Go-Go-Gaijin: More Real Than Reality TV

I despise reality TV. I like documentary styled shows, but all the people who whore their kids out for money, the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and Jersey Shore can jump in a rocket and broadcast their talent forsaken programs on some other planet for all I care. This is where Japanese TV is a big winner for me, because reality TV, in the American sense, pretty much doesn’t exist here. But recently I stumbled upon a show that was so real it was hard to keep me away from the TV for the month the special aired. Every Wednesday I was on the couch watching Sekai Waraeru! Journal! as the show tried to marry off one of its regulars to any girl who would have him. True story.

While I don’t hate the show, Sekai Waraeru! Journal! is not one of my favorites, either. It is a show about the real-life comedy and happenings in police reports and news shows, where maybe a guy breaks in to a woman’s house but leaves his wallet in her bathtub during the escape and then goes and asks to have it returned, leading to his arrest (last week’s episode). Or some of the regulars will reenact a story if there is no footage, afterward discussing their experiences and opinions pertaining to the episode. It’s something to watch while you are cooking dinner or waiting for housemates to get home, which is precisely what I was doing in late June when the show suddenly went in a different direction.

In the last ten minutes of the show, the host, Taichi Kokubun (of the band TOKIO) randomly turned to the group of regulars and asked comedian Tarou Yabe, a skinny guy with a big head and timid personality, “So Yabe, how are things? You still single?” Yabe, who is always a nervous wreck to the point that I have no idea how he got into show business, fidgeted and said “Well, yes, but I’m really hoping I will meet someone soon.” “If you did, would you marry them?” “Uh, y-yes, if they accepted me.” “Would you marry them, like, this year?” “…yes… I’d like to get married, I’m 33 years old and, well, I would if I could.” Suddenly, the host plays a special video clip showing Yabe’s home, discussing how much he makes a year, with Kokubun taking the cameras to a wedding reception hall where he paid, in cash, for a July 29th reservation in Tarou Yabe’s name! When Yabe saw the video he was clearly confused, and when he chose to bring up that he wasn’t even seeing anyone, Kokubun turned to the camera and said, “If any of you ladies out there have seen our program and would like to marry Tarou Yabe of the comedy group Karateka, please send your name, number and photo and we’ll put you on the list of possible suitors for Yabe, who will in the next few weeks choose his bride on this very TV show!”

Tarou Yabe on Sekai Waraeru! Journal!

"I'm getting what?"

The rest of the regulars had clearly been left out of the loop during preparations, because they all looked to each other for an explanation as an equally confused Yabe was brought to the center of the stage, where a table and group of journalists and photographers were wheeled out before him. Kokubun smiled as he informed Yabe it was time for the press conference. A reporter asked Yabe when he had officially decided to get married, and he looked around him as he responded, “Well, about three minutes ago.” When he once again asked if the network was serious, Kokubun said he had the receipt for the reception hall and that there would be a hefty cancellation fine if Yabe backed out. In other words, this was real.

Now, before I continue, it should be known that as far as anyone can tell, Yabe’s jittery act is anything but an act. Here is a YouTube video of him just talking about the Fantastics musical.

Constantly fidgeting with his clothes, timid voice, and just by looking at him you know he probably can’t lift more than thirty pounds. I remember seeing him previously on a show featuring attractive women, and he kept touching his hand to his crotch when one spoke to him. Rather than thinking he was covering a sudden “growth”, it was more like watching a toddler with a nervous tic. According to his comedy group Kareteka’s Wikipedia entry ,he stands at 158 cm tall and weighs 39 kg. That’s approximately the size of your average middle school girl. He’s cute in a weird way, maybe in a Gremlins sort of “cute but I wouldn’t have sex with it” way. Apparently when they had a porn star try to seduce him as a joke on another TV show, he nearly fainted and began panicking. His hobbies include studying Chinese characters and chewing his food properly, and supposedly he can speak Ki-Swahili. From my own observations, I’d like to suggest that Tarou Yabe may, in fact, be a 33-year-old virgin in the purist form possible. I personally wasn’t expecting too many women to write in to the show, since women here aren’t fame whores like they are in LA.

