How I started watching Japanese dramas

Everybody has a story of firsts. Like maybe the first time they drive a car or the first time they try a new food. There’s even a popular American sitcom called How I Met Your Mother detailing the events leading up to the main character meeting his future wife for the first time.

So since I like to tell stories and I’m currently blogging about Japanese dramas, I figured I should make a post about how I got sucked into dramas in the first place. No, it’s not super exciting, and no, it’s certainly not as long as How I Met Your Mother (The show lasted for nine seasons!) but I hope maybe it’ll be of interest to someone out there.

So where to begin? Well it was actually when I was in college, back when I started taking Japanese classes.  The good thing about Japanese class was that I met people who shared my interest in Japanese culture. The friends I made in Japanese class were the ones that stuck by me during all four years of college.

There were three friends in particular who I bonded with, one of which was (and still is) a huge fan of Japanese boy bands, particularly the ones from Johnny’s and Associates.  And whenever we would all hang out, that friend would pull out her Johnnys concert DVDs. We watched Kanjani8, KAT-TUN, NEWS, even Tegomass. So in the process, I became a fan of all those boy bands myself.

I noticed during these fun get-togethers that my three friends always talked about watching Japanese dramas. I had watched anime since high school, but I had no clue what dramas were. I was looking for something new to occupy my time (and I didn’t want to be left out of the conversation) so I asked for some recommendations.

What I got was a neatly-written list from one of my new friends. It was a list of all the dramas she had watched so far in alphabetical order. The top of that list was 1 Liter of Tears (because numbers always go at the top of lists!)

I really didn’t know anything about the names on the list, so I just started with what was on top.

Which was a mistake.

I sobbed through every episode of 1 Liter of Tears. (Pretty sure I cried about three or four liters of tears actually) It’s not that I didn’t like the drama; it’s just that the subject matter was very emotional. I supposed I should have guessed that a show titled 1 Liter of Tears was about a girl struggling with a terminal illness.

So after I finished my first drama, I was thinking that maybe I wasn’t very interested in watching any more of them. I’d already gotten too many odd looks from my roommate for sobbing over my computer screen. I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it again.

I told all this to my friend who promptly said “Oh, don’t watch them in order. 1 Liter of Tears is really depressing.”

…Oops?

Taking her advice, I decided to give Japanese dramas another go and I was hooked. After another couple of shows, I discovered that I really liked them.  For me, it was a new way to examine Japanese culture. It also helped me practice my poor Japanese listening skills. Because each show only lasted about ten episodes, they were easier to watch than the anime I was trying to keep up with. (I had just given up on ever finishing all of Bleach which has over 300 episodes)

But what I really liked about dramas was that after a few, I began recognizing actors. “Oh, that’s Nishikido Ryo! I remember him from that Kanjani8 concert we watched. Oh, and there’s Kame from KAT-TUN! And Yamapi from NEWS!” (At the time, Yamapi hadn’t gone solo) It was cool how everything connected together.

So basically, that’s the story of how I started watching Japanese dramas. It’s not an epic story, but it is my story. And stories are meant to be shared. So thanks for listening!

Feel free to share your stories in the comments! I’d love to hear what your first drama was!

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