I’ve lived in Japan for many, many years but spent the last 6 out of 7 living on a base either on Okinawa or here in Iwakuni and have enjoyed the benefits of reasonably good Cable TV and the ability to get Hulu TV streaming service while having that US Military IP address. Then a year and a half ago I moved off base. Waited 6 months for an AFN dish and decoder and bought all my content from Apple TV. I’ve spent a fortune seemingly. For a long time I’ve known you can purchase a VPN service to make it appear as though you have a United States IP address. A typical VPN service will cost you less than $10 a month and then you can get it all. Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Pandora Radio, network TV streams……..you name it.

But it just isn’t as simple as buying the VPN service. To optimally use the service you should set up your internet router with the VPN service. And in order to do that you need a router CAPABLE of doing that. By far the easiest way to do it is to purchase a router that can be flashed with Open Source software. The most common or popular one is called DD-WRT. There are others such as Tomato but I use DD-WRT. It is entirely free. The link below will get you there.

http://www.dd-wrt.com/site/index

A quick and concise list of supported devices can be found here: http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Supported_Devices

So how did I do it? I did a bunch of homework and went out in town and bought a Buffalo WZR-600DHP (7500 yen) at Yamada Denki just past the train station on your way to Route 2.

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Before you run out there and get one let me tell you this. It was not easy to flash. It of course has Japanese firmware in it. Even if you don’t speak or read Japanese you can still click around and find the firmware update page, but guess what? Non supported, non Japanese versions of firmware will not flash. So beware the “supported list” I linked above if you are purchasing out in town. After much googling I found a gent who found out how to get into the Buffalo Maintenance Page. Basically you cut and paste a web link in your browser and log into the router on your local network, then you issue a Telnet command, and then input a maintenance name and password and then it gets you to a hidden firmware page that allows you to flash your router to DD-WRT. If you don’t know what Telnet is or don’t understand the first character of Japanese language I’d strongly suggest not going to Yamada Denki and buying this router. If hacking firmware intimidates you or scares you, imagine doing it in Japanese.

Anyway all was not lost. I successfully flashed the WZR-600DHP with the latest version of DD-WRT and went from there. And now the administration page looks like this. Success!
Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 6.55.12 AM

So I went through a lot of trouble to get DD-WRT. You can buy routers preloaded with DD-WRT all over the internet. There are a few models sold in the Exchange on base that will accept DD-WRT, probably the best choice currently available is the Cisco Linksys E2500. DO NOT just buy any router over there. They have an E3500 that has more bells and whistles and more power for a few more bucks but it will NOT accept DD-WRT firmware because the chipset isn’t yet supported.

Anyway buy the E2500 and go to the maintenance page and CAREFULLY follow the directions here: http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Linksys_E2500 Not carefully following the flashing directions can turn your expensive router into a brick or a boat anchor. You’ve been warned!

Once you are up and running you can hook up the router. At my home I have an Apple Time Capsule which is my home router. I love it because when I walk in the door with my MacBookAir laptop it automatically backs up to the routers hard drive. No way I want to lose that functionality. Also I think if you VPN back to the US it may be a hair slower than using your local internet connection. In short what I’m saying is I want to use my computers on my Japanese network and my streaming device, in my case, an Apple TV, on the VPN router.

So here’s what you do. You leave your home router alone. Don’t do anything. My inside network is set for 10.0.1.1 On your new DD-WRT router set your network to one place higher in the 3rd field. Then set the gateway back to the first router. In this case I set the VPN router to 10.0.2.1 and the gateway to 10.0.1.1. Your home routers WAN port is connected to your modem. Hook the new VPN router to any LAN port. on the back of the home router. That’s it. Easy money!!!!
Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 7.06.51 AM

Now buy a VPN client. I use HideMyAss. That’s right. It’s called HideMyAss. http://www.hidemyass.com/vpn/

$78 gets you a whole year. Once you buy it they mail you instructions on how to set it up. In my case I opted to set up the VPN client using L2TP. Basically you pick an IP address from a list (and play around with them. Some are faster than others.) and then you set a user name and a password they provide you and voila’ you’ve got a VPN client.


Screen Shot 2013-04-13 at 7.11.00 AM

Now set your streaming device (in my case my Apple TV) to use the wireless network from the VPN router. That’s it. Hulu and Netflix now think you are in the United States.

Total cost:

Router - Approximately $80
HideMyAss - $78 for a year
Netflix - $7.99 a month
Hulu - $7.99 a month
Pandora Radio - Free (unless you buy the ad free version)
And you need a streaming device to get access to Netflix or Hulu such as an Apple TV ($100), a Roku ($35) or buy an internet ready TV.

If you have any questions or you need some help my expertise can be bought fairly cheaply. Good luck and enjoy your stay in Japan with US TV and movies.