MUST WATCH JAPANESE DRAMAS

I often get asked by a lot of people to recommend Japanese dramas, so here's my list of MUST WATCH Japanese dramas.

There are a lot more fantastic dramas but this is a list that I feel is more palatable for a general audience, especially those who are relatively new to J dramas and have yet to explore the range that J dramas provide. And yes, Japan makes dramas beyond manga adaptations, and makes dramas from a variety of genres that is unparalleled when compared to other Asian countries. 

Genres / General Tags included in this list - slice of life,  medical, mystery / suspense, psychological, revenge, thriller, musical, romance, friendship, family, action, time travel, tragedy, historical fiction, sci-fi, legal, comedy, horror, LGBTQ+

Please do read the tags for triggers as some of the darker dramas may make you uncomfortable.

Do feel free to reach out to me if you can't find a particular drama, or are looking for dramas from a specific genre / type.

chillingindoors Ago 12, 2021
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  • Nijiiro Karute

    1. Nijiiro Karute

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 9 episodes

    10

    Picture watching a rainbow at the end of the day . That's what this drama is. One of the warmest and loving slice of life dramas I've seen, with the most beautiful characters.

  • Okaeri Mone

    2. Okaeri Mone

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 120 episodes

    9.5

    A really tender portrayal of dealing with grief and overcoming it. An informative drama about our planet and weather, and how the sea, sky and mountains are all linked together. A healing and mature romance between the leads, filled with respect and companionship, who have now become one of my favourite pairings. A beautiful score, with great scenery and cinematography. Thought-provoking and sensitive conversations, with characters you want to root for. A fantastic cast, led by the effortless Kiyohara Kaya as Mone. 

  • Soredemo, Ikite Yuku

    3. Soredemo, Ikite Yuku

    Japanese Drama - 2011, 11 episodes

    10

    One murder. Two broken families, and two broken souls whose love is doomed from the get go. Keep your tissues ready, as their interactions will make you cry. A masterpiece human drama, with brilliant performances by everybody especially Mitsushima Hikari, Nagayama Eita and Kazama Shinsuke, and sensitive writing by the one and only Sakamato Yuji. 

  • My Story Is Long

    4. My Story Is Long

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 10 episodes

    10

    A refreshing and entertaining family drama, full of witty and fun banters. Ikuta Toma was flawless in this.

  • Suna no Utsuwa

    5. Suna no Utsuwa

    Japanese Drama - 2004, 11 episodes

    10

    I am blown away. This is a drama that everyone needs to watch once.
    A gripping, compelling and complex human drama about a successful pianist's destined journey through his trauma to finding closure and redemption. Masterfully written and edited, beautifully picturised and directed, with one of the most immersive and best scores I have heard in an Asian drama, and a brilliant, effortless performance by Nakai Masahiro, this was a poetic masterpiece.

  • Obcecado por Dinheiro

    6. Obcecado por Dinheiro

    Japanese Drama - 2009, 9 episodes

    10

    A revenge story that doesn't just consume the protagonist's victims, but throws the protagonist into a dark abyss of no return. A story full of desolation and darkness that is not for the faint hearted. Easily Matsuyama Kenichi's best performance, and one of the best dramas from the revenge genre.

  • Grace no Rireki

    7. Grace no Rireki

    Japanese Drama - 2023, 8 episodes

    9.5

    A heartwarming and wholesome journey of a man on a beautiful red Honda tracing his wife's last steps throughout Japan in what turned out to be a liberating experience for him. This was by no means a romantic drama, but it was all about the love and devotion the FL had for her husband. They were companions and her death set him out on this journey where he learnt to grieve, reconcile his past, and come out of his shell a little more.

  • Kimi no Te ga Sasayaite Iru

    8. Kimi no Te ga Sasayaite Iru

    Japanese Special - 1997, 5 episodes

    10

    An almost documentary-like drama of a deaf woman's journey from her childhood to adulthood, with one of the most caring and sensitive male lead ever, and lots of growth for all involved. A beautiful lesson in what it means to be 'family' and the importance of looking at the person, not the illness.

