8 Current Japanese Variety Shows I Love Watching

You need more variety show recommendations? Well here they are! These are 8 shows that I currently love and watch whenever I get the chance.

8. ワールドビジネスサテライト (World Business Satellite)
Japanese Level: ☆☆☆☆☆

12 Current Japanese Variety Shows I Love WatchingThis is more of a news shows than a variety a show, but for some reason it does everything right. It’s rarely boring, the reporters have really engaging personalities, and they somehow take serious topics and pour some life into them. I’m also a big fan of the lead newscaster 大江麻理子 (Oe Mariko), who used to star in モヤモヤさまぁ~ず2, which probably makes me even happier to watch it.

7. マツコ会議 (Matsuko’s Conference)
Japanese Level: ☆☆

Current Japanese Variety Shows I Love Watching 2

I am a major fan of Matsuko Deluxe, and have already written about his show マツコマツコ and 月曜から夜ふかし (which I already covered, so left it out of this list). I plan on doing a full dedicated post in the future on all of his shows because he provides something special to the Japanese entertainment industry.

In マツコ会議, Matsuko sits in a room with the directors and producers, each armed with an Ipad. They  send out a field reporter to check out strange trending places. The reporter goes inside and allows Matsuko to interact with all the interesting characters they meet by using FaceTime on the iPad. It creates a new type of dynamic, and Matsuko’s crew instantly researches anything they are told so they can respond in the most amusing of ways. Through his conference you get to see a lot of new subculture and what’s popular with Japanese youths these days.

6. しゃべくり007 (Speaking Agent 007)
Japanese Level: ☆☆☆☆

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7 popular entertainers are gathered together to interview Japanese celebrities. While it doesn’t sound that thrilling, these guys are extremely funny. It feels like every show is a bunch of combined skits, all disguised as interviews. They really know how to put on a show, and they are probably one of the best guest interview shows around. The only downside is that if you don’t like the guest, you may not like the episode.

5. バナナスクール (Banana School)
Japanese Level: ☆☆

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The comedy duo Bananaman are great. They are everything you could ask for. They open their own “Banana School,” by going around to different places and acquiring all new kinds of skills (like how to become competitive eaters or how to open a pawn shop). There is a lot of Bananaman excitement to be had. The success of this show of course comes from the dynamic between Himura and Shitara, and in whatever they try to learn something, they mess it up somehow.

4. YOUは何しに日本へ (Why Did You Come To Japan?)
Japanese Level: ☆

Fix Your Japanese Mistakes With Variety Shows 1

Every Japanese learner should watch this show. Bananaman hosts this show where foreigners (called “YOU”) are interviewed at Narita airport as they arrive in Japan. As interviews progress, some are chosen to get a “closer interview,” with the show following them and filming their adventures/experiences in Japan.

Bananaman’s commentary and reactions from the studio (they appear mostly as the little boxes on the top of the screen) are hilarious. They are in full form here.

But more importantly, you are watching people just like yourself. Many of the people interviewed are studying Japanese. Seeing them in action trying to speak Japanese is pretty motivating. You get to see all the types of people that like and visit Japan, the reasons they go, how they study Japanese, and how they use the language. The foreign tourists are the real stars of this show, and you can tell that there is a lot of respect shown.

They usually pick the best and most exciting foreigners, and it may even give you ideas of what you want to do around Japan. The most popular segments cover the people who walk, hitchhike, or bicycle ride around the country, or those that are unexpectedly involved with something so Japanese that you would never expect a foreigner to be doing it. The show is filled with reoccurring crazy characters, and there are so many laugh out loud moments you won’t ever want to stop watching. I hope this show continues forever.

3. ガイアの夜明け (The Dawn of Gaea)
Japanese Level: ☆☆☆☆

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Gaea is a documentary show that covers current economic/technology/innovation trends that are starting to change the way Japan is quickly moving forward through the 21st century. They set each show up like an adventure, showing how Japan is changing the world with something new and amazing it is engaging in.

