Is Japan’s Amazon Prime Video Service Worth It?

Let’s talk about babies for a second. And lions. And dogs. Or we could just talk about Amazon Prime Japan, which luckily has all three:

Apparently I was supposed to cry from watching this, but it’s a Japanese commercial, and my internal instincts have told me to prepare to laugh.

I covered Netflix’s arrival in Japan, but forgot to take a look at one of its major competitors, Amazon Prime. Now while you probably don’t care about their ultra fast delivery within the country, which seems even surprisingly faster than in the U.S., Prime Video is something to check out.

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Amazon is in full promotion mode, with their top banner trying to show you how unbelievable Prime Video is. Terminator Genisys would not have been the movie I would have chosen to promote the service… But I’ll forgive you Arnold, as I spend a full 10 minutes watching hilarious 1990s Japanese commercials you were in.

Enter the Prime Video section on Amazon, and you are in for a shock:

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Only 3,900 yen for a yearly membership? Maybe they are just planning on upping this cost eventually, but c’mon… We’re paying $99 here in America. Okay, it’s just money, and learning Japanese is more important than money.

Here’s the most important question:

Is there enough Japanese content to make membership worthwhile?

Is Japans Amazon Prime Video Service Worth It 5Amazon breaks down the Prime videos by category. Let’s look at some of the statistics of the categories you probably will be interested in:

1. Western movies dubbed into Japanese: 118
2. Western TV shows dubbed into Japanese: 102
3. J-dramas: 103
4. Anime: 160
5. Japanese movies: 604
6. Japanese variety shows: ???  (They have a category for Comedy/Variety, but it’s organized very sloppily, mixed in with Western shows and J-dramas, and there is little selection)

I kind of want to go on a rant on why there is no good service that exists anywhere for Variety shows, which is one of Japan’s biggest entertainment markets. But I’ll hold off on that…

So with the current selection, should you register?

Yes. Think about it. You get 30 days for free. It’s only 3900 yen for the year. And like its American counterpart, I assume the number of titles will continue to grow.

Amazon Prime organizes the videos in an easy to search manner. There are a lot of shows/movies with English subtitles (no!!) as opposed to dubs (yes!!), but luckily you can search by dubs.

One final area I should touch on is that Prime Video is unlimited video streaming for select titles. However, you can go outside of these ~1000 titles for thousands more that you can view on a pay-per-title system. At around 400~500 yen a title, you can rent the newest content, similar to Amazon’s Instant video service in the U.S. and other countries. The regular rental service has a lot to offer.

Am I am praising Amazon too much? I’m a little bit partial as I’ve been a fan of them since early 2004 when I used to need umm… textbooks.

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Japan Prime?  Yes. Get in.

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


Is Japan’s Amazon Prime Video Service Worth It? — 24 Comments

  1. bigger question: is it worth it on top of a netflix connection?

    It definitely wouldn’t be worth switching from netflix for me, as I can share my subscription with English speakers in the household. That’s presuming that you can’t access other video libary’s from the Japanese account. Which seems to be the case based on how most operate. Hulu japan is completely separate from for example.

    Netflix seems to be the exception. Where you are able to access any region you like within the same account (useful if you share your account, or want to watch some anime not in the Japan region library).

    Another great benefit to Netflix is that it supports 5.1 surround sound for a lot of content. From memory neither hulu or amazon prime provides these options. Though let me know if that’s changed! This information is a few years old.

    I feel like a hulu/netflix combo is still the best choice, based on them being fairly different services. Whereas amazon seem to directly competing against netflix with their product.

    Let me know if there are any real driving factors to make the switch from netflix to amazon! I’m always open to new things.

    • I think what it comes down to is that the video libraries are different. For example, Amazon seems to have a larger Japanese movie library (though maybe it’s also increased on Netflix?)

      Netflix, Hulu, Amazon all license videos, sometimes overlapping, but sometimes not. So if there is material on there you are interested in watching, it is worth it.

      • hey Adam(or anyone else that knows), what kind of effect does prime membership have on international shipping charges on things like books, dvds etc… Are there any cool benefits other than the streaming service itself. Or do none of the benefits cross over to international shipping, probably so. I think it’s the same thing with American prime, anything international related and you lose all the perks.

  2. I would be 100% sold if the content has Japanese subtitles. I’ll have to check it out. Definitely will be annoying if I need a VPN though.

      • Sad. I’ll stick to my other sources then for now. I’ve been using Penguin Subtitle Player to play Japanese subs over anything I watch streaming. You have to time the stream and the subtitles toget her but otherwise it works flawlessly. I use it on Crunchyroll and some drama sites.

      • Screw what I said before, it’s so going to be worth it as a ベイビーステップ drama is going to release on there as an Amazon Prime original. I love the series too much to pass that up:

        I’m actually interested in seeing other things in their prime lineup now…

        • Interesting. I wonder if they are going to start doing more exclusive series like that to get people to join. If you do register, come back and let us know what you thought!

  3. I immediately went to try this, but the geoblock is just awful. Is there some other service that does not require a VPN? I do not mind it being without jap subs or western content.

    • From what I read, a smart dns service should work. I’ve used before with other stuff I stream. All the sites with that service have a week free trial so you can check it out.

      • VPNGate (the vpn service from Tsukuba university) also works, actually you can just start watching the video with it, bypass the check, then disconect the VPN and watch smootthly.
        Not 100% sure but it worked the few times I used it, but I only used SD (you need a HDCP monitor to watch in HD apprently and I was on a laptop. Main problem is you need a Japanese credit card to buy/rent movies apparently; which is weird since I could pay the amazon prime with it.

  4. hey man, just to confirm there are No English subtitles on amazon prime JP?

    Shame if so, i like the option of having japanese/english subs or dubs depending on whos in the room watching

  5. Does it require a japanese cc, a japanese address, or both? I’ve been trying to sign in for the trial but it keeps rejecting my payment methods.

  6. Hi, thanks for all the inputs. I live in Japan but do not yet speak Japanese. Do you know if it is possible to switch the language display and the videos into English on amazon video? Like in netflix where you can change the languages… thx

    • I have been playing around with it, it has very poor options for changing the language, even on original content such as American Gods only the Dub is offered. Both Hulu and Netflix are far superior services to be honest. However you do also get Amazon music and free shipping etc. so the service is worth it if you plan on using those services as well. If it is just for video Netflix and Hulu will serve you better.

  7. Ok, after having Amazon prime for a month… it’s worth it. You need a VPN of course, but you don’t have to spend too much on one (unlike Netflix, where you need a dedicated IP address if you don’t want to be blocked0.

    TONS of Japanese content. Probably the biggest (legal) selection of Japanese dramas you’re going to get with your foreign credit card. Lots of anime and movies as well, and even some verity shows! I really like that Amazon has a lot of older things in it’s mix, unlike Crunchy which has a total focus on most current anime (which, admittedly, it is very good at doing).

    Prime has a surprising amount of dubbed (mostly American) content as well, which will be labeled as 吹替版. Avoid the subtitled (字幕版) stuff.

    Seriously, a few of the dubbed American movies on there for Prime are total classics. Back to the Future, Home Alone, Titanic, Jurrasic Park, The Goonies, Robocop… So no need to feel like you’re sacrificing American pop culture knowledge for Japanese learning. The dubbed movie section alone has doubled since Adam wrote this post (currently at 249 dubbed movies)

    There’s something for everyone. And for the rare time that there isn’t, the selection of non-prime video is extremely big and likely you can rent someting you want.

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