Terrace House: what lockdown means for the Japanese reality TV show

It’s difficult to describe why Terrace House is so damn enjoyable. But if you ask anyone who’s given the hit Netflix series a go, you’ll probably discover another megafan just waiting to share their thoughts. 

If you’re new to the Japanese reality TV show, here’s the  rundown on what you’re missing. Terrace House centers around love, inspiring others and forming life-long friendships. Six people – consisting of three men and three women of various ages – share a beautiful home and even have access to two luxury cars. There’s no script, no public voting system or even a prize on offer. It’s just six normal people, learning to live and grow with one another.

The biggest difference between Terrace House and its obvious counterpart, Big Brother, is that the house members are free to go about their daily lives. They go to work, see their friends, have access to social media and can even watch the show back inside the house when it airs. The events of each week are also commented on by a panel of hilarious and likeable hosts, who provide plenty of great talking points and unforgettable moments themselves.

Relaxing reality

It might sound a little dull, but watching a person try to better themselves in Terrace House – be it in love or their career – is compelling television and extremely inspiring. You’ll quickly find yourself rooting for certain housemates as you become absorbed in their personal journey while reflecting on your own. Of course, you won’t like everyone, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in bad mouthing people, too. It’s quite cathartic.

When it comes to romance, though? Well, that’s where Terrace House really shines. Tears will be shed, hearts will be broken, and the question of “will they won’t they” will never be far from your mind. But it goes much deeper than that…

Life in Japan

Prepare to see grown men cry – a lot. 

Despite the different format, what really separates Terrace House from any other reality show is Japanese culture itself. The series provides a fascinating insight into what life is like in Japan. Whether it’s seeing how global traditions such as Christmas differ, or how holding hands is considered a huge deal for some Japanese couples, there’s so many subtle and substantial contrasts between western and Asian culture that it can change your perspective on so many things that you might take for granted.

It also reflects how society as a whole, particularly in a country like Japan, which isn’t considered to be particularly progressive, is changing rapidly. Terrace House has seen one young member discover his sexuality, while foreigners have become more prominent in recent episodes. 

There are currently four seasons of Terrace House on Netflix, and we’d thoroughly recommend watching them all. Boys & Girls in the City takes place in Tokyo; Aloha State sees Terrace House move to Hawaii; Opening New Doors is set in the sleepy skiing town of Nagano, and Tokyo 2019-2020 is in… well, Tokyo again. Each season offers something new and is ideal binge-watching material.

Lockdown woes

Though a bunch of new episodes for Terrace House 2019-2020 just released, the show officially stopped filming last week as Japan went into lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus. Japan was seemingly in control of the pandemic, but the country has since declared a nationwide state of emergency today (April 16), which means schools and the majority of businesses will be closed until at least May 6.

We’ve already seen how Netflix has been impacted by coronavirus in the west, with key shows such as Stranger Things season 4 and The Witcher season 2 on hold until further notice. Japan has also had to cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which came as a huge blow to the country. 

The good news for Terrace House fans is that we tend to receive episodes in the west that are many months behind when compared to Japan – the latest episodes that aired showed the housemates celebrating Christmas and New Year, for example. That means we should still be getting a few more instalments of whole-hearted Terrace House entertainment, but what the future holds after that is, unsurprisingly, unclear. As Terrace House has such a fluid format, though (housemates come and go quite regularly), it wouldn’t be too surprising to see this season end slightly earlier than expected.

A feel-good Netflix series, then, Terrace House is the perfect tonic for taking your mind off the current climate, and an uplifting reminder of a simpler time that hopefully isn’t too far away.

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