Some topics include:

  • How Japan is adjusting to the population decline
  • How robots will become a staple of every house in the near future
  • How businesses are having to redefine how they run their companies and treat their employees
  • The new techniques people use to start a career.

It’s a deep show, and one that will keep you in suspense as you watch it. The amazing catchy intro song is a nice bonus.

2. ドキュメント72時間 (72 Hour Documentary)
Japanese Level: ☆☆

Current Japanese Variety Shows I Love Watching 6

I’m convinced this show uses some sort of hypnotism to keep me watching. While it’s another documentary show, there is something special about it that I just can’t put my finger on. It is a simple, relaxing and peaceful documentary that stations itself at a specific place (Ex. a local bookstore or flower shop), and films there nonstop for 72 hours.

It focuses on the interactions between store staff and customers, and touches a little bit behind why people are at the store and how it weaves into their lives. There is nothing fancy here, but it all feels so real. Like you are right there walking into some place yourself on a local street in Japan.

And I have to give it a major thumbs up, because on one of the rare occasions it did an international special, they did a 72 documentary of a laundromat about 5 minutes away from where I live!

1. ニンゲン観察 – モニタリング (Human Observation – Monitoring)
Japanese Level: ☆

Current Japanese Variety Shows I Love Watching 7

Monitoring… I save this for last because it is either the funniest thing you’ve ever seen, or will annoy you. The premise is simple: Set up strange situations for random people to experience, and monitor how they react to them. It’s like a nice and friendly prank show that respects the people it is observing.

This show is extremely popular (despite the major fallout with the previous host Becky). It seems like every week is a 2 or 3 hour special. Because of this, there are so many different types of monitoring segments, making the comedy either hit or miss.

Some of my favorite monitoring events:

  • Magic door that people walk through that makes them disappear
  • Drunk people at bars have to call their wives and try to get them to say “I love you”
  • A passenger enters a cab, only to find a ghost suddenly appear in the passenger seat
  • Major celebrities walk casually down a busy street, and naturally interact with regular people without cameras following them
  • Celebrities infiltrating schools and posing as substitute teachers
  • Little kids being convinced into thinking that their pets can talk to them
  • Tricking husbands into thinking a wife has done something outrageous (like spending $5,000 on a new refrigerator, or that she bought a winning million dollar lottery ticket)

Then my least favorite:

  • Anything with Mokomichi uniting a family together somehow and trying to create something emotional
  • The hosts dressing up in disguise and infiltrating different public places
  • A guy in a gorilla suit at the zoo trying to convince people he is a real gorilla

This show is a definite watch, but you might be skipping through segments based on your taste.

What are you watching?

Have you seen any of the above shows? What are your opinions of them? Add some more description to them in the comments!

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


8 Current Japanese Variety Shows I Love Watching — 17 Comments

  1. マツコ会議 has become a favourite in my house. I never really got why Matsuko is so popular before, but after watching a few episodes of this I completely get it. It’s good for picking up new slang too because Matsuko’s team never understand it and always have to look it up, hehe.

    As for the other shows, しゃべくり007 can be fun depending on the guest (and personally, how much 徳井 is featured because he is my favourite), and モニタリング is good to have on in the background so I can watch when it’s interesting but ignore it when it’s not! I imagine it would be great for people with lower level Japanese levels though.

    …I should really watch more tv! I almost always learn new words (or new cultural stuff that is just as important once you get to the higher levels) when I do. What I need is for someone to remind me when the programs I do enjoy are on.

    • Yeah, I think that can be said for even the best of variety shows. They have their share of good and bad episodes.

      And increase that TV viewing! Where else can you be told that watching more TV is good for you.

  2. Wow what an article! I’ve only seen one ep of shabekuri 007, heard heaps of good things about it. It was one the first things that came up when looking for things as good as getsuyo. Had a really bad first episode because it was this female child actor that was really soft spoken and they were just abusing her for an hour. She let the episode down. I knew it was mostly her fault. I still can’t fathom how many variety shows matsuko is in, does the man sleep?!!! No wonder he needs an android.

