Past Loves and Future Sex: Gender, Sexuality, and Romance in Japanese Reality Television

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Past Loves and Future Sex: Gender, Sexuality, and Romance in Japanese Reality Television
Stream: Gender & Sexuality
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Alexandra Hambleton, Tsuda University, Japan (organizer, presenter)
Lindsay Rebecca Nelson, Meiji University, Japan (presenter)
Elizabeth Rodwell, University of Houston, United States (presenter)


Many have written about the importance of television in Japan in the postwar period (see for example Shunsuke Tsurumi 1987; Jayson Makoto Chung 2007; Shunya Yoshimi 2014; Alisa Freedman 2017). What constitutes television today has shifted from decades past as multiple online platforms allow for increasingly diverse experiences to be represented on screen. Yet despite industrial and technological changes, television as a media form continues to play a significant cultural and iconographic role in Japan today. This panel examines Japanese reality television as a window through which to consider love, marriage, sex, relationships, and kinship in Japan. Yuki Nakayama examines the 1973 variety program Door to Marriage and argues that the program’s reliance on technology represents a marker of development at a time when postwar Japanese society was changing rapidly. Alexandra Hambleton discusses The Bachelor Japan as a modern fairytale with a twist in which women attempt use the program to create their own spin on the Cinderella tale. Lindsay Nelson analyses changing notions of masculinity in the sleeper hit Terrace House and the performance of progressive attitudes towards gender. Finally, Elizabeth Rodwell turns to the future to examine the gendered nature of user interface design through the example of interactive television event Bloody Tube. Taking multiple perspectives on the theme of Japanese reality television, this panel illuminates the multiple ways Japanese society grapples with notions of gender and sexuality, and the role television plays in representing and perhaps even pushing forward social change.