Searching for love on the reality TV series “The Bachelor Japan,” a record number of women have already applied for the show’s third season, set to stream on Amazon Prime Video later this year. Bosses at the paid subscription service will no doubt be hoping for more of the same regarding viewing figures following the success of last year’s series, which finished with IT executive Rintaro Oyaizu proposing to illustrator Mami Kurata.
For contestant Nanako Oguchi, however, it was a case of what might have been. The then-trainee accountant made it to the final two with Oyaizu revealing that she had “set his heart racing” more than anyone else. In the end, though, he didn’t see her as a prospective wife.
“I was heartbroken,” Oguchi, 28, tells The Japan Times in English. “It all happened so fast. You’re on this amazing adventure and suddenly it’s over. I wasn’t ready. Mami was the person I’d gotten closest to during the series, so I was effectively saying goodbye to a good friend and a potential boyfriend at once. I was then quickly taken away in the limousine before spending the night on my own at the hotel drinking wine.”
Despite the disappointment, the Yamaguchi Prefecture native has no regrets about taking part in the show, describing it as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” A big fan of the original American series, she decided to audition for Japan’s version after some encouragement from her sister.
“To be honest I didn’t need much convincing,” says Oguchi. “It was time for a change. My ex-boyfriend dumped me a year earlier and I basically had no social life as I was either working or studying. Watching the first series with (bachelor Hirotake) Kubo, it looked exciting. I felt I could do it, enjoy myself and, who knows, possibly find love. At the very least I was hoping for a date. It had been a while since my previous one!”
“The Bachelor” begins with 20 female contestants stepping out of a limousine one by one to greet the man they hope to win over. There’s then a cocktail party during which time the ladies do their best to try and grab his attention. During the rose ceremony that follows, 15 women are handed a flower while the remaining five have to say their farewells.
“Like everyone, my biggest fear going into it was being sent home on the first night,” says Oguchi. “I tend to drink a lot when I get nervous, so I got pretty drunk. At the party, everyone was friendly on the surface, but you know deep down that they’re sizing up the opposition like frenemies. The goal for us all is to get a rose. The ceremony’s very nerve-wracking. You’re just waiting for your name to be called. It was such a relief when I heard mine, I could barely speak.”
As the series progresses, the bachelor goes on luxurious dates with the ladies, sometimes one-on-one, other times in a group. Oguchi was often the envy of her fellow contestants as Oyaizu regularly chose her to go out with while they were left to twiddle their thumbs at the communal house.
“I was quite fortunate in that sense,” Oguchi says with a smile. “My favorite date was the last one when I got to spend a full day with Rintaro in Singapore. Being on the Ferris wheel overlooking the city was incredibly romantic. It was just how I had pictured the ideal ‘Bachelor’ date and it was undoubtedly my highlight.”
And her worst experience? “That would be any time I wasn’t called for a date,” she says. “It was always so frustrating. You just spend the time with the others wondering about what might be happening. Rintaro’s feeling would sway this way and that. You never properly knew what was going through his head and sometimes I thought I would be leaving.”
The show’s commentators would likely disagree. Comedians Koji Imada and Shingo Fujimori, as well as HKT48 pop idol Rino Sashihara, all saw her as a strong contender throughout due to the rapport she built up with Oyaizu. According to Oguchi, however, this close bond between them didn’t necessarily work in her favor as she felt their dates were becoming too casual toward the end.
“I heard Rintaro had intimate conversations with some of the girls, but there was never anything like that with me,” she says. “We always enjoyed ourselves, but it was starting to feel like a friendship more than anything else. In the episode before he was due to meet our parents, I wanted to test his true feelings. We were at a bar together and I put him on the spot. On reflection, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.”
When the program finished, Oguchi decided to escape from it all with a two-month vacation in Thailand and Malaysia. She’s currently in China after having moved there a few months ago to study Mandarin. She’d eventually like to start her own business, bringing Chinese tourists to Japan.
Oguchi says she rarely thinks about “The Bachelor” these days, though she did have a nostalgic look back at the show a month or so ago. While watching, she noticed that Oyaizu and Kurata had a “deeper emotional connection,” and was therefore surprised to hear the news that, like Kubo and Ai Aokawa a year earlier, they’d already broken up.
Will bachelor No. 3, Shinya Tomonaga, have more luck? The third season is expected to air in autumn and Oguchi is already looking forward to it.
“I don’t think there are any other programs like it in Japan,” she says. “You have all these women aggressively pursuing one guy who then have to face the possibility of getting dumped in front of everyone. It’s intense and severe, but also lots of fun.”
“The Bachelor Japan” is available for streaming via Amazon Prime Video.