I’ve always been fascinated with television in different countries. The programming always reflects the kind of culture and people that are in the public’s mind and interest. “Terebi” in Japan is very famous around the world for its ability to be daring and funny, but while it has toned down a little from what some may recall of it, it’s still really fun to watch.
In some countries, television sometimes paid for by taxpayers, and Japan is no exception. The national broadcaster, NHK, is subsidized by the Japanese government and has programming that matches the interests of its viewers. Of course, sometimes this means some programs have higher budgets than others. For instance, there is always a new “taiga” or historical drama every year, and these tend to be vibrant, historical epics. However, most of NHK’s non-sports broadcasts tend to be academic in nature, although there are a lot of interesting educational programs as well as travel.
Aside from NHK, the television stations vary by region. In Tokyo, for example, the main over the air broadcasters include Nippon Television, TV Asahi, TV Tokyo, Fuji TV, Tokyo Broadcasting System, and Tokyo MX. In other regions, it differs, and sometimes overlaps. There is shared programming with most of these stations, but for the most part, acts much more similarly to the American syndicated affiliate system, where most of the programming is locally created or syndicated from certain distributors. Of course in England, most of the over-the-air programming is national.
Of course, there is an alternative to over-the-air terrestrial digital. Most Japanese homes have access to satellite programming, where Japanese television shines the most. There are two systems of satellite: BSAT or BS, which stands for Broadcast Satellite and features such channels as music and variety channel WOWOW, and JCSAT or CS, which stands for Communication Satellite, and features international programming as well as SKY PerfecTV, a CS broadcaster.
Most television shows in Japan fall under the “variety” label. These are usually panel shows that feature talent from the worlds of comedy, drama, and music. The variety shows are where many of the most famous programming known in Japan has come from. There are many celebrities who can be found all over Japanese variety shows on many different networks, such as Ariyoshi Hiroaki, Okubo Kayoko, Imoto Ayako, Matsuko Deluxe, various members of ultra-popular girl group AKB48, and comedy teams like Summers and Tunnels.
No mention of Japanese television would be complete without mentioning anime! Anime is mostly broadcast in the evening in Japan, as after school programming. Some of the BS and CS channels play older favorites, but new episodes of such classics as Doraemon and Crayon Shin-Chan play on the over-the-air stations.
I enjoy watching Japanese television because of the wide variety of programming available. Sometimes these shows look a little similar to each other, but they can be fun to watch nonetheless.