The young Hana Kimura, 22, wrestler and candidate of “Terrace House”, died on Friday, May 22. Unfortunately victim of cyberbullying, a rather disturbing message had been posted the day before yesterday during its last publication which sounded like a farewell on Instagram.

” I love You. Have a long and happy life. I’m sorry. “

Hana made her professional debut in 2016, and quickly made her mark as one of Japan’s top upcoming wrestling talents, winning  her first title at the JWP Junior Championship. Her mother is former professional wrestler Kyoko Kimura, her retirement match took place in 2017 where she was defeated by her daughter. 

She further gained attention outside of the wrestling world by appearing as a cast member on Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020. The reality show features three women and three men sharing a house in Tokyo, where the cast member are “looking for love while living under the same roof”, and there is “no script” for the show, according to Netflix which is distributing the reality show with English subtitles along with its Japanese distributor, Fuji TV. This season was dedicated to international openness with international candidates, and Hana Kimura was half-Japanese and half-Indonesian.

The outbreak of hatred

During the program, one of his roommates had damaged one of his wrestling suits, worth around 955 dollars. The candidate then became angry with him, and viewers began to let off steam on her on social networks. She told her social medias that she received hundreds of hate comments everyday after this March episode, often about her being half (half people are not well integrated in Japanese society).

Stardom Wrestling announced the death on social media, “We are sorry to report that our Hana Kimura has passed away. Please be respectful and keep your thoughts and prayers for his family and friends. We appreciate your support during this difficult time.”

The tributes

Celebrities such as Nicole, Akemi Darenogare, Kyary, idols etc … have tweeted their tributes to Hana and also reminded their audience how dangerous SNS can be and that stars are humans first and foremost.

More critical reactions have been posted online, such as actress and former Hello!Project member Erina Mano that wrote in a tweet:

“[Don’t worry about being slandered] [If you don’t want to receive those comments, then quit]…..How long will this last? Instead of saying things to hurt people, don’t even use SNS in the first place”.

Consequences for Terrace House

The current season of Terrace House has been cancelled, and Netflix said in a release on Wednesday 27th “We take what happened very seriously, and will address this in a sincere manner”, expressing its condolences and sympathies to Kimura’s family. 

Soichiro Matsutani, an expert on socio-information studies, said it was hardly surprising that Fuji TV decided to terminate the series but that the broadcaster must also “examine, at his own responsability, why a situation like this has occurred.”

“Broadcasters must think about how to care” for the mental health of the reality show cast, he said, adding that having broadcasters or management agencies, rather than the cast members themselves, be in charge of their social media accounts is one option to take.

Decisions of the Japanese government

On May 26th, Communications Minister Takaichi Sanae said the government is planning to revise an existing law that allows cyberbullying victims to request personal information on their tormentors.

The law currently allows victims to request the information from Internet providers so they can sue their abusers for damages. But experts say this involves a lengthy and costly legal process, and that the posters are impossible to identify in many cases.

“The law was put into place nearly 20 years ago, before social media existed,” says Shimizu Yohei, a lawyer and cyberbullying expert. “It needs to be updated if it’s going to prevent cases like this one.”

Takaichi says she has appointed an expert panel to consider possible revisions to the law, including speeding up the process for victims to get the information. She says she hopes to have a draft of the new bill as soon as possible.

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