scene from the naked director

20 Best Japanese Shows on Netflix to Stream Right Now [June 2024]

Netflix is a go-to for popular anime, like “Hunter x Hunter” and “Demon Slayer,” but it’s also great for binge-watching J-dramas—also known as dorama (ドラマ) in Japanese.

Fast-paced thrillers, poignant romance series, live-action adaptations of manga—all of these are available on Netflix.

What sets J-dramas apart is their unique storytelling, featuring creative plotlines you might never have seen before. Characters also tend to be well-developed, and production quality is high, with gorgeous shots and costumes.

Here’s an updated list of unforgettable Japanese shows on Netflix that’ll keep you entertained for hours:

Contents

1. Quartet (2017)

Japanese Name: カルテット
Genre:
Drama

Four musicians who have very different personalities accidentally meet at a karaoke bar in Tokyo. All of them are in their 30s, and instead of being at the peak of their careers, they feel like their lives are going downhill. They make a spontaneous decision to start a quartet together, moving into a serene cottage in Karuizawa during the winter.

“Quartet” is written by Yuji Sakamoto, who’s a major figure in the Japanese TV industry—and it shows because the drama’s dialogues are captivating, with plenty of subtle character development. It also won several awards!

2. Alice in Borderland (2020)

Japanese Name: 今際の国のアリス
Genre: 
Thriller

If you enjoyed “Squid Game,” then you can’t miss out on “Alice in Borderland.” Ryohei is a gamer who’s living a fairly nondescript life. But then he suddenly gets transported into a deserted version of Tokyo, where he’s forced to participate in dangerous games to survive.

Each game has its own rules and deadly consequences, testing not only his physical abilities but also his psychological limits. Luckily, he’s not alone—but things get complicated fast as alliances form and betrayals happen.

While it sounds similar to “Squid Game,” I found the games here much more interesting and imaginative. 

3. The Naked Director (2019)

Japanese Name: 全裸監督
Genre:
Biography

“The Naked Director” tackles a controversial topic: the adult video (AV) industry in Japan. Specifically, it tells the story of Toru Muranishi, who was a revolutionary filmmaker in the 1980s.

There are a lot of funny scenes because Muranishi isn’t scared to defy social norms. For example, he advocated for real-life sexual encounters while filming, which was hard for society to accept. You’ll also get to see the darker side of the industry, like the challenges faced by AV industry workers.

The first season is a bit on the lighthearted side, while the second season tackles heavier themes.

4. Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman (2017)

Japanese Name: さぼリーマン甘太朗
Genre: Comedy

This has got to be one of the most unique shows that I’ve watched. Imagine a fictional series that showcases different desserts all over Tokyo—except the protagonist has a hilarious, exaggerated reaction every time. Every time he tastes a dessert, he enters a fantasy world, complete with wacky visuals.

Kantaro, the protagonist, seems like a serious and diligent salesman, but he has a secret: he’s incredibly passionate about sweets. Each episode features Kantaro sneaking away from work to visit a new dessert shop. Many of the desserts are traditional to Japan, such as kakigorimont blanc and anmitsu.

5. My Daemon (2023)

Japanese Name: ぼくのデーモン
Genre: Action

You’ll notice right away that “My Daemon” has pretty unique graphics. That’s because it’s a collaboration between a Japanese screenwriter and a Thai animation studio.

In a futuristic Tokyo ravaged by a nuclear disaster, Kento—a grade school student—discovers a small daemon creature named Anna. Despite the chaos and dangers of this post-apocalyptic world, Kento decides to raise Anna.

This series draws from both fantasy and science fiction as Kento and Anna navigate a landscape where Earth has collided with hell. I felt very attached to the characters, and the whimsical art style balances out the apocalyptic storyline.  

6. My Happy Marriage (2023)

Japanese Name: わたしの幸せな結婚;
Genre: Romance

If you’re a fan of shoujo anime, then it’s hard to go wrong with “My Happy Marriage.” It reached near the top of global charts on Netflix, and it’s well-liked even in Japan.

Miyo is from a noble family, but she’s relentlessly mistreated and isolated because of her magical abilities, which are considered unlucky. She’s then arranged to marry Kiyo, a well-respected commander who’s known for being aloof.

Miyo is scared of her husband-to-be at first, but then soon discovers that contrary to the rumors, Kiyo is actually kind and caring. While it’s an arranged marriage, you’ll end up rooting for them!

