The 'Shibuhara Girls' strut their stuff in MTV's first reality show in Asia

The 'Shibuhara Girls' strut their stuff in MTV's first reality show in Asia

Boyfriends vs. careers, characters vs. caricatures. But how real is this reality tale of of four models and singers really?
Shibuhara girls, mtv asia
The four Shibuhara Girls have had their lives separately filmed.

On February 5, viewers around Asia will get their first view of MTV’s first ever reality show developed in the region.

"Shibuhara Girls," produced in Tokyo, tells the tale of four aspiring young women aiming to make it in Japan’s entertainment industry. Here, two of the stars sit for their first ever interview about their, and the channel's, tentative first steps into reality TV.

Youth epicenters

Unlike MTV’s reality show productions in the United States, such as "The Hills," "Laguna Beach" and "Jersey Shore," "Shibuhara Girls" was conceived and funded by record company giant Avex and model agency LesPros alongside the channel, and each manage two of the four girls.

Set in the youth districts of Shibuya and Harajuku, the show coins a new term "Shibuhara" to encapsulate them both.

Having premiered in Japan on January 9, 2010 at MTV’s primetime slot of Saturday night/Sunday morning 1 a.m., the slickly produced show is also unique in following each of the girls separately rather than have them play off of each other.

“I only met Shion and Marie once so far,” says aspiring model Sun Wei, originally from Dalian, China.

Raised in Japan, the 21 year old cuts a slight figure. Her large grey Stetson, baggy red pullover and heavy looking platted hair all fuse into an image of live doll-like mannequin.

Sun Wei built up her reputation as a 17-year-old model in teen magazines and joined LesPros with the Shibuhara Girls project being her first exposure.

Shibuhara girls, mtv asiaModel Sun Wei, originally from Dalian, China.

A date gone bad

In the 12 30-minute episode series, Sun Wei reveals that besides seeing behind the scenes of her modeling assignments, from early morning putting on make-up through shoots until her bedtime, viewers will also see her lovelife on screen, with one date standing out in particular.

Wei will be filmed as she heads from dinner to karaoke, to take purikura photos, "and then I hate him," laughs Wei.

While Sun Wei is at the start of her new career, for singer Shion Miyawaki, 20, the show is a last minute lifeline.

Having been signed to Avex for four years, she’d found herself needing a part-time job to get by whilst facing the axe.

Miyawaki debuted in 2007 but says her career so far had been up and down.

“There were plenty of good times like being able to do live performances -- which definitely gave me experience and confidence," she says.

"Though if you look at the results, I haven’t done enough yet, so I’d say it's been good and bad,” she adds.

Shibuhara girls, mtv asiaShion Miyawaki will reveal her relationship struggles on screen.

Career dilemma

Miyawaki, dressed casually in jeans and a grey sweater, has an earthy, natural charm and isn’t afraid to reveal her true feelings.

According to the publicity surrounding "Shibuhara Girls," Miyawaki is set to face the dilemma of choosing between her career and her boyfriend while on camera.

But when quizzed, she reveals that nothing much has changed.

“I don't think that I have to chose one or the other. I've been struggling for four years and continuing a relatively stable relationship for six. They are equally important to me,” says Miyawaki.

Making up the quartet are singer Marie Ishikawa, 22, who will debut later this year, and model Kozue Akimoto, 23, perhaps the most familiar name as the daughter of sumo legend Chiyonofuji.

The reality of MTV Japan’s first ‘reality’ show though, is questionable. During seperate interviews with Sun Wei and Shion Miyawaki, two managers flank them with watchful eyes to ensure the girls image is protected.

As is all too typical in the entertainment world in Japan, the stars seem to have little say on their own careers or image, and the management frequently butt in to answers questions on their behalf, or "correct" their answers to ensure we know what the girls "actually mean."

With the show funded by the management giants, there is no doubt that MTV Japan's editing team will be on their toes to ensure they don’t broadcast anything unwanted.

Shibuhara girls, mtv asiaThe four Shibuhara Girls will rarely appear together in the show.

A bold first step

But that’s not to say "Shibuhara Girls" isn’t entertaining, or a bold first step into reality TV for all on board.

"The names and professions of the cast are real, so are their dialogs, friendships, experiences and feelings," says Alan Swarts, vice president of creative and content at MTV Networks Japan and executive producer of the show. "Being cast in the production, the reality series is their one hope to scale new heights in the cut-throat world of show-business," says Swarts.

Miyawaki says that though she hopes the show will be a success across Asia, so far her lifestyle hasn’t changed at all, and she wonders whether the upcoming episodes might reveal a side to her that she may not like on camera.

“As shooting progressed I started to understand how real it was going to be. At times I felt embarrassed, my boyfriend agreed to be on camera and it reveals the ‘girly’ side of me, but overall I was looking forward to being on the show,” says Miyawaki.

Miyawaki’s staff interjects: "We plan everything our side to the point where she doesn’t know if the shooting ended or not.”

Miyawaki explains, “I think I’m kind of stubborn and don’t like to show my weakness to people. There are scenes with my manager where I’m being scolded. And it's usually my fault.

"Naturally, we don’t usually show those kind of moments and I wonder how it will be taken by the audience,” she adds.

The future of reality TV in Asia could rest on the results.

The show will broadcast in Singapore (Starhub TV 533), Hong Kong (nowTV 554), The Phillipines (Global Destiny 47/ SkyCable 66/ Dream Channel 37) with rollout in South Korea, Malaysia and other territories yet to be confirmed. In all territories, the show is scheduled for Saturday February 5 at 1.00 p.m.


Robert Michael Poole is a specialist on the Japanese music and entertainment scene.

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