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Using Japanese TV In The Language Learning Classroom

Author: Kevin Low, Issue: March 2004, Topic: Education, Teaching, JapaneseLanguage

This article describes ways to use the television in your language classes. Because of the nature of Japanese television, many of these shows are no longer on tv. Please use his comments to get an idea of the kinds of shows that are out there and how you might use them in your classroom.

Whatever you thought of TV back at home, I think it's not exactly counterproductive here as I found they can be really helpful in teaching. Here are some of my favorites:


The great thing about variety shows is that most of them have some sort of wacky game that you can actually adapt into your class with a little tweaking.

  • Smap x Smap - Smap is of course the most popular band in Japan, their single released back in March just returned to the Top 10 this week!! I personally find their show more entertaining than SNL, and they also got a nice cooking program during the first half if you're interested in learning how to cook gourmet food. [Mondays 10 pm, FTV]
  • Produced by Uchimura - If you don't mind staying up late, I think this show is even funnier than Smap x Smap, and I just grabbed a balloon game from here for this week's classes. [Monday 11:15 pm, KFB]
  • SmaStation3 - Shingo of SMAP hosts this show, and he usually has an English lesson in every episode. If you have your VCR ready, some of them are a really easy warmup in class because they have Japanese subtitles and detailed explanations . . . for example, a few weeks ago, he did an "ordering drinks on an airplane" skit that was directly out of Ichinensei Unit 8. I also like how the show summarizes all the news headline for the week into twenty minutes so I don't have to watch NHK news daily anymore. [Saturdays 11 pm, KFB]


A great way to find some common ground with the kids, especially those 12 and under.

  • Full Metal Alchemist - Beautifully animated show with engrossing characters and captivating storyline. It's getting pretty popular with students as its opening themes were done by two really big-name bands. [Saturdays 6 pm, TUF]
  • Bobobo - I love this show, it's the most hilarious cartoon I've ever seen! [Saturdays, 7:30 pm KFB]
  • Atashinchi - This uniquely-drawn anime introduces use to Japanese family and school life, but in a far more entertaining fashion than Sazaesan, I find. [Fridays 7:30 pm, KFB]
  • Sundays 6 to 8 pm - This two hour block contains the four most popular anime today: Sazaesan & Chibimarukochan (the only two anime that consistently make it to the Top 50 TV ratings), Kochira Kameari Kouen (a policeman comedy that's popular with everyone in my adult conversation class), and One Piece, which, on my first week in school, kids kept asking me "Do you like One Piece?!!" Most popular anime among all kids. [FTV]
  • AstroBoy - Just in case you were wondering where your favorite Japanese superhero is [Sundays 9:30 am FTV]


Great for talking with kids AND adults. Sadly, my list keeps shrinking as all the shows I started watching in November are over since the average lifespan of a TV drama is 10 episodes.

  • Kamen Rider 555 - The one show of the week that I never miss. Surprisingly engrossing for a show about a hero fighting rubber suit monsters, with psychological and self-redemption elements. And it's the first TV show I've seen taped entirely in widescreen! Popular with kids and some adults who've been watching the series since they were kids. I think the 555 series may be ending this Sunday, be sure to check it's farewell, if you can get up that early... [Sundays, 8 am, KFB]
  • Salaryman Kintaro - I wasn't able to watch the premiere on Thursday because of a power outage, but I've heard great things about it, and I'm sure we can all relate to a salaryman, huh? :) [Thursday, 9 pm, TUF]


Knowing Japanese music let's you find something to socialize with ANYBODY because it's like the universal language, dude. Be warned though, this can get hard on your wallet when you want to buy every other CD advertised.

  • Music Station - After watching this show for only two months, I think I know almost all the currently famous singers in Japan. They get a lot of the big stars, and their production value is pretty good. [Fridays, 8 pm KFB]
  • Pop Jam - For the lesser-known singers, check this show out. Lots of indie singers come here, sing a song, and the audience rates them. It's pretty entertaining just watching the singer's reaction when they get 90+%, or more commonly, below 30%. [Saturdays, 12 am NHK?]
  • Countdown TV - If you stay up really late, this show counts down the Top 100 singles of the week. The charts always have a weird mix of pop and enka, that neverending struggle for cultural dominance. :) [Saturdays, 12:55 am TUF]
  • VJ Paroparo - Probably the only place you can find full-length Japanese music videos if you don't have satellite. [Fridays, 1:05 am TUF]

Language Shows

There's a huge amount of language programs on NHK, covering almost every single language. If you know some basic katakana, check here for showtimes: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/toppage/program_index/gogaku.html. Most of them are full of the energy and great games that you can adapt simply by changing the language. :) My current favorite is the Spanish one, Thursdays 11:30 pm. There's also a great program that teaches you Japanese in English, hosted by a guy called Kobayashi, Fridays at 11:30 pm *I think*.

<< Science News: February 2004 | Master Index | Cedar Allergy >>

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