Watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

Are you a UK expat in Japan and are craving some good old BBC TV. Unfortunately, even if you have a BBC iPlayer account, it won’t work in Japan. However, don’t panic, there’s an easy way to access BBC iPlayer and all of its content, not only in Japan, anywhere in the world.

I live in New Zealand and I’m able to watch BBC iPlayer every day. The process is the exact same if you’re in Japan.

In this article, I’ll show you how I watch BBC iPlayer outside the UK, so you can watch BBC iPlayer in Japan.

How to watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

Total Time: 2 minutes

  1. Create a new account with ExpressVPN or NordVPN

    Watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

    Register for an account with ExpressVPN or NordVPN. If you want the very best, these VPNs have been setting the standard in the industry for years. They’re the best VPNs on the market for reliably streaming content.

    ExpressVPN and NordVPN are renowned for their reliable and fast connections, which is crucial for streaming high-quality content without buffering or interruptions. You can get 3 months of an ExpressVPN subscription for free here. And similarly, you can get 3 months of a NordVPN subscription for free here.

    If you don’t like the looks of ExpressVPN or NordVPN, and opt for a different VPN, the process will be very similar, simply continue following the steps below.

  2. Download and install the new VPN app

    Watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

    Once you’ve signed up for a VPN you can install it on nearly any device.

    ExpressVPN and NordVPN are available on Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Kindle, Amazon Fire Stick/TV, Chromecast, Nintendo Switch, Android TV and more.

  3. Open your VPN and connect to a UK server

    Watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

    When you open the app, you’ll need to log in with the credentials you created. Once logged in, select a server located in the UK. This will give you a UK IP address. Essentially making it look like you’re connecting to the internet from within the country.

    This step is crucial as BBC iPlayer checks your IP address to determine your location. And to watch BBC iPlayer in Japan, you need to have a UK IP address.

  4. Connect to BBC iPlayer/or create an account if you don’t have one

    Watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

    Navigate to the BBC iPlayer website or app. If you already have an account, log in with your credentials.

    If not, you’ll need to sign up for a new account. The good news, is BBC iPlayer is a free streaming service so making an account is easy. Checkout our video below.

  5. Watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

    Watch BBC iPlayer in Japan

    Once you’re connected to a UK server on your VPN and logged into BBC iPlayer, you will have access to all its content, just as if you were in the UK.

Why can’t I watch BBC iPlayer in Japan?

You can’t watch BBC iPlayer in Japan due to geo-restrictions imposed by the BBC. These restrictions are in place because the BBC iPlayer is intended for UK residents only, who are license fee payers.

The content on BBC iPlayer is licensed for broadcast and streaming within the United Kingdom, and international copyright laws and licensing agreements prevent the BBC from broadcasting its content outside the UK.

When you try to access BBC iPlayer from Japan or any other country outside the UK, the service detects your IP address and blocks access based on your geographic location.

How does the BBC block my connection in Japan?

The BBC blocks your connection to BBC iPlayer from Japan (or any other country outside the UK) by identifying your geographic location through your IP address. Every device connected to the internet is assigned an IP address, which includes information about your location. When you attempt to access BBC iPlayer:

  1. IP Address Check: BBC iPlayer checks the IP address of your device when you connect to their service.
  2. Location Determination: The service analyses your IP address to determine your geographic location.
  3. Access Decision: If your IP address indicates you are outside the United Kingdom, BBC iPlayer automatically blocks access to its content, displaying a message that the service is not available in your region.

This process is an automated part of BBC iPlayer’s system to enforce geographic content licensing restrictions and comply with copyright laws, ensuring that only users located in the UK can access its content.

Can I get around BBC iPlayer’s blocks in Japan?

Yes, you can get around BBC iPlayer’s blocks in Japan by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or a Smart DNS service. These tools allow you to mask your actual geographic location and appear as if you are accessing the internet from the United Kingdom. Here’s how each method works:

Using a VPN:
  • A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a server located in a country of your choice, such as the UK. This process changes your IP address to one that matches the server’s location, making it appear as if you are in the UK.
  • Choose a reputable VPN provider with servers in the UK that can reliably bypass BBC iPlayer’s geo-restrictions.
  • Keep in mind, the BBC actively tries to detect and block VPNs, so it’s important to select a VPN known for its ability to circumvent such blocks.
Using a Smart DNS:
  • A Smart DNS service works by rerouting the DNS queries sent from your device through a server in the UK. Unlike VPNs, Smart DNS does not encrypt your traffic, which can result in faster streaming speeds.
  • Configure the Smart DNS settings on your device according to the service provider’s instructions to make it seem like you’re accessing the internet from within the UK.
  • Note that some ISPs use transparent DNS proxies which can interfere with Smart DNS services.

