Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
If you have any connection to Japan, you’ve at least heard of the hit reality TV show, Terrace House. If you haven’t, I have no doubt you live under a rock.
I can describe Terrace House in two paradoxical words: dramatically mundane. It’s fascinating to watch because unlike most reality shows, the cast is generally nice and courteous to one another. They don’t get trashed and have one-night stands with anything with a beating heart. It’s just six people living the human experience, and we’re sitting on our couches watching it all unfold. The everyday motions depicted on the show are what make it so relatable and addicting.
The everyday motions depicted on the show are what make it so relatable and addicting.
Terrace House has graced us with five seasons full of house meetings, awkward dates, and everyday dramas, some much more worth the time investment than others. Want to jump into the series but don’t know where to start? We’ve ranked the seasons from best to worst just for you.
1. Tokyo – Boys and Girls in the City (2015)
Leading the pack at number one is the first Tokyo season, Boys and Girls in the City. This season gained instantaneous popularity after being the first to be streamed on international Netflix.
Hands down, Boys and Girls in the City is the perfect depiction of what Terrace House is. Admittedly, I am a bit biased because this is where I began my forever romance with the show, but for good reason. It’s such a feel-good season—we see deep connections develop over time (cue Arman and every other member in the house) and that’s evident when members leave the house. Rather than simple goodbyes, they exchange sweet farewells, cards plastered with photos and handwritten messages, and genuine tears are shed.
This season also reveals what it’s like to live, work, and date as a young Japanese adult in modern Japan, while also trying to maintain traditional Japanese standards. For example, the desirable young Japanese woman should be pure and inexperienced when it comes to dating and sexual relations.
Unfortunately for the youngest member of the season, Riko, her desperation in trying to preserve that image for viewers led her to have a relationship behind closed doors with wannabe chef, Hayato. On camera, Riko reiterated that she would never even hold hands with someone who wasn’t her boyfriend and Hayato went as far as to say he viewed Riko as a younger sister #cringe. But when you’re living under the same roof with four other people who witness shadiness when the cameras aren’t rolling, it’s only a matter of time before they were exposed during a house meeting.
This season also brings us the most iconic and always-talked-about moment in Terrace House history, “The Meat Incident.” This proved to the rest of the world that Japan’s cuisine really is so delicious that tears are worth shedding when someone consumes all of your premium hidagyu beef (we feel for you, Uchi).
2. Hawaii – Aloha State (2016)
Runner-up is the only season to have taken place outside of Japan, 2016’s Aloha State which was filmed in Hawaii.
Drop-dead gorgeous members? Check. The kira-kira (sparkly) season of the bunch, I’m convinced you had to meet two of the following four requirements to get on the show: 1) You were insanely good-looking, 2) You could speak at least conversational Japanese 3) You had an exceptionally cool job 4) You were half Japanese.
This season introduced us to stunning model Lauren Tsai, professional surfer Guy Sato aka Pooh-san, and the actor who doesn’t let us forget he went to Hollywood, Taishi Tamaki aka The Guilty Samurai.
The closest we’ll get to an American reality TV show, Aloha State showcased a healthy serving of sassy American flare. Many of the members were raised with American influence so their ideas and values didn’t always align with some of the Japan-raised members. It’s not just drama—it dives into an environment where two cultures collide.
The heated argument between Taishi and Cheri is one perfect example. Taishi has a more community mindset and feels Cheri needs to show more respect for the other housemates, while Cheri carries a more independent mindset and feels like everyone around her needs to get with her program.
When he was torn between two women, he pulled out his trusty wooden sword and contemplated his next move while slashing the air by the poolside.
Taishi is the undisputed star of the season. Despite being so over the top (I’m sure I would have hated living with him), he made the season. Honestly, just skip through the episodes and watch the ones he’s in and you’ll be satisfied.
Right from the get-go, he unapologetically proclaimed his reason for appearing on the show was to find his shinuhodo no koi (love worth dying for) and followed through on his word. He went after every girl that stepped foot in the house to investigate whether she was the one for him. When he was torn between two women, he pulled out his trusty bokutou (wooden sword) and contemplated his next move while slashing the air by the poolside. Thus, The Guilty Samurai was born.
