Broadcast isolation in Japan

Crippled Japanese internet broadcast, and how I survive circumventing it


I’m sure Japan is one of those countries which implement the worst online broadcasting policies.


You cannot listen to Japanese internet radio stations from outside the nation, thanks to the geotagging technology for the IPv4 address; most of the major broadcasting stations do not allow access to their streaming feed outside Japan. This is a huge disservice to the expats, but the broadcasters seem not to care about it at all.

Japan’s geotagging policy against streaming broadcast is even worse within the nation; the telecom ministry enforces prefectural border limits for licensing the broadcast stations, though in some rare cases wider limits are allowed. Japan is regionally divided into 47 prefectures. So you cannot listen to Tokyo radio stations for free when you are in Osaka over internet. And vice versa. Recently a consortium of private broadcast stations, radiko.jp, announced a paid service for cross-prefectural listening of JPY300 (about USD3) per month. Isn’t this a ripoff? And it’s still not accessible from outside Japan.

Japan has a weird article in the copyright law too; the copyright owner can claim the right of making the contents being able and ready to be publicly transmitted. This right is applicable to all transmission media including internet and airwaves. So when you buy a CD, you cannot transmit without the permission of the copyright holder, usually the publisher.

I believe Japan, my country, has a systemic strong refusal and resentment against any kind of retransmission or duplication over internet by the major mass media, including music, newspaper, and book publishers. Most of them are very defensive against providing access to the electronic device users. The risk-averse attitude is effectively killing the whole market within the nation, and also the worldwide potential market of Japanese cultural materials.

And in the meantime, people go to YouTube, and Niko Niko Douga, for seeking Japanese contents. It’s such an ironic situation for those “official” broadcasters.


I’ve been a fan of radio for more than 40 years. I still own the traditional radio receivers, and listen to the airwave broadcasts. You cannot do that in Japan, however, to listen to the same programs both on internet and airwaves. So over internet I’m listening to and watching non-Japanese broadcasts over internet. My favorites are: soma fm, KQED, and CBC Radio One Montréal. I can feel the vibe in San Francisco and Montréal over internet wherever I am in Japan. And I can listen to the exact same station in San Francisco or in Montréal, on the FM radio too.

But not for the Japanese radio stations, even in Japan.

Our borders have been firmly closed from within the nation. This sakoku (firmly closing the borders and prohibiting cultural exchange with foreign people) policy has been there for nearly 400 years, even though the nation now is officially claiming democracy and imposing no censorship.

I think this sakoku mindset is something severely wrong in my country and the people. And I’m sad I’ve got no power to fix it. You can change the DNS server settings or use the onion routing, but you can’t easily change the other people’s mindset.


I hope someday I can listen to Japanese radio outside Japan over internet. The day, however, will not come soon.