25 MOST POPULAR JAPANESE DRAMAS

two japanese girls wearing kimono

Japan is famous for many things like its culture, innovation, and history. But when it comes to entertainment, people mostly are familiar with just anime. Although the popularity of anime is indeed unparalleled, it’s not the only great content Japan produces.

In this post, I’ll be sharing with you a list of 25 Most Popular Japanese dramas that are not only famous at home but all around the globe.

First, let me tell you how I compiled this list. I’ve considered 4 perimeters for choosing these Japanese Dramas-

  • My Opinion: Above all perimeters is my liking to the Japanese Dramas that have been added to the list.
  •  Ratings: Every single drama has got a high rating from every reputed site.
  • Public Opinion: Made sure that all the Japanese dramas added in this list are people’s favorites.
  • Rewatch worthy: Not exaggerating but I am damn sure that you’ll rewatch most of these dramas again.
An infographic displaying the list of 25 highly rated Japanese drama

NOTE: Some of the video links given below might be filled with spoilers. So, proceed with caution.
So without further ado, let’s get started.

1. Boku Dake ga Inai Machi | 僕だけがいない街

  • Logline: After been sent 18 years back in time, a guy tries to stop a tragedy that resulted in the kidnapping and murder of three of his friends.
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre: Thriller, Supernatural
  • Cast: Furukawa Yuki, Uchikawa Reo, Yuki Mio

A story filled with so much suspense and thrill that you’ll not be able to stop yourself from asking for more. Also known as ‘ERASED’.

Fujinuma Satoru is an aspiring manga artist and he has a special power. Every time he is facing life-threatening situations, he is sent back moments before and he prevents them from happening. But when his mother is killed, he is sent back 18 years, when he was only in elementary school. This allows him to try and stop a tragedy that resulted in the kidnapping and murder of three of his friends.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 12 episodes of Boku Dake ga Inai Machi on Netflix.

2. From Five To Nine | 5時から9時まで

  • Logline: An English teacher who’s dreams to live in New York was disrupted by her family’s wish to get her married.
  • Year: 2015
  • Genre: Romance, Comedy
  • Cast: Satomi Ishihara, Tomohisa Yamashita, Yuki Furukawa

Based on a manga of the same name by Miki Aihara this is a story of a hard-working English teacher Sakuraba Junko who is not ready to date someone despite being forced by her family to marry.

Sakuraba dreams to settle in New York someday but she is already 29 and her dream doesn’t seem to come true. The story starts off with Sakuraba attending a funeral at a temple where she accidentally spills ashes over a monk leaving her embarrassed. Little did she know that she will be meeting the same monk on a blind date in the future.

The main leads have lovely chemistry between them and the storyline and hilarious supporting casts are just too good to watch.

Where to watch From Five to Nine?

You can watch this Japanese drama on Viki for free.

3. Ikemen Paradise | 花ざかりの君たちへ

  • Logline: A story of a girl who joins an all-male boarding school disguised as a boy for a guy who studies in that school.
  • Year: 2007
  • Genre: Friendship, Comedy
  • Cast: Horikita Maki, Oguri Shun, Ikuta Toma

Inspired by a very popular Japanese Manga called ‘Hana Kimi‘ which has already been adapted into drama in Taiwan, Korea, China and of course Japan.

The story starts with Ashiya Mizuki who decides to join an all-boys boarding school to get close to Sano Izumi who also studies there. She disguises as a boy to enter the school and becomes Sano’s roommate. The story is filled with chaos, troubles, fun and lots of other emotions.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 12 episodes of Ikemen Paradise on Dramacool.

4. Itazura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo | イタズラなKiss~Love in TOKYO

  • Logline: A sweet love story of a couple who are complete opposites of each other.
  • Year: 2014
  • Genre: Romance, Comedy
  • Cast: Yahagi Honoka, Furukawa Yuki, Yamada Yuki

Based on a Japanese manga by the same name, “Itazura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo” is a romantic comedy revolving around the life of two school mates.  The story has been adapted in Taiwanese and Chinese and well but the Japanese version remains to be the best one so far.

The drama is focused on two high school mates- a dull and silly girl Aihara Kotoko and the handsome and intelligent Irie Naoki. For Aihara Kotoko, it was love at first sight but her love proposal was arrogantly bought down by Irie Naoki. After a series of events both find out them in a situation when they can no longer ignore each other’s presence and eventually Irie also starts feeling for Aihara Kotoko.

The original story was written back in 1996. It is indeed predictable at times but the blend of comedy and sweetness is by far the best you can expect from a Japanese Drama.