While both VPNs and Smart DNS services can help you bypass geo-restrictions, a VPN is generally considered the better option for accessing BBC iPlayer from Japan. This is because a VPN not only changes your IP address to appear as if you are in the UK but also encrypts your internet traffic. This encryption provides an added layer of security, protecting your online activities from being monitored or intercepted. Moreover, VPNs are more versatile, allowing you to securely access a wider range of geo-restricted content and services beyond BBC iPlayer, while also safeguarding your privacy against potential online threats.

Will any VPN work with BBC iPlayer in Japan?

Not all VPNs will work with BBC iPlayer in Japan, as the BBC employs sophisticated technology to detect and block VPN traffic. Some VPNs may struggle to bypass these restrictions due to their IP addresses being blacklisted or their technology being unable to evade the BBC’s detection methods. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a VPN for BBC iPlayer:

  • Server Locations in the UK: Ensure the VPN has servers located in the UK. More servers increase the chances of finding one that isn’t blacklisted by BBC iPlayer.
  • Ability to Bypass Geo-restrictions: Look for a VPN known for its ability to overcome geo-blocks, especially with services like BBC iPlayer that actively work to detect and block VPNs.
  • Regularly Updated IPs: VPNs that frequently update their IP addresses and server locations are more likely to provide access to BBC iPlayer without being detected.
  • Speed and Reliability: For streaming content in high definition without buffering, choose a VPN that offers fast and reliable connections.
  • Privacy and Security Features: Opt for a VPN with strong encryption standards and a no-logs policy to protect your online activity.

The VPNs we use for BBC iPlayer in Japan

1. NordVPN

An excellent, affordable, and fast VPN option for 2024

  • Affordable pricing
  • Effective streaming access
  • Diverse server types
  • Solid speeds
  • Useful add-ons
  • Strong security
  • Limited server locations
  • No virtual servers

Streaming: NordVPN offers specialized servers with Double VPN and obfuscated features, making it exceptionally good at navigating around VPN blocks, including those by BBC iPlayer, ensuring users in Japan can enjoy uninterrupted access to their favorite UK shows with added security layers.

Servers: NordVPN’s network of over 5,400 servers, including specialized servers in the UK designed for privacy and speed, makes it a formidable option for accessing BBC iPlayer from Japan. Its SmartPlay technology automatically provides the best server for BBC iPlayer, ensuring a smooth, buffer-free viewing experience.

Privacy: NordVPN’s secure connection and no-logs policy have been verified via three independent audits, including one by Deloitte. The audits have confirmed NordVPN’s adherence to its no-logs policy, ensuring user privacy.

Price: NordVPN offers three pricing plans: Complete, Plus, and Standard. The 2-year plan for the Standard package is priced at $3.19/month, the 1-year plan at $4.99/month, and the monthly plan at $12.99/month. It accepts major credit cards and various payment systems.

Speeds: Below is a table showing the speeds tested for NordVPN. From our tests in New Zealand, NordVPN displayed very good speeds, although slightly behind ExpressVPN, but significantly faster than many other VPNs on the market.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN (New Zealand)937.07520.93
NordVPN US server710.906.98
NordVPN UK server531.123.73

Read our full NordVPN review.

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(30-day money-back guarantee)

2. ExpressVPN

The fastest and most reliable VPN of 2024

  • Physical servers in 104 countries
  • Brilliant for unblocking streaming services
  • Very high-speed Lightway protocol
  • Available on almost any device
  • Very secure
  • Pricey
  • Only 8 simultaneous devices
  • No addons

Streaming: ExpressVPN is renowned for its lightning-fast speeds and robust server network, including in the UK, ensuring smooth streaming on BBC iPlayer without buffering, along with advanced obfuscation technology that helps evade VPN blocks with ease. Its consistent ability to bypass geo-restrictions makes it a top choice for accessing content internationally.

Servers: ExpressVPN boasts an impressive array of over 3,000 servers worldwide, with multiple locations across the UK, ensuring optimal access to BBC iPlayer in Japan. Its high-speed servers and advanced encryption technologies provide a seamless streaming experience, effectively bypassing geo-restrictions while maintaining user privacy and security.

Privacy: ExpressVPN’s privacy measures include passing independent audits by cybersecurity firms like Cure53 and F-Secure, ensuring a strong level of security and no significant weaknesses in its macOS, Linux, and Windows apps. More details can be found in the audit reports available online.

