As I flip through the endless options Netflix has to offer, I come across an intriguing title card that I nearly skipped. Something at the pit of my stomach told me to click. Hadn’t I done so, this blog may have ceased to exist…
Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City, a peculiar name. But I kid you not, this is Netflix’s best-hidden gem. Unless you shamelessly dig through the depths of Netflix’s offerings or have an affinity for anime or K-Dramas, you have probably never come across any of the Terrace House series.
Because it was near the beginning of my interest in Japanese history and culture, when I came across this show by accident, my curiosity hit me and I am so glad it did.
Through the journey of countless housemates over the course of all four series, I have been able to develop this new clear-minded perspective on social interaction and self-awareness. Cliche as it may sound, but if you too go along for the Terrace House ride, I guarantee you’ll take away even the smallest of directional advice.
Terrace House has a very simple concept, six strangers going about their daily lives while sharing a living space; the show constantly reminds you that it is unscripted (a sentiment I truly believe.) There are very few rules and almost zero gimmicks while living in the Terrace House. Each housemate may go about their daily lives how they please but must write on a chalkboard where they are going on any given day and when they’ll be back. Each tenant may stay for however long they like and may choose to leave the house whenever they deem it necessary. If they choose to leave, they will be replaced with a new guest of the same gender who then must integrate themselves with the group. This cycle repeats itself over the course of the year.
The only minor gimmick is that we as an audience are not the only ones watching the daily ongoings of these young housemates. A group of six Japanese TV personalities also watch and provide commentary on the happenings (a common attribute in Japanese programming.) There definitely is an irony in the audience watching an audience watching a show, but what puts the cherry on top is that the group living in the house are also exposed to the episodes as they come out (contrary to most western reality shows that complete shooting before starting to air the season.) And everything is, of course, spoken in Japanese — although it is subtitled in English for us Western viewers.
As for me, I have generally been the type drawn to high stakes action, highly dramatized or over the top visually driven television. I would watch television for the stimulating effect as opposed to passively watching it. I like to be drawn in and engaged by the storylines and the artistry behind the final product. Therefore, reality TV never really fell on my radar and I have generally categorized them as trash television. Because I spent so much time binge-watching any show up for an Emmy, I also tended to get pretty lazy. To invest that much time in TV as opposed to investing time in myself or my real life priorities, became a personal barrier. Especially when Netflix entered my life. I would watch show after show after show — it has never been easier to streamline media consumption beyond the point of self-control. I gained enough weight to render myself over-weight, I fell out of touch with many close friends and I put my career aspirations on the back-burner. That is why it is ironic that through one of my vices, I found inspiration.
My journey with Terrace House has been able to reintroduce simple life lessons through a unique foreign lens.
Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City
The first Terrace House to be brought to a Western market, Terrace House: Boys & Girls in the City, was my first real immersion into Japanese social etiquette and my biggest influence to visit Tokyo.
Dreams First, Relationships Second, Fun Third
Throughout the course of 36 episodes, we see a large portion of the housemates put their careers and dreams in front of their relationships and having fun. Although this is a broad theme from Boys and Girls in the City (B&GITC) it is very important to me. Young Japanese people always strive to reach their dreams. It seems as though not having a goal in life is frowned upon. At first, this made me uneasy, especially when other members ridiculed some of their housemates about not having a clear-cut mission in life (*cough* Yuuki *cough*). After taking some time to think about it and really ponder the meaning of life, I found that it makes sense to have a solid goal to strive for in life, otherwise, what is the point in living? If you live your life with purpose, that’s going to rub off on others and in turn, build more meaningful relationships. I find you lose the most friends when you don’t have a mutual outlook on life. I have made some clear-cut goals in my life that involve starting my own business, a supportive friend group and spending my free time with those that matter.
Ditch the Small Talk, Get Personal
Right off the bat, one of the things I noticed was how direct Japanese people are when asking questions. Upon meeting someone, they usually went straight for, “What is your ultimate dream in life?” Or my personal favourite, “What do you like in a guy/girl?” These deep introductory questions allowed the house to become more personal with each other instead of building a superficial relationship for the sake of television. This is apparent in the first couple of episodes when Yuuki pries career goals out of his housemates. He feels if he is going to be motivated by the people around him, he has to know what dream they are striving for. This is such a foreign idea to me, as people in the West are very withdrawn about their motives and true aspirations in life. Hell, I’ve known my siblings all my life and I’m still unclear on all of their life goals. When creating new friendships and reigniting old ones, I have tried to skip the small talk and really figure out who this person is on the inside. It has really helped empathize with them and in turn, forge a stronger and more meaningful relationship.
Be Kind, Be Considerate
Hansen! Easily my favourite B&GITC member. A successful architect who always remained humble through his time at the Terrace House. Whether it was giving Arisa career advice or giving Natsumi the pep talk she needed, Hansen always knew what to say to another’s benefit. He always considered the feelings of others before his own and made sure that although he was being kind, he was also always honest. This made people in the house respect him even more and made for one of the most emotional departures of the entire season. Everyone should strive to be like Hansen.
