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Best Japanese Drama Series

The author enjoys writing about Japanese drama series, also known as "doramas."

Japanese drama series (also known as “doramas”) have been around longer than their more popular Korean cousins, but they have their own unique qualities which make them stand alone in the sea of Asian television.

The Japanese drama as we know it today began evolving sometime in the early to mid-nineties. Romances like long vacation (and anything with Kimura Takuya in it really) catapulted the industry forward. While others, like Great Teacher Onizuka and Trick, diversified it, making it varied, complex and interesting.

Japanese dramas can’t be pinned down to a tiny set of templates like Korean dramas, but they still do exhibit some particular tendencies and patterns. Among romances, a common theme is for the female lead to be vulnerable somehow. In Summer Snow, she is very ill. In Orange Days, she’s deaf.

In Beautiful Life, she’s bound to a wheelchair. It’s up to the handsome male protagonist to heal her with his love. Many Japanese Doramas can be funny, but just as many can be sad and almost tragic.

One thing that Japanese dramas have that the Koreans generally do not is a large population of great actor superstars. Many Korean actors are interchangeable, or if they do reach stardom, vastly slow down their television output and instead focus on being themselves, stars.

But in Japan, the success of the show can depend upon its cast. Yukie Nakama, Kimura Takuya, Matsumoto Jun and Abe Hiroshi can all command large audiences all on their own. Shows vie for them. Of course, you have to understand that the acting industry has been around a lot longer in Japan than in Korea, and that has something to do with it as well.

The beautiful Ito Misaki

The beautiful Ito Misaki

1. Gokusen

This is my personal favourite. Yukie Nakama stars as Yankumi, a mob-boss daughter turned high school teacher. Trying to keep her family history private, she is unfortunately set in charge of the school's problem class, a group of unrepentant criminals and slackers.

Yankumi's life growing up as a mob daughter makes her uniquely suited for this position. It's her struggle to reform the students of class, 3-D. It's a moving tale about dedication and the power of someone who cares.

2. Long Vacation

The story is about a music student, Senna, and the sudden entry in his life of Minami: an older woman, ex-model, and the jilted bride of his ex-roommate. When Minami's fiancé runs away, and she's left with nowhere to stay, she forces herself in with Senna. The show is about how they cope with this situation. Quiet, reserved Senna, and boisterous, older Minami. It's a fantastic juxtaposition.

3. Hana Yori Dango

Another manga (comics) adaptation. HYD is about a young girl in a rich private school she can barely afford and her dealings with the people there. She eventually falls in with the four richest and most popular boys, and the drama revolves around her turbulent attraction to one of them. Great cast and great story.

4. Densha Otoko

One of the most interesting real-life stories I've heard in a while. Densha otoko (translation: train man) is the true story about a young nerd who, seeing a beautiful woman beset by a drunk on the train, goes to her rescue when nobody else will.

Afterward, he goes on the internet and asks their advice on how he should go about wooing her and whether or not she was sending romantic signals his way. A modern love story.

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5. Orange Days

Sae is a deaf violin student. Kai is the man thrust by fate into her path. Kai is mostly normal; Sae is closed off and troubled by bitterness and isolation. It's about falling in love and dealing with the grief when one loses the most important thing in their lives.

6. Kimi Wa Petto

A smart, successful woman who is beset by jealousy and adversity at work comes home to her apartment to find a young man (Matsumoto Jun) living in a box on her doorstep.

Feeling sorry, she takes him inside, but after seeing a superficial resemblance to a dog she once had, she decides to adopt the boy and call him momo and keeps him as a pet. It's a show about a woman taking the term sugar mamma to new heights. Romance ensues. Very entertaining.

7. Hero

An all-star cast in a drama about a juvenile delinquent turned state prosecutor. Kimura Takuya stars in a drama about a street-smart misfit who will do whatever is necessary to solve his cases and find justice.

8. Trick

A strange little show about a professor and a failed magician who go around investigating paranormal cases and debunking them. The chemistry between the two leads is undeniable. This series is just weirdly funny and surreal. Like a dream. Some of the "tricks" are almost unbelievable.