  • Soratobu Kouhoushitsu

    9. Soratobu Kouhoushitsu

    Japanese Drama - 2013, 11 episodes

    10

    What a wonderful and feel-good drama featuring the air force, with beautiful character development, inspiring stories, and a wholesome romance. Beautifully written, with sincere performances by Aragaki Yui, Ayano Go and Shibata Kyohei, who you can't help but root for, this hit all the right spots. A pure 10 in every aspect!

  • The Great White Tower

    10. The Great White Tower

    Japanese Drama - 2003, 21 episodes

    10
  • O Jogo da Família

    11. O Jogo da Família

    Japanese Drama - 2013, 10 episodes

    10

    A unique and unconventional story of a teacher who sets out to expose a family's darkest secrets only for them to discover what's truly important. Easily Sakurai Sho's most memorable performance to date. Just BRILLIANT.

  • Brush Up Life

    12. Brush Up Life

    Japanese Drama - 2023, 10 episodes

    9.0

    A wholesome time-travel drama about doing the best you can for the people you love sprinkled with heartwarming friendships, tons of nostalgia and the quintessential Japanese banter. An A1 drama all around with a cast that had natural, crackling chemistry together.
    Thank you Bakarhythm for this gem with my favourite actors.

  • A Aula de Ética Começa Agora

    13. A Aula de Ética Começa Agora

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 8 episodes

    8.5

    A profound drama exploring lessons in ethics and critical thinking; dramas like these set Japanese cinema apart from its Asian counterparts.

  • Nagi no Oitoma

    14. Nagi no Oitoma

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 10 episodes

    9.0

    A feel-good coming of age story about healing, growth and self-love, and beautiful character development with a very sincere perfomance by Kuroki Haru, and the brilliant Takahashi Issei.

  • Hokuto

    15. Hokuto

    Japanese Drama - 2017, 5 episodes

    10

    A tragic, tight-scripted tale of a boy who society failed to protect, brilliantly acted by Nakayama Yuma, with some of the most realistic portrayal of a legal proceeding I've seen in a drama. This is not for the faint hearted.

  • Prism

    16. Prism

    Japanese Drama - 2022, 9 episodes

    9.0

    "There are things you don't understand until you're part of them."
    A thought-provoking and sensitive script elevated by beautiful performances and a wonderful score, this drama was one-of-a-kind that only Japan could achieve with such care given it's delicate and complex subject matter. Much to my surprise, it was a healing experience that moved me to tears many a times, and taught me to move forward.

  • Owakare Hospital

    17. Owakare Hospital

    Japanese Drama - 2024, 4 episodes

    9.5

    "Dying is terrifying."
    "I still don't understand it quite well."
    "But no matter what death awaits us, I am me and you are you."

    A contemplative and powerful 4 episode drama depicting the transient nature of our existence, with a beautiful lesson in marching forward, and 'living' amidst the gloom surrounding us. With stellar writing, understated performances, a wonderful score, and stunning cinematography, this hit all the right spots. I cannot recommend this gem enough.

  • My Favorite Member

    18. My Favorite Member

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 8 episodes

    9.0

    A riveting and refreshing story about idol culture, with brilliant writing and believable performances. This drama will speak to everybody on so many levels. 

  • Konto ga Hajimaru

    19. Konto ga Hajimaru

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 10 episodes

    10

    This drama truly found me at the right time, because there were many points at which it made me feel vulnerable like they were watching me, and bringing my struggle to life in third person. I don't tear up easily but I teared up so many times when watching this drama. In fact, some of the happier moments made me tear up even more (which is very rare). It was such an enriching and uplifting experience about growing up and facing life.

    The screenwriting style was very unique and clever with the way sketches framed the various themes each episode. The entire cast had great chemistry and played off each other really well. The acting and writing was freaking A1. I binged it at one go because I was so immersed, and snapped out of it only when it ended. I totally forgot that they were acting.

