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10 Workplace Japanese Dramas Such As Hanzawa Naoki & Downtown Rocket That Show What It’s Like To Be A Salaryman

Workplace Japanese dramas

Salarymen (サラリーマン), or white-collar workers, are the poster children of unwavering loyalty to corporate culture in Japan. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to work for a Japanese company, these workplace Japanese dramas will provide a glimpse of corporate life in Japan.

1. The Auditor 監査法人 (2008)

Workplace Japanese dramas - the auditor
Image credit: AsianWiki 

Main cast: 

  • Takashi Tsukamoto as Kenji Miyazaki 
  • Kosuke Toyohara as Naohito Onodera
  • Nao Matsushita as Akane Yamanaka

The year is 2002. Japan’s economy is still suffering from the aftereffects of the burst of the economic bubble in the 1990s. Miyazaki Kenji is a law-abiding auditor who believes that all companies should duly abide by governmental regulations, regardless of their economic circumstances. 

His principles begin to waver when confronted with colleagues who, in order to save companies suffering from the economic stagnation, overlook window-dressing. As he witnesses companies with their backs against the wall, Miyazaki Kenji starts to have second thoughts about what justice is. 

Genre: Drama

2. Downtown Rocket 下町ロケット (2015 – 2018)

Workplace Japanese dramas - downtown rocket
Image adapted from: Amazon Japan

Main cast: 

  • Hiroshi Abe as Kohei Tsukuda 
  • Tao Tsuchiya as Rina Tsukuda
  • Danshun Tatekawa as Naohiro Tonomura

Downtown Rocket follows the inspiring story of a salaryman pursuing his dreams of sending a rocket to space. Formerly a researcher at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Kohei Tsukuda now runs his father’s manufacturing company. 

After devoting years of research into rocket building, the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. The company is forced to halt research, but a silver lining appears when a large corporation offers to buy their patent for 2 billion yen. Now, Kohei must decide whether to save the company or follow his dreams. 

Genre: Business, Slice of life, Drama 

3. 68-Year-Old New Employee 68歳の新入社員 (2018)

Workplace Japanese dramas - 68 year old new employee
Image credit: @3RQc26ZLC3kNwSE

Main cast: 

  • Mitsuki Takahata as Mayuko Kudo 
  • Masao Kusakari as Kazuo Niimoto 
  • Mieko Harada as Fumiko Niimoto 
  • Nozomu Kotaki as Ryo Ono 

In Japanese culture, the senpai-kōhai hierarchy is an integral part of social interactions. Age is often an important determinant of how to navigate interpersonal relationships.

So when the 28-year-old female manager, Mayuko Kudo, is assigned a subordinate 40 years her senior, she is understandably bewildered. Nevertheless, she takes on her new role of a mentor and tries to navigate the strange dynamic while striving to improve the sales of the company.  

Genre: Friendship, Business, Slice of life 

4. Hagetaka: Road To Rebirth ハゲタカ (2007)

Workplace Japanese dramas - hagetaka road to rebirth
Image credit: MyDramaList

Main cast: 

  • Chiaki Kuriyama as Yuka Mishima
  • Ryuhei Matsuda as Osamu Nishino
  • Akira Nakao as Ryosuke Iijima
  • Nao Omori as Masahiko Washizu

Protagonist Masahiko Washizu has returned from the United States to Japan as a fund manager. Due to his infamous reputation of acquiring Japanese companies one after another, he has earned the nasty nickname of “The Vulture” – the titular hagetaka (ハゲタカ) in Japanese.

Set in the period after the economic bubble collapse and against a backdrop of a domestic economy in shambles, Hagetaka: Road To Rebirth dives deep into the ambitious and cutthroat world of corporate acquisitions. 

Genre: Business, Drama

5. Rikuou 陸王 (2017)

Workplace Japanese dramas - rikuou
Image credit: MyDramaList

Main cast: 

  • Koji Yakusho as Koichi Miyazawa 
  • Kento Yamazaki as Daichi Miyazawa 
  • Ryoma Takeuchi as Hiroto Mogi
  • Gaku Sano as Naoyuki Kezuka 

Changing times and an era of mass production has brought about the slow yet inevitable demise of Koichi Miyazawa’s company. His long-standing company specialises in making tabi, which are traditional Japanese socks. 

