There are a lot of recommendations on what j-dramas to watch in order to learn some Japanese. However, some other sources recommend mostly the most favorite series which are amusing, but you will not learn much. The reason can be fast speech of the actors, or advanced dialogues. The following list contains dramas that might not be so well-known or popular, but they are fun to watch and they will teach you some Japanese phrases, vocabulary, and something more. That is for sure.
J-drama for beginners
I think that learning from dramas is not for complete beginners. You need to know at least some basic sentence patterns. In addition, knowing the difference between male and female speech, or the difference between polite and slang expressions, helps too. If you are a beginner and still want to try, go for it. But, choose a drama where the actors speak clearly and not too fast. I found out, that romance and comedy dramas usually meet these conditions.
Subtitles or not?
For me, subtitles are always a big help. However, it is up to you if you use them or try to figure the meaning by yourself. Also, try to use dual subtitles. One original Japanese and second subtitles in your language.
Now, let’s go straight to my top picks.
A school drama about a lawyer who comes to high school which has a bad reputation, because a lot of students are getting low score on tests. So, he takes a teacher position to prepare a bunch of students for Toudai entrance exams.
What I like about this drama is that it shows some very good methods for improving your study process. A new method is introduced almost in every episode. However, there is one disadvantage when trying to learn from this drama. Some of the actors speak really quickly, but you can get some nouns and phrases anyway. It is definitely worth watching.
Nihonjin no shiranai Nihongo
This is a must watch for every learner. You can translate the title as “Japanese language even Japanese don’t know”. It is about Haruko who wants to be a teacher. She meets with her former high school teacher who offers her a job. When arriving to the school, Haruko finds out that she is supposed to teach a group of foreigners who attend Japanese classes. They ask her tricky questions and Haruko, as a Japanese native, often doesn’t know the answers. However, she comes with different methods and explanations to help her students.
Watching this series, you will learn many expressions and also understand some Japanese customs. To use this drama as learning tool, it is good to have at least some basic overview of Japanese grammar. It will help you to better understand the series.
Yankee-kun to Megane-chan
Also known as “Bad boy and good girl”. It is a school drama covering a relationship between Shinagawa-kun, who is a delinquent, and Adachi Hana, who is a former delinquent trying to be a good girl. The drama is very funny, and I watched it three times already. And what you can learn? I think many different verb forms and slang phrases you can use between friends.
Yasuko to Kenji
Yasuko and Kenji lost their parents and they live alone now. Kenji is a former gang leader and his sister Yasuko is a high school student. In order to take care of her, Kenji becomes a manga artist. Yasuko falls in love with her classmate Jun, whose older sister Erika used to be a women’s gang leader. She is in love with Kenji. However, every time she meets him, they start arguing immediately. Erika struggles with expressing her true feelings to him. And the story starts to be even more complicated. Just watch and enjoy.
This drama is a good relaxation after coming home from work. Partially, the series is very good for learning adjectives. They use some of them regularly in sentences, so there is a high possibility that you will remember them.
I love this drama, because it is so funny. It is about Nobuko, a cake-oholic, who used to be fat. Now, she achieved her dream to be slim and she works for a fashion magazine like she always wanted. One day, she is assigned a task to interview a handsome young pastry chef Taiichi. She falls in love with him, and ends up tasting his cakes. And guess what will happen? 🙂
I recommend this drama, not only because it is amusing, but you can learn a lot of useful new words or numbers (because Nobuko counts calories a lot). Eventually, you will learn how to express time periods.
Hotaru no hikari
This series is about Amemiya Hotaru, who is a young woman who likes to laze around at home. She often sits on a porch in her sweatpants and drinks beer. She sleeps covered in old newspaper and the house is a mess. She rather sleeps than goes out on dates. The house she lives in, belongs to a father of her boss. So, one day, her boss moves into this house and they start living together. Hotaru works for an interior design company and when a new co-worker returns from London, her life changes.
I watched this drama many times already, because it is really funny. At least the first season. In addition, the actors speak normally (not very fast), so you can understand easily what they are saying. This helps a lot.
Tatta hitotsu no koi
Another romance j-drama, but this one is a really touching love story about a rich girl and a very poor guy. Similarly to Hotaru no hikari, you can learn a lot of conversational expressions.
Tatakau! Shoten garu
Aki and Riko work for Pegasus bookstore. Aki is a young woman who loves books very much; especially children books. As she says, books are her best friends. On the contrary, Riko is in her forties and still single. She works as an assistant manager. They both try their best to achieve their dreams. I like this drama, because the actors speak nicely and you can understand quite a lot. They use a lot of useful phrases and you can get some grammar patterns as well.
The story is about Yoko who decides to become a Cabin Attendant. She seems not suited for that job. But as time passes, she learns what the job is about and finds liking in it. If you watch carefully, this drama can teach you a lot. You can learn different bowing styles and in what situation use them. Also, the drama is useful to learn how to talk to customers and superiors.
Kuitan is about a gluttonous detective who is a head of a private detective agency. He and his crew helps the police solve various murder cases, where often food is involved. So, if you watch this drama, you will widen your food-related vocabulary. And maybe learn some recipes or Japanese ways of preparing food. Who knows. 🙂 Watch and see for yourself.
I found out that it is hard to find a crime drama that is also good as a study material, because usually the actors speak really fast. So, if you know any, let me know please.
Well, which j-drama are you gonna watch? Or do you know any other useful ones? Let me know.