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Fuji TV to end reality show 'Terrace House' after cast member Hana Kimura's death

This file photo taken in June 2016 shows Fuji Television Network Inc.'s head office in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Fuji Television will terminate the latest series in its popular reality show "Terrace House," the Japanese broadcaster said Wednesday, four days after one of its cast members was found dead in a suspected suicide believed to have links with cyber-bullying fueled by her behavior in an episode.

Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old female professional wrestler, was among the six members of "Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020." She had posted a picture of herself on Instagram with the words "I'm sorry," shortly before her death was confirmed at a hospital on Saturday.

The broadcaster also stopped distributing the series on its internet video distribution service FOD.

"We take what happened very seriously, and will address this in a sincere manner," the company said in a release Wednesday, expressing its condolences and sympathies to Kimura's family.

The woman, who joined the show last September, became a target of hateful messages on social media, especially after an episode distributed in late March where she got angry at a male cast member who accidentally shrank one of her wrestling costumes while doing laundry.

On Saturday, the day of her death, the Yokohama native tweeted, "I have received nearly 100 honest opinions every day and I cannot deny that I got hurt."

Fuji TV had already stopped shooting of the show in line with national measures taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. video streaming service Netflix, which distributes the Japanese reality show with English subtitles, said it will refrain from streaming new episodes but viewers can still watch the "Terrace House" episodes that have already been distributed.

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 its own responsibility, why a situation like this has occurred."

The lecturer at Tokyo's Musashi University said cast members on reality shows are "often fledgling entertainers who have low tolerance toward slanderous comments made about them on social media."

Matsutani also pointed out that suicides have occurred among cast members of reality shows overseas, and some of the programs offer counseling services by professionals to the cast.

"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.

"Terrace House Tokyo 2019-2020" is the latest in a series that began in 2012.

The current series, which began in May last year, features three women and three men sharing a house in Tokyo. The cast members are "looking for love while living under the same roof," and there is "no script" in the show, according to Netflix.

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