    I will miss these characters :(

  • Kokoro no Kizu wo Iyasu to Iu Koto

    20. Kokoro no Kizu wo Iyasu to Iu Koto

    Japanese Drama - 2020, 4 episodes

    10

    "I like to think that the peculiarity of people with mental illness simply lies in their ability to read even the smallest of signs. In other words, we shouldn't try to damage their beauty"  ;

    A tender and powerful drama about mental health.

  • In This Corner of the World

    21. In This Corner of the World

    Japanese Drama - 2018, 9 episodes

    10

    Set against the backdrop of WW2, this was a bittersweet and inspiring story about family bonding, love, community support and overcoming loss and grief, with one of the most beautiful love stories I've seen in a while. Beautifully scored, picturised and acted, this is a pure 10  in every aspect.

  • Kono yo no Hate

    22. Kono yo no Hate

    Japanese Drama - 1994, 12 episodes

    9.5

    Hailed as the darkest love story to be released in the 90s, this is a raw and heartbreaking depiction of a toxic love story that spirals and consumes the leads, with brilliant performances by the trio. I wish we had more real love stories like these which depict three people who were not meant for each other, rather than the usual 'happy endings' neatly tied with a bow.

  • Takagi: A Mestra das Pegadinhas

    23. Takagi: A Mestra das Pegadinhas

    Japanese Drama - 2024, 8 episodes

    9.0

    BE STILL MY HEART.
    A wholesome, and cozy drama, depicting the beauty of friendship and the pangs of first love between our leads Nishikata and Takagi, with natural and heartfelt performances by Kurokawa Souya and Tsukishima Rui. Their conversations, their smiles, the teasing, and the flirtation mixed with awkwardness warmed my heart, and took me back to the days when I was an innocent young girl with a simple life dreaming of a love and companionship like theirs. Takagi and Nishikata will Iive in my heart forever.
    Can't wait for the movie!

  • Watashi wo Hanasanaide

    24. Watashi wo Hanasanaide

    Japanese Drama - 2016, 10 episodes

    10

    Set in a dystopian world, a heartwrenching tale of clones who were produced for eventual organ harvesting. This will leave you depressed. You have been warmed.

  • Saka no Tochu no Ie

    25. Saka no Tochu no Ie

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 6 episodes

    9.0
  • A Bear's Little Thing

    26. A Bear's Little Thing

    Japanese Drama - 2020, 10 episodes

    9.0

    This bear will teach you a thing or two about living, and being content with whatever little we have. The ultimate feel-good mini drama with just 5 mins per episode :)

  • Duas Pessoas Que Não Podem se Apaixonar

    27. Duas Pessoas Que Não Podem se Apaixonar

    Japanese Drama - 2022, 8 episodes

    9.0

    A first-of-a-kind drama exploring asexuality. A thought-provoking and sensitively written drama with delicate story-telling and beautiful acting by the one and only Takahashi Issei.

  • Fujoshi, Ukkari Gei ni Kokuru

    28. Fujoshi, Ukkari Gei ni Kokuru

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 8 episodes

    9.0

    A painfully real depiction of how society treats those who are different. A refreshing story in the LGBTQ+ genre.

  • Kaidan Botan Doro: Beauty and Fear

    29. Kaidan Botan Doro: Beauty and Fear

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 4 episodes

    8.5

    An exquisite story of love, lust, revenge, loyalty and hatred, carried by fantastic performances, a great story &  an A1 score. A one-of-a-kind drama inspired by Japanese folklore.

  • Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi

    30. Mahoro Ekimae Bangaichi

    Japanese Drama - 2013, 12 episodes

    8.5

    You just can't go wrong with Nagayama Eita and Matsuda Ryuhei. A really quirky, unique drama that I don't know how to describe, and can only say 'WATCH IT'.

  • More than Words

    31. More than Words

    Japanese Drama - 2022, 10 episodes

    8.5

    A sad coming-of-age story focusing on the journey of 3 friends from adolescence to adulthood, filled with deep bonding, love, yearning and heartbreak. The smooth direction, nuanced writing, and powerful performances of the leads made this a great watch.

