I remember when I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Japanese drama – I would keep tabs on my favorite actors and actresses’ upcoming releases, and as soon as they aired on Japanese television, I would hunt for them online. One of the main reasons why I started to learn Japanese was so I could watch the RAW episodes which were uploaded almost instantly – I couldn’t wait for the subtitled episodes, which usually took longer to be online.
So, you see, I consider myself an expert at finding online websites to stream Japanese dramas. As a teenager, I wouldn’t pay a penny to watch anything, but as an earning adult, I could afford to spend a few – so our list consists of a mix of both free and paid sites for you to watch Japanese dramas!
Why Watch Japanese Dramas On Websites?
Some might find it silly to ask this question, but it’s a question that stayed with me when someone asked me once back in the day. It’s similar to why some people nowadays opt for Korean dramas instead of Western ones.
I personally watch Japanese drama to observe their culture, understand the usage of language and of course, for the drama! I believe different countries have various styles for their drama genre – some of my Japanese friends prefer Korean dramas because they believe that they have higher production value, while some of my friends back home preferred Western drama over Singaporean (my home country) drama because they allow them to widen our perspective.
It’s similar – Japanese drama can allow you to widen your perspective. On top of the fact that you can better understand how Japanese people talk, act, and live, you get a peek into a different culture’s body language (and if you’ve read our article on Japanese body language, you’d know it’s not an easy read).
And if you haven’t been to Japan and want to see how parts of the country look in motion – not those edited and angled media you see on social media – Japanese dramas are the best for that!
Online Streaming or Offline Playback?
Some people have preferences on whether to stream online or have offline playback. There are positive and negative points for both, and it’s very much to one’s personal choice. Either way, let’s take a look at both of them.
Online streaming is probably my personal choice just because it’s convenient – you literally don’t have to do anything else other than going on the website and load it up. But of course, the convenience comes with a price: data. If you have unlimited data on your phone, then it will literally cost you nothing to stream online. Make sure you have your phone charger or a portable charger with you just in case the streaming takes up too much of your battery.
If you’re streaming on your computer or laptop at home, all connected to WiFi and plugged in, then you don’t really need to worry so much. Some episodes or sites will require a bit of time as it buffers through the episode, so that’s a downside to online streaming.
If you’re considering offline playback, you’re saving yourself the buffering wait and the excessive data usage (depending on the site, by the way). Another thing is that offline playback guarantees you a higher quality motion picture – something that’s not fully guaranteed with online streaming.
The downside to that is you have to either download the episodes one by one online or buy them. It’s a bit more hassle than the former option, especially if you want to play it back on your phone – you’d have to transfer it from the computer to your phone.
Like I said – both have their positives and negatives, so it’s really up to what you’re willing to sacrifice.
Top 10 Sites to Watch Japanese Drama
Anyway, we’re finally getting to the part where we list down the best sites to watch Japanese drama! They’re not only for online streaming – but some of these sites also allow download directly from the site so you can play them back offline.
As mentioned before, there’s a mix of free and paid websites, all with their own plus and minus points. Let’s take a look at these top 10 sites, listed by prices!
This is one of my favorite sites to watch Japanese drama! KissAsian is an online streaming site that’s free to use. They’re extremely on the ball when it comes to updating newer episodes that have already been aired on Japanese TV. In fact, as soon as it finishes airing in Japan, you’re going to be able to find it on KissAsian within the next few hours!
KissAsian has quite a collection of Japanese dramas, as well as anime and movies. You can sort titles alphabetically, by popularity, or by latest uploads and updates. If you’re like me and like to browse and find a new one to watch every other day, this one’s one of the better options for website streaming.
Most of their videos are at least 720p and 1080p, and with English subtitles! You don’t have to worry about clicking on a file and it is not fully equipped with translations.
One annoying thing about KissAsian is that it has one too many ads! You’re probably going to get a pop up with almost every click, not to mention some captcha along the way. Their domain always changes as well, which can be quite confusing. But, if you have it bookmarked, most of the time they’ll redirect you to the new domain.
A plus side I like about KissAsian is that you can request for a Japanese drama to be uploaded or report a problem, which gets solved almost instantly!
Another free online streaming site for Japanese drama is DramaNice. It’s extremely up-to-date as well, just like KissAsian. Similarly, they’re not only just for Japanese dramas but other Asian dramas as well!
In comparison to KissAsian, DramaNice’s website is more mobile-friendly. You can download directly from the website to your phone or laptop and comment on the site. I personally find the discussion sections pretty useful at judging which Japanese drama I should put on my watch list and which to avoid.
Here comes the downsides: the advertisements. On DramaNice, the advertisements come at the beginning of the video and you can’t skip them. But hey, if we’re pretty used to YouTube already, this website is a breeze.
While KissAsian has only subbed videos uploaded, DramaNice does have raw videos – meaning uploads without any subtitles. Hey, if you want something instantly, you can’t be picky, right? They do update the Japanese drama listing pretty fast, but not all of them are subbed!
