There’s a Japanese website well-known in Japan called 2channel. It’s an anonymous message board home to the heartwarming story of Densha Otoko (電車男, Train Man). The original Japanese story can be found here. It’s about a socially inept nerd, or otaku, who saves a woman on a train one night. Their relationship develops while the man relays his adventures in dating to the message board.
It’s been made into a book, manga and TV series. I first came to know the story around 2006. In fact, I think it’s the first Japanese drama I ever watched.
I think many people think anime is the best way to learn about the culture of Japan. That’s just not true. That’s like saying watching The Simpsons is the best way to learn about American culture. Sure, you’ll learn a lot, but not everything. You’ve got to take in all the sources possible. TV, books, movies, sightseeing, etc.
Unfortunately, I don’t think Japanese dramas are for everyone. They tend to be overly dramatic. Not like the few Korean dramas i’ve seen, but much more so than most things I find on American television. Also, and it could just be my perception, but it seems Japan doesn’t have a very large stable of actors to pull from. I constantly see the same actors appear over and over.
That said, Japanese dramas tend to follow the same patten as anime, in that they rarely get extended beyond one season. I find this rather refreshing. If a series is bad, well, it’ll be bad but for only one season. And if a series is good (even great) it’ll end while still on a high note. There are occasions where series are so popular they get extended, such as Dragonball Z, One Piece and some others.
If you’re into Japanese culture at all, I suggest giving some of these shows a try. GTO, of which there was a manga, anime and drama, is a good place to start.