We realised that – with some effort – it’s possible that you may have watched the entire series of House of Cards and Arrested Development since we provided a guide to watching Netflix and other streaming services in Japan, so we decided to give our readers another set of shows to watch before resorting to their terrible roster of B-movies: 15-minute documentaries on Japanese subculture by Vice.
While their style is often criticised for sensationalism, and the presenters used in two of those featured aren’t actually familiar with Japan, the shows are well-produced and offer a window into a subculture that most people never get to witness even while living here. At only 10-20 minutes each, they’re well worth a watch.
The Japanese Love Industry
A look at how loving relationships have been broken down into commodifiable parts in Japan (just ignore the section where they hold all the usual stereotypes to blame for the nation’s decreasing birthrate without mentioning the astronomical cost of raising children).
A tour of Aokigahara Forest, near the base of Mount Fuji, where over 100 people commit suicide each year.
Boyfriends for Hire
Another look at the love industry, this time focusing on host clubs, where women (often young attractive women) spend vast sums of money on talking and drinking with male “hosts.” For a more in-depth look at the world of hosts, we strongly recommend The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, which can be watched in full here.
Photographing the Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima
Vice follow photographer Donald Weber into Fukushima’s buffer zone as he attempts to document the aftermath of the March 11th disaster.
For more Vice videos on Japan, focusing on everything from the underground fight scene to yakitori stall workers, check out their YouTube page. Most are presented in Japanese only, but English subtitles can be activated by turning on captions (the button fourth from the right at the bottom, it looks a bit like a sad cyclops emoticon).