  • Silent

    32. Silent

    Japanese Drama - 2022, 11 episodes

    9.0
  • Bokura wa Kiseki de Dekite Iru

    33. Bokura wa Kiseki de Dekite Iru

    Japanese Drama - 2018, 10 episodes

    9.5

    A drama for the sensitive souls; a lesson on self-love, self-care and healing, with an underrated Takahashi Issei whose smile will melt your heart each time.

  • O Advogado do Diabo

    34. O Advogado do Diabo

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 8 episodes

    9.5

    What is punishment? What is atonement? Probably one of the best legal dramas I've seen.

  • Amor de Um Sábio

    35. Amor de Um Sábio

    Japanese Drama - 2016, 4 episodes

    8.0

    A sexy forbidden love story hidden under the garb of revenge, twisted female characters, concise, crisp story-telling; do you need anything more? 

  • Colegial Apaixonada e Professor Irresponsável

    36. Colegial Apaixonada e Professor Irresponsável

    Japanese Drama - 2023, 9 episodes

    9.0

    A teacher-student romance you can't help but root for! A smart witty female lead, and an empathetic flirty male lead. Only Japan could put a twist on something that appears creepy into something that was so heartwarming, deep and fun. It was all thanks to the writing which was always self-aware, and the leads who had natural, crackling chemistry. I can see myself rewatching this when I am bored because their banter was just PERFECT.

  • Joshi-teki Seikatsu

    37. Joshi-teki Seikatsu

    Japanese Drama - 2018, 4 episodes

    8.5

    "In a heart that stood strong alone, waves are created."
    "The lionfish looks like an aloof existence but apparently, it's capable of teamwork too. It's beautiful and poisonous but it's not just that. Don't you think that's the best?"

    A heartwarming, endearing and sensitive mini-drama, with a nuanced performance by Shison Jun as a transgender lesbian woman, who taught me a little more about acceptance, self-love and being kind. I fell in love with her grace, her strength, and her wit. Machida Keita's character was a lovely addition as well, who won my heart with his spirit and honesty.

  • Iari: Mienai Kao

    38. Iari: Mienai Kao

    Japanese Drama - 2018, 6 episodes

    9.0

    Expect the unexpected, all the way to the end.
    Eerie, dark and gripping mystery, with a clever plot conveying various themes of greed, deception, loss, infidelity, bullying amongst others, stunning cinematography and a fitting score that heightened the tension and emotions both for the viewer and the characters.
    An A1 drama all around. 

  • Yasha

    39. Yasha

    Japanese Drama - 2000, 11 episodes

    8.5

    Watching this while the world is battling with COVID made this so much more compelling for me because a similar situation is playing out in the world today.
    The story, the acting, the writing, the music - everything about this was awesome (and this is coming from someone who's not a huge sci-fi fan)
    Special mention to Ito Hideaki who hit it out of the park with his acting, sometimes I forgot that he's playing both the twins.
    And Desert Rose by Sting - what a fitting iconic song for this drama!

  • 3 Nen A Gumi: Ima kara Mina-san wa, Hitojichi Desu

    40. 3 Nen A Gumi: Ima kara Mina-san wa, Hitojichi Desu

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 10 episodes

    8.5

    A powerful drama that forces you to think before you act and teaches you the way our thoughts shape our behaviour, and consequently how that creates a powerful ripple effect on the lives of others.  This should be made mandatory viewing for all. Also, this drama wouldn't have been as impactful if not for Suda Masaki's fantastic performance. 

  • O Homem Que Não Pode Se Casar

    41. O Homem Que Não Pode Se Casar

    Japanese Drama - 2006, 12 episodes

    10

    A quirky, and heartwarming drama about an awkward, eccentric and lonely 40 year old. Hiroshi Abe is Japan's answer to Mr Bean. I cracked up when he listened to classical music each night. You can't dislike this drama.