Price: ExpressVPN offers three payment plans: a 1-month option at $12.95/month, a 6-month option at $9.99/month, and a 12-month option at $6.67/month. Payment methods include major credit cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, and other systems, accommodating a wide range of users.

Speeds: ExpressVPN maintains high download speeds with minimal drop-off, ensuring efficient performance. Tests showed a slight decrease in upload speeds, but download speeds remained fast across various server locations, including the US, UK, and Vietnam.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
VPN off937.07520.93
ExpressVPN US server824.626.96
ExpressVPN UK server794.953.70
ExpressVPN Vietnam server761.903.81

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

3. Private Internet Access

Affordable and secure VPN with wide device compatibility

  • Affordable pricing plans
  • Unlimited simultaneous devices
  • Extra features like ad blocker and email protection
  • Verified no-log policy
  • Compatible with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu
  • High use of virtual servers
  • Not as fast as top-tier VPNs
  • Lacks proprietary protocol options

Streaming: Private Internet Access (PIA) stands out for its vast network of servers, including numerous options in the UK, and its strong commitment to privacy. Its ability to customize encryption levels allows for a balanced streaming experience on BBC iPlayer, effectively bypassing content restrictions while maintaining user anonymity.

Servers: Private Internet Access offers a vast network of more than 35,000 servers globally, with a strong presence in the UK, providing ample options for Japanese users to find an optimal connection for BBC iPlayer. PIA’s flexible settings and robust security measures allow for customized streaming experiences, prioritizing both speed and privacy.

Privacy: PIA’s app is open-source, inviting third-party scrutiny and verification. It has also passed an independent no-log policy audit conducted by Deloitte, affirming its commitment to privacy.

Price: PIA offers three subscription options: 1-month at $11.95/month, 1-year at $3.33/month (upfront cost $39.95), and 3-year at $2.03/month (upfront fee $79). Payment methods include credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrencies, and Amazon payments.

Speeds: Speed tests for PIA showed significant drops in download speeds across various servers. While using WireGuard protocol, speeds were faster than OpenVPN but still slower compared to top-tier VPNs like ExpressVPN.

OpenVPN Download Speeds (Mbps)OpenVPN Upload Speeds (Mbps)WireGuard Download Speeds (Mbps)WireGuard Upload Speeds (Mbps)
VPN off (New Zealand)930516
PIA US server238.527.17300.658.65
PIA UK server2453.77315.787.23
PIA Vietnam server4456.554898.24

Read our full Private Internet Access review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

4. Surfshark

Affordable and secure VPN with unlimited device policy of 2024

  • Attractive pricing for long-term subscriptions
  • Supports unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Robust security and privacy
  • 24/7 responsive chat support
  • Extensive server network in 100 countries
  • Has trouble with services like Hulu
  • Lacks a unique proprietary protocol
  • App can be overwhelming
  • Not the fastest among competitors

Streaming: Surfshark excels with its NoBorders mode, specifically designed to bypass geo-blocks and restrictions in restrictive regions, combined with unlimited simultaneous connections, making it an ideal choice for families or individuals looking to access BBC iPlayer on multiple devices in Japan.

Servers: Surfshark provides Japanese users with access to BBC iPlayer through its network of over 3,200 servers in 65 countries, including the UK. Its CleanWeb feature ensures an ad-free streaming experience, while the Camouflage Mode keeps your VPN use hidden, even from your internet provider.

Privacy: Surfshark emphasizes its commitment to privacy with successful DNS leak tests and independent security audits by Cure53, ensuring robust online security and privacy. You can find more about their security audits here.

Price: Surfshark offers a 1-month option costing $12.95/month, a 12-month option at $3.99/month, and a 24-month option at $2.49/month. It accepts major credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and various cryptocurrencies.

Speeds: Below is a table that gives you an idea of the speed performance when using Surfshark. From our tests, we observed decent speeds, suitable for general use, but not the fastest compared to some rivals.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN (New Zealand)940.55520.24
Surfshark US server775.96.15
Surfshark UK server587.793.79

Read our full Surfshark review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

5. CyberGhost

Affordable and secure VPN with extensive server coverage

  • Features NoSpy servers, a Killswitch, and split tunnelling
  • Attractive pricing for long-term subscriptions
  • Over 9,000 servers in 91 countries
  • Independent audit confirms no-logs policy
  • 7-device coverage
  • Not optimal for streaming due to speed issues
  • Majority of servers are virtual
  • Lacks a proprietary protocol

Streaming: CyberGhost offers dedicated streaming servers optimized for various services, including BBC iPlayer, ensuring users can connect to the fastest available server for streaming UK content in Japan. Its simple, user-friendly interface makes overcoming VPN blocks straightforward for all users.

