Producers at Fuji TV announced on Wednesday evening that its hit reality show “Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020” has been canceled following the death of one of its young stars, 22-year-old pro wrestler Hana Kimura.
A message on the official website read in part “We would like to express our sincere condolences for the death of Hana Kimura … We take the incident seriously and will continue to respond to it in a sincere manner.”
The show was already on hiatus due to the ongoing pandemic but several episodes were lined up to air in the coming weeks.
A large amount of cyberbullying has been cited as a possible cause of Kimura’s apparent suicide. Twitter users have shared screenshots of tweets calling her a “gorilla” and telling her to “hurry up and disappear.”
Kimura’s death has shocked Japan’s pop culture sphere and has ignited outrage from all corners of the nation’s entertainment industry, from singers and models to actors and athletes.
Pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu wrote online that “It’s hard not to focus on the negative comments. Please don’t forget that entertainers are people.”
YouTuber Daigo said that he will no longer take cyberbullying lightly and will be pursuing charges against people in the future. “Don’t show any mercy,” he wrote on Twitter. “In addition to compensation for damages, we should also send your comments to your employer.”
The passing of Kimura even inspired former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to make a statement against online harassment. “If you criticize someone, you should speak up using your real name,” Hatoyama said in a tweet. “I think there should be a serious punishment for such slander.”
The cancellation of “Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020” comes just as its popularity was blowing up in Japan and abroad. The show — which films three men and three women living their daily lives under the same roof — became a smash hit after it was picked up and streamed by Netflix to its 182 million subscribers. The online service said that “Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020” was its second-most watched program in Japan last year following “The Naked Director.”
The show garnered an enthusiastic following for its slow pace and for finding memorable moments in the ordinary. Instead of dramatic fights or hurled insults commonly seen on other reality programs, viewers were treated to its cast members attempting to cook carbonara or working on their university homework. “Schitt’s Creek” creator Dan Levy and Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon were just a few of the high-profile fans who praised the show online.
What started out as a TV program about young Japanese people living together and following their dreams quickly became a powerful springboard for aspiring models and athletes. During its five seasons and more than 270 episodes, “Terrace House” has spawned popular actors and influencers alongside those who exited the show just as they entered it — as regular Japanese citizens.
Standout members include “Aloha State” castmate Lauren Tsai, an artist and actress who has since worked with Marvel Comics and starred in the TV series “Legion,” as well as singer Chay who has released a dozen singles over her musical career. There have been a number of former members who have tried to create their own fashion lines as well as those who use their Instagram accounts to hawk sponsored merchandise. Some have attempted to use the spotlight for good, including “Opening New Doors” member Shunsuke Ikezoe who used his screen time to normalize LGBT relationships on television.
While there has been plenty of success, there have been several black eyes for the show over the years. In 2018, the tabloid Shukan Bunshun accused past members of sexual harassment on set. And many viewers have become concerned over the years as to how “Terrace House” depicts consent among its female cast members, which often puts them into uncomfortable situations.
There has also been plenty of criticism of how the reality show often uses its half-Japanese stars. Some fans online have said that producers bring them on the show just because they seem “exotic” but never give them the platform to talk about any social issues regarding living in Japanese society.
The ripple effects of Kimura’s death may go beyond the cancellation of “Terrace House,” however. Communications minister Sanae Takaichi said now is the time to strengthen Japan’s laws against cyberbullying. “It’s necessary to properly implement procedures to disclose information on senders in order to curb online abuses and rescue victims,” she said at a news conference on Tuesday.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 119 in Japan for immediate help. The TELL Lifeline is available for those who need free and anonymous counseling at 03-5774-0992. You can also visit them at telljp.com. For those in other countries, visit www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html for a detailed list of resources and assistance.