Why is This Japanese Reality Show Such a Huge Hit? | Koji's Odds & Ends



Well after the big reality show boom of the 2000s, an unlikely show has revitalized interest in the genre, and it’s from… Japan?!

Yes, you read that right. One of Netflix’s most popular shows over the past few years has been a Japanese reality show called Terrace House.

On paper, it’s hard to tell what exactly is so appealing about Terrace House. The premise is similar to a lot of older reality shows: get three attractive women together with three attractive men and record what happens. This alone doesn’t sound too interesting. The magic, however, is all in the execution.

Promo shot for the current season

Everything from the set of the show (the titular “terrace house”), to the camera work is expertly crafted, creating an atmosphere that is at the same time stylish, comfortable and uniquely Japanese, like slipping on a high-quality embroidered souvenir jacket.

A Birthday party

Then there is, in my opinion, the most entertaining part of the show: the hosts. The show begins with a panel of six entertainers of various ages and pedigrees recapping of the previous episode. They then return every ten minutes or so to interject some much-needed levity and comment on the show’s various happenings. The hosts watch the show as it goes, meaning that all of their reactions and commentary are fresh and off-the-cuff.


This format simulates the feeling of watching a show with a group of funny friends, and makes even the duller episodes a lot more fun and lively. Since the second season, subtitled “Boys and Girls in the City,” the host panel has been fairly consistent for five of the six seats. These seats are occupied by:


You (55): Singer, actress, and all-around entertainer. You acts as the more “motherly” figure of the panel, but also has a more perverted sense of humor that frequently rises to the surface.


Reina Triendl (27): Actress, singer, and model. Frequently referred to as “Tori-chan” or simply “Triendl,” this Austrian-born beauty acts as the innocent one of the group, frequently becoming confused at the more perverse commentary of her older co-hosts.


Yoshimi Tokui (44): Originally a part of the duo “Tutorial,” This manzai comedian acts as the “father” of the group, with his sense of humor matching You’s. They frequently fantasize about the house members hooking up, much to the dismay of the more mild-mannered Triendl.


Azusa Babazono (38): Comedian and actress with an incredibly expressive face. Babazono, usually referred to as “Baba-chan,” is the quietest member of the panel, usually playing off of commentary from other members.


Ryouta Yamasato (42): Famous for his role in the manzai duo “Nankai Candies,” Yamasato, affectionately nicknamed “Yama-chan,” is the cynical “loser” of the group. A fan favorite, the grouchy comedian is constantly looking for faults in the house members so he can pick on them. His commentary became popular enough to warrant an after-show with only him on the panel, called “Yamachannel.”


The sixth seat is occupied by a rotating door of lesser-known young male actors, usually still in their teens. Their physical position on the panel is strategically located next to Yamasato, subjecting them to his corrupting negative influence.

While the show was originally broadcast on Japan’s Fuji Television starting in 2012, Netflix, seeing a lot of potential in the show, acquired the rights. The second series began streaming to international audiences in 2015.

Since then, the show has changed seasons and locations on a nearly annual basis. “Boys and Girls in the City” was followed by “Aloha State,” which was set in Hawaii. This was in turn followed by “Opening News Doors,” which was set in the beautiful town of Karuizawa. The most recent series began earlier this year, entitled simply “Tokyo 2019-2020.” You can probably guess which city that one is located in.

Yep. Hawaii.

Each of these seasons starts with the six members, evenly split by gender. They can leave whenever they want, and are subsequently replaced by a new cast member of the same gender. This continuous replacement of house members helps keep the show fresh, and occasionally results in some interesting surprises.

There can be returning housemates, with a notable example being Seina Shimabukuro in “Opening New Doors,” or even celebrity, like “Gesu no Kiwami Otome” bassist Masao Wada in the same season. Surprises lurk around every corner!

Masao and his bass

The show isn’t perfect, of course. It can drag on sometimes, since the show is focused more on the “reality” aspect of reality TV, and tries to paint a more down-to-earth picture of the cast members’ lives. In my opinion, this focus is both the shows biggest blessing and its curse. The genuine feel of the show, relative to others in its genre, is refreshing and unique, but it also means that you can go several episodes without any major drama happening.

Viewers who are looking for something more exciting and fast-paced may find themselves giving up within the first half-dozen episodes. Those who have some patience, however, will certainly be rewarded.

Typical dining room shot

One more thing to note: the Japanese version of the show uses licensed American music (a notable example being Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve, which opens up the show). This would cause licensing problems if used in America. To remedy this, Netflix swapped out all of the music for much more generic fare. Some might find this music at least a little off-putting, but know that there’s a reason for its inclusion.

Not gonna lie, this one kinda slaps.

Terrace House’s current season is still being localized in segments, but I highly suggest that those interested in starting the show do so with earlier seasons. Personally, I recommend “Opening New Doors” (my favorite season), but “Boys and Girls in the City” would work great as an introduction as well.

All in all, Terrace House is yet more proof that Japan has a lot more to offer outside of anime. Check it out and get immersed in some fresh, trendy reality TV!


Thanks for reading, everyone! If you enjoyed this article, you can also check out my novels here, and you can find me on both Twitter and Facebook!

Do you love Japanese TV and comedy as much as I do? Feel free to hit me up with more blog post topics!

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