9. Great Teacher Onidzuka (GTO)

This drama should, by rights, have a higher placing on the list. It's a spectacular and rightly popular show. I just personally had read both the original comic it was based upon and seen its anime version before getting to the drama, and I'd found them more enjoyable. Onidzuka is the male Gokusen. It's a story about a teacher and a group of misfits and the struggle to turn children into adults.

10. The Taiga Drama

A yearly period piece put on by the television station, NHK. The Taiga drama deserves a place on this list for a number of reasons. How it works is that NHK, every year since 1963, runs a new show about some aspect of Japanese history (usually the feudal era).

What's more, they are top quality material, some of the best jidaigeki you will ever see. Great acting, large budget, historical accuracy. if you like samurai movies, I suggest attempting to get your hands on a Taiga drama. (Komyou ga tsuji even has Yukie Nakama in it).


Nana on June 24, 2018:

The best jdramas are:

- Ichi rittoru no namida (real life story)

- Hanzawa Naoki (Most popular jdrama in Japan ever)

- Soredemo ikite yuku (human story, so genuine, so real, unlike korean dramas)

- Guilty akuma to keiyakushita onna (story of vengeance and love)

- Buzzer Beat (if you like beautiful romance)

- My Boss My Hero (The funniest drama ever)

- Sekai no chuushin de ai wo sakebu (the saddest drama ever)

- Limit (suspense school drama, A MUST WATCH)

Snehal on June 05, 2018:

You guys need to watch Taiyou no Uta.....

Ljason on July 14, 2017:

1 liter of tears and proposal daisakuaen are the best, it'll teach you real life lesson...

1 liter of tears teaches you that no matter what happens, always live life to the fullest

Proposal daisakusen teaches you to grab every opportunity so you won't have any regrets!

hi on June 22, 2017:


hani on February 02, 2017:

hi. can i ask you something, I've watched a japan drama which is about a young step mother have many step children. Her step children are all boys. Do you have any idea what is the title, cause I forgot.

Nick O on December 03, 2016:

Of all the jdorama I've watched GTO is still the best.

China Abarquez on April 16, 2015:

I've watched Hana Yori Dango and Kimi Wa Petto online and its one of the best J-drama I've seen. Jun Matsumoto is really a good actor.

ichigo mino on June 27, 2013:

i like gokusen so much because we can be strong by protecting the important i very like it but hana yori dango its just looooooooooooooooooove

im a girl but i dont like loooooooooooooooooooooooooooove

ris on March 28, 2013:

TRICK ALL TIME FAV!!!! I prefer it to Kurosagi, Mr Brain, Liar Game and Keizoku, hahahahaahha, but these are good too :D

rosan on February 04, 2013:

i grew up watching jdorama idolize asano atsuko .Watching her in Sekai de Ichiban Kimi ga Suki and never been so fascinating with this kind of drama ever. Then in the mid 90s i fell in love once again with long vacation since then i never ever turn my back on jdorama..for me long vacation is a classic!good cast,good looking cast,good storyline,good music!

cho cha hee on January 10, 2013:

its kindly weird to say but i thought that jdorama is just a funny story to watch but i found it so interesting so please support jdorama and also kdorama....

now watching bloody monday!!!

gudlack 4 me!!!

Sarah on November 19, 2012:

I really love GTO and Gokusen ..

Yukie Nakama is one of my most favorite actress, She is so freaking funny and a good actress

boo on November 08, 2012:



nobuta wo produce

ouran high school host club

yamato nadeshiko


mei-chan no shitsuji

S on September 10, 2012:

Just going to add my two cents here:

Tokyo Love Story is one of the best dramas I've ever seen and not only is it not on this list, it's not talked about very frequently. Basically, it's the show that started the entire industry down the path that eventually led to all the shows being mentioned above. It was the biggest show Asia had ever seen, kick started the golden age of J-dramas in the early/mid 90s, was so popular the lead actress later retired from the stress involved with her fame, and led to the #8 best selling single in Japanese music history (written specifically for the show). Anyway, everyone owes it to themselves to experience Tokyo Love Story.

