Japanese TV in the UK – NHK via Freeview and Toober

Updated November 2023 – JSTV suddenly closed down in October 2023. I’ve updated this post to cover the new service available from NHK.

If you want to watch Japanese TV in the UK – legally* – you have four on-demand options that I’ve found and only one way to stream live NHK.

The on-demand options are:

1) Netflix – quite a few drama and anime series, plus movies. In the UK this includes quite a few recent drama licensed from TBS, and while some will play with English dubbing you can switch over to Japanese. It’s become surprisingly good, and by far the easiest way to access Japanese-language TV here.

2) Crunchyroll Premium – lots of anime, if that’s your thing; they seem to have given up on anything else

3) Amazon Prime Video – carries a handful of shows, with a slant towards comedy in particular. But it’s very hard to find things; the whole system has a middle-of-Lidl feeling, with programmes of every type just chucked together.

4) Viki – a number of (mostly older) drama shows, very infrequently updated

But what if you want to watch live TV – the news, for example?

NHK via Freeview Play

There’s now only one channel legally streamed into the UK: NHK World Premium. Not to be confused with the English-language NHK World, this carries a mix of NHK programming including news, shows for kids, drama and so on.

In the UK, the new service for NHK World Premium is via Freeview Play. This is the updated Freeview service that requires both an aerial and an internet connection (the NHK video is streamed). To access it you need a Freeview Play TV – these seem to start at around £130 – or a set top box; amazingly the cheapest I can find is over £200. There is no browser- or app-based stream, you can’t record it with a PVR, there is no catch-up or on-demand, and it somehow costs £19 per month. If I can find a device that supports Freeview Play I will update this with a proper review.

NHK via Toober

It’s interesting to note that if you happen to be just across the water in the Republic of Ireland, you have a cheaper and more versatile option. NHK has licensed the same channel to a number of countries via Toober, a Canadian service. The Toober website also advertises Nippon TV as available, but this appears not to work in Ireland.

Toober allows browser-based streaming only, with one account covering a number of users in the same household. It costs 20CAD – around 14Euro, or £12 – each month, plus tax, so it’s both more versatile and cheaper than the option made available to the UK. Streaming to Safari on iOS works with Airplay to an Apple TV or Mac, for example. If you’re in the ROI, there’s a free 14 day trial to check it out.

If you’re in the UK and thinking that Toober sounds like a better bet – well, I would agree with you. But if you were to try signing up, you’ll find that the site uses geolocation to block UK users based on their IP address.

* If you don’t care about doing it legally, it’s much simpler..