  • Henshin

    42. Henshin

    Japanese Drama - 2014, 5 episodes

    9.0

    A riveting and provocative drama centering around an ordinary and kind man whose life is thrown into chaos, confusion and darkness after an unethical brain transplant procedure is performed on him, with a fantastic performance by Kamiki Ryunosuke.
    An A1 drama even with its flaws.
    Highly recommended for those who enjoy darker psychological and medical dramas.

  • Kou Kou Kyoushi

    43. Kou Kou Kyoushi

    Japanese Drama - 1993, 11 episodes

    9.0

    A hauntingly beautiful love story that will leave you depressed. Those raw emotions, the way they looked at each other, the electricity felt with each touch.. where do I even begin about this drama? Easily one of the best student/teacher themed romance dramas I have seen, though it was more than just romance.

    Romance aside, this is an uncomfortable watch that I'd recommend only for an open-minded and mature audience. There are themes of rape, violence, incest, nudity, homosexuality etc so please watch with caution. The resolutions may not be what you're looking for but you got to watch it for what it is, and the time it was set in. This drama definitely didn't sugercoat things and will evoke disgust at some point.

  • Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store

    44. Mr. Nietzsche in the Convenience Store

    Japanese Drama - 2016, 10 episodes

    8.5

    Wacky, unpredictable and clever. Even the actors couldn't stop laughing. 

  • Longas Férias

    45. Longas Férias

    Japanese Drama - 1996, 11 episodes

    8.5

    A mature, adult romance of our leads who begin cohabiting, with an A1 score.

  • Jornada Sob um Sol da Meia-Noite

    46. Jornada Sob um Sol da Meia-Noite

    Japanese Drama - 2006, 11 episodes

    10

    A murder for love and due to love, and a journey of two broken souls who are unable to meet under the sun thereafter; beautifully heartbreaking, depressing yet captivating.

  • Juhan Shuttai!

    47. Juhan Shuttai!

    Japanese Drama - 2016, 10 episodes

    9.0

    A heartwarming, positive and inspring drama set against the backdrop of a company that makes mangas, with the evergreen Kuroki Haru.

  • Date - Koi to wa Donna Mono Kashira

    48. Date - Koi to wa Donna Mono Kashira

    Japanese Drama - 2015, 10 episodes

    8.5

    A cleverly written and witty romcom that is refreshing in every way.

  • Um Milhão de Estrelas Caindo do Céu

    49. Um Milhão de Estrelas Caindo do Céu

    Japanese Drama - 2002, 11 episodes

    9.5

    A heartbreaking, forbidden love story of two lonely, broken souls.

  • Golden Bowl

    50. Golden Bowl

    Japanese Drama - 2002, 11 episodes

    8.5

    A simple, feel-good romcom about 2 easy-going, smart, and charming adults who strike a friendship over bowling, and fall in love with each other slowly. A rare drama with zero negativity and leads who communicated constantly, and yet remained imperfect in their own ways. The supporting characters were really likeable and fun too. Time flew by with this one. It just flowed beautifully and ended in the best way it could. As charming as a classic could be, and should be!

  • Omameda Towako e Seus Três Ex-maridos

    51. Omameda Towako e Seus Três Ex-maridos

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 10 episodes

    9.0

    And Sakamato Yuji did it again.
    A charming, relatable & quirky drama filled with interesting characters, rich interactions & their delightful stories; this was a fulfilling watch in every way. I'm gonna miss the banter between all the characters so so much. In the months of watching this, I grew so attached to all of them. They truly felt like home.

  • Diz Que Você Me Ama

    52. Diz Que Você Me Ama

    Japanese Drama - 1995, 12 episodes

    8.5

    A passionate and realistic love story between a young and immature beautiful woman and an older aged mature deaf man. Hands down, one of the most romantic Japanese dramas to date.

  • Tiger & Dragon

    53. Tiger & Dragon

    Japanese Drama - 2005, 11 episodes

    8.5

    TAIGA TAIGA JIRETTAIGAAAAAAAA! ?
    Initially, I wanted to put a disclaimer that only people who understand and love Japanese humour should watch this but I loved it so so much that I'd love everyone to see it and appreciate it.
    WHAT A FREAKING CLASSIC. All the characters, their comic timing, the chemistry they had together - it was a freaking riot. I laughed my ass off after a long time. Not only was it funny, but had so much heart. I rooted for and fell in love with each and every character. The writing was stellar, the editing & direction was pitch perfect. No words for the acting because it didn't seem like they were acting at all.

