Terrace House: Your Next Binge

A classic Terrace House scene: group dinner.

Interested in improving your Japanese and watching reality tv at the same time? Terrace House has you covered. Beginning in 2012, the Terrace House series quickly gained international attention for its ‘calm and relaxed atmosphere’–uncommon on most reality tv show franchises. It’s even been described as a “reality show for people who hate reality shows”

The premise is deceivingly simple, three women and three men (in their 20s) are provided with a nice house and two cars to share. For the duration of their time in the house, cast members consent to their lives being filmed, in their day-to-day life. There are no “challenges” or “games” as in similar reality shows. The drama isn’t raunchy, but more reminiscent of muted romances and miscommunications between six young strangers living in a house. Some members leave the show after a few weeks, others stay for months. When one member leaves, a new member will be added to the house. People of all different professions and occupations have lived in the house, and many join the show ‘looking for love’. 

A couple that formed through Terrace House, Boys & Girls in the City.

For students interested in learning Japanese, Terrace House is a great resource. For those beginning their Japanese studies, English subtitles can be added. Terrace House also features a lot of casual Japanese, along with semi-formal Japanese, a helpful distinction for those hoping to learn the language. As I watched the show, I quickly picked up on filler words, short introductory phrases, and less textbook-driven ways of speaking Japanese. Cultural norms can also be picked up on by watching the show– important for foreigners eventually hoping to visit the country.

The show also films its series in different areas, each with a handful of seasons. Two series are set in Tokyo and many scenes show cast members exploring different parts of the city. Other series are set in the Shōnan area, the Nagano prefecture, and a special series that took place in Honolulu, Hawaii. I particularly enjoyed the seasons set in Tokyo because it helped familiarize me with different parts of the city, especially those frequented by twenty-somethings.  

Terrace House: Aloha State featured cast members hoping to learn both Japanese and English.

Each season is also completely different from the last, with an entirely new cast. My favorite season I watched yet was the final season, Terrace House: Tokyo 2019–2020. This season eventually got cut short by the pandemic. All series are available on Netflix!