Last year during the start of the pandemic, I did what any average person would do. I binged watched the hell out of Netflix. Started out with some Fyre Festival drama, then indulged in the spectacle that was Tiger King. Eventually my boyfriend and I decided to explore the Japanese reality series called, “Terrace House.”
Over the past few years, I’ve heard friends talk about Terrace House and the seemingly innocent interactions between college aged, young adults coming into age, and “finding love”. Personally, I stayed away from watching reality television after the mid 2000’s as it became all too staged for me. But seeing as my boyfriend and I had all this extra time indoors, why not give it a chance?
At first my boyfriend wasn’t too sold on it. Me on the other hand, I soon became invested. It was like watching a fresher, less gritter version of what MTV’s Real World series has devolved to. The rotating cast of 6 members, always consisting of 3 women and 3 men, kept interactions fresh. If there was the slightest tinge of drama the matters seem to be resolved within an episode or two. Usually concluding with a favorable outcome.
The backdrop of interactions between six fresh faced strangers was always backed by the infamous panel of hosts, who mainly consisted of: comedian, Ryota Yamasota, model/actress, Reina Triendl, comedian, Yoshimi Tokui, and actress You. Their commentary would usually come in before, after, and in-between segments, similarly to Big Brother. It easily became one of my favorite parts of the show, and what lead my boyfriend to eventually become invested in the series.
As I naturally whizzed through the seasons, I eventually caught up to the most recent adaptation of the show, Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020. This one was particularly intriguing as it was the first time the cast would feature a professional female wrestler in the second half of its premier season.
Hana Kimura, 22 years- old, was a rising star in the Japanese wrestling circuit. The only daughter of her mother, another professional wrestler, Kyoko Kimura, she was introduced to the sport at an early age. The identity of her father stayed largely shrouded in mystery, only known as being an Indonesian man. Kimura’s mixed heritage led to bullying during her childhood years.
Hana and her mother Kiyoko Kimura
Despite the discrimination, Kimura, quickly rose through the professional ranks. Eventually, in 2019 she was named leader of the newly formed wrestling faction Tokyo Cyber Squad. She made an even bigger name for herself the following year on January 4, 2020, being the part of the first women’s match in Tokyo Dome since 2002. Her final match would take place later on that year March 24th at Stardom’s Cinderella Tournament 2020, ending in a draw against her opponent.
Tokyo Cyber Squad
When Kimura made her debut on Terrace House, she was a bubbly, effervescent, force of nature. It was difficult not to be drawn to her positive attitude, signature bubblegum pink hair, and beaming smile. She easily made friends with her housemates and was excited to show the world of women’s wrestling. It was perhaps her unshakable sunny disposition that drove the production team behind the scenes to push the young athlete to her emotional limit.
I remember the episode that resulted to Kimura’s subsequent suicide quite vividly. People had cried and gotten emotional on the show before, but it was different this time. To the point, were at certain instances it was a bit uncomfortable to watch because you could see the pain in Kimura’s face. (Seen below in this clip here)
*Please note original audio was changed due to copyright*
The infamous, and recently discovered, staged scene took place between Kimura and fellow housemate, Kai Edward Kobayashi. Beginning with Kobayashi “accidentally” shrinking one of Kimura’s prized wrestling outfits and ending with an explosive confrontation between the two. Resulting in Kimura slapping Kobayashi’s hat off his head.
Episodes prior created tension between the two. Presenting Kobayashi as a slacker, wannabe comedian, with no direction and Kimura increasingly becoming upset with his lack of ambition.
It was this confrontation, that somehow heralded in an army of online trolls who cruelly began to cyberbully Kimura for her lack of ladylike restraint in the situation. The show soon went into hiatus as a result of the pandemic.
What happened next was absolutely heartbreaking. On May 23rd, 2020 Hana released a series of disturbing messages on her social media accounts depicting self-harm along with the numerous hate messages she had received.
Her last post seen here on Instagram along with her cat, reads:
“I love you, have a happy long life. Sorry.”
Kimura died shortly after in an apparent suicide involving hydrogen sulfide.
I remember seeing her post on Instagram that day in disbelief. It was so sad to comprehend that hateful words did this to one person who had such a bright future ahead. My views on any sort of reality television changed immensely after that day. I knew things were somewhat always fabricated for the sake of ratings. But the extent into which they pushed cast members into uncomfortable situations was shown to me through what happened with Hana.
In honor of her daughter, Kiyoko Kimura has been speaking to several media outlets in a push for Fuji TV and all production involved to take accountability for the suicide. Kiyoko has gone on record to state that her daughter expressed extreme distress over the situations that production has urged her to do. The incident with Kobayashi being one of them.
You can view a translated interview with Kiyoko here.
*Learn more about the phenomenon of "yarase" here: https://t.co/42W88RPtWV
In this article, to describe "yarase/yaraseru", I will switch between the terms, "staged" and "pressure from higher-ups" for clarity.
*Also, "LINE" is a popular messaging app in Japan.
— ･ﾟ:✧☽ƒarrah☾✧ :･ﾟ (@farrahakase) July 3, 2020
With the never-ending rise of social media and the disturbingly high rates of suicide that follow after cyberbullying, it isn’t an issue to be swept under the rug anymore. Hana’s death has received an outcry of support from fellow professional wrestlers, fans, and viewers like me.
It’s almost been a year this May since Kimura’s death. And the message is as clear as day: be kinder to one another.