Terrace House, the reality show of glacial slowness about young Japanese who are anxious to know where to get taco rice and whether to hold hands, is back today on Netflix around the world. It has been broadcasting week after week in Japan since December, so I have already seen the first 11 episodes, and this is the main thing you should know: after the strange and sometimes uncomfortable detour last season to Hawaii, this is an important return to the form.
The new season, Opening New Doors, sees Terrace House return to Japan. This time the house is located in Karuizawa, a luxury tourist town in the Nagano Mountains, surrounded by ski slopes and hot springs. As a result, the atmosphere is completely different from the previous season, Aloha State, with its sun-drenched scenes of surfing and clubbing. Everything feels more discreet and relaxed, even during the tense and unbearable moments of subtle conflict that have become the signature of the show. And really, that's how it should be.
I visited the house last month and met with its current residents. I'm not sure what I expected: the house is more or less isolated from what I imagined, and required a 15-minute bus ride through the dense forest from a train station that is only an hour away from Tokyo. It looks, well, like a house, with few signs of continuous television production beyond the occasional cameraman wandering.
The Terrace House itselfFoto by Sam Byford / The Verge
It's a beautiful house, but I was surprised at how little there is beyond what you see in the episodes. There are bedrooms for boys and girls, a common living room and kitchen, an additional "game room" with TV, a thermal-style bathroom and an outdoor area with a barbecue, covered in snow when I was there. . While it is a great house by Japanese standards, it really seems that it was chosen to encourage interaction among the residents. "I'm pretty sure I'm having a lot of fun," says Shion Okamoto, a 23-year-old model. "I liked living with roommates when I was in Tokyo, so it's really fun for me to be in an environment where six boys and girls live."
"It's like, everyone, meeting in the game room on the first day of broadcast!"
Up to that point, something I really wanted to know was how everyone in the house watches the program on the air: do they find a corner to hide with their phones or is it more of a community event? "It's like, everyone, meeting in the game room the first day of the broadcast!" Says Tsubasa Sato, a 24-year-old amateur hockey player from the Karuizawa area. "And then we all look together." I tell you that this sounds potentially mortifying given the embarrassing personal drama that tends to develop on the show. "Oh, but it's like reflecting on the past, how it happened and what happened … and the panel members are very funny, we all think:" That's how they see us! "We laugh a lot when we see the program."
Despite this, Opening New Doors has already seen several moments of awkwardness of the toes, with one particular member responsible for a lot of early friction. But as with the best seasons of Terrace House in the past, it rarely explodes in an open discussion. Rather, the slowness of the program and the austere editing frame simple disputes in dramatic and easy to relate terms. And, as always, part of the appeal is to find out what people really are thinking before the panelists seem to make fun of their actions.
Tsubasa SatoPhoto by Sam Byford / The Verge
Ami Komuro, a 20-year-old student, summed up how it feels to be on the other side of the camera when talking about a particularly bad date. "I thought I was being considered my way …" he laughed. "But it seems like that part did not really reach the panelists or the viewers, I felt like I was not expressing myself very well." The fact that people were probably not thinking, "She's being considered" made me feel a bit empty. They said: "Why are you going to the appointment?", But I mean, obviously I was being considered [laughs] I was so sad that no one seemed to understand that. "
"It's almost the only time he gets a little tense …" Sato laughs as he remembers what it is like to look back at events like this as a group. "There were some parts that made us say:" Are you okay? ", But we enjoyed watching the show." There is no persistent friction. "
As to why exactly all this is interesting for someone who does not live in Japan, let alone in the house, Okamoto has some ideas. "Personally, I think part of this has to do with [viewers’] interest in things like Japanese culture," he says. "I think it should be entertaining for people who find interesting Japanese idiosyncrasies, who sometimes see things that are unexpected for them."
The new door holder Photo by Sam Byford / The Verge
The opening of New Doors is a great entry point to Terrace House, but there is one drawback: Netflix's international programming means that you can now only watch the first eight episodes at this time, with another batch that will be released at some point in the future. near future. However, once you have finished with this initial release, you can always watch the 46 episodes of the excellent Boys and Girls in the City season until the next part of Opening New Doors.
However, if you see Terrace House, it's worth a try. It is a reality TV show like no other, and so far the new season is giving its best.