    I’ve also seen an episode of why did you come to Japan, but there was quite a bit of English, so I felt bad watching it. But knowing you watch it has reignited my interest in it haha.

    The other 6 shows on this list i haven’t even seen one bit of. Super excited to dive into them! Thanks so much for this list, my girlfriend and i have fallen in love wit variety shows lately. Gonna keep us entertained for so many hours!!

    Thanks so much for the list Adam! Made my month haha

    • Told you I’d get around to this post!

      You should also see how many commercials Matsuko appears now in too. I think it’s so cool that he reigns at the top of the entertainment world.

      As for “Why did you come to Japan,” don’t worry about the English so much. It’s true there is a bunch mixed in, but it is just too much fun to pass up, and there is plenty of great Japanese exposure as well.

      After you check some of them out, come back and let me know what you think!

  3. Thank you ! I fell in love with マツコ会議, and it’s exactly the kind of motivation I needed !

      • Tell her/him then,King of the Japanese Language! lol

        PS.: thanks for the Article.
        But I would add a “世界の日本人妻は見た!” too. Appart from learning Japanese you also learn about other countries through a japanese perspective.

  4. Why Did You Come To Japan?

    I think I’ve seen one episode of this. I was really surprised at the respect they showed the people on the show. I was expecting some harsh humor or they would make fun of them or something but nope. The one ep I saw was a guy coming to Japan to go to idol concerts and handshake events and stuff <3

    (btw, Adam didn't list this for some reason I'll never understand, but AKBINGO is an excellent beginner variety show).

    • I think that’s what separates this from other variety shows that focus on foreigners. Some of the others can be indirectly rude or patronizing.

  5. Human Observation – Monitoring
    do u have any link subber or not? i’ve watched quite alot of it on youtube but its getting hard to find anymore vids.

  6. しゃべくり007:very good depending on guest, first episode was bad because they had like a 12 year old super shy child actor on. Though they tried to make the best of it, and made her as uncomfortable as possible. Enjoyed the second episode I watched
    ニンゲン観察 – モニタリング : watched a really bad episode, I think it started with them interviewing a celeb for a job interview while randomly playing scary sounding ghost speak and sounds.
    マツコ会議: amazing, so in love. Every episode is at the very least enjoyable. I realised this was the show you recommended me in line and not matsuko shiranai sekai (which is still pretty decent, and you can learn a lot from it too). Matsuko kaigi is just so amazing for learning current culture and trends, couple it with getsuyou and you’re going to know exactly what’s hip and happening in japanese.
    バナナスクール: hilarious, though a bit hit and miss depending on chosen field. The episode on how to eat kawaii was side splitingly hilarious.
    YOUは何しに日本へ : I’m glad i listened to you, I’ve only watched one episode from start to finish. It was this week’s episode, and it was surprisingly fantastic. It followed this one guy in particular, who was a bloke from norway(sweden? can’t remember, sorry tea man) and he was a massive ocha (japanese tea) otaku. Man he knew everything, the interviews and banana men had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. They went back to his place in shizuoka (静岡)in this rural town where he pays around 2.7万月間 (270 usd a month?). He teaches adult NATIVE JAPANESE people about JAPANESE TEA, he is absolutely incredible. He’s been studying tea (japanese language?) since he was in middle school. Really is a remarkable story, even moreso considering they ran into him randomly in an narita (成田) airport! I was really taken aback by this story! Gonna be a hard episode to follow.

    will write back when I’ve watched the rest!!

    • Thanks James for coming back and leaving your reviews of them! I’m happy to hear most of them worked out quite nicely for you.

  7. Woo can always use more variety shows! Some are so hard to find it’s ridiculous haha. Then you have other’s like ダウンタウンのガキの使いやあらへんで!! which you can easily find the entire library of episodes up for download haha. So some “variety” is definitely welcome!

    • Yeah, unfortunately it’s as if the producers of some variety shows have decided that once a show airs they don’t want the world to ever have access to it again.

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