Servers: CyberGhost specializes in streaming, with over 7,000 servers worldwide and dedicated profiles for streaming services like BBC iPlayer, ensuring users in Japan can enjoy fast and reliable access to their favorite UK shows. Its user-friendly interface and optimized servers in the UK make it easy to bypass geo-blocks.

Privacy: CyberGhost has a no-logs policy that has been independently audited by Deloitte, ensuring user privacy and security. This audit confirms that CyberGhost does not keep records of users’ online activities while using the VPN.

Price: CyberGhost offers three payment options: a 1-month subscription at $12.99/month, a 6-month subscription at $6.99/month, and a 2-year subscription at $2.19/month, which includes an extra two months for free.

Speeds: Speed tests conducted in New Zealand showed significant drops in both download and upload speeds across various servers when using CyberGhost, indicating a performance issue in terms of speed.

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
No VPN (New Zealand)930516
CyberGhost US server192.292.63
CyberGhost UK server139.191.90
CyberGhost Vietnam server232.244.32

Read our full CyberGhost review.

Special Offer for you!

(30-day money-back guarantee)

Will a free VPN work with BBC iPlayer?

Using a free VPN to access BBC iPlayer can be challenging for several reasons:

  1. Limited Server Availability: Free VPNs often have a limited number of servers, including those in the UK, which can be quickly overwhelmed by users trying to access services like BBC iPlayer. This can lead to slow speeds and difficulty connecting.
  2. Bandwidth Restrictions: Many free VPNs impose bandwidth limits, which can significantly affect streaming quality. When trying to watch shows on BBC iPlayer, you might experience buffering, low resolution, and even disconnections.
  3. VPN Blocking: BBC iPlayer employs sophisticated technology to detect and block VPN usage. Free VPNs generally do not have the resources to regularly update their IP addresses or implement technology to circumvent such blocks, making them more likely to be detected and blocked.
  4. Security and Privacy Concerns: Free VPNs may not offer the same level of security and privacy as paid services. Some might log your browsing activity, and others could potentially expose you to ads or even malware.

How to watch BBC iPlayer in Japan: FAQs

Q: Why can’t I access BBC iPlayer in Japan without a VPN?

Answer: BBC iPlayer is geo-restricted to the UK due to licensing agreements, meaning it blocks access from outside the country. A VPN helps you bypass these restrictions by masking your IP address and making it appear as if you’re browsing from the UK, allowing you to access BBC iPlayer from Japan.

Q: What features should I look for in a VPN for BBC iPlayer?

Answer: For the best experience with BBC iPlayer in Japan, choose a VPN with servers in the UK, fast and stable connection speeds for high-quality streaming, and strong encryption for privacy. Additionally, look for a VPN that regularly updates its servers to avoid detection by BBC iPlayer’s VPN-blocking technology.

Q: Can I use a free VPN to watch BBC iPlayer in Japan?

Answer: While it’s possible to find a free VPN that works with BBC iPlayer, most free VPNs have limited servers, bandwidth restrictions, and may not effectively bypass geo-restrictions. For a more reliable and secure streaming experience, a premium VPN is recommended.

Q: How do I set up a VPN to watch BBC iPlayer in Japan?

Answer: First, choose a reputable VPN provider with servers in the UK. Download and install the VPN app on your device, then connect to a UK server. Once connected, visit BBC iPlayer and sign in or register as needed; you should now have access to iPlayer’s content from Japan.

Q: Will using a VPN to access BBC iPlayer in Japan slow down my streaming speed?

Answer: A VPN may slightly reduce your internet speed due to the encryption process and the distance of the server. However, premium VPNs are designed to minimise this impact, offering fast servers in the UK to ensure you can stream BBC iPlayer in high definition with minimal buffering.

Patch Bowen
Patch Bowen is an accomplished technology journalist with a solid academic foundation, holding a degree from Auckland University. His expertise spans across a range of tech topics, with a notable focus on product reviews, industry trends, and the impact of technology on society. With his work featured on major New Zealand websites like,, and The Press, Patch has established himself as a credible voice in technology media. His articles are known for their detailed analysis and practical insights, particularly in making complex technological concepts understandable for a broad audience. At ReviewsFire, Patch is renowned for his thorough evaluations and clear, informative writing style. He has a knack for identifying and explaining the nuances of the latest gadgets and digital trends, earning him a reputation as a trusted source for tech advice and information.


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