UPDATE: Netflix announced last week that it will begin to block international users from gaining access to content across borders using VPNs. How effective they will be depends on your VPN, but my Tunnel Bear connection already is being blocked. BOOOOO!!!!
If you want to learn Japanese, you need to hear Japanese, and one of the most fun ways to do that is to watch Japanese TV and movies. However, that can be harder than it needs to be, especially if you want to be brave and watch without subtitles. We’ve talked before about how to watch Japanese TV from the US, but wouldn’t it be great if there were a Netflix for Japan?
Guess what? There already is! And if you have a US Netflix account, then you already have a Japanese Netflix account, too!
Some explanation first: There are streaming services available in Japan, for people who are in Japan, but they only work in Japan. For example, if you live in Japan, you can sign up for a Japanese Hulu account, and it streams Japanese TV and movies, as well as some US TV and movies, but it only works in Japan. You can’t use your US Hulu account. In the US, there are also streaming services like Crunchyroll that specialize in importing Japanese TV to the United States (mostly anime), but you only can watch what they import.
However, last month, Netflix launched its streaming service in Japan. The best part is that your same Netflix account works in Japan just like it does in England, Europe, or wherever you go. That means that when you visit Japan, you can just log in to Netflix and start watching - BUT you will be watching Netflix’s Japanese site, not their US site. That’s because in Japan, Netflix only has the rights to show content from their Japanese site to people logging into the site from Japan. In the US, Netflix only has the rights to show content from their US site to people logging into the site from the US. Your account is always the same, it’s just your location that’s different.
How does that help you, the aspiring Japanese TV and movie viewer? The answer is DNS. Netflix identifies where you are by your internet address, and you can change that using a VPN or an unblocker service. There are many free, free/paid, and paid services that you can use to change your location on the internet without leaving the comfort of your couch or office. For example, OpenVPN offers free IP addresses in Japan. You can even use their iPad app, which will let you use a Japanese IP address to “appear Japanese” to Netflix or whatever service you like to use. VPN Apps and services like TunnelBear offer free and paid accounts using your Mac, PC, phone or tablet to use Japanese IP addresses to “appear Japanese”. Using these services, you can browse the internet just like you are in Japan - just remember, the internet looks a little different when you get there! (Google will be in Japanese, for starters).
I tried TunnelBear and it worked great - their free account only gives you 500 MB of data per month, but if you tweet about them, they’ll give you 1.5 GB free per month. They have a convenient app for iOs and Android and also an easy-to-use program for Mac and PC. Either way, that’s enough to try their service and see if it works for you. They have a convenient app for iOs and Android and also an easy-to-use program for Mac and PC. Plenty of other similar companies exist too; Tunnelbear seems to be popular among Japanese TV viewers on Reddit.
Interested in what Netflix Japan has to offer? Here’s a list of their current offerings as of September 2015:
Once you are “in”, feel free to watch Netflix just like you do at home. You’ll see your Netflix account, but the TV and movies will be a little different. Shows like GTO and Nodame Cantabile, Netflix original shows like Terrace House, and Japanese movies will appear alongside US and international content; on the other hand, some US content won’t be available. Click and enjoy! Remember, though - you are Japanese now - no subtitles for you! Netflix has no reason to offer English subtitles to Japanese tv and movies, but it does offer some English-language content dubbed or subtitled in Japanese. But now you are really learning - so have fun!