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In the Netflix reboot of “Queer Eye,” the Fab Five have been known to help their heros in dealing with personal issues such as body image, self esteem, overcoming hardship and even finding love again. For this special set of four episodes, the Fab 5 take their amazing talents to Japan where they go and help a whole new set of heroes as they are affectionately referred to as. Through these four episodes the Fab Five prove that loving yourself and others is a universal language that never goes out of style.
In the debut first episode, “Japanese Holiday,” of their season in Japan, the Fab Five help a middle aged woman named Yoko, relearn how to love herself after the tragic loss of her sister. But before they met Yoko, they spoke with their tour guide, Kiko, about traditional cultural customs in Japan. Asking questions about Japan’s cultural differences showcases the importance of learning and adapting to new cultures whilst traveling. While the Fab Five often are lighthearted and playful, they are attentive and respectful to everything Kiko explains. For example, in Japan it is considered rude to wear your shoes in doors but respectful to add “-son” at the end of someone’s name. Throughout this season you can hear the Fab Five refers to the guests as “Yokoson,” “Kanson,” “Keison,” and “Makotoson.”
After learning about cultures, The Fab Five teach Yoko how to relearn self-love, self-care, and cope with the guilt of her sister’s passing. Yoko felt guilty that her sister died in the hospital instead of at home, so in her memory she opened a hospice in her home to care for patients who are facing their final days on earth. Yoko is so passionate about the hospice she started she gave up her bedroom and often slept on the floor in the community center she is opening up next to her home. The Fab Five focused on teaching Yoko that she is worthy of love and self-love.
Bobby pulled through with an amazing renovation in this episode, he designed the community center to be accessible to those of all ages and even gave her a brand new bedroom. When the big reveal occurred with Yoko’s best friend, she was blown away with the clothes Tan chose for Yoko that the Fab Five joked she was going to steal Yoko’s new wardrobe.
A main theme occurred throughout this episode when talking to Yoko she explained she just “gave up on being a woman,” a common Japanese phrase when referring to women who choose to not fit into the traditional ideal of Japenese femininity.
Karomo and Jonathan focus on this theme to redefine what femininity means to Yoko. Kaormo teaches Yoko the importance of self-care and self-love while loving others. He talks to her about her sister’s death and how she should work on forgiving herself. Whereas, Jonathan gives Yoko a beautiful makeover that still allows her to live simply, redefining what feminism means for her.
In episode 2, the Fab Five help a young out gay man named Kan. Kan on the surface seems to be having a nice life as he is in a healthy and loving long distance relationship with his British boyfriend, Tom and has a supportive friend Miki who has been his best friend since college. Although initially he may seem happy, deep down he has a rooted shame for his queer self. Although it is getting better, it is shown throughout the episode that being LGBTQ+ is still difficult in Japan as some consider it to be morally wrong. The younger generations in Japan are starting to make it more normalized, but it is tough. The Fab Five in this episode ultimately want to help Kan feel more comfortable in his own skin and turn that shame into pride and pure positivity.
When the Fab Five first meet with Kan they see that he is not being the fabulous and lively person that he knows he is inside. There is a pressure for him to follow the heteronormative instead of letting his true colors fly. Instantly Tan realizes that Kan does not have much color in his room closet, besides the shirts he has of Beyonce. Tan in working with Kan helps him dress in a way that is still presentable in his everyday society yet also has color and life as Kan does. Bobby helps Kan live in a space where he can be free and confident. Antoni teaches Kan how to cook a famous dish called Yakitori for his lover, Tom but also encourages him to be proud of his gay identity.
Jonathan helps Kan learn the important lesson that although society is trying to tell him to keep his queer identity hidden, it is visbility and proudly living your life that will ultimately set you free. This is a lesson easier than done. Being yourself can be scary and daunting if others are telling you that you are not valid. Yet, Jonathan says to him in the episode, “By you living in your truth, you make it easier and better and more possible for other people to live in their truth.” Whether LGBTQ+ or not, we are all at our best when we are being our true and honest selves.
