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It’s kind of surprising that even with all of the high tech gadgetry you can find in Japan, most people still make a trip to a video rental store when they feel like watching a movie at home. However, online video streaming services such as Hulu have entered the market, and are finally starting to make some headway in changing how viewers get their entertainment fix.

One well-known fact about business in Japan is that in order to succeed in the country, you’ve got to be able to supply excellent customer service, which is just what one of our reporters got from Hulu Japan in this true story.

A while back, one of the reporters from our Japanese-language sister site was on the fence about signing up for Hulu. The service looked like a good deal, and he looked forward to watching movies and TV shows on his iPad while riding the train to and from the office. He did have one concern, though. Would he be able to watch Hulu’s videos, on his iOS device, with English subtitles like at home?

▼ By the way, if you’re the kind of person who can’t enjoy movies without some snacks, go for non-buttered popcorn if you’re watching on a touchscreen.

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Hold on a sec, our Japanese reporter wanted to watch American movies and TV shows, where the actors and actresses are already speaking in English, with English subtitles? “Is this another one of those articles you wrote while drinking hard liquor?” I’m sure some of you are asking.

I can assure you that I am quite sober (due solely to liking my whiskey on the rocks and being currently out of ice). Actually, many Japanese people who are learning English like to watch foreign movies with the English captioning turned on. Being able to read the dialogue as it’s spoken makes words and phrases that much easier to remember, and our studious reporter was looking to spend his commute polishing his language skills, no doubt to better appreciate the Pulitzer-caliber writing of RocketNews24’s English content.

So our reporter dashed off an email to Hulu’s customer service center. To his pleasant surprise, he received a response the same day. To his disappointment, though, he was informed that not only were English subtitles not available on Hulu’s entire catalogue, but that at the time English captions couldn’t be displayed on any iOS devices. The representative closed by saying that he would inform Hulu’s content team of our reporters desired feature.

Still, the offer of unlimited movies and TV shows for 980 yen (US$9.40) a month was too attractive for our man to turn down, and he made the decision to sign up for Hulu’s service, despite the decreased educational potential.

▼ We say it’s worth it, as some of our favorite movies of last year didn’t earn that title because of their dialogue.


Even with some lingering disappointment, our reporter was enjoying himself, plowing through the backlog of films he hadn’t had time to see during his daily trips on the Tokyo rail system. From Hulu’s standpoint, they’d gained another subscriber, so it’s hard to imagine they felt bad about the situation. So imagine our reporters surprise when eight weeks later he got a second email from Hulu’s customer service department, even though by that point the streaming company already had two months’ worth fees from him.

The courteous and unexpected message opened by thanking him for his previous inquiry. It went on to say that while some of Hulu’s videos do not have English-captioning regardless of what they’re watched on, for those that do, the subtitles can now be displayed on iOS devices. The customer service rep even walked our reporter through the steps involved in changing his settings:

1. During playback of supported titles, touch the screen.
2. Touch the round icon locate in the upper right of the display area.
3. Touch the word “Japanese,” located to the right of the Subtitles heading.
4. Select English from the menu.

And just like that, our Apple-loving reporter’s wish was granted. We’d like to thank Hulu for contributing to the continuing internationalization of RocketNews24, and look forward to all the new phrases our coworker will be learning from even the least-intelligible English-speaking Hollywood stars.

“At today’s meeting, I’d like to discuss last month’s page views, our upcoming features, and the lamentation of our enemies’ women.”

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Top image: Silicon Angle
Insert images: Vision S, Creative Cow, Unwinnable