3. Shonan – Boys and Girls Next Door (2012)
A lot of people are actually unaware that this season even exists but this is the true OG season of Terrace House. Unfortunately, it’s only available on Netflix Japan.
Honestly, all you need to know about this season is that it’s the one that birthed the Terrace House legend, Seina Shimabukuro. The queen of drama, ultimate lover of wine, and puppet master of countless relationships inside the house, Seina undoubtedly left her mark in Terrace House history. Seina, alone, lands this season spot number three in our ranking system.
4. Karuizawa – Opening New Doors (2017)
Karuizawa was another twist in setting. Rather than a beautiful beach or bustling city, this season took place in a rural area of Nagano Prefecture, surrounded by vast, breathtaking mountains.
How did Karuizawa land itself as number four on our list? I stopped watching this show halfway through because it was honestly just boring. While the mundane quality of Terrace House is what makes the show special, the other seasons at least had relationships developing over time that kept me emotionally invested. This one, not so much.
The producers probably thought the same thing because they brought back the legend, Seina, to light a fire under some of the bums living in the house. Great move on their part because she did just that.
This season wasn’t all bad though—it produced one of the most adorable and unsuspecting couples in Terrace House history, Shion and Tsubasa. I say unsuspecting because according to Japan’s relationship ideals, Shion and Tsubasa aren’t what you would call a match made in heaven. It was specifically Tsubasa who went against all beauty standards for Japanese women. She never bothered with makeup or doing her hair, and instead dedicated her time to perfecting her ice hockey skills. Leave it to Terrace House to prove that it’s not always looks that help you land the guy.
This season is also noteworthy for casting one of the first LGBT members in all of Terrace House history. While Shunsuke didn’t appear on the show for long, he came to discover his sexual identity after developing a crush on another housemate who he knew he would never be with (because he was straight). Nevertheless, he left a deep imprint on the show.
Tokyo 2019-2020 premiered on May 14, 2019, but the production of further episodes came to a halt due to COVID-19. The show later resumed airing episodes that were filmed before the pandemic but was once again suspended after the death of Hana Kimura.
It pains me to say this but the much anticipated Tokyo 2019-2020 season was somewhat of a disappointment. In addition to producing one of the most devastating events in all of Terrace House history (Hana’s death), right from the get-go, there was a lot of product placement (Peppe, Haruka, and their random obsession with Pokemon?). It was also pretty obvious that most of the members who entered that house were there to promote themselves and their business (we’re looking at you Kenny Spicy Sol). None of that is in the spirit of Terrace House.
On top of multiple members who were obviously on the show for ingenuine reasons, Shohei’s lowkey softcore porn scene hit us like a ton of bricks. I’m surprised that it even aired because when I say softcore porn, that’s exactly what I mean. I was uncomfortable, to say the least.
It was also pretty obvious that most of the members who entered that house were there to promote themselves and their business…
The show gained some traction once professional athletes, Ryo Tawatari, Hana Kimura, and glowing model Violetta “Vivi” Razdumina joined the cast. We also got to see some long-awaited romances, even a love triangle, between some of these members. Unfortunately, one romance plummeted after a trip to Kyoto and didn’t come back, Hana and Kai. It was their heated altercation that was arguably the most intense moment of the season but also resulted in an endless wave of cyber-bullying for Hana which contributed to her death.
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I have one more tribute for @hanadayo0903 that I plan on doing, but it will have to wait for now. We love and miss you Hana. I hope everyone at @we_are_stardom see these flowers and remember you. I hope you look down and see these flowers, and it brings a smile to your face. We will never forget you. #WeLoveYouHanaKimura #RIPHana #FlowersForHana 予定している @hanadayo0903 へのもう1つのトリビュートがありますが、今は待つ必要があります。ハナが大好きです。 @wwr_stardom の全員がこれらの花を見て、あなたのことを覚えていることを願っています。見下ろして、これらの花を見てください。それはあなたの顔に笑顔をもたらします。私たちは君を決して忘れません。 #WeLoveYouHanaKimura #RIPHana #FlowersForHana
If there is anything to be gained from this season, it is to be kind. Cruel words can leave invisible scars that last a lifetime. No one knows the entirety of someone’s life and their story. Share a compliment. And just be kind.
Do you agree with our Terrace House rankings? If not, let us know why in the comments.