One of the things which bring us closer to Japan, and likely is the reason many of us took an interest in the first place is television media. If anime was your first exposure to Japan, and the thing that made you interested, then you are the same as 95% of us. If you are that rare 5% who fell in love with Japan’s rich cultural heritage, amazing societal norms, and unique music scene, then you are a liar. It was anime, and you know it.
In addition to anime and some live action dramas, Netflix is now bringing slices of Japanese life into our living rooms in the form of reality shows. Unfortunately, not all the of them are available in all countries, but no matter where you live, you should be able to find something that will give you a nice sense of being home in Japan, even in Europe.
Reality TV has become a staple of programming in every country. In the US, it is usually a contest of talent or endurance. The formula is simple; gather a large number of people with likely conflicting personalities in one space from which they can’t really escape, then watch the fights begin. The show is considered a loss if there isn’t at least one fist-fight or at least several instances of hair-pulling. In contrast, Japanese reality TV is very light-hearted and expectedly polite. This might be considered boring to some viewers, but to those of us who love Japanese culture, it is like having a window to heaven against which to press our noses while we watch.
Terrace House is a Japanese produced programme which has been running for several years. Netflix starts us in on the 9thth series, Boys and Girls in the City. The premise is very simple, furnish a large, luxurious house, supply a couple of cars for transportation, and bring in three men and three women, all strangers to each other, to live there. There is no contest or prize. The cast members can leave any time they want to, and they do so when they feel they have accomplished all they can there or simply can’t be there anymore. When someone leaves the house, there is always a heartfelt and sincere farewell, followed by nervous anticipation of the person who will replace them. Cast members aren’t paid, (as far as the show discloses) and are expected to continue to work or attend school or whatever they did in life before. The beauty of Terrace House is that instead of drunken fights and ill-advised sex, the largest conflicts are usually dishes that were left out, or someone not cleaning the dorm room.
In addition to the cast in the house, there is a crew of commentators who discuss the show at intervals and add colour through humour or just discuss potential outcomes of different situations which arise on the show. The commentators (You, Reina Triendl, Yoshimi Tokui, Azusa Babazono, Ryota Yamasato) vary in age and are also split 3×3 male and female. There is usually a guest presenter on the male side who is usually a popular actor or idol, and they come and go as their work permits. The commentary is always good for laughs if the show’s content ever becomes dull. Despite their often-strong differences in opinion, they almost always agree that they want the young people in the house to find romance with each other.
Boys and Girls in the City: This series takes place in an undisclosed location in central Tokyo. The house is furnished with a swimming pool and a game room, as well as a lavish kitchen and dining area. The residents often gather in these places for conversation, or confession. This series was extended three times for a total of 46 episodes due to viewer interest and continuing potential for romance.
Aloha State: Terrace House leaves Japan for this series, and lands on the lovely island of Oahu in the US state of Hawaii. Many of the cast members are natives of Hawaii, or live elsewhere in the US, but are of Japanese heritage. The main language of the show is still Japanese, although cast members sometimes slip into English, especially during stressful situations. This series has the most drama of the three, likely due to the presence of several American-Japanese members who do not adhere to the principles of harmony and politeness. It also has the most scenes with cast members in bathing suits, IF that is your thing.
Opening New Doors: This latest season takes place in Nagano prefecture. Winter is the overall theme of this one as there are frequent snowfalls at the house, and cast members participate in winter sports such as snowboarding, ice hockey, and ice skating. While this series has less drama than Aloha State, it does have the most heart-softening romance and every episode leaves you feeling good. The series is up to episode 24 on Netflix, but isn’t finished, which means the viewer can both curse the cliffhanger of the last episode, and eagerly anticipate the day the series resumes.
Terrace house is available for viewing in:
• Czech Republic
• Hong Kong
• Japan (duh)
• United Kingdom
• United States
For what is likely the most real, reality TV experience you will ever see, don’t miss out on Terrace House. Ditch the script and settle in for hours of real slices of Japanese life.