I was just killing some time last night, checking out a few of the new Japanese Dramas that are airing this season, and I found one that was extremely entertaining, especially from the perspective of a “gaikokujin” (foreigner from the Japanese perspective) who is learning Japanese and one day hopes to spend an extended period of time there. This drama is called “Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo” (日本人の知らない日本語), or “Japanese that Japanese Don’t Know.”

The star is Naka Riisa (some of you might remember her as the co-star of last season’s “Yankee Kun to Megane Chan” (which to be quite honest I didn’t really watch in its entirety). Naka Riisa plays a fashion celebrity who wants to become a high school teacher, but before doing so she must undergo training as a teacher of Japanese Language to foreign students.

Now, this drama is unique for one major reason that I’d like to point out: nine of the 12 main characters are foreigners — who speak incredible Japanese.

If you’re learning Japanese or trying to learn, I highly recommend this drama. The language is frequently spoken slowly because many of the main characters are not fluent in Japanese, so it’s a perfect series to get started listening to Japanese without subtitles. Also, whenever they’re in class (learning Japanese) there are frequently fascinating explanations (augmented by the addition of diagrams and on-screen kanji / kana) of grammar points, vocabulary and even historical background to give context to subjects such as Kanji. Let’s put it this way, I just spent five minutes reviewing how to count people, fish, animals and sushi without even picking up a book. Who would have thought that the word used to count tuna would change when the fish is in the water vs out of the water, dead but not skinned, skinned but not sliced, and sliced but not served? Well, now I know how that works, and I’ve never been happier.

Here is my one complaint about this show: some of the comedy (at least in the first episode) is borderline racist, but it’s not so bad that offense needs to be taken. We all just need to take it with a grain of salt, and realize that Japan is a largely homogeneous society that doesn’t have much access to (or experience with for that matter) foreigners living and working in Japan; even speaking Japanese. The fact that this drama even exists at all is, in my opinion, a great step forward in Japanese society’s movement toward some kind of multiculturalism.


One response

  1. Mark

    obviously this is a really late reply, but I’d like to point out that the sentence “nine of the 12 main characters are foreigners — who speak incredible Japanese.” is incorrect.

    Well, the actors themselves might speak incredible Japanese, but most of the characters they play do not. Most of them speak very choppy, somewhat broken Japanese because their characters are just learning Japanese and are at different levels of proficiency, so it would be a horribly bad idea if people tried to learn proper Japanese from the way the foreign characters speak.

    December 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm

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