The Weird World of Terrace House

If you haven’t already heard of Terrace House, where have you been? (Probably not at home binge watching Netflix, that’s for sure.) However, if this is the case, allow me to enlighten you. Terrace House is a Japanese reality show (stay with me) where six strangers live together in a house. That’s it. No rules, no games, no eliminations. Just six strangers living together under the watchful eye of big brother. Oh, and a panel of six commentators who comment on and criticize each and every of the housemates’ moves. Casual. The juxtaposition between the housemates and the commentators is surreal; one minute you’re immersed in an argument, a first date, a party; and the next you’re transported to a Netflix office where another six people dissect and inspect the decisions, words and even tone of the housemates. They attempt to explain their behaviour, predict their next move, and make sense of the dynamics within the house. The result is an insight into human interaction; not only do we see how people interact with one another, but we also get to witness an outside perspective on these interactions. It gets a lot deeper than you’d think a Japanese reality show would.

A core element of the show, especially as Western viewers, is the Japanese culture. Watching people communicate in a different language, with different social rules, customs and mannerisms is eye opening. It’s also interesting when they find something rude that would be totally acceptable over here, and vice versa. The show has also made me want to visit Tokyo. Seriously, this show should coming with a content warning: may cause wanderlust.

Terrace House is equal parts entertaining and compelling. Not only do you get hooked on the developing friendships, relationships and occasional animosity, it is fascinating to see behaviour so closely investigated and explained, and then to see how the housemates react to this criticism. Did I mention that the housemates also watch every new episode as it comes out? This is far from a Japanese version of Big Brother or Made in Chelsea. It’s weird, but it allows the housemates to see how they come across, and to rectify their behaviour if needed.

If this show sounds odd, it’s because it is. It’s unlike any British or American reality show, for all the right reasons. It’s true that some of the housemates are models or actors, looking for exposure, but the majority of them have real, down to earth jobs, that won’t gain anything from being on the show. The housemates are also free to leave the show whenever they please, which means housemates come and go, resulting in ever changing dynamics and relationships. Basically, it’s a reality show in its purest form; it’s not about fame or celebrity culture, it’s about how we, as humans, interact with one another. And how we, as humans, react to this interaction.

If you give this show a go, I’m warning you now, it’s addictive. With Netflix’s first season boasting a huge 46 episodes, it’s a serious time investment. But so worth it. You might even pick up a few key Japanese phrases. Kanpai!

Terrace House: Boys and Girls in the City is available on Netflix.