to end or the latest arrivals on your favorite TV channel.

    Similar to NHK On Demand, TVer also provides a free mobile service (Japanese only) for Android and iOS users to watch their favorite TV shows on the go.

    4. Subs/Dubs Button

    Back in my country, most foreign TV shows were subbed in the native language. With the huge number of foreigners living there, we had many channels dedicated to foreign TV shows and many news channels were in foreign languages, so the dubbing culture was almost nonexistent. When I came to Japan, I was thrilled with the variety of Japanese TV shows making it harder for foreign TV shows to enter the competition but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Popular American TV series such as Desperate Housewives and Prison Break are quite well known in Japan too but with a trick. Most channels would broadcast the show in Japanese and leave the choice to the viewer whether they want to continue watching the show in Japanese or use the magical “jimaku” (subs) and “fukikae” (dubs) buttons on the remote control.

    5. Digest Episodes

    This is a service that I haven’t seen abroad yet. Just like the name says, Digest Episode is a short, easy-to-digest drama episode. The service that is largely used and mostly known is TBS. Digest Episode is a service for those who couldn’t watch their favorite TV show but want to catch up with the latest episode. The episode length is somewhere between 3 to 5 minutes, wrapping up all you need to know and major events in certain episodes. You can watch Digest Episodes for free inside or outside Japan on the TBS Youtube account.

    6. NHK TV License

    Where I am from, the National Broadcasting Service relies on TV commercials as well as other resources to fund itself. But in Japan, the situation is quite different. If you watch NHK World (the National Japanese Broadcasting Channel overseas) in your home country, you probably have noticed that there are no TV commercials or sponsors for the channel. Why is that? The answer is that in Japan, there is a TV license you need to pay for. Even if you don’t have a TV in your apartment, you need to pay for that TV license. You might be thinking, why do I need to pay for it if I don’t have a TV? Because in Japan, people can watch TV on their smartphones, tablets, and other devices, so not owning a TV doesn’t mean that you can’t access the broadcasting service. Currently, there is no penalty for not paying your TV license, but there are times, depending on the situation, that avoidance is considered a criminal offense against the Japanese law.

    After reading all these, it’s pretty interesting to know the differences between Japanese television and the television that you grew up to know, right? If you have anything to add, feel free to comment down below!

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