In order to keep up with the times and save the company, Koichi plans to release a new product – running shoes. Rikuou follows the story of a small group of employees and how they rely on their expertise for sockmaking to bring the company back to its former glory.  

Genre: Business, Slice of life, Drama

6. Top Sales トップセールス (2008)

Workplace Japanese dramas - top sales
Image credit: AsianWiki

Main cast: 

  • Yui Natsukawa as Hisako Makino 
  • Kippei Shiina as Takao Shibata 
  • Makiya Yamaguchi as Goro Omori 

A radical career change is not easy, but Makino Hisako took a leap of faith and transitioned to a job as a car salesman. Set in the male-dominated automobile industry of the 1970s, Top Sales is an inspiring rags-to-riches story about Hisako. Through her hard work, she eventually succeeds in navigating the competitive industry and becomes the president of a car company.  

Genre: Drama

7. Harassment Game ハラスメントゲーム (2018)

Image credit: Amazon Prime

Main cast: 

  • Toshiaki Karasawa as Wataru Akitsu 
  • Alice Hirose as Makoto Takamura 
  • Yui Ichikawa as Minako Komatsu 

Wataru Akitsu, who works as a branch manager of a supermarket chain, is suddenly appointed the director of the compliance office. Together with his subordinates, Wataru comes up with innovative measures to solve various harassment issues in his workplace. 

Harassment Game is a drama that provides a glimpse into harassment issues, such as power and sexual harassment, that plague workplaces in Japan today.  

Genre: Business, Comedy, Investigation 

8. Your Home Is My Business 家売るオンナ (2016)

Workplace Japanese dramas - ie uru onna
Image credit: AsianWiki

Main cast: 

  • Keiko Kitagawa as Machi Sangenya 
  • Asuka Kudo as Seiji Niwano 
  • Toru Nakamura as Dai Yashiro 

30-year-old Machi Sangenya is an excellent employee and an asset to her company. As a real estate agent, she will do anything to close the deal, and that includes sticking her nose into the private lives of her clients. 

With a knack for problem solving, Machi ends up resolving her clients’ troubles and earning the sale in the process. Your Home Is My Business is a feel-good drama series that will leave you feeling satisfied as you watch the protagonist thrive in the competitive real estate industry. 

Genre: Business, Comedy

9. Flying Tire 空飛ぶタイヤ (2009)

Workplace Japanese dramas - flying tire
Image credit: Amazon Prime

Main cast: 

  • Toru Nakamura as Akamatsu
  • Seiichi Tanabe as Sawada
  • Masato Hagiwara as Isaki
  • Miki Mizuno as Enomoto

A mother-daughter day out goes very wrong when they are struck by a huge flying tire which detaches from a moving truck. The blame falls on the shoulders of Akamatsu and his small transportation company, but he is adamant that the unilateral blame is unjustified. 

Suspecting that the vehicle was defective in the first place and that the major automobile company failed to recall faulty units, Akamatsu sets out to uncover the true cause of the accident. Adapted from the popular 2006 novel of the same name, Flying Tire is based on a true story which happened in 2002.

Genre: Suspense, Family 

10. Hanzawa Naoki 半沢直樹 (2013 – 2020)

Workplace Japanese dramas - hanzawa naoki
Image credit: AsianWiki

Main cast: 

  • Masato Sakai as Naoki Hanzawa 
  • Aya Ueto as Hana Hanzawa 
  • Mitsuhiro Oikawa as Shinobu Tomari 
  • Kenichi Takito as Naosuke Kondo 

A series about banking may sound like a snooze-fest, but Hanzawa Naoki will keep you on your toes with its twists and turns. After being framed for approving a 500 million yen loan to a company in debt, the titular banker fights against the odds to clear his name. 

As one of the most popular and successful drama series in Japan, Hanzawa Naoki has become a cultural phenomenon. Many of the lines used in the series have become trendy catchphrases in real life, and the series is known for its signature over-the-top acting and facial expressions.

Genre: Business, Drama, Suspense 

Workplace Japanese dramas to watch

Aside from their entertainment value, many of these workplace Japanese dramas provide an entry point into the world of business Japanese and keigo (敬語; honorific speech). Have fun watching while honing your language skills!

For more recommendations on series and movies, check out these:

Cover image adapted from: MyDramaList, Amazon Japan, and Amazon Japan