How to Watch Japanese TV on a Computer
By Umiko Sasaki
Updated September 22, 2017
Items you will need
Computer with Internet access
DVD player (optional if you plan to watch only streamed shows)
Japanese speakers in the United States, as well as Americans who simply want to learn Japanese and explore its culture, can watch Japanese television on their computers. Unfortunately it's often difficult to gain access to these programs through regular means unless you know where to look. However, with advancements in computer and Internet technology, in conjunction with the efforts of Japanese television companies and regular fans alike, you can now watch a Japanese bangumi (television program) or variety show almost as soon as it airs in Japan.
Download KeyholeTV. Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs is working with several famous Japanese television stations including TV Asahi, Fuji TV, TV Tokyo and TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) to provide streaming Japanese programs via peer-to-peer technology. Although the KeyholeTV program itself is Japanese, you have the option of choosing English as the operating language when you install it. Not every program currently airing in Japan is available using this method, but a large selection of programs from these channels can be viewed. Instructions for viewing the different channels and properly setting up the program are available on the KeyholeTV website.
Research sites online that carry Japanese programs on DVD or via direct streaming. Online stores such as YesAsia and CD Japan offer imported Japanese DVD titles to English-speaking countries around the world, though often at import prices. Not all DVDs that are offered have English subtitles, so double-check before ordering any products. In 2008, a company named Gonzo also released a few of its animated programs on streaming sites such as YouTube and Crunchyroll, the latter of which hosts a large number of legally released anime series for free (ad-free with premium membership).
Contact friends or family who live in Japan who might be able to tape programs for you and send them to your address. While this may not seem like the ideal way to watch Japanese programs, it is a legal and free (save for the shipping cost) option to watch something that may not be available through KeyholeTV, free streaming or DVD. If you don't know anybody who lives in Japan, search online for people who live there and may be willing to do this for you. There are many online communities with members across the globe, perhaps even on a forum or message board that you already frequent. If the person is technologically savvy enough, he may even be able to tape the show and send it directly to your computer.
Other methods of obtaining Japanese programs, either in its original language or subtitled in English, do exist. There are online communities dedicated to preserving or subbing shows that may or may not eventually be released on DVD. However, the legality of these methods might be questionable since it deals with copyright issues and using unlicensed peer-to-peer programs, so always be cautious and don't download anything if you think it was obtained illegally.
Umiko Sasaki has been writing for newspapers and trade magazines since 1999. Credits include Software.com, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Mayo Center for the Performing Arts, and several regional charities. She holds a Bachelor's degree from Drew University in playwriting and has owned a copywriting business in New Jersey since 2005.