Where to watch Itazura na Kiss: Love in Tokyo?

You can watch both the seasons of this Japanese drama on Viki.

5. 1 Liter of Tears | 1リットルの涙

  •  Logline: A real-life story of Ava Kito who suffered a severe disease.
  • Year: 2005
  • Genre: Slice of Life
  • Cast: Asae Oonishi, Kazuko Kato, Yoneko Matsukane, Yoshimi Ashikawa

An inspirational real-life story of Ava Kito who suffered an incurable disease that left her in a wheelchair unable to walk, speak, write or eat.

This Japanese Masterpiece was scripted out of the diary of Ana Kito that she continued writing until she could no longer hold a pen.

I don’t wish to spoil this here as there is not much to the storyline but this short but excellent drama teaches you a lot about life, relationships and facing hardships.

Where to watch 1 Liter of Tears?

You can watch this drama on YouTube.

Also see: 35 BEST CHINESE DRAMAS OF ALL-TIMES

6. Kiss That Kills | トドメの接吻

  • Logline: A guy’s plan to pursue a rich heiress for her money is disrupted when he’s kissed by a girl and dies, only to wake up seven days in the past.
  • Year: 2018
  • Genre: Mystery, Supernatural
  • Cast: Yamazaki Kento, Kadowaki Mugi, Mackenyu

Everybody loves a good mystery story with a pinch of supernatural added to it. On top of that, it has one of the most romantic and cute moments in j-dramas.

Dojima Otaro is a famous guy who doesn’t believe in love and only considers money to be the most important thing in life. So he decides to pursue Namiki Mikoto, who is a rich heiress. But his plans are disrupted when he’s kissed by a girl (Saiko) and dies, only to wake up seven days in the past. 

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 10 episodes of Kiss That Kills on Dramacool.

7. Gokusen | ごくせん

  • Logline: A righteous teacher is given the charge of the most notorious class in the school but they don’t know she’s no ordinary teacher.
  • Year: 2002
  • Genre: Action, Friendship
  • Cast: Matsumoto Jun, Nakama Yukie, Oguri Shun

Gokusen is a story inspired by a manga series by Kozueko Morimoto. It has also been adapted in anime but this drama is just classic and worth watching.

The story revolves around Yamaguchi Kumiko, a righteous teacher who wants to bring a good change in her students. But she is given the charge of the worst class in the whole school. The class is filled with bullies and delinquents and they try to scare away Yamaguchi. But what they don’t know is that Yamaguchi is a 4th generation heir of a Yakuza ( mafia gang) and it isn’t easy to intimidate her.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 12 episodes of Gokusen on YouTube. Plus it has two more seasons, and you’ll enjoy those also.

8. Love last forever | 恋はつづくよどこまでも / 恋つづ

  • Logline: A romantic relationship between a doctor and a nurse.
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre: Spice of Life, Family
  • Cast:  Matsuyuki Yasuko, Ashida Mana, Takahata Atsuko

Kairi Tendo is a successful doctor. He is very dedicated to his work and is often called a perfectionist. He met a girl Nanase Sakura 7 years ago, who fell in love with him so deeply that she decided to become a nurse so that she could meet him again. 

She joined the same hospital and worked hard to make a good reputation. Finally, she confessed her feelings towards him and Tendo also started liking her.

A love story that reflects a high level of optimism is rare and unusual to find. The drama is all about it!

Where to watch Last Love Forever?

You can watch all the episodes on Dramacool.

Also see: 35 BEST INDIAN WEB SERIES OF ALL TIMES

9. Hanzawa Naoki | 半沢直樹

  • Logline: A story of an idealist banker who takes on the corruption in his large bank.
  • Year: 2013
  • Genre: Suspense, Drama
  • Cast: Sakai Masato, Ueto Aya, Kagawa Teruyuki

This Japanese Drama was so much popular around the time it was released that its popularity in viewer polls achieved the highest rating in three decades of Japanese television drama.

The story revolves around an idealistic banker who works in the biggest bank in Japan. After working hard for years and rising through his ranks, he finds out that the bank is filled with corruption and wrongdoings. He then decides to take on all the bad people operating from shadows and punish them.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 10 episodes of Hanzawa Naoki on Dramacool.

10. Rich man Poor Woman | リッチマン、プアウーマン

  • Logline: An interview rejection opened new doors for Sawaki Chihiro.
  • Year: 2012
  • Genre: Office Romance
  • Cast: Shun Oguri, Satomi Ishihara, Saki Aibu

Don’t get confused by the misleading title as it has nothing to do with the social status of the protagonists. This Japanese Office Drama is centered on the story of two smart heads who are at different positions in life.