    P.S  Make sure you watch the special episode first.

  • Nani Yobi ni Umareta no

    54. Nani Yobi ni Umareta no

    Japanese Drama - 2023, 9 episodes

    9.5

    A unique drama that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout its run, filled with unique yet real characters. This one's addictive, fun and bingeworthy. Great combination of mystery, romance and slice-of-life. Nojima Shinji is back with a bang after so many years!

  • Beijo da Morte

    55. Beijo da Morte

    Japanese Drama - 2018, 10 episodes

    9.5

    A unique and  unpredictable drama in the time travel genre about a man who goes back in time with a kiss. It's worth a watch.

  • Minha Filha Não Consegue um Namorado!

    56. Minha Filha Não Consegue um Namorado!

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 10 episodes

    9.0

    A fun yet sensitive story of a ditzy mother and her mature otaku daughter; friendship, romance, some tears and loads of smiles. A cast with great chemistry together and likeable characters. You'd want to be a part of their world so bad.

  • A Casa Compartilhada das Entidades Sobrenaturais

    57. A Casa Compartilhada das Entidades Sobrenaturais

    Japanese Drama - 2020, 8 episodes

    9.0
  • Watashi no Otto wa Reitoko ni Nemutte iru

    58. Watashi no Otto wa Reitoko ni Nemutte iru

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 6 episodes

    8.5

    A fantastic combination of horror + thriller + psychological + romance. It's not the most perfect drama and I really wish it was longer, but I'm sure you won't regret watching it.

  • Céu e Inferno: Troca de Almas

    59. Céu e Inferno: Troca de Almas

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 10 episodes

    9.0

    Body swap between a detective and the murder suspect with twists that you will never be able to figure out. Brilliantly acted by Takashi Issei and Ayase Haruka, who also had great chemistry together. Quite a captivating one!

  • Engine

    60. Engine

    Japanese Drama - 2005, 11 episodes

    9.0

    An endearing and fun dorama of a found family of 12 adorable kids, the ever so charming Kimu Taku and lovely Koyuki. What's there not to love about this drama that teaches you to fight for your dreams.

  • Lupin no Musume

    61. Lupin no Musume

    Japanese Drama - 2019, 11 episodes

    10

    A wacky musical action comedy of a love story between the daughter of a family of thieves and the son of a family of police officers. This one's the full package.

  • Ukiwa: Tomodachi Ijo Furinmiman

    62. Ukiwa: Tomodachi Ijo Furinmiman

    Japanese Drama - 2021, 8 episodes

    10

    Picture sitting by the veranda on a quiet lonely evening, and sipping a glass of wine. That's what this drama was. You can't tell me the writer wasn't inspired by 'In the Mood for Love'. If you love that movie, I can guarantee that you'll love this one equally, if not more. They have the same vibe.

    Just like the imagery of the leads drowning into the ocean, this one has a similar effect of drawing you in deeper and deeper right from the 1st episode. It was so so beautiful and addictive. The direction, the cinematography, the imagery, the score, the conversations, the silences... the entire vibe is definitely an acquired taste. It was so rich. You'll either savour the way this story was told or be bored to death. It was the former for me, and I can say that I loved it and highly recommend it for a mature audience.

  • 17,3 Sobre o amor

    63. 17,3 Sobre o amor

    Japanese Drama - 2020, 9 episodes

    8.0

    A sensitive, eye-opening and educational drama that takes you through a journey of sexual development, especially in youth. This was a simple and effective lesson in sex education that should be made mandatory for all.

  • Unmet: Aru Nogekai no Nikki

    64. Unmet: Aru Nogekai no Nikki

    Japanese Drama - 2024, 11 episodes

    10

    Currently airing but deserves to be on the list.

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