Best Japanese Drama series

Updated on July 12, 2016

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 amongst 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. Amongst 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.

Some JDrama Stars

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Yukie NakamaMore Yukie NakamaKimura Takuya
Yukie Nakama
Yukie Nakama
More Yukie Nakama
More Yukie Nakama
Kimura Takuya
Kimura Takuya

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, a 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 Korea, and that has something to do with it as well.

The beautiful Ito Misaki
The beautiful Ito Misaki

My Top Ten

1) Gokusen

My personal favourite. Yukie Nakama stars as Yankumi, the 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 about a music student, Senna and the sudden entering in his life of Minami: an older woman, ex-model and the jilted bride of his ex-roomate. 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. Afterwards, 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.

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 the 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 fuedal 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).

Do you have a favourite Japanese Drama Series?

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    • profile image

      Ljason 9 months ago

      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!

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      hi 10 months ago


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      hani 14 months ago

      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.

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      Nick O 16 months ago

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

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      China Abarquez 3 years ago

      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.

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      ichigo mino 4 years ago

      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

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      ris 5 years ago

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

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      rosan 5 years ago

      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!

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      cho cha hee 5 years ago

      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!!!

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      Sarah 5 years ago

      I really love GTO and Gokusen ..

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

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      boo 5 years ago



      nobuta wo produce

      ouran high school host club

      yamato nadeshiko


      mei-chan no shitsuji

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      5 years ago

      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.

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      Pon 5 years ago

      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

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      sara 5 years ago

      Sunaoni Narenakte! (Hard to say i love you)

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      KYOKESHI 6 years ago


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      benjamin 6 years ago

      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.

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      nagisa 6 years ago

      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..

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      leila 6 years ago

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

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      Ammie 6 years ago

      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 (:

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      delilah 6 years ago

      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

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      Leenah 6 years ago


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      6 years ago

      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.

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      Kathy 6 years ago

      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

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      Haline 6 years ago

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

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      Choity 6 years ago

      GTO is really a touching

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      223 6 years ago

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

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      bebe 6 years ago

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

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      Gina Souljaboy 6 years ago

      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... ^^

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      Liz 6 years ago

      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!

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      faushikablo 6 years ago

      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

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      ryu 6 years ago

      just search you japanese series here:

      almost all jdrama can be download there

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      Kieran 6 years ago

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

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      angelo 6 years ago

      so good and not bad

      pictures are cooooooooooool......

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      lei justine 6 years ago

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

    • meow48 profile image

      meow48 6 years ago from usa

      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.

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      Nourani 6 years ago

      Thanks for the tips.

      I'll check out Gokusen :)

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

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      lolita 6 years ago

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

      its the beeeeeeeest most wooooonderfull show ever made on planet earth

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      Rosea 7 years ago

      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^^

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      Yakuza 7 years ago

      My Boss My Hero

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      upik 7 years ago

      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!!!!

      I PROMISE.....

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      hannah 7 years ago

      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!)

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      Magda 7 years ago

      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!

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      soy.elisa.o 7 years ago

      HEY what about NODAME!!!!

    • Claudin_Dayo profile image

      Claudin_Dayo 7 years ago from Southeast Asia

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

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      Beebs 7 years ago

      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.

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      Junee Tandukar 7 years ago

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

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      DDmama 7 years ago

      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!

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      BEA 7 years ago

      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]

      2. YAMATO NADESHiKO [kame]

      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

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      kenzhou 7 years ago

      proposal daisakusen, GTO, Last friends, Dragon sakura.

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      How dramatic, what can I say?! 7 years ago

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

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      ryder 7 years ago

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

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      chu chu~~~ 7 years ago

      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

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      toma 7 years ago

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

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      toma 7 years ago

      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)

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      toma 7 years ago

      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

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      Ssamyaa 7 years ago

      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

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      eka yulianti 7 years ago

      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...

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      zebra 7 years ago

      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

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      ALLEN 7 years ago


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      shiroi 7 years ago

      what about 1 liter of tears? D:

    • indososhi profile image

      indososhi 7 years ago

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

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      Ling 7 years ago

      nobuta wo produce is strangely good too.

      kurosagi? 1 litre of tears? koizora?

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

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      manoo 7 years ago

      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.

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      Ume 7 years ago

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

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      Mizuki 7 years ago

      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

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      Mistaria 7 years ago

      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!

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      Hayato 7 years ago

      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.

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      luff 7 years ago

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

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      shinata 7 years ago

      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? ^_^

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      sr 8 years ago

      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

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      nana nfd 8 years ago

      i love mizushima hiro....

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

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      lauren 8 years ago

      this is a weird show

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      jerboa83 8 years ago

      "Zettai kareshi" is my favourite dorama!

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      assey 8 years ago

      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.

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      Febriands 8 years ago

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

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      Myee 8 years ago

      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.

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      BuriedAlive 8 years ago

      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 profile image

      lilian_sg 8 years ago from Singapore

      I like Yamato Nadeshiko a lot. =)

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      Ais 8 years ago

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

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      Liz 8 years ago

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

    • Glare profile image

      Glare 8 years ago from Washington DC area

      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!

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      izzat 8 years ago

      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..

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      Bakanapi 8 years ago

      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

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      ms. hanazawa 8 years ago

      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 ?

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      eaasi3574 8 years ago

      Great discussion!

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      Pauline 9 years ago

      I like Gokusen but I definitely love Hanayori Dango more!

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

      Watch it at!


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      sahod 9 years ago

      i like gokusen

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      ivanna 9 years ago

      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 profile image

      FreezepopMorality 9 years ago

      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.