Karamo in this episode teaches Kan the lesson that if others may not like you, you need to still like yourself. He has Kan meet a monk/famous makeup artist named Kodo Nishima who tells Kan his journey of embracing himself as a gay asian man and eventually inspiring others by being true to himself in heels and makeup. Living your truth isn’t always easy as Karamo, Kodo and Kan each speak of facing discrimination and shame for being themselves. Karamo teaches Kan that living your most honest life will make you feel more enriched. He extends the lesson further by introducing Kan to local members of the community showing him that even when he feels down and defeated from society, he has a wonderful and loving family in the LGBTQ+ community cheering him on and encouraging him every single day. Being yourself in a society that keeps criticizing queer people for living their best lives can be hard and damaging, yet having a family and community behind you makes the hard times a little easier and the good times even brighter and more vibrant.
The third episode focuses on fitting in as the black sheep in the family. Maga artist Kae, pronounced Kai, draws many magna characters that focus on what she views as the ideal woman. In this episode, Kae shares a room with her sister and is constantly, from what it seems, judged or almost put down by them. Kae also dealt with trauma in her middle school years.
The Fab Five beautifully pull this young woman out of her shell after her week with them. Anthony worked on reconnecting Kae and her mother in the kitchen with making a traditional Japanese tofu dish. Anthony shared with Kae and her mother that he misses out on a relationship with his mother, thus his goal being to bring families together in the kitchen.
The unsung hero Bobby swoops in with his amazing design skills to create a beautiful room for the sisters. In the beginning the sisters shared a cramped spaced filled with Kae’s art supplies. Bobby transformed the space and utilized the loft section of their room to make a beautiful yet functional area.
Tan, Karamo, and Jonathan also work their magic to bring out Kae’s confidence. Tan takes Kae’s “immature” schoolgirl look and gives it a vamped up new mature style. He even keeps in mind love for plaid skirts. Jonathan then comes in and saves her damaged hair. First he did a color correction and a beautiful short cut. At first, Kae was nervous he was going to shave off her hair.
Karamo takes a new step in helping build Kae’s confidence, he takes her to a jiu jitsu studio! But it is not what you may think, the Fab Five surprise Kae with a guest appearance of “Japan’s Beyonce,” Naomi Wantabe a plus size japanese superwoman. After this nontraditional Karamo scene, Kae leaves feeling more confident than ever.
The fourth episode deals with intimacy and connecting with those you love in life. The subject of the episode, Makoto, is a radio director who has been married to his wife, Yasuko for almost seven years. The Fab Five aim to teach Makoto how to restore his relationship with his wife, and how to love himself. In teaching Makoto in making a famous rice dish with a gooey egg on top, Antoni shows Makato that cooking for someone is more than just a preparation of a meal, but an act of love and devotion in a relationship.
Tan in his time with Makoto helped him develop a greater sense of style with experimentation of brighter colors and bolder looks, but also gave time to talk to this man about his relationship with his wife. After helping Makoto find his own personal sense of style, Tan urged him that if he wants his wife to still talk to him, he needs to have the serious conversation with her and ask the questions, “Do you still love me, do you wanna be in this with me?” Commitment and open communication is an important part of any successful and lasting relationship. That was a major lesson that Tan taught Makoto during their time together. Bobby in his moments with Makoto took him to meet someone who practice Ikebana. Ikebana is a thousand year tradition of simple yet elegant japanese flowers. Showing Makoto the flower arrangement speaks to the idea that in a relationship you need to do gestures like giving a flower arrangement and showing your partner and those you love in your life that they are special and mean something to you.
In one of the most powerful scenes in the entire season, Karamo sat Makoto and his wife down to a session of Yoga where they release their energy and feelings for each other out. Having this platform and space to have an open dialogue about their relationship and feelings gave Makoto and his wife a chance to reconcile and rekindle their love, proving that sometimes just a little bit of honesty and clear communication can do wonders for a relationship. Along with helping in mending the relationship, Jonathan teaches Makoto about taking time for himself and how although he loves his wife he also needs to love himself just as much. Through the Fab Five’s help, Makoto rekindled his love with his wife while also showing that any loving relationship begins with a strong foundation of honesty, respect, devotion and love for your partner as well as for yourself.
“Queer Eye: We’re In Japan” is a special set of four episodes that brings the heartwarming and feel good qualities that fans expect from a season of “Queer Eye,” yet also has a more worldly perspective. It is seen throughout that although the heros in each “Japan” episode speak a different language and come from a different culture than the Fab Five, they still face similar issues of us in the United States such as connecting to a romantic partner, body image, and loving yourself. The success of this season proves that kindness and understanding can transcend language and cultures.