Japanese TV and streaming services have their perks: anime, J-drama, documentaries, and for hardcore fans, those off-the-wall Japanese variety TV shows. While all of this is available with the push of a button in Japan, it’s harder to catch the premiere of the latest anime outside the country.

Here are five ways to get your fix of Japanese shows, while abroad.

Photo by NordVPN

1. Use a VPN

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to watch Japanese anime outside Japan is a popular solution to access geo-blocked content. Here’s how you can do it:

  • 1. Choose a reliable VPN service: Select a VPN provider that offers servers in Japan and has a good reputation for streaming capabilities. We recommend NordVPN.
  • 2. Install the VPN app: Download and install the VPN app on your device — whether that’s desktop, mobile, or a smart TV.
  • 3. Connect to a Japanese server: Open the VPN app and connect to a server located in Japan. This will assign you a Japanese IP address, and make it appear as if you are browsing from somewhere in Japan.
  • 4. Access streaming platforms: Once connected to the Japanese server, you can visit popular Japanese anime streaming platforms such as Hulu or Netflix Japan and enjoy your favorite J-drama or anime.

Note: You will still need a subscription for the streaming services.

Popular Japanese streaming services you can access with a VPN

Photo by NordVPN

Netflix Japan isn’t your Netflix back home; it offers a huge choice of Japanese anime, drama, TV shows, and movies. Note that Netflix often blocks access via VPNs — NordVPN is one of the few that actually works with the streaming service.

Hulu Japan and Amazon Prime Video Japan also offer a great selection, with each streaming service holding exclusive rights for different anime series and movies.

NHK offers a selection of documentaries and other educational content.

Less well-known streaming services from Japan that are worth checking out include NicoNico and Abema. Most of their content is Japanese-language only, though.

Navigating the language

One of the biggest challenges can be navigating the languages when VPN streaming. Netflix Japan offers full English settings, but for NicoNico or Abema, you’ll need to plug the URL into Google Translate to get an English version. While not 100% accurate, the translation works usually well enough to navigate the site. NHK, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon also offer English subtitles for most of their content.

Added benefits of using a VPN

In addition to accessing geo-blocked content like Japanese anime, a VPN offers several other benefits. These include:

  • 1. Enhanced online privacy: A VPN encrypts your internet connection, preventing third parties from monitoring your online activities, such as browsing habits and personal information.
  • 2. Improved online security: VPNs help safeguard your online activities from potential cyber threats, such as hacking, phishing, and malware attacks.
  • 3. Secure public Wi-Fi connection: When using public Wi-Fi networks, a VPN adds a layer of security, protecting your data from potential cyber threats and unauthorized access.
  • 4. Access to regionally restricted deals: Apart from watching Japanese anime, you can also access other region-locked content and e.g. potentially buy airline tickets at cheaper rates by setting your VPN to a different country.
  • 5. Online gaming: A VPN allows you to play online games only available in certain countries, and to play multiplayer games with friends in other countries — case in point, setting up a Minecraft server via NordVPN’s Meshnet.

2. Check local streaming services

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While not as extensive as Japanese streaming services, you can also dig through the library of streaming services available in your home country. Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all have a variety of popular anime and some Japanese movies and series available, which varies by country — i.e. Netflix UK will boast a different selection than Netflix Canada. Again, you can experiment with a VPN to see what’s on, where.

The shows might come with the added advantage of being dubbed into your native language. However, the selection is likely limited to only the most popular and well-known ones (hello, Sailor Moon and Pokémon), and you might need to subscribe to more than one streaming service to get a wider selection.

3. Look at Crunchyroll

Before VPNs and widely available streaming services were a thing, Crunchyroll was the holy grail for anime fans globally. Crunchyroll offers both free-to-watch and premium content, and has one of the widest selections of anime outside of Japan. Many of the latest anime series stream on Crunchyroll shortly after premiering in Japan.

Crunchyroll is available worldwide, but its full library is only available in the U.S. — which, you guessed it, is another problem a VPN can solve.

Pro tip: Also take a look at Hidive, a more recent competitor to Crunchyroll.

4. Go old-school and buy DVD sets

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While not as convenient as streaming J-drama right onto your phone, especially in anime circles, DVDs and Blu-ray are still popular collectors’ items. You can find the complete Ghibli DVD collection and other sets on Amazon, eBay, and in anime select stores.

5. Cosplay and anime conventions

Game, anime and cosplay cons are a great place to watch new releases from Japan alongside other fans. Comic Con is one of the most popular ones, with events taking place in cities across the globe. Check AnimeCon for a list of upcoming events worldwide.

Bonus: Pair the VPN with an eSIM

If you are a frequent traveler, you might want to check out NordVPN’s popular eSIM Saily, which provides mobile data packages to over 150 countries worldwide — including Japan. It replaces the need for a physical SIM or to use potentially unsafe public Wi-Fi hotspots, and saves you money on roaming charges.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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