7. The Could’ve-Gone-All-the-Way Committee (2018)

Japanese Name: やれたかも委員会
Genre: Romance

Also known as “The Could’ve-Done-It Committee,” this series had me cracking up with its deadpan humor and sometimes ridiculous situations. In each episode, someone submits a story about a missed opportunity to have sex to a committee that consists of three people. The committee then analyzes these scenarios, debating whether the outcome could have been different.

The premise might sound strange, but the show surprisingly gives a lot of insights about dating and relationships. It helps that the committee consists of a musician, a martial artist and a businesswoman, who often have different perspectives. 

8. Trillion Game (2023)

Japanese Name: トリリオンゲーム
Genre: Drama

“Trillion Game” stands out easily among recent J-dramas because it’s exciting and full of plot twists.

Combine a charismatic, wannabe entrepreneur with a genius programmer, and you have a potential winning team for making a lot of cash—or at least that’s what two friends, Haru and Manabu, are hoping for. Haru gets the chance to work at a prestigious tech company, but he turns it down to launch his own tech startup with Manabu instead, with the goal of making a trillion dollars.

Meguro Ren does a stellar job as Haru, who’s popular and well-liked but willing to lie to get ahead.  

9. First Love (2022)

Japanese Name: 初恋
Genre: Romance

“First Love” is a beautiful, touching story that starts out with two high school students who like each other: Yae and Harumichi. After graduating, though, their paths diverge. Harumichi joins the military as a pilot in training, while Yae moves to Tokyo for university.

They try to keep in touch, but an accident causes Yae to lose her memory. Still, their connection doesn’t end there—they keep on having chance encounters, unable to fully separate from each other.

This made me cry, especially because some of the details felt so real and the cinematography was beautiful. Hikaru Utada’s “First Love” also plays all throughout.  

10. Midnight Diner (2016)

Japanese Name: 深夜食堂
Genre: Slice-of-Life

“Midnight Diner” is one of the most successful Japanese shows on Netflix, with five seasons already. It’s the type of soothing, low-key show that’s perfect to watch when you’re looking for something comforting.

The setting is a small diner in Shinjuku, Tokyo that only opens after midnight. While the menu is limited, the diner’s owner prepares any dish that customers want as long as he has the ingredients, and he listens to them too and gives advice.

Each episode focuses on a new customer and their story, ranging from a Yakuza boss to a gay bar owner and office employees.

11. Informa (2023)

Japanese Name: インフォーマ
Genre: Thriller

“Ïnforma” is an underrated, action-packed gem that focuses on the grittier side of Tokyo. Keijiro is a former yakuza who has now become an informer with a wealth of connections in the underground criminal world. He teams up with Kanji, a journalist looking to do more involved work that goes beyond the usual celebrity scandal. Together, they start to investigate a series of yakuza murders.

I got through the entire series in a couple of days because it’s just 10 episodes at around 30 minutes each. Expect quite a bit of violence—the ending left me reeling!  

12. Switched (2018)

Japanese Name: 宇宙を駆けるよだか
Genre: Drama

Body swap is a common trope, but “Switched” gives it a fresh take.

Two high school girls, Ayumi and Zenko, somehow switch bodies. Ayumi is popular and pretty, while Zenko has a much more difficult life. Coincidentally, they switch just as Ayumi is about to confess to a classmate, Kaga.

Since Ayumi is now stuck in Zenko’s body, she’s forced to deal with issues like bullying and complicated family problems.

The acting here deserves extra praise because the main characters were excellent at portraying personality switches. Even if the main characters are high school students, the plot is also surprisingly dark and mature.

13. Ikebukuro West Gate Park (2000)

Japanese Name: 池袋ウエストゲートパーク
Genre: Crime

This show is the oldest one on the list, but it’s definitely worth watching as a classic JDrama!

Makoto is a young troubleshooter who gets involved with Ikebukuro’s youth gangs. Even though he’s not a gang member, he often gets called in as a problem-solver and mediator, especially when it comes to the G-Boys, which is led by his childhood friend. Of course, he doesn’t always manage to stay neutral—he sometimes gets into messy situations with rival gangs and the police.

It’s a fun series with several layers to the storyline, and I’d even recommend the drama over the anime version.

14. The Makanai: Cooking For The Maiko House (2023)

Japanese Name: 舞妓さんちのまかないさん
Genre: Drama

Set in Kyoto, “The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House” is a relaxing and heartwarming series that delves into the lives of maiko (apprentice geisha). Kiyo and Sumire are two friends who both want to become maiko, but things don’t turn out as they expect. Sumire continues her maiko training, but Kiyo becomes a cook instead at the maiko house.

