J-Dramas Worth Watching: NHK “morning dramas”

Although I have been talking lately about watching K-Dramas through legitimate sources like Crunchyroll, I also spend a lot of time watching Japanese dramas with the family as well. Japanese TV, particularly NHK, has an unusual style of drama called asadora (朝ドラ) which just means “morning drama”. These are dramas that usually run 15 minutes a day, 6 days a week (not Sunday), and last about 3 months. Unlike US television, re-runs are not common in Japan, so every 3-6 months, a new drama series starts.

These dramas are always family-friendly, and contain little or no violence, nothing sexual and no crass humor. In Japan they air in the mornings when people typically are eating breakfast, but because we watch them in the US through TV Japan, we watch them at dinner time (6:45 pm Seattle time) about one day late. We don’t watch much TV in general, but it’s a nice thing to do as a family, plus my daughter and I learn more Japanese too.

When we visit Japan, we watch it every morning with my wife’s family too. I remember one morning, I walked around the neighborhood for some exercise, and I could hear the TV drama’s opening theme playing from different houses in the neighborhood. NHK dramas are pretty popular.

Some are immensely popular For example, the current drama is called Ama-chan, which is about a young lady in northern Japan who starts out as an ama, a woman who dives underwater to catch shellfish (urchins, etc). But through a twist of fate, ends up being scouted for a new idol-group (that pokes fun at AKB48 a little bit). I had a hard time following this show at first, because everyone spoke in a northern-Japanese dialect,1 and I just couldn’t follow at all. Now, I can follow it more easily though, but I missed all the interesting details early in the series.

The opening theme (which someone made a video of) can be heard here:

My 6-year old daughter and I have a tradition: when this song starts, we dance very silly during the entire song so that we can annoy my wife. Imagine the scene: a big, fat white guy like me and a little 6 year old girl dancing very silly in the living room, while my wife watches helplessly. It’s good exercise by the way.

Of course, not all NHK morning dramas are successful. The previous drama, Jun to Ai, was pretty dark and people frequently argued with each other. Plus the ending was pretty inconclusive. Something dark and heavy like that wasn’t a suitable choice for a family “morning” drama.

My personal favorite actually is the drama actually was from last year, called Umechan Sensei (Doctor Ume). I liked the father, Takahashi Katsumi, a lot. Plus the story was interesting and easier to follow as a foreigner.

Anyhow, the only drawback with NHK dramas is that they’re not very accessible outside of Japan. We can watch it through Japanese cable TV, but it’s pretty expensive and only available in the US. You can’t find NHK dramas in places like Crunchyroll or other sources because the license is so strict. For some reason, Korean dramas are more available, and are just as interesting to watch.

However, if you do get a chance to watch them (or live in Japan), definitely don’t miss them. 🙂

P.S. I also sometimes watch the historical drama Yaezakura but here it runs very late and I usually sleep then. It’s a good drama, plus Ayase Haruka is cute, but the time just doesn’t work. ;p

1 All I could understand at first was the local phrase ジェジェジェ, which expresses surprise. Now you can hear people say it on Japanese TV, podcasts, etc.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

4 thoughts on “J-Dramas Worth Watching: NHK “morning dramas””

  1. I do like watch J-dramas on youtube b^^d
    That’s good to improve my skill and learn more about Japanese culture, japanese teen habit, etc.

    Interesting family by the way 🙂


    1. Hi Goo and welcome. I didn’t realize you can watch such dramas on Youtube. I always thought they aggressively took them down and you had to watch on Chinese sites like Tudou and such.


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