Japanese dramas (also known as J-Dramas) are the bees knees when it comes to getting your drama fix in a timely matter. American dramas tend to run for seasons and Mexican novelas can go over a hundred episodes – sometimes making it overwhelming and easy to lose track of the plot.
Japanese television is formatted to fit the Japanese lifestyle: fast and to the point. A Japanese drama will usually average 10 or more episodes depending on the popularity, and the plots never seem rushed. The transitions are timed well, and you can knock out a whole series if you want in just under a day.
With that, here is a rundown in no particular order on some must-see Japanese dramas that romance junkies will enjoy.
Toru (Oguri Shun) is a well-known CEO of an IT firm called Next Innovation and is a Forbes-recognized billionaire. Abandoned by his mother and traumatized as a child, he suffers from memory loss and only can only remember the name of his best friend, Kosuke, and his mother, Sawaki Chihiro. Natsui Makoto is then introduced: a hardworking Tokyo University student from a low-class family with an impressive memory who tries to intern at Next Innovation. She introduces herself with his mother’s name and leaves an impression on Toru, so he can’t forget her. Makoto ends up working as Toru’s assistant, and they are forced to become friends and coworkers. Two very different personalities and an unanswered question about Makoto’s knowledge of Toru’s mother’s name makes this story an unforgettable one.
“Tatta Hitotsu no Koi”
Rich Man, Poor Woman? How about Rich Woman, Poor Man? Hiroto Kanzaki (Kazuya Kamenashi) works every day at a ship repair company and takes care of his alcoholic mother and his little brother, who suffers from constant health problems. Although he had a scholarship and a bright future in athletics, he gave up his opportunity to go to college since his father committed suicide. In contrast, Nao (Haruka Ayase) attends a prestigious women’s college and grew up in a perfect environment due to her family’s wealth. They meet and immediately have conflicting opinions, but due to Nao’s lack of experience in love, she grows to love Hiroto and disobeys her family’s wishes for her to stop seeing him. This drama is the perfect example of how opposites attract.
Sota (Matsumoto Jun) is a high school student who studies culinary arts and is in love with the popular girl named Saeko (Ishihara Satomi). Saeko loves chocolate, so Sota makes her some for Valentine’s Day but she shoots him down. He decides to move to France after graduation and interns under a world-renowned chocolatier for five years. He comes back to Japan known as “The Chocolate Prince.” This drama shows how far Sota is willing to go to get the girl of his dreams. Not only is it about Sota and Saeko, but also shows the love stories of the people around them such as Sota’s sister, his best friend and his coworkers. Touching on many different issues such as infidelity, unrequited love and heartbreak, “Shitsuren Chocolatier” is a good drama to watch if you want to be on your toes throughout the whole series.
Sakura (Ryoko Shinohara) is 39-year-old woman who works at a hair salon. Although she’s a popular hairstylist, she dresses manly and always has her hair in a bun. She constantly bickers with her manager Rintaro (Naohito Fujiki) who catches the attention of Chiyoko (Nanao Arai), a wealthy girl who is obsessed with him. Chiyoko then recruits her brother Hiroto (Miura Haruma) to steal Sakura away so she can have her chance with Hiroto. Despite a 15-year age gap, Hiroto tries to woo Sakura as he actually starts to genuinely fall for her. With Hiroto’s unsure career in BMX, Sakura starts to wonder if they can really make things work.
“The Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge)”
This drama revolves around four popular pretty boys named Kyohei Takano (Kazuya Kamenashi), Yukinojo Toyama (Yuya Tegoshi), Takenaga Oda (Hiroki Uchi) and Ranmaru Morii (Shuntaro Miyao). They are housemates in a mansion owned by Mine Nakahara (Reiko Takashima). The four boys are offered free housing by Mine if they can turn Ms. Nakahara’s wallflower niece Sunako (Aya Omasa) into a proper traditional Japanese lady. The challenge is that Sunako constantly wears a black cape, is afraid of attractive people and only watches horror movies. Not only is this story romantic, but it is an enjoyable comedy with a reverse harem theme throughout the show. It also has one of the best openings I have seen for a J-Drama, with the main cast dancing to the theme song!