Living abroad in Japan I often miss out on cool stuff that my home country comes up with. Netflix and Pandora are prime examples. On one trip back to the States, my friends demonstrated the infinite advantages of an all-you-can-watch flat-rate streaming service. I wiped the drool from my lips. I too wanted this magic boom stick; however, for various legal reasons various streaming services like Netflix do not work in various countries. My next home IT project was clear...
Step 1: Use a Selective DNS Proxy or VPN Service
Here's the technical part. Basically, these are services that will make it look like your Internet traffic from Japan is in fact coming from inside the USA (or other location). I found 2 approaches that would accomplish this--a selective DNS proxy and a VPN.
Selective DNS Proxy
This service will only trigger on certain sites (e.g. www.netflix.com), keeping other traffic routing normally. The advantage here is that your Internet connection will not slow down. Japan has famously fast Internet service, so this is a key brownie-point advantage in my opinion.
A VPN is a more aggressive solution. This service will typically route all of your Internet traffic through a "tunnel," making it look like you are totally and completely located in the USA (or other country). While it is possible to configure a VPN to be selective, I didn't see the need to bother since the selective proxy solution would save me the trouble.
However, a VPN could offer certain advantages over the selective proxy since it really looks like you're in another country. Sites not covered by a selective proxy would probably work with a VPN. Additionally, you wouldn't have to deal with sometimes-frustrating geo-location. For example, have you ever wanted to view the English version of a website, but the site's overzealous geo-location continuously redirects you to the Japanese version? Yeah, that can be annoying, huh? A VPN would likely fix that. Albeit more aggressive, a VPN is the more versatile and configurable option. But in my case I didn't need such a multipurpose solution, so...
What I Use
Personally, I went with the selective proxy service because I only really wanted Netflix and Pandora, and I did not want to sacrifice my blazing Internet speed. The one I use and recommend is called Unblock Us, and I've had a satisfying customer experience with them for a over a year now. They offer a free trial, so you can try before you buy. All I had to do was modify the DNS settings on my home router, and I was good to go. Now I can see the *normal* Netflix page. Mission accomplished!
Step 2: Sign Up for a Netflix Account (Duh!)
I maintain my USA credit card, so this was uber-easy for me. But this could be a daunting challenge if you don't maintain a credit card from your home country and/or hail from a country that does not yet have Netflix (double bummer). Most (Western) foreigners I've met in Japan fall into my category, so I'm figuring this step shouldn't be too difficult for those desiring Netflix. In fact, I just checked Netflix's site, and they even support payment via Paypal now. Yeah!
NOTE: If you found this article helpful and you do plan on using Unblock Us, please show your appreciation by using the link provided in the article. This tells Unblock Us where the referral came from. Thank you!