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How to Watch Netflix in Japan

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
Also known as "Smart DNS," this service will only trigger on certain sites (e.g. Netflix, Pandora, etc.), 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 / USA 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.

I have 2 recommendations:

Unblock Us
I used this one for a few years, and I had a very satisfying customer experience during my time with them.  They offer a free trial, so you can try before you buy; and their support is top-notch.

This is the one I use now.  Why did I switch?  I switched simply because I'm a cheapskate, and Getflix is a bit cheaper.  They too offer a free trial and have friendly, responsive support.

After signing up with the service, 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!)
After completing step 1, the unblocked Netflix page will appear and you can sign up for an account.  I recall being asked for a US credit card and billing address when I originally signed up; but according to other resources on the web, Netflix no longer requires this.  In fact, they even support payment via Paypal now.  Therefore, I'm figuring this step shouldn't be too difficult for most to complete.

NOTE: If you found this article helpful and you do plan on using one of the Smart DNS services mentioned above, please show your appreciation by using the links provided in the article. This tells them where the referral came from. Thank you!

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  • Guest - tonya

    When I first go onto the Netflix homepage, a message pops up stating that Netflix is not available in my country. I know other people in my area have it, but I can't seem to get any further than the sign-up page stating it's unavailability.
    Please advise.

    from Ikego, Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
  • You first have to sign up for the Unblock Us service mentioned in the article, then the Netflix page will appear normally.

  • Guest - Jon


    Thanks I just signed up and tried it on my laptop and it is great.
    Now I am thinking about changing the DNS settings on my Netgear router but wonder if that will cause any conflicts or slow any traffic down? I know that you wrote above that "This service will only trigger on certain sites, keeping other traffic routing normally. The advantage here is that your Internet connection will not slow down." But wonder if this as true for my AppleTV as it is for any other device.

    Any thoughts?

    Many Thanks,


    from Tokyo, Japan
  • That's right--If you set the DNS settings on your router, you're covered for any device you connect to your network, including Apple TV. Only the sites listed on Unblock-Us's website will route through their proxy. Everything else routes as it used to.

  • Guest - He-day

    This is the information I was looking for since I am leaving for Japan this week. I tried to use VPN rather than DNS. Do you know which VPN software is free for good (most of them let you try only for certain period)? Thank you.
    He-day in NY

    from New York, NY, USA
  • Free VPN service? Dunno. I'd be surprised to find a free VPN with enough bandwidth to stream video.

  • Guest - James

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. Luckily I found your article quickly. The free week trial sealed the deal for us. I have never had such a simple free trial sign-up experience before (just provided my email). Now we can watch and Amazon Instant Video without too much technical fiddling. What an easy and elegant solution. The only downside is that my IP address seems to change nearly daily and so I have to hit the webpage just as frequently in order to register my new IP address with the service. I understand this is necessary in order to prevent free-loaders, but it is annoying.

    from Nerima, Tokyo, Japan
  • Guest - cody100

    is there an answer to the "annoying" requirement to constantly manually change the IP address?

    from California, USA
  • Guest - david

    Hey do you know if these will work if I am staying at a hotel in Japan? I believe they have both wifi and wired ethernet connections, but I have to assume that the modem/router will not be located in the room itself. I also own an Apple Express that I could plug their ethernet into if that would help.

  • Yes, I've used it in a hotel before. You can get it to work by setting the DNS servers directly on the device you're using (instead of globally on the router). The SmartDNS provider sites have step-by-step guides for setting the DNS on various devices.