TV

Yuki Kimura may have struck out on ‘The Bachelor Japan,’ but she won the people’s rose

by Naomi Schanen

Contributing Writer

On the first episode of the reality dating series “The Bachelor Japan,” 25 women took turns stepping out of a limousine, walking down a red carpet and introducing themselves to their potential future husband.

The women timidly approached the bachelor, Hirotake Kubo, 35, in long evening dresses, keeping a courteous distance from him as they introduced themselves. But Kubo’s polite smile turned into a raised eyebrow and nervous giggling when Yuki Kimura came marching up to him.

That was the moment “Yukipoyo” came into our lives (“poyo” is a cute sound in Japanese similar to the word “boop”). Wearing a mini — and I mean mini — white poofy dress and stiletto heels, over-the-top makeup and voluminous light brown hair, the 20-year-old confidently went in for a hug with Kubo and consequently stole the show.

“He was friendly and very attractive, but unfortunately he was pretty short,” Kimura, now 21, says with a laugh. “In my heels, we were the same height.”

Fans of “The Bachelor” cited Kimura as the Japanese show’s breakout personality after she appeared on the internationally minded “The Bachelor Winter Games” earlier this year.

She didn’t win the hearts of bachelors on either show, but she has definitely won the hearts of the Bachelor Nation.

So what’s her type? Kind, handsome and tall. But she says the reason she joined the show in the first place was because things just never go right with the men she usually dates.

“Up until then, I’d never been with a good man, they would all get arrested,” she says, pouting her glossy pink lips. “I thought that the only way I’d be able to meet the right man — one who wouldn’t get arrested — was to join the show.”

Given the way she introduced herself to Kubo, you’d think Kimura would be perfectly confident in herself and what she wants, but she admits to being a nervous wreck the very first night on the show. Not having many female friends, she wasn’t sure whether she would fit in with the other bachelorettes. That’s not hard to believe: This was the inaugural season of “The Bachelor” in Japan and its American counterpart is always packed with drama.

“All the girls got along fine from the very start,” Kimura says, adding that it wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be. “To be honest, though, I was more nervous about meeting Kubo-rin.”

“Kubo-rin” is the adorable pet name she gave the bachelor while on the show. “I only knew his name and occupation, so I didn’t really know what to talk about at first. It was scary.”

The fear didn’t stop her, however. Despite the other contestants’ concerns that she was too young, or that she was not taking the show seriously enough, Kimura genuinely fell for Kubo. She dyed her hair black after learning he preferred a more natural look, and wrote him sweet little notes to express her feelings.

“I went into the show with absolutely no expectations,” Kimura says. “I just tried to enjoy myself and see what would happen.”

That being said, the youngest member of the show was sent home after what looked like a perfect shopping date in Bangkok, when she did not receive the coveted rose from Kubo to make the cut for the final four women.

“I was shocked; it was hard for me to accept that I had to go home,” she recalls. “To go from seeing him every day and living with the girls to going back to reality was difficult.”

Though she didn’t get the guy, Japanese fans were smitten and it didn’t take long for people overseas to take notice. During “The Bachelor Winter Games,” when bachelors and bachelorettes from all over the world — Germany, Australia, Sweden and more — gathered at a luxurious resort in Vermont and went head-to-head in winter-themed sport challenges, Kimura impressed audiences despite not speaking English as fluently as the other women on the show.

Her effort was noted in countless articles and blog posts in the overseas media, many of which came to her defense when she was sent home.

“It was a dream come true,” she says of her time on “The Bachelor Winter Games.” The language barrier didn’t stop her from making friends, but compared to the Japanese reality show’s tame and conservative production, “The Bachelor Winter Games” was a whole new, aggressive dating world.

“By the time I woke up from my nap on the second day, the house was full of couples and love was in the air,” she says. “I was so confused. What had I missed?”

When asked if she would do “The Bachelor” again, Kimura says she’d do it in a heartbeat. “Kubo was great but he was quite serious. If I were to do the show again, I want to fall in love with a dumb rich man — more of a playboy,” she says with a smile. “I want to meet someone more on my wavelength.”

Maybe she could meet her perfect match if the equally popular show “The Bachelorette” ever comes to Japan. Kimura says she would jump at the chance to be crowned the country’s first Japanese bachelorette.

“It would be so much fun! I’d really enjoy the power and feel like a princess,” she says, pushing her big curls back behind her ears.

In the meantime, though, Amazon Prime Video has announced that a second series of “The Bachelor Japan” will begin streaming on the service from May 25. The new bachelor is a 36-year-old IT executive named Rintaro Oyaizu, and instead of 25 women trying to win his heart, he will choose from among 20. Another change will be the addition of in-show commentary, which has proven popular on other Japanese reality shows. Thoughts will be provided by comedians Koji Imada, Shingo Fujimori and HKT48 idol group member Rino Sashihara.

Kimura has some advice for the women competing for love in the new series.

“Girls, go into it with everything you’ve got. The pain of being sent home is honestly all too real, so make sure you don’t have any regrets,” she says. “Do everything you have to do and say everything you have to say. Don’t shy away — be open from the start and let your heart fall in love.”

As a woman who has parlayed what could have been 15 minutes of fame into a sizable fan base, however, Kimura may want to offer another piece of advice: Even if you don’t get that rose, your fairy tale may just be beginning.

Season 2 of “The Bachelor Japan” begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on May 25. Check out Yuki Kimura’s Instagram account: @poyo_ngy. The first series of the show can be streamed at www.amazon.co.jp/bchr.