7 Netflix Shows That Will Help You Understand Japan

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An unmissable list of shows, films and documentaries about Japan

By Christy Anne Jones

June 29, 2018

From Japanese idol culture to historic propaganda to informative trivia, this list has something for every binge-watching Netflix viewer looking to open their eyes to another side of Japan.

It’s that time of year again in Tokyo: the parasols are out, the air is sticky, the crowded trains are sweatier and more humid than usual, and that spot on the couch beneath the air-conditioner next to a box of popsicles is looking more and more appealing. Why not stay inside this weekend and deepen your understanding of Japan, its culture and its people? Here is a list of seven historic, informative and interesting shows that will help you do just that! We’ve included a wide range of Netflix favorites (with English subtitles) focusing on Japan and the Japanese people, all for your viewing pleasure.

The Birth of Sake

The Birth of Saké Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Documentary HD

This award-winning documentary explores the lives of sake artisans working in Yoshida Brewery. Here, a small group of employees aged between 20 and 70 brave unusual working conditions and the intense winters of northern Japan to preserve the 2000-year-old tradition of sake.

Tokyo Idols

Tokyo Idols Trailer

AKB48, Nogizaka46, Momoiro Clover Z … idol music is a genre and culture largely unique to Japan: spend five minutes in Akihabara, and you will be inundated with posters and advertisements of pretty, young women and girls in matching costumes dancing and singing to pop music.

Know Your Enemy: Japan

Now considered a culturally-insensitive piece of military propaganda, Know Your Enemy: Japan offers a look into the history of Japan from the 16th century up until the 1930s, and gives insight into the Pacific region during the time of World War II.

Terrace House: Opening New Doors

Terrace House: Opening New Doors is an addictive reality TV show about six young people who, despite being total strangers, all move into a beautiful house in Karuizawa.

Chef’s Table Season 1: Niki Nakayama

Chef's Table – Season 1 | Niki Nakayama [HD] | Netflix

This episode of Chef’s Table explores the life and career of Niki Nakayama. Born in the US to Japanese parents, Niki is a highly successful chef and restaurateur who runs the award-winning Los Angeles restaurant N/Naka. The episode follows Niki’s career and the adversity she has had to overcome as a woman working in the food industries of both Japan and the US.

Japanese Style Originator

Want to learn more about a wide and miscellaneous variety of Japanese traditions? Japanese Style Originator is the perfect show for you.


This is a romantic, reality TV show with a premise like no other: 18 men and women looking for love are placed in beautiful Okinawa with the hope of finding a significant other.

Happy TV binging!


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