Culture

5 Updates to Know About Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! Coming to Netflix Nov. 1

The U.S. got Marie Kondo’ed. Now, it’s time for Japan to get Queer Eye’ed. Arigato, Netflix!

By 5 min read

Netflix recently dropped the teaser to the new Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! special that will debut across the streaming platform on Nov. 1.

Though we’re still a month out, this is huge news for Queer Eye fans who have been anticipating its release since January when the cast of Queer Eye, aka the Fab Five, were spotted all over Tokyo.

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The new four-episode special follows Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, and Karamo Brown as they bring their message of self-care and compassion to four Japanese men and women while exploring Japan’s culture and cuisine.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the Emmy-Award-winning Queer Eye is a reboot show in its fourth season. Netflix Japan didn’t launch until September 2015, but since early 2018, more than 16.5 percent of Japanese residents use the streaming service, according to an article on Japan Today.

Here’s everything you should know before viewing the sure-to-be iconic episodes. Yassssssss!!!

1. Kiko Mizuhara and Naomi Watanabe get in on the fun

Substantive self-care is definitely something the hard-working people of Japan could benefit from. QE seems to have done a good job including Japanese pop culture icons in addition to the people the Fab Five will be helping, called “heroes.” The episodes will include appearances from actress and model Kiko Mizuhara, and comedian and fashion designer Naomi Watanabe.

David Collins, creator and executive producer of Queer Eye, said in a press release that they knew they needed “local tastemakers” to help guide the Fab Five to understand the unique traditions, customs, and trends while filming in Japan. (They filmed the episodes in January 2019.)

Mizuhara was one of the talents they were thrilled to be adding to the team.

“She not only understands the show but also has her finger on the pulse of all things culturally relevant in Japan,” Collins said.

Mizuhara’s appearance isn’t without controversy in Japan though as she’s recently come under fire for a photoshoot that some claimed was disrespectful to Japanese culture.

2. The Japanese teaser is way better than the English one

The teaser posted on Netflix’s Instagram in early September shows Mizuhara chatting up the boys, telling them to come over to Tokyo. Of course, they said, “Yassss!”

A more revealing teaser video was posted on the NetflixJP Instagram that offers a much better idea of what the special episodes will hold, with previews of the boys and Mizuhara walking the Shibuya Scramble and working with the “heroes” in their homes. (The highlight has to be France peeking out from a sliding shoji paper door and speaking Japanese with a rather spot-on inflection: Junbi wa dou?!)

3. Self-love will continue to be a big part of the Japan episodes

From what we can tell so far, self-acceptance will be as big a part of the Japan-based show as it is in the U.S.-based version.

The QE cast works with men and women who identify as both queer and straight. In a Netflix press release, Mizuhara said she was excited to show the boys around, admitting, “our cultures are so different” and that it may be challenging for the four “heroes” to feel comfortable being “open” in Japan.

Photo:
QE’s Tan France and Antoni Porowski in Season 4.

The Japanese trailer did give a sneak peek at the Japanese heroes on the show, and one man in the trailer says he doesn’t feel like his home is really his, while another middle-aged woman said she hadn’t taken a bath in three days—but that you can’t die from that. Looks like the Fab Five are needed more than ever.

It is still unclear as to why the Fab Five picked Japan out of anywhere in the world to do QE. (Or, more likely, why the producers chose it.) We contacted the Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! associate producer Erin McKeon for comment, but she said she couldn’t comment on it before the show airs.

4. Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! may help LGBT awareness grow in Japan

Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! comes at a time when LGBT awareness is at the highest it’s ever been (on record) in Japan. More than two-thirds of 60,000 respondents to an online survey ran by PR firm Dentsu Inc. were familiar with the acronym LGBT. That’s compared to just over 37 percent in 2015.

However, this awareness doesn’t necessarily equate to a deeper level of understanding of LGBT issues, which would also contribute to fighting biases and stereotypes. It’s still quite uncommon for LGBT Japanese people to be openly “out.” In fact, about 65 percent of LGBT respondents of the same survey said they had not told anyone about their sexuality and remain in the closet.

Tokyo Pride celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.

5. Queer Eye will contribute to queer representation in media in Japan

Not only are queer topics not often talked about but queer representation in mainstream media is also close to none. Although one recent example of representation is Shunsuke from Netflix’s reality show Terrace House coming out as bisexual, the QE show is considered to be more widely watched among Western viewers rather than mainstream Japanese viewers.

Alex Rickert, a queer culture writer for GaijinPot, said Queer Eye coming to Japan has potential positives and negatives in terms of gay representation in Japanese media.

“I’m sure there are plenty of gay celebrities in Japanese pop culture, but most of them stay pretty silent about their sexuality,” he wrote in an email.

Photo:
Shunsuke Ikezoe from Netflix reality series Terrace House: Opening New Doors.

Rickert said that mainstream representation of gay characters in Japanese media—excluding anime and manga—“generally consists of drag queens” such as Matsuko Deluxe.

“He (or she, in drag) represents a very spectacular version of homosexuality that doesn’t resonate with the lived experiences of most Japanese gay men,” he said.

He is hoping that Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! will offer viewers a deeper look into queer culture in Japan instead of potentially reinforcing the attitude that the LGBTQ movement is more of a “western import” to Japan, rather than coming from Japan itself.

With that said, we’re definitely hoping Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! will be, at the very least, a conversation starter where there wasn’t much of one before.

Netflix’s original series Queer Eye: We’re in Japan! will be available on Netflix worldwide on Nov. 1.

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