Hyuga Toru is the CEO of ‘Next Generation’ company and have advertised regarding new job interviews. Sawaki Chihiro is an intelligent student who has some serious talents when it comes to mugging up things, saw this opportunity and appeared for the interview and ended up getting humiliated by Huga Toru. 

In a series of unexpected occurrences, Huga Toru offered Sawaki Chihiro a one day job for her extraordinary learning skills and things took a sharp turn thereafter.

This drama brings out a unique concept of office romance in Japanese Drama where the focus remains on how the leads progress through relationships with office assignments rather than emotional melodrama.

Where to watch Rich Man Poor Woman?

You can watch all the 11 episodes of this drama on Dramacool.

11. Mother | 마더

  • Logline: An elementary school teacher kidnaps one of her students who was being abused by her parent.
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre: Spice of Life, Family
  • Cast:  Matsuyuki Yasuko, Ashida Mana, Takahata Atsuko

Any parents reading this looking for a J-Drama, this is the perfect show for you. 

Suzuhara Nao, a temporary elementary school teacher realizes that one of her students is constantly being abused by her mother. Her maternal instincts couldn’t bear it anymore and she impulsively decides to step up and take charge of the child. 

The drama tracks the journey of Nao and the girl on a trip to Muroran and their experiences along the way. This emotional drama is a perfect example of a Japanese family drama that triggers your inner self and makes you think about life.

Where to watch Mother?

You can watch all the 11 episodes of Mother on Dramacool.

12. Operation Love | プロポーズ大作戦

  • Logline: Iwase Ken is sent back in time by a fairy to purpose to the love of his life.
  • Year: 2007
  • Genre: Rom-com
  • Cast: Yamashita Tomohisa, Nagasawa Masami, Eikura Nana

A very famous drama of its time which is also remade in Korean and Chinese, ‘Operation Love’ is a cute romantic story that will melt your heart.

The story starts with Iwase Ken being sad as the love of his life Yoshida Rei is getting married to someone else. Both have been friends since elementary school. Ken is feeling regret for never been able to express his feelings to Rei. Just then a fairy appears and sends Ken back in time, giving him a second chance to win the girl he loves.  

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 11 episodes of Operation Love on Dramacool.

Also see: 30 BEST TAIWANESE DRAMAS OF ALL-TIMES

13. Saka no Tochu no Ie | 坂の途中の家

  • Logline: The life of Yamazaki Risako changes when she’s asked to be the jury for a shocking criminal case.
  • Year: 2019
  • Genre: Psychological Drama
  • Cast: Shibasaki Kou, Tanabe Seichii, Mitsuishi Ken
best japanese dramas

A very short j-drama but so powerful in its storytelling that’ll shake you to your core and probably will give you a new perspective to life.

The story revolves around Yamazaki Risako, a housewife with a three-year-old daughter. She lives a normal life with her family until one day when she’s asked to be a jury member for a shocking criminal case. As the case proceeds, Risako starts to connect with the defendant’s circumstances causing chaotic feelings within her.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 6 episodes of Saka no Tochu no Ie on Dramacool.

14. I’m your Destiny | ボク、運命の人です

  •  Logline: Two strangers who have crossed paths in the past are destined to be together but not easily.
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre: Comedy, Romance
  • Cast:  Kazuya Kamenashi, Fumino Kimura, Nanao, Yu Sawabe, Eriko Watanabe

This drama would have been in the top 3 if this was a list of most underrated Japanese drama. I will surely work on that someday but for now, let me brief you about this JDrama.

I’m your destiny is a sort of mini-series in which a boy named Masaki Makoto is visited by a man who claims himself to be God and know every truth about Masaki. The Holy man tells him about his destined love Haruko Kogetsu who works next door. Masaki is a strong believer in fate and destiny so he decides to pursue Haruko.

When Meeting Haruko Kogetsu for the first time Masaki Makoto tells her “I’m your destiny”, justifying the name of drama.

Where to watch I’m Your Destiny?

You can watch all the 10 episodes on Dramacool.

15. Wolf Girl and Black Prince | オオカミ少女と黒王子

  • Logline: Shinohara lies about being in relationship with Sata. So when the truth was about to come out she beg Sata to pretend to be in a relationship.
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre: Comedy, Romance
  • Cast:  Fumi Nikaido, Kento Yamazaki, Nobuyuki Suzuki

Wolf Girl and Black Prince is a Japanese manga-based High school drama that came out in late 2014. 