Oh, and also, be sure to bookmark the website as DramaNice also changes its domain quite frequently.
Here’s another free website that I use to watch Japanese drama: ViewAsian. Similar to the first two mentioned, this website has not only Japanese drama but also other Asian countries’ dramas as well – even the hard-to-find ones like Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.
Most of them are subbed, so you don’t have to worry about picking up the Japanese language just to watch an episode or two. You can search for drama by categories like crime, action and romance. If you filter it by country, you can also just scroll through all the Japanese ones.
If you’re watching a movie then this won’t matter but if you’re watching a drama, there’ll be a thumbnail on the drama listing to show you how many episodes are in it. It’s much more convenient than having to click one by one – imagine deciding on watching one and then finding out it has hundreds of episodes!
Dramacool is one of the streaming sites I used when I was younger. It appealed to me more than the rest at some point due to its simple web interface – navigating around was a breeze and it was easy to find Japanese dramas that I wanted to watch. On top of that, it lists the latest episodes updated for the season on the front so you don’t have to go around clicking to check.
Most videos uploaded on Dramacool are of HD quality – at least 729p and up to 1080p. There are even multiple video servers for you to switch to if the default one is not playing or plays slow.
There is also a “switch off light” function that darkens the website screen when watching your Japanese dramas to have that cinematic effect.
Oh yeah, it’s also free!
The last of our free websites to watch Japanese drama is JDorama. It’s one of the most popular ones out there! On some other free sites, you won’t be able to find old dramas, but here, you can find those that were released from as far back as 1964! Oh, and don’t worry, there are also the newer ones on this website as well.
The website is well organized and you can easily navigate around the sections to find your Japanese drama.
JDroama is one of the oldest yet popular websites to watch Japanese drama online for free. It has a section where you can find the most famous Japanese shows in each season of the year. Aside from that, you will find the trailer of each movie and TV show on its homepage. Moreover, it has a vast community where you can join and discuss the trending shows in Japan. Along with its community, you can find lots of new JDrama shows to watch.
We’re moving on to paid websites that you can watch Japanese dramas on! AsianCrush is not fully paid, though – there’s their free site which you can still stream from, but ads are appearing on the video every now and then. With the paid version, at $4.99 per month, you get no disruptions and access to more uploads.
You can also watch tons of drama genres on this website like action, horror, and comedy – all of the videos are of HD quality, at least 720p and up! This website is one of the more popular ones and has a range of listings, depending on which part of the world you’re in.
You might think that Viki is expensive, but it’s charged at $9.99 per year! Pay once and you don’t have to think about it again until the next year! Run by Rakuten, one of Japan’s leading companies, this website is also available to stream for free! You’re only limited to watching videos in 720p, but I think that’s a small sacrifice to make.
A distinctive feature of Viki is that you can watch a Japanese drama with your friends and family anywhere in the world – there’s a watch party function on it which is pretty unique to this website, in my opinion.
There’s also an app for Viki so you can stream easily on your mobile phone.
8. Midnight Pulp
One of the largest video streaming platforms available, Midnight Pulp is a lot of people’s go-to for horror, thriller and action Japanese movies – their Japanese drama listing is pretty darn good as well. If you’re into interesting, dark Japanese drama plots, this website’s for you.
The downside to this website is that it’s a paid streaming service. It’s at $4.99 per month, but you can get a month of free trial to see if you like their services. Just a fair warning though, if you’re more into the lovey-dovey Japanese dramas, this one’s probably one to miss out on – they’re very committed to the darker storylines.
Who hasn’t heard of Netflix? I use it on a daily basis! If you don’t already know, Netflix is one of the best sites to watch Japanese dramas! They don’t necessarily have the latest updates, but they’re convenient and almost always have English subtitles.
We all know Netflix comes at a cost of about $7.70 per month, but you can try it out for 30 days for free if you don’t have a subscription yet. Japan is opening up to online streaming services like Netflix, so there are ones that are Netflix-exclusive like Alice in Borderland, one of the most-watched TV series worldwide, let alone Japanese drama!
There’s an app for it that you can download on your devices, and then download the episodes to have online playback. On browsers, you don’t have to download any app at all!
10. Amazon Prime
Last but not least, we have Amazon Prime. Amazon is one of the world’s largest technology companies, and in Japan, Amazon and Amazon Prime are used widely. Some might say their streaming service is more widely used than Netflix!
Even if you don’t have a prime membership, you can rent the shows to watch. Depending on which Amazon you use, you might not get subtitles, though – I have Amazon Prime for Japan but most of them don’t have subtitles to go with it, which is a shame! I bet if you have Amazon US or Amazon UK, they’ll definitely have subtitles for the shows!
So there you have it – 10 streaming sites along with a bit of discussion for streaming online or having offline playback. Which website are you going to try first to watch your Japanese drama? Are you going to test out the free websites or bite the bullet and go for the paid ones? Whichever you choose, make sure you get settled in with popcorn (and a tissue box if you’re watching a romantic or sad storyline) by your side!