As the nights get longer and colder during winter, you’re probably wanting to stay in more. While there are many shows coming out in the festive season, Japanese dramas are still fairly limited on Netflix and Prime. Apart from First Love on Netflix which is an excellent J-drama well worth viewing, you may start to miss those good old romance dramas with happy endings you previously saw either in Japan or online. In this first of our Japanese drama series, we have a special guest blog from our friends at Zusetsu who go through four J-dramas that have their seal of approval.
If you have not come across Zusetsu before it’s an online store based in the UK. The team is made up of Cathy and Yukki who source contemporary textiles and gifts from Kyoto, Japan. They offer many beautiful gifts including original Japanese woodblock prints, furoshiki gift-wrapping cloths, tenugui wall art, artisan Kyoto bags, and traditionally made washi trays. Like Best Japanese, Zusetsu is interested in building a community of like-minded lovers of Japan who appreciate its beautiful art and literature. In January, they will actually be holding an online Bookclub, where you can join them reading and chatting about Yasunari Kawabata’s The Old Capital.
Moving back to Japanese dramas, aside from getting the chance to virtually enjoy Japan and all the beautiful Japanese settings, they are a great way to learn Japanese especially if you use Japanese subtitles. Now let’s pass over to Zusetsu to unwrap the top heart-warming dramas they recommend watching.
Only Just Married
婚姻届に判を捺しただけですが (Konin Todoke ni Han o Oshita dake desu ga)
We’re starting off with Only Just Married, a 10-part series following Akiha and Shu as they negotiate a relationship that begins with convenience but begins to deepen into something more. It’s a really lovely show that examines what is valuable in a relationship: support, companionship, and simply enjoying and appreciating each other’s company 🙂
I liked that Akiha-san is independent, resilient to knocks, and capable. She works hard to achieve the recognition that comes her way as a designer/illustrator. Shu tries hard to learn how to understand his feelings – he’s quite different to many of the male leads in J-drama that I’ve seen before. He’s on his own journey of love, and at times he is quite sweet and vulnerable.
The cat Omochi deserves a special mention too, because he is adorable! Only Just Married began as a manga written and illustrated by Yuki Aoharu. I loved this drama, and I think you might enjoy it too!
Promise Cinderella is a 2021 drama based on a beautifully drawn manga by Oreko Tachibana. (You can read the manga here!).
Hayame (Nikaida Fumi) is dumped by her husband, has her money stolen, and sleeps in a box in the park. Taunting teenagers surround her and one in particular, Issei (Maeda Gordon), singles her out to amuse him. He pays her large wads of cash for performing dares – which dare is left to the chance roll of a die.
He takes her to his wealthy home to live, protects her through her divorce, but he is an angry young man with a terrific hurt that he is struggling to overcome.
Issei’s grandmother is the grand matron of a prestigious ryokan and his older brother just happens to be Hayame’s hatsukoi – the first sweet love who came along just at the time in her young life when she was struggling too.
This is a great drama, the two leads are full of passion and energy, which reflect the drawings in the original manga. And much of the action is set in the traditional beauty of the ryokan. It’s great viewing!
Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo
イタズラなKiss～Love in Tokyo
The first series of Itazurana Kiss is a very cute drama.
Kotoko (Honoka Miki) is a young girl in the lowest stream at school, who falls for the smartest boy Naoki (Yuki Furukawa). When she confesses her love and admiration to him he rejects her and steps on her letter!
But in a Tanabata moment, a shooting star destroys the house she lives in with her kindly father, and when they temporarily remove to the smart home of his best friend, it turns out that it is the home of the boy Kotoko is in love with 🙂
Naoki is haughty and disdainful towards Kotoko, but gradually her sweet and disarming ways begin to charm him.
Mischievous Kiss is fun to watch, with lovely scenes of Tokyo as a beautiful backdrop. If you like watching dramas that make you feel happy afterwards, this is one for you!
From 5 to 9
5時から9時まで〜私に恋したお坊さん 5-ji Kara 9-ji Made: Watashi ni Koi Shita Obōsan
There was so much that didn’t feel right about the opening of this drama! It begins with a young woman, Junko Sakuraba, being pressured into marrying Takane Hoshikawa, priest and heir to Ikkyou Temple, through an omiai (arranged marriage meeting).
Junko (Satomi Ishihara) is an English Foreign Language teacher at a language school in Tokyo, and her long-held dream is to live in New York – she’s been saving for years!
But Takane is persistent, proves his integrity and his extraordinary kindness, and so gradually, gradually, Junko begins to fall for him. But this is only after the early episodes of near-stalking by Takane, and immense pressure from her close family who adore Takane too!
By episode 4, Takane’s devotion and thoughtfulness begins to win Junko’s heart, and there is some lovely acting by the two leads, and a lot of feel-good humour by the rest of the cast. Tomohisa Yamashita (Takane Hoshikawa) is great at portraying the socially awkward priest who cherishes Junko beyond everything!
And there are beautiful scenes of the temple and of Tokyo.
By the final episodes I was enjoying this J-drama very much, so do give it a try, you might enjoy it too!
From Five to Nine is a rom-com adapted from the manga series by Miki Aihara.
You might like the end theme song too: クリスマスソング by back number.
We hope that you enjoy the J-dramas introduced above. Out of the above dramas, we’re personally big fans of From 5 to 9, and while we haven’t gotten to the last episode yet we feel it’ll be a beautiful ending for sure. If you are looking for more articles about Japanese movies or culture, check out our Japanese culture section. Also, whether you are searching for Japanese Furoshiki, or you want to know more about their JanuaryInJapan Bookclub, head over to the Zusetsu site.
Big thank you once again to Zusetsu for sharing their J-drama picks and also for introducing us to Rakuten Viki where you can watch J-dramas with subtitles for free!