Pon on June 13, 2012:

All Jdrama are great work !! but if I must say , Tokyo Love Story definitely the one that makes me really interested with Jdrama .Even the opening OST "Love Story wa Totsuzen ni " by Mazakasu Oda still include one of top ten most succes song in Japan

sara on May 28, 2012:

Sunaoni Narenakte! (Hard to say i love you)

KYOKESHI on April 20, 2012:


benjamin on April 11, 2012:

Gokusen, season 1 is hands down the greatest tv series i have ever seen. My all time favorite, I have never seen anything that compares. I did not like season 2 or 3 or the movie, just season 1.

nagisa on April 03, 2012:

i recommend MISAKI NUMBER ONE... story about a girl who worked as a hostess and became a homeroom teacher of delinquent students... a nice drama..

leila on March 01, 2012:

I saw a drama the name was "Nodame cantabile" it was all about music and love, that's my favorite Drama ever

Ammie on February 07, 2012:

They are all good dramas. I need to watch all of them however they are kinda old. One i've seen so far that hit me hard was "Koizora" such a touching and emotional drama! thanks for sharing (:

delilah on February 02, 2012:

You're list is OLD, an update is definitely needed!

I'm recommending the following:

Nodame Cantabile (1, 2 SPs and 2 movies)

Hotaru no Hikari 1 and 2

Code Blue 1 and 2

The Boss

Hana Kimi

Mr. Brain

Tokyo Dogs

Leenah on January 25, 2012:


D on January 03, 2012:

My fav is Holyland. Even though it's not as good as source manga, it's far from being bad and even normal. Great show, recommend to everyone.

Kathy on January 02, 2012:

Oh I love this list, and I agree these are all great choices, but what about some of the other classics~! I love the tragic stories like "Ichi Ritoru no Namida (1 Liter of Tears)", or the fantastically crazy ones like "Nodame Cantabile" (with an awesome movie too!).

Recent dramas have something lacking, though. I dunno, I mean shows like "Ushi ni Negai wo" or "Marumo no Okite" are cute and all, but I find myself watching the Korean dramas on Japanese TV anymore :/

Unless it's a variety show...

Those are still good here xD

Haline on December 31, 2011:

Hana Yori Dango, isn't it Korean Drama Boys Over Flower???

Choity on December 30, 2011:

GTO is really a touching

223 on December 11, 2011:

my boss my hero, ryusei no kizuna and liar game, surely

bebe on December 10, 2011:

i like absolute boyfriend, BUT i don't like the ending!

Gina Souljaboy on November 10, 2011:

Ammm ... Actually i love Hana yori Dango actually They are A Cute couple together ... I Love Hana yori dango a great story .... I Wish it never ended... ^^

Liz on October 29, 2011:

I like Kimi wa Petto

That was the first Matsumoto Jun drama i saw and it was really love at first "wan"

Then i saw HYD and i wondered by Momo turned to mean

They are both amazing shows!

faushikablo on October 28, 2011:

mmm .....high school debut,otomen,ouran host club,seigi no mikata ,mop girl,liar game,boss,tokyo dogs,atashinchi no dashi,hana kimi ,hana yori dango,tantei gakuen q,detective conan live action,yasoku to kenji,yankee to megumi,bloody monday,nikyo helper,paradise kiss,akihabara@deep,jinn,death note,lovely complex,girl from hell,and so onnn.....there's were other many good j-drama that i had bought .. but sorrry ..i have forgotten the other j-drama...i am too lazy to checked my dvd stufff.....once again i'm sorry

i recommend this j-drama

ryu on October 20, 2011:

just search you japanese series here:

almost all jdrama can be download there

Kieran on October 04, 2011:

Long vacation is light years ahead of any other japanese drama! There is no comparison!

angelo on September 14, 2011:

so good and not bad

pictures are cooooooooooool......

lei justine on September 05, 2011:

its so beautiful,you know?i like it....

meow48 from usa on August 05, 2011:

love your synopsis of each drama. really enjoyed gokusen, and the others. but it really stood out for me in the vote, hee. thankyou for writing this. take care.

