It’s just like ‘Big Brother’ but way better and definitely less skanky!
Now how many times have you used the above statement, when trying to describe to friends about the Japanese reality TV show you’re watching?
So back in 2015 we started to watch Netflix’s first season of Terrace house, a reality TV show capturing the lives of 6 housemates who have been hand-picked to dwell in a Tokyo share home. And back in 2015, we were pretty clueless. I.e. we were new to Netflix and thought that whole series were uploaded onto the service all in one go; I literally didn’t understand half of the show (as I don’t read subtitles); and when we actually caught-up with the most recent episode (ep 13) we actually thought that the series had abruptly ended there. So much so that we stopped watching, annoyed that all of the story-lines were left open ended and that was that, we didn’t give Terrace house any more thought as we continued on with our lives (i.e. watched other stuff).
Fast-forward to the present day, everyone is spending more time at home and out of curiosity I clicked on the latest series of Terrace house on Netflix, by this stage they’re onto season 4- but the crew is back in Tokyo. And because I was viewing it from my phone (where I have Speech/Voiceover turned on) all of a sudden I had Siri reading out all of the English subtitles, and for the first time I actually knew what was going on! No longer was the Fuji TV panellist’s rapid fire Japanese a blur for me, and no longer was I just relying on brief descriptions from my wife on what was going on from scene to scene- but now I was able to follow each conversation and exchange between the housemates! Sure, at times it was confusing to work out who was actually speaking (as Siri dims the audio when she speaks), but that was half the fun of it! Trying to work out who were conversing with each other based on the content of their conversations alone. And once I had knocked over 20 odd episodes of the current season- I started to wonder how it would be like to re-watch Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City, now that I could understand the dialogue.
And shock horror! I then found out that all those years ago, we had prematurely given up on it thinking the season had ended abruptly, but in reality we had only caught-up to their most recent episodes and all subsequent episodes were released on a weekly basis. *Smacks hand on forehead*.
So it was like walking down memory lane, reliving the 13 episodes which we had watched 4-5 years ago, and then proceeding onto the episodes which we had never seen before. And the unique thing about Terrace house, is the fact that the housemates are free to come and go as they please. It’s not like ‘Big Brother’ where they’re locked inside a compound, unaware of what people are saying about them in the real world, only leaving the home when they’re eventually evicted by a people’s vote. But housemates in Terrace house go about their regular lives, maintaining their day-time vocations and they’re even free to view themselves on TV (when the episodes eventually air) and check-out online forums where fans are gossiping about them. It’s all pretty weird (yet fascinating) as private discussions among the girls re who they’re interested in, would eventually become public knowledge within the home in a matter of weeks after the episode airs on national and international television. So the show is interesting in that respects, as the dynamics in the home change, as they gain more information about each other (in person or in delay).
And the other interesting fact of Terrace House is that the roommates are free to leave the show/home at any time. Therefore although only 6 housemates reside at the home at any one time, during the 46 weeks of filming 17 housemates actually went through the place at one point in time. And each time someone leaves and another person comes and replaces them, their inclusion often changes the dynamics of the home again. For example, new hot girl arrives- all of a sudden all the guys are interested in her, to the annoyance of the original female housemates; or a more outspoken housemate joins the home- and steps on toes and shakes things up a bit; or a more outgoing fun individual moves in- and the energy of the home changes for the better; or a new guy enters the home- and romance ensues. So the house evolves and changes over-time, so much so that when I reflected back to the original 6 housemates and the overall feel of the home in the first 13 episodes, the house and the show was completely transformed by the end when episode 46 wrapped things up. So that fact alone, still blows my mind!
And the most interesting element about Terrace house, is the simple fact that we’re given an insight into one of the most interesting, unique and quirky cultures in the world! From their formal and polite interactions with each other; the fact that they hardly engage in physical contact; their obsession with having purpose and continued growth; their various festivals and customs; the interesting little day trips that they take around Tokyo and its surrounds; and right down to the meals they cook and dine out on, everything is so interesting and uniquely Japanese!
So if you just want a change of ‘scenery’ after consuming all that American content? Or if you’ve always been into Japanese culture- check out Terrace House! It’s so addictive and different! Once it’s safe to travel again, we’re so going to Tokyo! But for now, our local Japanese restaurant will suffice.
To binge watch all 4 seasons of Terrace house, click HERE!
**Note: If you’re not much of a fan of reading subtitles, consider watching Terrace house (and other foreign films/shows) on your phone, with Speech/Voiceover turned on.