Television in Japan

Get to grips with TV standards, understand where and how to pay TV licence fees, and find out what's available to the TV viewer in Japan...

The transmission standard in Japan is NTSC. A television which does not have NTSC compatibility will not receive signals in Japan. There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world.

  • NTSC: used in Japan, Canada, Korea, the USA, and some other countries
  • PAL: used in most of Australasia, South Africa and Western Europe
  • SECAM: used in Eastern Europe and France

The three systems are not compatible with each other. It is not possible to watch television on an NTSC or SECAM appliance, or to use DVD or video players which are configured for these systems. Multi-standard TV, DVD or video equipment can play a PAL (or NTSC) camcorder, DVD player or games console.

Digital Television

In most of Japan terrestrial analogue TV broadcasting (NTSC) was replaced by digital broadcasting in July 2011. The three prefectures that were most affected by the 2011 earthquake (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima) replaced their analogue signals later - in May 2012.

It is not possible to upgrade TVs or to add set-top devices in order to receive a digital signal so a new set needs to be purchased if the old set is not compatible. An UHF (ultra-high frequency) antenna should be fixed to the property in order to receive terrestrial digital broadcasting.

Networks and Channels

Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) is Japan's national broadcasting organisation. There are five other nationwide networks:

  • Nippon News Network (NNN)
  • Japan News Network (JNN)
  • Fuji News Network (FNN)
  • All-Nippon News Network (ANN)
  • TV Tokyo Network / TX Network (TXN)

Receiving Fee

Anyone owning a TV set in Japan (including foreign nationals) are required to pay a TV receiving fee (or TV licence). Only one receiving fee per household is required, regardless of the number of sets owned.

A Broadcast Receiving Contract must be entered into with NHK when a TV set is first installed in a home. Payments can be made every two months, six months or annually. Discounts apply for six-monthly or annual payments.

The receiving fee can be paid by the following methods:

  • By credit card
  • By direct debit bank transfer
  • Using the payment slip - this is part of the bill sent by NHK and can be used to pay at banks, post offices or convenience stores
  • For more information from NHK about receiving fees and how to take out a Broadcast Receiving Contract: Click here

English Language Television

English language programmes can be watched through cable TV, satellite TV and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television). There are also some local programmes which can be changed into English using the TV language setting. These bilingual programmes are indicated in the TV guide with a letter B.

Cable TV

One of the main providers of cable TV is JCOM, which provides services to Hokkaido, Miyagi, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Wakayama, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Yamaguchi and Fukuoka prefectures.

  • JCOM
    Tel: 01 2098 9989

To take out a contract with JCOM cable TV contact them online or by telephone to make an appointment for a connection. The documents needed are different depending on the area, so contact the nearest provider.

  • For information about cable TV from the Japan Cable Television Engineering Association (JCTEA): Click here

Satellite TV

NHK operates two satellite channels NHK BS-1 and NHK BS Premium, both of which air some foreign-language programmes. Other main satellite TV companies operating in Japan are Sky perfect TV and Wowow (website in Japanese).

Each company provides several packages and services including TV, internet, and telephone, for example. The antenna and tuner required to receive satellite TV is usually rented to the subscriber by the company, and they will also install the equipment if required.

Payment depends on the company and can be paid in the following ways:

  • Account transfer from a bank or a post office
  • Credit card
  • Payment voucher - this can be paid at a bank, post office, convenience store or the provider's office

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television)

There are a number of IPTV providers, which deliver television services over the Internet: