Terrace House

June 13th, 2016, 5pm

It was 30°C with few clouds. The breeze was light.

Netflix is co-producing a Japanese reality show. Just when I thought I had completely escaped Japanese television…

I tried watching Japanese programs when I lived in Japan, but could never get into them. Most of the time it was about food or onsens. And the wacky talk shows were out simply because I couldn’t understand most of it. My entertainment consisted of YouTube videos and torrents of American shows.

But this show on Netflix is a game changer. I’ve been sucked back into the vortex of Japanese programming. It’s subtitled, but the irony is I would have understood 75% of it anyway since every other word is sugoi or oishii or itadakimasu. It’s a complete ripoff of The Real World circa 1992, but still uniquely Japanese and strangely engrossing. It reminds me what I love about this culture - every social interaction is done in the nicest, most polite way possible with a lot of bowing. In an American context, there would have been outright fistfights and a steady stream of expletives by now. But on this show, no one even so much as raises their voice when angry. I do admire the fact that they weigh their words so carefully. There is something to be said about restraint and not spewing out whatever’s on the tip of one’s tongue, a la Trump.

On the other hand, it made me realize how the Japanese must perceive foreigners. I’m not entirely unfamiliar with their perspective, but it hit me anew just how indelicate foreigners must come off to the Japanese. We must seem like wild untamed animals to them, spouting off our mind whenever we feel, so brash in our behavior and so arrogant in our decisiveness.

When I lived there, it was always a big mystery to me how Japanese couples got together. In my mind, communication was always so strained - by design; there’s a lot of guesswork involved because the expectation is to communicate indirectly and to rely more on reading the air, i.e. intuit everything that is unspoken. How on earth would anyone get around to expressing their true feelings, let alone their romantic feelings? And I assumed that the Japanese didn’t really know how to process their emotions because of the indirect communication style. But this show has totally proven me wrong on that front. In fact, there is almost too much processing. An interaction occurs, then there’s a debrief about the interaction with others in the house, then there’s a debrief of the debrief with the person with whom the original interaction occurred. It’s refreshing to me to see them be so open and honest with each other about how they feel. Perhaps because I was a foreigner, I never got to see that side of the culture. I don’t mind all the debriefing personally, but it would be interesting to see how Westerners perceive that way of communication - indirect yet unexpectedly direct at the strangest moments.

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Jannie L

Lover of people, blogs, podcasts, food, and all things dance.

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