Far from a typical geisha drama, the emphasis is on what goes on behind the scenes. Food plays a huge part in the series, with slow-paced scenes that introduce you to traditional Japanese dishes.

If you enjoy it, you might also like the other films by its director, Hirokazu Kore-eda.

15. Erased (2017)

Japanese Name: 僕だけがいない街
Genre: Mystery

People usually have low expectations of live-action adaptations of manga, but this Netflix original pulls it off very well. Satoru is a young man with a unique ability—just a few minutes before a life-threatening incident happens, he gets sent back in time to prevent it.

When his mother gets murdered, he makes the largest time leap back so far, all the way back to his childhood. This is because to save his mother, he needs to solve the mystery of a series of kidnappings and murders.

Both Satoru and his mother are willing to go to great lengths for each other, so don’t be surprised if the story makes you emotional!

16. Giri/Haji (2019)

Japanese Name: 義理/恥
Genre: Crime

Giri/Haji hits all of the right spots: the characters have compelling backstories, the cinematography is beautiful and the storyline is fresh, covering both Japanese and British culture.

Mori, a detective from Tokyo, travels to London to look for his supposedly dead brother, Yuto. This is because Yuto is accused of murdering the nephew of a Yakuza member, which might trigger a gang war in Tokyo.

Under the disguise of an exchange student, Kenzo explores the lesser known side of London, from seedy backstreets to high-stakes criminal gatherings. He unexpectedly makes friends with Sara, another detective, and Rodney, a Japanese-British sex worker.

17. Ishiko and Haneo: You’re Suing Me? (2022)

Japanese Name: 石子と羽男
Genre: Comedy

Up for watching a legal drama that’s also a comedy? “Ishiko and Haneo” blends both genres pretty well, with plenty of chemistry too between the two lead characters.

Ishiko is a paralegal who works at her father’s neighborhood law office, while Haneo is an eccentric but brilliant lawyer. They’re forced to collaborate in various odd and little legal cases, and they often clash. Ishiko tends to be methodical and by-the-book, while Haneo’s more unpredictable with a flair for drama.

On top of this, the show still manages to give some social commentary on relevant issues like workplace discrimination and housing rights.

18. Terrace House (2012)

Japanese Name: テラスハウス
Genre: Reality Show

I usually don’t watch reality shows, but “Terrace House” resembles a slice-of-life series more than a reality show. Six twenty-year-olds from different walks of life—three men and three women—have to stay together in one house. Aside from this, they continue with their normal routines, heading to work or school and then going back home to each other.

The interactions are very authentic and relatable, and there’s even a panel that gives commentary about different situations that pop up in the house.

It can get pretty addicting to watch, but luckily, all eight seasons of the show are on Netflix.

19. Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai (2020)

Japanese Name: ダイの大冒険
Genre: Anime

This 2020 anime is finally making its way to Netflix on March 1, 2024 and is based on the popular “Dragon Quest” video game series.

Dai is a young boy who dreams of becoming a hero. He lives on a remote island, where he trains in the ways of combat and is raised by a monster named Brass.

But Dai leaves his island and everything he once knew when Hadlar—a dark lord—threatens the world. And it’s up to Dai to stop him.

But luckily, he’s joined by friends and allies who help him on his quest. This anime is a buffet of action-packed battles and memorable characters. And of course, is a classic tale of good versus evil.

20. Rising Impact (2024)

Japanese Name: ライジングインパクト
Genre: Anime

Gawain always fantasized about becoming the world’s best baseball hitter, practicing for hours with his friends every day in Fukushima, where he lives with his grandfather. But all it took was one encounter with Kiria Nishino—a female professional golfer—and his love for baseball was quickly replaced with an addiction to golf.

On his first try, Gawain hits the golf ball 300 yards, which prompts Kiria Nishino to help him get accepted at one of the best golf schools in the world. Gawain moves to Tokyo after enrolling and the episodes begin to document his competitions, greatest challenges and impressive victories.

 

 

From this list of top-notch Japanese shows, you’ve probably already spotted at least a few that intrigue you. Check them out on Netflix and prepare for a cozy streaming session!

With the right tools, Japanese dramas are also a fun way to learn some Japanese.

FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

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learn-japanese-with-short-videos

You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.

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learn-japanese-with-songs

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learn-japanese-with-movies

FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language skills.

practice-japanese-with-adaptive-quizzes

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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