Netflix recommendations- Japanese dating shows

Comparing and contrasting the two extremes of Japanese reality dating shows……………


Since realising the ability to watch foreign Netflix content using Siri to read the English subtitles, I’ve gone a bit cray cray in trying out any non-English content on the Australian Netflix library. And since I’d been watching Terrace House, of course the Netflix app has recommended  other similar Japanese content for my viewing pleasure. So after completing two different Japanese reality dating shows, here is a compare and contrast of the two:


Ainori Love Wagon Asian Journey (Season 1)


The first program which I completed was Ainori (travel together) Love Wagon, which is a revival of a classic Japanese dating show from the 90s-00s, now resurrected by Netflix for a global audience. The premise is that 7 young people are brought together on an international trip, touring multiple countries on a Pink tour bus (the Love wagon). The 7 individuals are made up of 4 men and 3 women, and what they all have in common is that they’re usually a bit hopeless in the love department. You know, all friend groups have that one friend who is chronically single, or hops in and out of short-term loveless relationships? Yeah, got that friend in mind? Now bring all of those individuals together, and force them to travel together on a pink bus, on a scant travel budget, and throw in the pressures of trying to find ‘the One’ from your fellow travel companions? And there you have Ainori Love Wagon!


In season 1 they travel through Vietnam, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore- a local guide takes them to all the usual tourist hotspots, and to some destinations off the beaten track- usually designed to educate them on the state in which the local people subsist (inevitably reminding them how privilege they are, being Japanese  and growing-up/living in a developed country).


If to this point, Ainori sounds a bit boring to you? Well, it is at times, but wait until the drama starts! When potential romance develops, and a participant needs to take the plunge and formally declare their feelings! If the feelings are reciprocated, the rules are that they’ll have to kiss to ‘seal’ the deal. Then both of them immediately leave the tour and go home to Japan together (oh yeah, I didn’t mention how after confessing their feelings, they hand over an airline ticket to return home together). While if the feelings are not reciprocated, the airline ticket is handed back  and the rejected individual returns home alone. So that is the interesting thing about Ainori, it’s pretty much ‘all’ or ‘nothing’! And the surprising thing is they never quite test the waters first before taking the plunge, half of the time the won who is told that they have been the target of one’s affections, they are genuinely surprised as they hadn’t seen it coming and inevitably those scenarios end in tearful rejections. And more often than not, they take the all or nothing plunge only after a short period of time, one girl professed her feelings to a guy 4 days after they first met!


And if you’re thinking, well that’s a bit boring and sad then- if slowly one by one the travellers dwindle down in size, as they all drop-off like flies? No, no! Those quirky Japanese producers have thought of that as well, as soon as one person leaves (or a couple if there is a match), new travellers immediately join their tour! Thus making things very very interesting, as they stir up the existing dynamics of the group. Moohaaha!


By in large, all of the travellers are well behaved, they rarely fight over the same person, they’re polite to one another, but there is one traveller who stirs things up when she has a bit too much to drink. So keep an eye out for her. *Winks*. So if it wasn’t for her, the entire series is pretty tamed, a show which families back home in  Japan could all sit down and watch together! I think it has a PG  rating. But on the other hand……




On the other hand we have Rea(L)ove, and if the brackets and the capital L confuses you, the show is called ‘Real Love’. Well, if Ainori is a program which you can sit down with Mum to watch? Real Love is a show which you definitely don’t want to watch with mum!


The preface is that 12 girls and 12 guys are brought to Okinawa Island for an intensive 3 day date-fest! But even before the show commences a guy and 3 girls have already dropped out, leaving the gender balance badly skewed. But they didn’t drop out because the prospect of an all expenses paid trip on a resort island wasn’t appealing. Or the prospect of meeting ‘the One’ was too frightening. But it was the fact that each participant on the show, they all have a ‘dark secret’, a secret so shocking which has previously spoiled previous attempts at love. Yes, secrets so alarming, that once it’s out there, potential partners would usually go running the other way! And those who dropped out, probably realised that disclosing their dark secret on global television wasn’t the wises thing to do, thus pulled out at the last minute. And did they make the right choice?


So from the get go I must warn you that Real Love pushes the envelope. It’s not so much the  goings on between participants, nor the depravity of  people’s secrets- but more so due to the things which one Host says. The maile Host, Atsushi Tamura- a comedian comes  off as being misogynistic, demeaning, and basically makes jokes at the expense of others. So if hearing that already turns you off the show? Then steer clear of it! By the way, Real Love has a MA15+ rating. However if things like that don’t offend you, then yeah, Real Love can be quite a bingeable show.


The guys and girls are brought together, they introduce themselves and their ‘Vanilla’ side of their lives, and over the next 3 days they undergo group dates, one-on-one dates, trying to work out if there could be love? And at a chime’s notice at any part of the day or night, a participant is randomly chosen to disclose their dark secret to the group. And it could be at a moment when they’re in front of everyone else! Or it could occur when their one-on-one, on a romantic date. Without spoiling the show for you, the secrets could range from being in debt or being a divorcee, to having a criminal past or having a some-what embarrassing fetish.  So yeah, it’s embarrassing to admit, but it is quite entertaining and they love to stick a reveal right at the end of an episode, so you’re sucked in to keep watching the next episode to find out what the deep dark secret is. And I don’t think we were too shocked by any of the secrets, but did the 4 individuals who pulled out, did they make the right choice? Probably yes? It’ll be hard to face  a boss the next day, or to find future romance, once that dark secret is out there for the world to re-watch over and over on demand!


And at the end of the 3 days, each person is given an opportunity to confess their love for someone, now that they know what they’re getting themselves into. And if the feelings are reciprocated, then the couple can develop that relationship at the conclusion of the show (and in some cases, two or more individuals professed their feelings to the same person, and said person just has to choose). What I liked about it, was right at the end they catch-up with the couples, so you’ll find out if they’re still together after several months.


So yeah, that’s my compare and contrast of Japanese reality dating shows. One which is appropriate for the entire family to watch! the other….. You’ll just have to watch it under your covers. Haaha.


To start watching Ainori Love Wagon, click HERE


For Real Love, click HERE!



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