It’s Netflix Japan vs Hulu Japan!
I’ve been using online video services in Japan since 2014. With the recent launch of Netflix Japan, I wanted to compare the two services and note the differences as well as the pros/cons. Which one should you consider using? (If you want to pay for a streaming service in Japan, that is)
2019 Update: Hulu Japan and Netflix Japan have changed drastically over the years. Long story short, Netflix is the better option with more content than Hulu Japan. Amazon Prime now has HBO content which is another blow to Hulu.
Hulu has been doing A LOT of promoting in Japan to get people aware of its brand. It’s apparently worked because a lot of net-savvy users have subscribed and Japanese companies are taking notice.
Hulu in the US features advertisements, but I have not seen a single one on Hulu Japan. This is a great perk!
-Hulu has the larger library
The story may be different in the US, but Hulu Japan reigns king in terms of amount of content available. Hulu has a variety of content. There’s something for everyone here: Japanese TV, Japanese movies, Foreign movies (Mostly US/UK/AU) and foreign TV programs.
-Hulu Japan is now Japanese
Hulu Japan was bought by Nippon TV in 2013.
The reason this can be considered a pro is it will most likely be able to tailer itself better to the Japanese market as well as partner with other companies to promote itself.
-Content can be separated into Japanese and non-Japanese content.
This is really useful when you want to watch something with English audio and Japanese subtitles. Netflix Japan doesn’t make this distinction very well (using Apple TV), so it can be annoying to scroll through content that you’re not interested in.
-Hulu Japan’s content listing system needs work.
Imagine searching through a list of available movies/shows and seeing duplicate of everything. That’s right, there is an entry for Japanese-dub or English-audio. That means you’re wasting time going through lists because there is too much duplicate content. Netflix wins this one because there is an option to toggle the audio/subtitle settings for the video.
-Even/Odd Seasons of TV Shows
This may not be unique to Hulu, but it is really annoying to see seasons of TV shows swap from even to odd from month to month. I’m sure this is because of contacts with media companies, though. I can’t confirm if Netflix is the same way, but I have a feeling it is not.
-Netflix Exclusive Content
Quite a few programs are Netflix originals, meaning you won’t find it on other services.
-Easy toggle audio/subtitle options
Unlike Hulu’s duplicate entry method, Netflix keeps the interface clean by letting you choose your options per video.
Compared to Hulu Japan, Netflix Japan doesn’t have a large library. I found myself wishing I had access to Hulu’s movie library while I was browsing Netflix.
Netflix Japan offers three price points, but you’ll be seriously gimped if you choose the cheapest price at 700 yen. It’s standard definition and you can only stream from one device. The one device limitation isn’t a big deal for me, but to only be able to stream in standard definition is a deal breaker for me.
If you want to watch in high definition, you’ll need to pay 1050 yen a month not including tax. This is a bit higher than Hulu’s 900 yen a month plan.
So which video service in Japan do I recommend? I loved Netflix when I was in the US, but the current best value for your money in Japan is definitely Hulu Japan. I think most native speakers of English won’t need to use these services, but if you have friends or family that are not native speakers, these services can be great.
However, starting in 2016, a number of Japanese companies are planning to launch competitors. What will be the best service in the future? Only time will tell, but it will be my mission to try all the services worth trying and write about it.
How about you?
Are you using a video streaming service in Japan? Let me know which one you use!