Nourani on June 20, 2011:

Thanks for the tips.

I'll check out Gokusen :)

Ps. Also nice = Honey and Clover (JP version, 11 eps)

lolita on May 24, 2011:

come onnnnnnn guys.. only 44% for hana yori dango

its the beeeeeeeest most wooooonderfull show ever made on planet earth

Rosea on April 09, 2011:

I am surprised by the little votes Kimi Wa Petto has :O The plot was amazing and i can sincerely say that i loved this show from start to end!I would recommend it to japanese and korean drama lovers since it is surely on the top of my list^^

Yakuza on April 05, 2011:

My Boss My Hero

upik on February 22, 2011:

try CHANGE (Takuya Kimura on it, 10 tumbs up), Concerto Love/Nodame Contaibile, and Bloody Monday....

You can never leave your sight while watching it!!!!


hannah on February 07, 2011:

hana yori dango is a really good series not to mention Jun's good looks. I have already watched it for like 10x hehe.. I also like Gokusen because it is both fun and inspiring.. Kimi wa petto is also good and fun. I can suggest that you watch:

1 litre of tears(I cried in all the episodes... soooo heartwelming)

Hana kimi-japanese version (ikuta toma is so cute and funny)

Bambino(jun can cook!)

Magda on February 06, 2011:

I've just finished watching Absolute Boyfriend and I think the show is great. I started this show because I thought that would be a laugh, since I'm a fun of anime. But it surprised me in a positive way. It is a very funny and good story as a whole!

soy.elisa.o on January 02, 2011:

HEY what about NODAME!!!!

Claudin_Dayo from Southeast Asia on December 20, 2010:

Hi there, the TV series entitled Absolute Boyfriend is also a great one =).. . I love this hub !

Beebs on December 11, 2010:

Nodame Cantabile definitely should've made the list. I just finished the second movie. That series was good from start to finish.

I also finished watching the Liar Game movie last night. It's definitely thrilling to watch. I remember when I watched the first season. I watched the all 11 episodes nonstop for a day. If there was a top 20, then I definitely think it should make the list.

Junee Tandukar on November 24, 2010:

I've seen both Japanese & Korean version of Hana Yori Dango & i think HYD9jAPANESE) is better.I like all its CAST & direction as well.

DDmama on November 02, 2010:

I think "Long Vacation" is the best. Storyline, actors/actresses, especially Takuya and Yamaguchi (love them!), and the music....... fit together just right. This dorama is a total classic!

BEA on October 27, 2010:

i have seen a Lot j-dramas. HYD is the best for me. i have seen the korean and taiwanese version of HYD and its reaLLy good but i Love japan's version more because u can reaLLy feeL the Love between jun and mao. MATSUJUN is the perfect DOMYOUJI for me :)

here's my top 10 most fave:

1. HANA YORi DANGO 1, 2 and FiNAL [inoue mao & matsujun]


3. HANA KiMi [oguri shun & horikita maki]

4. RYUSEi NO KiZUNA [ninomiya kazunari]

5. MY GiRL [aiba masaki] -- this made me cry WATCH iT ! its Like a new side of Ai-BA-KA :)

6. KiMi WA PETTO [koyuki & matsujun]

7. KOiZORA [mizusawa elena & seto koji] -- this made me cry Like a baby :D

8. SMiLE [matsujun & aragaki yui]

9. YAMADA TAROU MONOGATARi [ninomiya kazunari & sakurai sho]

10. KAiBUTSU-KUN [ohno satoshi]

weLL, i am a huge ARASHi FAN and MATSUJUN being in HYD is the reason i started watching j-dramas xD i prefer the story in gokusen's manga rather than the drama itseLf

kenzhou on October 21, 2010:

proposal daisakusen, GTO, Last friends, Dragon sakura.

How dramatic, what can I say?! on October 20, 2010:

I don't like japanese drama at aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall!! byeeeeeeeee!!!

ryder on October 19, 2010:

I personally like trick series. The cast are incredibly funny..hands down to detective yabe what i could say a naturally weird funny man..

chu chu~~~ on October 10, 2010:

well,i think samurai high school and my boss my hero is great too,,,anyway HYD,kimi wa petto,gokusen,hana kimi is absolutely thumbs up..the story is deeply moving..gtg then,,:D

toma on October 06, 2010:

i have forget an other whitch is no kamen saison 1 and 2

toma on October 06, 2010:

you should see: honey and clover...and there is a korean drama too whitch is good too it is: playful kiss ou mischivous kiss..and there is.. goong..bye bye(goong is fabulous it's the best)

toma on October 06, 2010:

you should see: honey and clover...and there is a korean drama too whitch is good too it is: playful kiss ou mischivous kiss. have fan bye bye

Ssamyaa on October 02, 2010:

Heyy I need a good Japanese Drama .. the problem is that i'm looking for something in a school, you know high school stories , could anyone help me, i already saw:

- hana yori dango

- hana kimi

- Nobuta wo produce

- Ichi rittoru no namida

- koizora

- Stand up !!

and i'm not really interested in Gokusen..

Help me pleaaase, i need my drug !!! lolz

eka yulianti on September 21, 2010:

i think Nodame Cantabile is such a great dorama.. u all must watch from Nodame Cntbl 1, 2 till SP. Now I am waiting DVD ver. for Nodame Cntbl The Movie. I hope it'll be arrive soon in Jakarta...

zebra on September 17, 2010:

LIFE is best!

It is about bullying at highsclool and I felt so sad at first, but I could learn lots of things in the end.

It is not only entertaining but so educational drama with good actors.

You can watch on youtube with english subtitle

ALLEN on September 15, 2010:


shiroi on August 30, 2010:

what about 1 liter of tears? D:

indososhi on August 18, 2010:

all takuya`s dorama is very good i think :)

Ling on August 12, 2010:

nobuta wo produce is strangely good too.

kurosagi? 1 litre of tears? koizora?

bloody monday series is good too, and liar game ^^

manoo on August 04, 2010:

i cant agree with the top ten of the site owner either.

most of them goes to the similair line of dramas.

i understand goukusen being populer but nr1???(my girlfriend love sit though, there is an anime for it as well)

well, try where you can watch stremed subtitled dramas . reyomaden, jin,galileo,liar game,nodame cantible(watch the anmie 1st, its a great musical drama),one pound gospel,psycho meter eiji, are few of many i have wathched that some might like .

i probly watched several thousends of anime and a few hundred korean and japanese drama.

Ume on August 01, 2010:

Great list! I love all those but my favorite drama is Sora Kara Furu Ichioku no Hoshi

Mizuki on July 27, 2010:

Where is 1 Litre of Tears. That's the BEST Japanese drama ever. If you haven't seen please watch it. I love Ryo Nishikido.. He is so HOT

Mistaria on July 19, 2010:

definitely Liar Game or Bloody Monday LOL. nothing beats those 2. im not much of a romance fan in terms of Japanese dramas hehe!! but i love their pysch-thrillers XDD!!! and the boys HAVE GOT TO BE CUTE!! Muira Hamura IS SUCH A SWEET PRETT BOY!! and KANZAKI JUN (what ever his name is haha) and omg SHOTA MATSUDA!