For the sake of being able to fit in her clique, Shinohara Erika makes up a story of having a boyfriend and proving it by clicking a photo with a random boy in the street. Unfortunately, the boy happens to be a popular guy in school, leaving Shinohara with no other options but to convince Kyouya Sata to pretend to be her boyfriend.

The drama might be a bit disappointing for those who have read the mangas or watched the anime but for the freshers, this will be a treat for the eyes.

Where to watch Wolf Girl and Black Prince?

Watch every episode on Dramacool for free.

16. My Boss, My Hero | マイ★ボス マイ★ヒーロー

  • Logline: A 27-year-old guy is forced by his father to finish his high school if he wants to inherit his position.
  • Year: 2006
  • Genre: Friendship, Comedy
  • Cast: Tegoshi Yuya, Nagase Tomoya, Aragaki Yui

If you want something light-hearted to watch then this drama is for you. Filled with lots of funny moments, it’s a perfect show to bring a little happiness to one’s life. 

Sakaki Makio, is a 27-year-old high school drop-out. He is pretty dumb when it comes to studying. But his father forces his join highschool again if he wants to inherit his position. On top of that, he has to hide his real age and pose as a 17-year-old the entire time he’s in school. At the start, Makio is furious with his life but later on, he realizes that there is much more to high school than just studying.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 11 episodes of My Boss, My Hero on Viki.

17. Nobuta Wo Produce | 野ブタ。をプロデュース

  • Logline: Two guys decide to give a great makeover to their gloomy classmate so she’d become the most popular girl in the school.
  • Year: 2005
  • Genre: Friendship, Comedy
  • Cast: Kamenashi Kazuya, Yamashita Tomohisa, Horikita Maki

Although this is an old drama, its relevancy never fades away. The show portrays the social life of Japanese teenagers and how being popular or not in school affects a teenager’s life.

Shuji Kirritani is the most popular guy in school and to maintain the image he has to act all nice except in front of Akira Kusano, his best friend. One day a new girl (Nobuko Kotani) transfers to their class and becomes the main target of bullying by everyone because of her gloomy looks. So the duo decides to help Nobuko by giving her a makeover and make her the most popular girl in the school.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 10 episodes of Nobuta Wo Produce on Dramacool.

18. The Full-Time Wife Escapist |  逃げるは恥だが役に立つ

  •  Logline: Story of a 25-year-old graduate who ended up marrying a 35-year-old nerd.
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre: Comedy, Romance
  • Cast: Aragaki Yui, Hoshino Gen, Ishida Yuriko

light-hearted drama revolving around the life of Mikuri Moriyama who thinks that she is a burden on the earth. She couldn’t find a job for herself so her father somehow arranges her to work as a housekeeper.

She unwillingly accepted the offer to work as a housekeeper for a 35-year-old bachelor, but she had no idea about the circumstances of her father’s effort to find her a job.

Yes, there are questionable sequences throughout the show but the intensity keeps building up as you move through the episodes. Highly recommended. Add this to your list today.

Where to watch The Full-Time Wife Escapist?

You can watch all the episodes on Dramacool.

19. Good Morning Call | グッドモーニング・コール

  • Logline: Story of two high school students who end up living together after a mix up with the landlord.
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre: Romance, Comedy, Slice of Life
  • Cast: Haruka Fukuhara, Shunya Shiraishi, Dori Sakurada, Moe Arai

Based on the manga series “Guddo Moningu Koru” by Yue Takasuka this Comical Japanese drama orbits around the life of two classmates who are left by their parents to stay on their own. 

After moving to her new flat Yoshikawa Nao discovers that the same flat has been rented to her classmate Uehara Hisashi. Running out of money and no option left both unwillingly settle for living in one apartment.

The story follows their struggles of hiding their live-in relationship from their classmates and the later story deals with both of them developing feelings for each other.

The storyline is pretty basic but if you are someone who likes the concept of two strangers living without disclosing it to anyone you may find it worth giving a try.

Where to watch Good Morning Call?

Netflix and Fuji TV

20. Buzzer Beat | ブザー・ビート

  • Logline: A story of a couple who struggles with their love as well as in their profession.
  • Year: 2009
  • Genre: Romance, Sports
  • Cast: Yamashita Tomohisa, Kitagawa Keiko, Chisun

A sweet love story packed with sports genre is a good treat for everyone’s eyes. This drama does not focus only on love but also on other aspects of life which makes it even more realistic.