I was surprised when the next week the show announced that 200+ women had sent in their information for the bride hunt. Yabe then selected almost 60 women to interview, until finally, on July 28th, one day before his wedding and nearly a month since the whole ordeal had begun, the program announced that Yabe had narrowed his choice down to five girls. Three of the girls were close to his age, but one was only 20 and one was in her forties with a 24-year-old son, but Yabe decided to keep an open mind and go out on a date with them anyway, just to make sure. A woman named Suzuki who was 32 and level-headed took Yabe to an art museum, and she really stood out to me because though he was nervous, she was very gentle and easy to talk to. They ended up trying on rings after the date, before Yabe moved on to the next girl. One girl in her late 20’s was a seasoned traveler and had lived abroad, and she was friendly and easy to talk to and got Yabe to cross his comfort zone a few times. Another girl who I had thought had a chance made the strange decision to have him meet her family at her yakitori restaurant, where she assured him that if he decided to get out of comedy he’d have a future in grilling chicken. For timid Yabe, meeting the aggressive father on the first date was probably a bit much. I laughed out loud when he went on a date with the 40-something, who wanted to cook for him, but she ended up treating him more like her son than her possible husband, snapping at him when he couldn’t find the right spoon or utensil. She made it very clear that she was the one who wore the pants in her family—and just to be catty, I’d like to say that a middle-aged woman should never wear sexy hippie clothes to show how “young and hip” she is. The final girl he dated was the 20 year old, who had plans to go to college to be a research assistant. Yabe kept saying “I think you’re a bit young for me,” but the girl responded with “It’s okay because I love you.” It was creepy. She was okay looking at first, but she spoke very slowly, as if she were reading cue cards, and I’m pretty sure she has very little experience with men because everything she said and did was awkwardly forward and gave me chills. For their date, she thought a grown man would like to go to a Moomin themed café. Moomin, for those of you who don’t know, is this. I figured he would go with either the first or second girl, but was afraid he’d choose the Moomin girl simply because Japanese men love younger women. I was on the edge of my seat– this was being aired one day before his wedding date, and suddenly the program switched to live broadcast mode to announce which girl he’d chosen. OMG GUYZ SRSLY!!!

On live TV, Yabe stood outside the chapel with a female announcer and one of his self-proclaimed “marriage mentors”, where Yabe stood in a tuxedo shaking with nervousness as the woman announced, “We’re on LIVE television, the day before the ceremony, here to announce who Yabe has chosen! Was it a hard decision?” Yabe was sweating like a pig and visibly shaken and confused. He nodded over and over like he didn’t know what to say, so the announcer then asked the soon-to-be bride to make her appearance. “Let’s welcome Yabe’s future bride!” The camera panned over to the sidewalk and Kaera Kimura’s song “Butterfly”, which is the new unofficial-official wedding song in Japan, began to play. After a while the camera panned back over to the three, who asked Yabe some more questions as they stretched for time. The announcer tried again: “Okay, let’s see that bride!” The music kept playing, but the bride never showed up. The woman announcer started looking around confused, and the friend, who I don’t think realized what was happening, tried to make it sound like she was going to parachute down to them or something. “Oh no! What’s going on! What is this?!” but was smiling, kind of looking around as if he was waiting for some kind of cue. The announcer, though, was NOT smiling, and Yabe’s eyes went wide. “Where is she?” The announcer looked off camera and was like “Uh– uh– that’s all the time we have for today! Um, Yabe, which girl did you choose?” “What? Uh, I chose Suzuki, but–” “Okay, well, see you next week!” and then the camera suddenly shut off.

OH. MY. GOD. Screw you The Bachelor, this is crazy good entertainment, and I was totally worried about poor Yabe. Did he just get dumped on national television, live, on air? The next day I was all over the Internet trying to find news reports, and I wasn’t the only one. Other viewers were asking if this had been faked, if he’d been stood up, and which one Suzuki had been. And while I was pleased with his choice—the nice girl from the art museum date—why had she stood him up? It’s not like she didn’t know what was going on when she signed up for this.

Well, according to this article, the producer and Yabe went to meet with Suzuki immediately after the broadcast, and as it was revealed on last week’s August 5th episode, Suzuki had wondered how serious anyone really was about the whole thing, including Yabe. Yabe had also had his doubts about getting married to someone he had barely known, but he was under pressure from the network to go through with the whole ordeal. And while the article says they are dating, Yabe himself said on the show that they were “mail buddies” for now. He added, “Just this morning, she texted me to do my best today on the shoot!” He went from not knowing this woman, to being engaged, to becoming mail buddies with her, and all the other regulars on the show just shrugged and patted him on the back. I guess you gotta start somewhere, and mail buddies is a little more logical than starting with a wedding. I have to wonder, though, if things would have gone down similarly if he had chosen any of the other women… but in a way, it shows he chose a woman with good sense. Not enough sense to stay out of the bride hunt entirely, but enough sense not to risk embarrassing herself with a TV marriage.

It was an exciting few weeks, but now that the show has gone back to being footage from American cop shows and newspaper article reenactments, I think I’ll find another show to pass the time on Wednesdays at least until the network chooses to crush the soul of another disposable minion. Yabe, good luck to you. Maybe someday you’ll find the perfect woman (and don’t you text that creepy Moomin girl!).

Posted on August 9, 2010 at 04:38 by Brooke Stephenson · Permalink
In: Uncategorized