Photo:Hector Milla on Flickr

Cable TV in Japan: More Than Just CNN

Recently, after much consideration and research I have decided that Osaka is where I wish to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, I thought it was perhaps high time that my home and in particular my home electronics undergo a few incremental upgrades. So, with this in mind, after a little research I decided to “take the plunge” as it were and go all in with my internet and TV systems.

Gilgongo on Flickr

As I have mentioned previously, when one wishes to save as much money as they can on telecoms, the most feasible solution in most cases is to consolidate all your services into one company, in order to maximise the monthly savings. You may also qualify for various bonuses along the way if you’re lucky.

James Morris on Flickr

Anyway, as my cellphone contract was already with AU, and the fact I am on only a one year visa makes switching companies expensively problematic, I decided to see what AU could do for me in terms of internet and TV.

JulianBleecker on Flickr

To cut a long story short, I got a combined internet and TV package that came in at about 6,000 yen per month, which was about 2,500 per month less than my previous provider and provided internet that is around 4 times faster. However, the unexpected bonus came in the form of the cable TV package. It promised more than 100 channels for only an extra 1,000 yen per month. For UK readers, that’s about 6 or 7 pounds per month. A lot better than the 40 or 50 pounds per month Mr. Murdoch and his cronies at Sky Television charge for their digital services, I’m sure you’ll agree.

For me, it also promised the chance to actually sit down and watch some TV in my own language for a change.
Japanese TV is a lot like natto. No matter how good my Japanese friends say it is and no matter how much I try to force myself to like it, I still find the end product hard to stomach, and just ever so slightly nauseating. So, what did my budget TV package offer for me?
Quite a lot as it turns out.

Julien on Flickr

If you’re a sports fan then the J Sports 1, 2 and 3 channels offer a huge variety of different events and tournaments to enjoy. Unlike the UK which is about 90% football, and very heavily England-centric, J Sports offers many different sports and at a variety of levels, from the intercity high school basketball championship right up to world championship level events. There are also 2 dedicated golf channels, available bilingually in English and Japanese, perhaps reflecting the huge popularity of this sport amongst the older, more affluent Japanese, who actually have the free time to sit down and watch TV. If you are into music then there’s also plenty on offer. The usual suspects like MTV are here, but there’s also an assortment of dedicated K-Pop and J-Pop channels too, for those who like their music with more of a purely Asian ambiance.

maya chow on Flickr

Of course Japan is famous for its animation and fans of the anime genre will also find plenty to write home about here. With its own version of the famous American channels Cartoon Network and Disney XD there’s plenty to keep the kids, and the kids at heart, amused for hours. And in the evenings, some of the animation channels even offer more intense fair, with Japanese animation dramas and movies geared towards a more mature audience. I’ll be honest, the whole anime genre isn’t really my cup of tea, but I know there are plenty of foreigners who come to Japan and just can’t get enough of it. For those people, there’s plenty on offer on cable TV.

Whilst anime is something of a niche market to countries outside Japan, American TV is known the world over. So, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a vast number of channels showing both the latest shows from the US and a host of my old favourites from yesteryear. I’ve become an avid watcher of the “Fox Classic” channel in particular, which re-runs a number of great shows I recall from my childhood. I have to admit last week when my family called me and asked what I was up to that night, they were probably somewhat shocked to hear me say “Not much, just sitting back and watching Knight Rider!”

Floor on Flickr

Knight Rider was a childhood favourite of mine, probably the best of that whole collection of shows from the early 80s alongside the likes of The A-Team and MacGuyver. Shows that thrilled the audience but clearly didn’t take themselves too seriously. American sports cars may not be highly regarded outside the States these days but I have to admit, even today as an adult, I would do anything to own a black 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am in the style of KITT!

It has also thrown up a few interesting shows from the past that for whatever reason I didn’t see the first time around. For all its corny cheesiness and dated visual aesthetic, I have to admit I’ve developed a bit of a liking for CHiPs in recent weeks, though I’m pretty sure if any modern day California Highway Patrol officer behaved like Erik Estrada’s character “Ponch” these days he’d soon find himself fired for harassment!

At the end of the day though, I’m sure not everyone shares my nostalgia for these 80’s shows, with low budgets and even lower production values!
For most viewers, the current, and in vogue shows of the day hold much greater appeal.

It should be pointed out however that, with this being Japan, translations do take time, and as such if you want to see the latest American TV shows you’ll see them at least a few months after the US. For example, season 4 of the excellent “Arrow” series is set to premier on the AXN channel here in Japan at the end of March, by which point season 4 will have almost concluded in the US, having started in early October. Still, if you’ve got Japanese friends you want to introduce to shows like Arrow, The Flash and the recently premiered “Legends of Tomorrow” then it is great to sit down and watch the shows together with either the subtitles or the Japanese dubbing switched on.

Todd Mecklem on Flickr

Most foreign shows broadcast on these networks have the option to switch between Japanese or English audio at the touch of a single button. The same goes for the news and documentary channels, most of which also incorporate real-time dual audio functions. Unfortunately even the Japanese version of CNN still gives Donald Drumpf far too much airtime!

I don’t think I’ll ever become a full blown “Telly Addict”. I love movies and video games too much. However, I must admit, from what I have seen thus far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number and variety of English language channels that Japanese cable TV has to offer. If you’ve got the money and the free time, there are far worse ways to spend a few extra yen each month.

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