Kamiya Naoki is a basketball player but has his shortcomings. Shirakawa Riko aspires to be a professional violinist. Both meet by accident and thus begin a friendship which eventually turns into love. The drama chronicles their struggles in their relationship and profession.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 11 episodes of Buzzer Beat on Dramacool.

 21. A Girl and Three Sweethearts | 好きな人がいること

  • Logline: A wannabe baker gets kicked out of her job and ends up spending summer with her school crush and his two siblings.
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre: Romance, Slice of Life
  • Cast:  Mirei Kiritani, Kento Yamazaki, Shôhei Miura

Shot with some of the most beautiful Japanese sceneries in the background this soft and light Japanese Drama is a story of a girl named Sakurai Misaki.

Sakurai dreams of owning a Bakery store someday but destiny starts to lose her favor when she gets kicked out of her job. 

In this moment of darkness, she was helped by her high school love Shibasaki Chiaki who offers her a job at his restaurant. How she ended up traveling and spending summers with him and his brothers is for you to find out.

The story is clean and simple and just like other Japanese romantic dramas the cute spots are very well portrayed to get you hooked till the end.

Where to watch A girl and three Sweethearts?

You can watch this Japanese drama on Dramacool.

22. Coffee and Vanilla | コーヒー&バニラ

  • Logline: A childish girl and a mature rich guy fell in love with each other.
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre: Spice of Life, Family
  • Cast:  Matsuyuki Yasuko, Ashida Mana, Takahata Atsuko

The romantic drama is an adaptation of the Japanese josei manga series. Risa Shiroki is in her mid-twenties when she came to Tokyo for higher studies. 

Due to her charming personality and beautiful looks, she was very famous among the boys. One fine day her path crossed with Hiroto Fukami, who looks mature and very calm. A romantic relationship starts blossoming between the two but took had some unexpected turn. 

A beautiful and simple love story between a rich mature guy and a naive girl will keep your eyes glued to the screen till the end.

Where to watch Coffee and Vanilla?

Watch all episode on Viki.

23. Please Love The Useless Me | ダメな私に恋してください

  • Logline: A young girl’s scuffles with poverty and unemployment.
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre: Spice of Life, Family
  • Cast:  Matsuyuki Yasuko, Ashida Mana, Takahata Atsuko

Again, one of the prominent romantic- comedy-drama adapted from Japanese josei manga. 

An unemployed girl named Michiko Shibata in her thirties is struggling with financial as well as emotional crises. Her life attains stability when she meets her ex-boyfriend who offers her a job at a famous cafe. Gradually her life comes on track again. She is very fascinated by the changed behavior of her ex-boyfriend. 

A cute love story, with a touch of humor and fascinating chemistry between the lead characters, makes it interesting to watch.

Where to watch Please Love the Useless Me?

You can watch this Japanese drama on Dramacool.

24. Last Cinderella | ラスト シンデレラ

  • Logline: A 39 woman who’s afraid of love falls for a guy much younger to her.
  • Year: 2013
  • Genre: Rom-com
  • Cast: Miura Haruma, Fujiki Naohito, Shinohara Ryoko

I don’t like love triangle stories because I mostly ship the main leads and the second lead is just a nuisance. But in this drama, I was rooting for both the guys because every character is so well written.

Sakura is a single 39-year-old woman. Her entire life she’s been afraid of falling in love, yet she envies it. One day at a party she meets Hiroto, a young guy who instantly gets attracted to her. On the other hand, Rintaro, who is Sakura’s boss at work also starts to have feelings for her creating a strong love triangle.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 11 episodes of Last Cinderella on Viki.

25. Overprotected Kahoko | 過保護のカホコ

  • Logline: A story of a couple who struggles with their love as well as in their profession.
  • Year: 2009
  • Genre: Rom-com
  • Cast: Takahata Mitsuki, Takeuchi Ryoma, Sato Jiru

A drama with a great message. Today’s generation is completely dependent on their parents for everything and this show is a good reminder that this over dependency can be dangerous in the long run.

Nemoto Kahoko is a nieve, overprotective girl even though she is a 21-year-old university student. She relies heavily on her mother for everything in her life. On the other hand is Mugino Hajime, a completely different guy from Kahoko. He is a hard worker and self relient. After meeting him she realizes that she’s been living in a bubble her entire life.

Where to watch this Japanese drama?

You can watch all the 10 episodes of Overprotected Kahoko on Viki.

We would love to have your feedback on this post. Please tell us if you find this post satisfactory or not. If we missed any of your favorite Japanese drama then comment it below.
Thank you.

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