Communication Really is Key
Whether someone was not keeping up on their end of the cleaning or there was a secret within the house, each member made an effort to have a meeting and talk through the issues — even for the most minuscule of problems. I have brought this into my own life. I’ve noticed that all the small issues that go unsaid can end up building up until there is a big explosion. This did, in fact, happen in the case of the meat incident. Minori, without asking, cooked Tetsuya’s high-quality meat that was gifted to him from a client. Even though this was a small offence and Minori apologized, it was a build up of miscommunication through their entire relationship that caused Tetsuya to finally blow up and have an emotional breakdown.
Terrace House: Aloha State
This was the first time in Terrace House history where they brought the series abroad — to Hawaii nonetheless. Although it had its strong points, ultimately the departure from its original Japanese setting was the weak factor of this series.
Find a Love Worth Dying For
Oh, Taishi. When Taishi came on the show with his ultimate mission, “to find a love worth dying for”, I had to ask myself if this guy was for real. Turned out he was. Entering the Terrace House early in the game and staying until the very end, he was determined to find this undying love. Now, I never used to be the guy who loved cliches, but Taishi makes cliche a pretty cool trait to adopt. If you’re wondering (or already know) after a couple of unsuccessful attempts with housemates, Taishi met Chikako and spent the back quarter of the series wooing her over. He was successful and they eventually left the house hand in hand. Chikako was from Japan and him from LA. The both of them showing up at Terrace House was truly a moment that was meant to be. I think it is safe to say that you should never settle for love because it is right there in front of your face. Date around, find the person a love that you are willing to put everything on the line for. If you’ve made it this far, don’t get discouraged and don’t settle because you feel lonely. Go out there and search for a love worth dying for — I know I am!
When the Waves Knock You Down, Get Right Back Up
This one may seem like a reach, but it was through Guy’s surfing storyline, that I learned to keep pushing even when I feel knocked down. Like many members of old series, we had a pro surfer join the house. Guy set himself apart from other surfers on the show. He was more humble and had a very mellow, yet quirky personality (the panel usually referred to him as Winnie the Pooh.) While practicing his surf regimen he was severely injured, breaking multiple bones and rendering himself unable to surf. Seeing someone with so much happiness and motivation fall into a depression, but then bounce back and hit the waves with even more determination, is a powerful thing. I struggle with staying in shape. I tend to go to the gym, work hard, then sustain some sort of injury and give up for the longest time. I’ve seen myself through a Guy moment. That struggle of not knowing whether you can move forward even in the darkest of times. But it is in those moments that truly test your character. As I’m writing this, I am ready to get back into the gym and eat the way I should because I will no longer let these low periods consume my motivation I know I have.
The World is Big, So Get Out There
Lauren Tsai. Easily the most recognizable and successful member to come from Terrace House. There is no question that Lauren is a super talented model and even more talented artist. It was through her dream to work and be successful in Japan, even though she is not Japanese, that made me rethink my own career potential. I ditched the thought that being successful in a foreign country was not in my realm of possibility. The fact is, anything is achievable if you keep at it. I realize I have a lot of work to do to create a sustainable business that will allow me to travel full-time but with the right work ethic and constant persistence, I know it os an attainable goal. At the start of Terrace House: Aloha State, Lauren seemed a little lost in her goals and dreams but ultimately left her home in Hawaii to live a life in Japan. We all will eventually have to leave our comfort zone in order to truly grow and reach new potential. If you take a look at Lauren’s Instagram now you can see she is working with the biggest fashion brands in Japan, travelling from city to city and taking her art to new heights. Lauren is definitely someone I look up to and will continue to draw inspiration from.
Terrace House: Boys & Girls Next Door
Terrace House: Boys & Girls Next Door was the original 8 season (98 episode + 2-hour movie) series that premiered on Fuji TV. Though this has yet to come to Netflix, there are subtitled versions of the entire season floating around somewhere out there. This series is my all-time favourite iteration of the Terrace House!
It’s OK to Cry — So Cry, Then Cry Some More
This season was the biggest cryfest I have ever had in my entire life. Having had two prior Terrace House series under my belt, I thought I knew how it went down…but I was dead wrong. Everytime someone left, the group members would ball their eyes out an in-turn I would shed them big man tears. To be fair, Terrace House is really good at playing the right song at the right moment to get those feels going — especially with housemates who forged strong bonds with one another and now must say farewell. The arc that truly set me off though was Daiki’s kickboxing dilemma. I don’t want to get too much into spoiler territory because it is arguably one of the heaviest parts of Terrace House ever, and if you are a reader who has not watched it, (which you should) I don’t want to spoil the emotionally intense journey. What I’m trying to say is, the Japanese allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of those around them. I think in the West we associate tears with weakness. That is just not the case. Through the roller coaster of emotions that ran rampant in B&GND, it is safe to say that crying shows compassion, empathy and in some cases, strength to express emotion.
Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve
Across every season, there were plenty of crushes, relationships and heartbreaks. Whether it was Mikako’s persistence with Daiki, Oji being straight-up with Siena, Siena working it out with Ma-Kun or Yo-san going all out to impress Rina, Terrace House always kept me on my toes. The common thread through all the relationships that did or didn’t form, was if someone had a crash, they always followed through and wore their heart on their sleeve. Sure it made it that much harder to watch when someone left heartbroken, but when someone ended up in a relationship, it felt inspiring. There are many people I know in my life, including myself, that would benefit from being more open when it comes to feelings of infatuation. I think it is time to take down the walls and truly let people in…within reason though. You also have to able to take no for an answer. But it is taking those rejections and still allowing your heart to be vulnerable after the fact, that makes you an emotionally stronger individual.
Life is Not Always Going to Hand You a Win
Tecchan. Oh, Tecchan. Where do I begin with Tecchan? Tecchan had been at the Terrace House since day one and stayed there for 2 years total, the longest of any Terrace House member. Since the beginning, Tecchan has never had any luck. Failing his firefighter test, struggling to get an acting gig and zero luck with the ladies — rejection after rejection and he stayed at the Terrace House to the bitter end. Even when you thought Tecchan would finally win, he just didn’t. The one thing that truly set this show in-reality was the fact that Tecchan never got his happy ending. Not even in the 2-hour movie special, Terrace House: Closing Door, which I assumed was released as Tecchan’s redemption arc. I’ve come to realize that life is not gonna be in your corner all the way through. You’ll face loss after loss after loss, to the point where you feel like you can’t lose anymore. But it’s the losses in life that make the wins more worth it. Hopefully, you get that win one-day Tecchan…I’m rooting for you!
Terrace House: Opening New Doors
Terrace House: Opening New Doors brings the series back to Japan and for the better. This ongoing series is currently on Part 4, with more to come — I hope!
Terrace House: Opening New Doors is a good example of how Japan mixes its age-old traditions within a contemporary generation. Maybe it is the mountainous ambience of the Nagano Prefecture, with many temples, old streets and nature. It could also be the glaring age difference between Taka and the rest of his housemates. Taka brings a very traditional spirit to an otherwise youthful and modern bunch. Not that he is an old man, but he comes from a different generation than the likes of Ami or Yuudai. He acts as a big brother to everyone and for that reason, everyone respects him. He brings this traditional Japanese work ethic to his passions like snowboarding and cooking, which rubs off on all of the other housemates. This has opened my eyes to be more open-minded to the ways things use to be done, compared to the way society does them now. While growing towards a post-modern setting, we tend to forget about traditions practiced no longer than a decade or two ago. Religion, family values and hierarchy were all things that helped thrust humanity forward for thousands of years and it seems like that is being lost in this weird individualistic Western society that is being created. Although times are changing and we are going to have to adjust to new ways of thinking, we should also respect how we as humans got to where we are today and respect those passing their traditions on to us.
Create Your Own Success
Oh, Yuudai. If Hansen is one of my favourite Terrace House members, then Yuudai is one of my least favourites. Yuudai was the embodiment of new age thinking. His mentality was very western. He expected things to come to him without working for it at all. He constantly used his dad’s money to buy everything he wanted and even struggled to get a part-time job to start supporting himself. On top of that, he never took his aspiration of becoming a chef seriously. Yuudai constantly butted heads with the other members of the house, especially Ami and Mizuki. This is the type of guy I hope never to become. So reliant on someone else’s success that I can’t forge a means by myself. Luckily, I have started to surround myself with people more like Taka as opposed to those like Yuudai, and I am constantly working towards living on my own. Who knows, maybe living abroad is in the cards for me in the not so distant future.
Life is Full of Second Chances
SIENA-SAN CAME BACK! One of the biggest Terrace House legends provided the biggest surprise of the season so far. I thought Siena’s story came to a conclusion after falling for Daiki, the surfer who came at the very last second in B&GND. Looks like that didn’t work out for her. Yes, she has had an uber-successful modelling career…but it seems that finding her last love is her ultimate goal. Even when you think all hope is lost, there will always be opportunities around every corner to redeem yourself. We grow from making mistakes and should never be too hard on ourselves when we mess up. Siena came into the house feeling down. She felt like her time was up, but Terrace House is her opportunity to finally redeem her roller coaster of a love life. Now, if only Tecchan could come back next for his redemption arc…
Each series and the small learning curves I went through ultimately allowed me to rethink my character — shedding light on the person I authentically want to be. Terrace House continues to air on Netflix and I hope it carries these inspiring moments for as long as possible. I think the main thing we can take away from this show is our Western culture only offers up one tiny lens of looking at the world. It is important to look into multiple lenses because our perspective is just one of the thousands.
So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already, GO WATCH TERRACE HOUSE!
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