We could probably all stand to watch a little less TV and do more exercising and family bonding, but the occasional TV show can do quite a bit to raise our spirits. Television can be a good friend when you don't have anything better to do. And it is a very good learning tool when used properly. Japanese TV shows often make things easier for us non-native Japanese speakers by writing what people say on the screen in big letters. This helps both by focusing our attention on what people are saying and by working as a reading drill. And it is much more interesting (and often funny) than using boring old textbook drills or tape-recording listening exercises.
I don't actually watch a lot of TV (I'm more of a video-renter and movie-goer), but I can recommend a couple of shows. First of all, in the mornings there is often some long-running drama going on for 15 minutes or so. I think it starts around 8:15am. The themes of these shows are often quite simple, so they can be good for practicing your listening skills.
Also, if you watch Fuji Terebi (channel 8), you will be able to see a lot of famous people in Japanese pop culture. Their shows tend to be funny, which helps you stay interested and makes you want to watch again next week - and it can all be considered "benkyou" (study) so you don't have to have that guilty feeling that usually accompanies your couch potatoing. One of my favourites is SMAPxSMAP (although I think it has gotten less funny lately) because you can meet many famous people during Bistro SMAP, and because the banter between the members is often very funny. (And, I guess I have to admit that I have a schoolgirl crush on Shingo...that *may* have something to do with my appreciation for the show.) SMAP's music is cheesy and their show is sometimes lame, but I find it's a good one to watch so that I am not completely out of touch with the pop culture world around me.
Online TV guides can be found at http://www.tvguide.or.jp and http://tv.yahoo.co.jp but they are only in Japanese. Some English information is available at http://www.zone81.com, but it might be outdated.
Do you have any recommendations of TV shows (surely you can do better than SMAPxSMAP!) or TV guides on the internet? Please contact us with your suggestions and we will publish them in a future issue.
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