It has none of the flesh and muscle-flexing of Love Island, the tantrums of Big Brother or the hideous challenges of I’m a Celebrity, yet Terrace House has taken Japan by storm. Even though not much seems to happen.
For Japanese viewers of reality television, a good degree of the appeal is the calm and respectful way in which the six residents of the house go about their day-to-day lives, the lack of drama – genuine or encouraged by a producer keen to boost the ratings – the politeness and support they extend to each other. These, after all, are traits that many Japanese still pride themselves on.
“People like to watch it because those are the lives they would like to lead and often they see the lives of the residents of the house as extensions of their own”, said Makoto Watanabe, a lecturer in media and communications at Hokkaido Bunkyo University.
“Yes, it goes very slowly as the different people learn about the other people they are living with, their likes and dislikes, and sometimes they fall in love”, he said. “But that is the sort of life that lots of people in Japan want for themselves.
Click Here: cheap Cowboys jersey
“I’m a fan of the programme myself and you find yourself really identifying with these people and their everyday lives”, he told The Telegraph. “And that is the secret, I think”.
A joint production between Japan’s Fuji TV and Netflix and now in its fourth season, the show follows a familiar pattern of six young singles – three men and three women from vastly different backgrounds – thrust together into a house.
Instead of gossiping behind each other’s backs or stand-up shouting matches over a perceived slight or love rival, the residents of Terrace House invariably get along.
The apologies are profuse for minor differences of opinion; they ask – and appear genuinely interested in – how each other’s day went; and romances can take an entire season to blossom.
Although designed as a dating show, viewers have learned not to expect any sudden hookups or bed-hopping. And they would probably turn off if that happened.
Another difference is that the residents go about their normal lives as usual, attending university or going to work, while a team of experts provide commentary on their conversations and body language.
The men take it in turns to do the cooking for the household; the women share their feelings – or some of them – in their pyjamas with mugs of coffee.
The difference to mainstream Japanese television is also stark – and appealing to many viewers.
“Japanese programmes are all about celebrities and it’s the same old faces trying to make us laugh”, said Kanako Hosomura, a 36-year-old housewife from Yokohama who is a close follower of Terrace House.
“We never see ordinary people on television, we don’t hear about the problems other people have, or some exciting news, or real people really falling in love”, she added. “And because it is real,we never know what is going to happen. That is what keeps me coming back”.