At the end of the first season of the reality dating series “The Bachelor Japan,” eligible bachelor Hirotake Kubo walked away with a beautiful new fiancee, an experience of a lifetime and a nation of supportive fans.
Where does he stand now? Well, two outta three ain’t bad.
While the love story didn’t last, Kubo, 35, still recalls his romantic reality TV journey with a big smile on his face.
“I had no idea what to expect when I first went in,” he says. “It was something Japan had never seen before. Jumping into the unknown was scary but also very exciting.”
TV shows such as “Terrace House” and “Ainori: Love Wagon” have amassed legions of fans but neither can hold a candle to the drama and scandal of “The Bachelor.” The show’s U.S. version, which wrapped up Season 22 in March, is incredibly popular and far racier. When Kubo first saw clips from it, he began to panic.
“It was insane, to say the least,” he confesses, adding that he didn’t think that show’s extremity would appeal to a Japanese audience. “I told them that I would only be a part of the show if they allowed me to do it my own way and not like the American version.”
Amazon Prime managed to bring him on board and on his first night on the show, 25 women took turns stepping out of limousines, making their way down a red carpet and introducing themselves to him.
“I was still expecting it to be like the American version, so I was worried that super tall blonde models would be piling out the limos,” he says, scratching his head in embarrassment. “I remember Ayumi-san was the first woman to come out and she was really cute and down-to-earth. She immediately made me feel relaxed and gave me the courage to carry on with the night.”
Being the bachelor isn’t all about glitz and glamour, though, it’s about tough decisions. In the end, Kubo knew he would have to choose one woman out of the 25.
“As soon as the cocktail party started on the first night and everything sank in, I started to worry whether I would really be able to pick just one girl,” he recalls.
Not many people can relate to the problems faced by a reality-show bachelor — except for IT executive Rintaro Oyaizu. The 36-year-old will be looking for love on the second season of “The Bachelor Japan,” which is streaming on Amazon Prime Video from May 25.
“I was a nervous wreck,” Oyaizu says about his first night on the show. “I felt like a teacher on the first day of school having to remember all my students’ names and faces. I was so worried about what I was going to say at the cocktail party, and I can’t remember anything I said that night. It was all such a blur.”
Unlike Kubo, who was approached by production to be the bachelor and had no competition, Oyaizu explains that his audition process was much more intense than he had anticipated. Not used to being in front of the camera, the thought of being filmed 24/7 was nerve-wracking, and if that wasn’t enough, he had to get time off work to be on the show.
“Was this adventure worth leaving work for two whole months?” he remembers asking himself. “Luckily, my bosses were very supportive and told me to go with my heart. But it was a lot to sacrifice. At the end of the day, I didn’t want to have any regrets and so I went for it.”
Kubo nods enthusiastically while listening to Oyaizu recall how anxious he was. They both agree, however, that the challenges they were faced with during the process are actually what made the whole experience memorable.
“I think the seriousness of the program and how genuine all the women were made this an experience that you can’t really get anywhere else. The show is a great place to find love,” Kubo says. “I’d go back and do it again for sure.”
Although the two ikemen (handsome guys) were both dressed to the nines in their fancy suits on the show, the pair are in fact very different from each other when it comes to personality.
Oyaizu says he has dated women of all types, but confesses that he likes a girl that plays games with him (in other words, a guy who seems made for reality TV).
“I kind of enjoy being played with a little,” he says. “But there needs to be a balance of playfulness with maturity.”
Oyaizu’s answer has Kubo staring at him wide-eyed before adding that he wants very much the opposite when it comes to love.
“I hate being played around with,” he says. “I want a girl that’s OK with me going around the house in just my underwear, looking my worst. I don’t want them to like me just for what I look like in a suit.
“And independence,” Kubo continues, to which Oyaizu nods in agreement. “If I were to die straight after we got married, I want a girl who’s strong enough to go on with life without me.”
Judging from the trailers for the second season of the show, fans are likely to get a more risque version of “The Bachelor Japan” with Oyaizu on board.
“I feel like my season had more ups and downs (than Kubo’s), as I often went with my emotions rather than my head,” Oyaizu says. “People will find that my season has a lot more unexpected turns, which may be a more enjoyable watch.”
Much was made of the women on the first season of “The Bachelor Japan” not being physical with Kubo. Well, get the wine ready because it looks like this will change for the second season.
“I don’t want my season to be compared to Kubo’s season. We’re two different people with different approaches to finding love,” Oyaizu explains. “I didn’t want to meet him until filming had finished so that I wouldn’t be influenced. I wanted to be myself.”
If there’s anything the two bachelors do see eye to eye on, it’s the actual dates. While Kubo’s most memorable date on the show was riding around on tuk-tuks in Thailand with Ai (his eventual ex-fiancee), Oyaizu’s favorite date involved watching the sunset and fireworks with one of the women while swimming in the waters off Okinawa.
“I’m a ¥300 beer date kind of guy,” Kubo says. “When you’re on ‘The Bachelor’ going on all these fancy dates, it’s hard not to feel a little nervous and unnatural. So when I was just able to be myself and got to know the girl, those were the dates I enjoyed the most.”
Whether the journey ends happily ever after or not, both Kubo and Oyaizu stress they wouldn’t change a thing with regards to making the decision to take part in the show. And to the future bachelors (and hopefully, bachelorettes!) of “The Bachelor Japan,” Oyaizu has one piece of advice.
“Be yourself and go with your heart,” he says. “Appreciate the fact that these women are here for you and that you’ve been given this amazing opportunity to find love. It will all be worth it.”
“The Bachelor Japan” begins streaming on Amazon Prime Video on May 25. The first series of the show can be streamed at www.amazon.co.jp/bchr.