Drama are great ways to practice Japanese. They are made by Japanese people for Japanese people telling Japanese stories. Often it’s hard to pick a good drama to watch if you don’t know drama very well. Which is why I think asadora are some of the best dramas for practising Japanese. Japanese asadora bite size drama, they’re only 15 minute long episodes, are easy and simple to watch, and are great for advanced and intermediate practice.
These are not for beginners. Because of the conversational Japanese, thick accents and often historic phrases used, Japanese asadora are normally best for intermediate and advanced levels of Japanese.
What are Japanese Asadora?
Asadora is short for 朝ドラマ, they are short 15 minute NHK dramas with 6 episodes a week airing at 8am and then repeating at 12pm. They normally air for months, each season covering the life of a girl from childhood to when she’s grown. They normally cover the challenges the woman faces in life along with her relationship with her family and partner(s). And they tell all kinds of stories across history from period dramas to modern day tales.
Picking an Asadora
The first asadora aired in 1961, so there are a lot but you don’t need to watch them all. It’s best to choose one that interests you the most.
There is a list of all the asadora that have aired on wikipeidia but there are a few that I suggest:
This is a cute show about Jun Kanō, raised in Miyakojima, Okinawa, who moves to Osaka to work in a hotel. There she meets Itoshi Machida and they fall in love. Of course there’s a lot more to the tale, but it’s a cute romantic drama based around the hospitality industry.
Amachan is about ama, Japanese female deep sea divers. It’s a cute story about a girl who’s dragged out to the countryside by her mum, which leads to her diving into the world of ama. The show was so successful in Japan that there was a huge resurgence of tourism to the Tohoku region and to see ama divers.
This is a cute asadora about the woman who translated Anne of the Green Gables. It follows her life from poverty, through her education in a foreign missionary school and learning English, to her translating Anne of the Green Gables during the second world war.
Massan is based on the lives of Masataka Taketsuru and his wife Jessie Roberta “Rita” Cowan, a Scotswoman Taketsuru met while studying abroad. It’s the first time a foreigner has been cast as the main role in an asadora.
Using Asadora to Study Japanese
The thing about asadora are they often have characters with very strong accents. This can make it difficult to understand. In these cases it’s best to watch asadora not with English subtitles but Japanese subtitles.
Raredorama is a great website for asadora as they not only have a wide variety but also provide Japanese subtitles to watch them with.
Watching with Japanese subtitles not only helps listening but reading ability. I’ve come across many new kanji and listening to how they said and in what context helps with learning them. As always, make notes of words and kanji you come across and study them as well.
Each season is long, but you don’t have to watch them all if it’s a season that doesn’t interest you. Even a little bit and variety is useful.
Asadora are great for teaching you about Japanese culture and history as well a everyday practices, phrases and customs. They’re a lot more than regular dramas because they’re made to teach Japanese certain beliefs and practices such as taking care of the elderly and your family.
Asadora are often so successful in Japan that there are many news stories and TV shows about them, which means you can find lots of other materials covering what you’re watching and exposing you to more Japanese.