Hayato on June 20, 2010:

Growing up watching Japanese dramas, I feel like this list isn't that great. There are so many great ones not mentioned here. One Liter of Tears is definitely one of the best. But because Japanese dramas have so much variety, it's really hard to pin down the best of the best.

luff on May 30, 2010:

i agree.. Liar Game is good.. I also like Yamato Nadeshiko.. XD

shinata on May 01, 2010:

My current favorite is Liar Game :)

I love the Toda-Matsuda pairing. :)

And I always like psycho-brainy dramas like deathnote. ahahha

do you know anything else that's along this line as well? ^_^

sr on April 21, 2010:

i just watched hana kimi the whole epsodes including the special episode.. the story really made me laughed so hard! now i want to try watching koishite akuma since it is recommended by

nana nfd on April 19, 2010:

i love mizushima hiro....

can u tell me the newest japanese drama..???

lauren on April 12, 2010:

this is a weird show

jerboa83 on March 30, 2010:

"Zettai kareshi" is my favourite dorama!

assey on February 18, 2010:

my personal opinion is there are more doramas that have interesting plot and actors compared to hana yori dango. i dont like the main character played by matsujun, for me he just not suited enough to play the role. the list of doramas above maybe are the site owner's favourite and i respect that. i like some doramas but recently i am addicted to ryusei no kizuna.

Febriands on January 10, 2010:

Where is "hanazakari no kimitachi e" in the list?!

Myee on January 04, 2010:

One Litre of Tears man.. that stuff is true.

It hits you hard plus the fact that it's based on a true story makes it intense.

BuriedAlive on January 01, 2010:

I've never seen or heard of any of these before, but I will look into them now. The only dorama I have ever seen is called hana kimi (or hanazakari no kimitachi e). It is about a girl who dresses up as a guy to enter an all boys school so she can meet and help her struggling hero. It's hilarious but serious at times. I definitely recommend watching it. I can't wait to watch some of the shows on this list and see how they compare!

lilian_sg from Singapore on October 30, 2009:

I like Yamato Nadeshiko a lot. =)

Ais on August 30, 2009:

I totally like Hana Yori Dango. Great acting from jun matsumoto and mao inou. The F4 look good to.

Liz on August 09, 2009:

where can i watch HERO of kimura takuya....plz mail me at thank u in advance..:)

Glare from Washington DC area on July 03, 2009:

The only Japanese shows that I've ecperienced are their anime, and if these are half as good as the anime then I'm sold, lol.

Great list!

izzat on June 17, 2009:

i've seen all the gokusen series to season's quite entertaining but in each season the problems/conflict is quite the same.double kitchen and hana yori is the best i think.for densha ottoko is quite annoying for me yet it make me anxious to watch another episode...kimi wo petto is one of my fav series..

Bakanapi on June 06, 2009:

For me HYD is also the number one jdrama but Kurosagi should also be in the list as well as One Litre of Tears!!! :p

ms. hanazawa on May 04, 2009:

well hana yori dango will be the no. 1 j-dorama for me .. gokusen too is one of the best .. :) as you can see the two main characters of hana yori dango is in gokusen ? that's why i love it !!! :)) well it doesn't make any sense .. and why does hanazakarino is not in the list ?

eaasi3574 on May 04, 2009:

Great discussion!

Pauline on April 18, 2009:

I like Gokusen but I definitely love Hanayori Dango more!

Hanayori Dango, Hanayori Dango 2, Hanayori Dango final really rocks!

Watch it at!


sahod on April 04, 2009:

i like gokusen

ivanna on April 03, 2009:

ahmm,,why is that HANA YORI DANGO earn more votes?

it must be GOKUSEN..the story of it is all about a student..

it clears out the mind of every student...

For me GOKUSEN must earn more points..


FreezepopMorality (author) on March 07, 2009:

Ah, you must mean Takeshi's castle. A great/horrible horrible show. I think what you describe happens a lot in the world. We don't really have the time to take an interest in everything around us, so if we can find a reason to dismiss something without completely exploring it, it makes our lives a little easier.

Yep, Trick is available at d-addicts. I think its currently down at You can follow the link in the other hub to d-addicts and search for Trick in that site. You'll eventually find a subtitled 3.4 gb sized torrent. If you're familiar with torrents, downloading will be a breeze. If not, you'll need to look up the program utorrent and get it. Happy watching!

If this is too confusing, just go to and go through their japanese drama selection. They have long vacation and I think that's a good introduction to the genre if nothing else.

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