After three months of swaying this way and that, Rintaro Oyaizu was ready to make his decision. Just two out of the 20 female participants that started out in the second series of The Bachelor Japan remained: Nanako Oguchi, an assistant tax accountant from Yamanashi, and Kyoto-born illustrator Mami Kurata.
The pair had wooed the bachelor during the series, but with just one rose left, someone had to miss out. Following a brief, dramatic pause, Oyaizu gathered his thoughts and then called on Mami Kurata to collect the final flower. Moments later she was presented with an engagement ring.
“I didn’t have an answer until that final round,” Oyaizu tells TW. “Going on dates gave me the opportunity to get a better understanding of the ladies and each time I discovered something new about them which made things even harder. The most difficult choice was the last one. It was 50/50 until the end.”
Oyaizu’s predecessor Hirotake Kubo had a similarly tough decision on the first season of The Bachelor Japan, which proved a hit with Amazon Prime Video viewers. The second series has been spicier and arguably more gripping. The addition of the in-show-commentary provided by comedians Koji Imada, Shingo Fujimori and HKT 48 idol Rino Sashihara, has also been well-received.
The format is basically the same as in America, where the program debuted in 2002. The bachelor takes female candidates on luxurious dates, either one-on-one or in groups, and gives roses to those he wishes to remain. The series has had local versions in roughly 30 countries as well as numerous spinoffs such as The Bachelorette.
“Being on such a popular show was a fantastic opportunity for me,” says Oyaizu. “I’m a ‘you only live once’ kind of guy so I was never going to turn down joining the show. I watched the first Japanese season and was impressed with the way Kubo managed things. We’ve become good friends since, but I chose not to speak to him beforehand because I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone.”
First Night Nerves
The bachelor’s first task was to get to know the women in a short space of time as he had to eliminate five of the 20 participants by the end of the opening night. One by one the ladies greeted him on the red carpet before joining the welcome party. Some gave gifts, others showered him with praise and one sang to him. Kurata handed over a card with an animated portrait of herself alongside the words ‘choose me.’
“I tend not to judge people based on first impressions, but Rintaro did have a friendly aura about him and a beautiful smile,” gushes Kurata. “I was so nervous. Aside from the card, I didn’t have any strategy. While many of the girls approached the bachelor at the party, that whole evening I wasn’t sure what to do. My heart was pounding. Fortunately, I received a rose and things got easier after that.”
“I love creative people and was impressed with Mami’s presentation,” adds Oyaizu. “In the beginning some people are aggressive, trying to leave their mark on you. Mami was the opposite. She was humble and not flashy. It was interesting to see the different characters. My main task was trying to remember the names and who did what. I wanted to judge them all fairly.”
The Claws Come Out
Even with the best intentions, it’s not easy to be fair to everyone when they’re all vying for your attention. Oyaizu couldn’t share his time equally and this caused frustration for those who felt they were being ignored. As the series wore on, the battle for his affection intensified and the bad blood amongst some of the women increased, particularly after divisive figure Azusa Noda gave him a sexy oil massage in front of all the women.
“There was some hostility, but I didn’t get involved in any of that which probably sounds a bit boring,” says Kurata. “I focused on my own situation, not wanting to regret anything. There were times when I got jealous and I must admit I did wonder why he took so long to ask me out, but I grew to realize that not being chosen for a date also had meaning and wasn’t necessarily a negative thing.”
The one participant who didn’t seem phased when she saw rivals go on dates was model Ayaka Wakao. Dubbed “Lady Waka” by the commentators, she described herself early on as “super confident” and “on a higher level to the others,” and maintained her cocky swagger throughout. The kind of controversial character that all reality shows crave, she often criticized the way her fellow contestants looked, yet was always charming in front of the bachelor.
“During filming Waka-Sama was probably the most difficult person,” recalls Kurata while laughing. “In front of the cameras she has that air of invincibility, but when you get to know her you can see that she’s quite delicate. We get on really well now.”
Meeting the Parents
A strong candidate throughout, Wakao made it to the penultimate episode with Kurata and Oguchi. It was then time for the three women to meet and cook for Oyaizu’s parents.
“That was the most stressful time for me,” admits Oyaizu. “In the previous episode I met their families which I thought would be nerve-wracking but was actually lots of fun. Introducing the ladies to my parents was much tougher as it’s an unmanageable situation. I didn’t have a clue how they’d react.”
The dinner with Kurata appeared to go well. Mrs. Oyaizu was impressed with her cooking and general manner. The fact that she spoke with a Kyoto accent was an added bonus. After the meal, however, Mr. Oyaizu admitted he’d taken points off due to the fact that Kurata’s parents were divorced.
“I grew up in the States where it’s normal to get a divorce, but my father has a traditional Japanese way of thinking,” says Oyaizu. “That night I was drunk and angry, which led to me shouting out ‘I don’t give a ****’ in English. Of course, it’s important to listen to what your parents have to say. Ultimately, though, any decision about my future should come from me. I knew they would respect my choice.”
Kurata and Oguchi, who became close friends during the show, were selected to contest the final in Singapore. Oguchi was the one who set the bachelor’s heart racing, whereas Kurata was seen more as a potential future wife and that’s ultimately what swung the contest in her favor.
“The purpose of The Bachelor is to find a life partner, not just a short-term girlfriend,” declares Oyaizu. “I could imagine Mami being there for me at the worst of times, and I believe that’s what marriage is about. I thought long and hard while in Singapore. It was hard to say goodbye to Nanako because we had a special relationship. There were tears from everyone. I was surprised how much I cried during the process. It’s not something I do in everyday life. It was interesting to discover new aspects about myself.”
Since filming finished Oyaizu has been focusing on his work at the venture capital firm Cyber Agent. For several months he wasn’t allowed to be seen in public with Kurata. Now, he says, it feels like they’re starting their lives together again. Kurata’s just as excited about their future and plans to join Oyaizu in Tokyo soon. Applying for The Bachelor Japan changed her life for the better, and that’s something she’s extremely grateful for.
“There were ups and downs and some embarrassing moments, but overall the experience was amazing,” concludes Kurata. “For anyone thinking about trying for the next season I’d say go for it, and if you’re selected enjoy yourself. The more fun you have the more chance you’ve got of receiving those roses.”
The Bachelor Japan Season 2 streamed on Amazon Prime Video in May. Season 3 is in the works and the show is currently accepting applications for a new bachelor and female participants. More info at www.bachecast.jp