To the West, the world of Japanese game shows is best known as a technicolored whirlwind of half-naked bodies, sadomasochistic physical challenges, and the occasional whimsical bunny rabbit head. In short, any reasonable person would assume they couldn't be real. The stereotype today is a bit of a misnomer -- this brand of scandalizing, borderline-torturous television is being phased out after reaching its apex in the '90s. That said, it's far from completely dead. Every so often a Japanese show like last year's "Orgasm Wars" surfaces to remind the world that, when it comes to baffling, jaw-dropping game shows, Japan truly has no rival (don't worry, the U.S. still has a lock on terrible reality TV).
Below, we offer you some highlights:
1. Candy Or Not Candy?
In this deliciously hilarious and straightforwardly titled game, celebrity contestants must guess which of several apparently inanimate objects are candy, and which are not candy. They must then take a big, ravenous bite of the objects they believe to be candy, thus ending up with a yummy hunk of sugary goodness or a humiliating mouthful of whatever random item that actually is. The candy is made from Japanese "sokkuri sweets" that can be molded into crazy-intricate shapes. Below, is he biting into any old picture frame, or one delectable piece of chocolate?
Oh. Just a picture frame. Try again! Shoe or chocolate?
You win! Or something.
2. Orgasm Wars
In "Orgasm Wars," gay men attempt to bring straight men to orgasm, and prove that well, we're not really sure what they want to prove. But the narrators sure make it sound like the ultimate sexuality showdown. Below, the straight contestant, who is also a porn star, swears that he will er, come out on top. (Sorry.)
So, after some introductions and trash talk, the challenge commences, each man trying to humiliate the other -- an apparent trend in Japanese game shows:
Will one man's staunch heterosexuality be impeached by another man's sexual prowess? You'll have to find out for yourselves, cause we stopped watching. Sexuality's a spectrum, dudes.
3. Human Slip 'n Slide
In this charming bit of highbrow entertainment, a lube-soaked middle-aged man attempts to slide across a slippery row of young, bikini-clad women.
That's one way to turn your midlife crisis into split-second, small-screen fame.
4. Marshmallow Rubber Band
This competition appeared on Japanese variety show "Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!" which has brought you pain, humiliation and vaguely cruel hilarity since October 3, Players are supposed to catch the marshmallows with their mouths, while their heads are attached to a rubber band. If this isn't sickeningly funny for you to watch, you probably won't like many other Japanese game shows.
5. Man Eats Spaghetti In A Dryer
6. Head-In-Butt Trivia Face-off
Ah, yes. The classic trivia game, with a "loser gets a face full of winner's butt" twist. The competition also appeared on Japanese variety show "Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!."
7. Human Bowling
It sounds like exactly what it is: The perfect consolation prize for anybody who's pissed they didn't qualify for luging in the Winter Olympics. Contestants are launched at enormous bowling pins and pushed down this sloped lane. The finale of U.S. reality show "The Amazing Race 23" spotlighted the sport, cause, of course.
8. Human Tetris or "Brain Wall"
"Human Tetris" is the Western nickname for the game, which appeared on Japanese game show "Tonneruzu no Minasan no Okage deshita." As you may have guessed, it's basically the human version of your favorite GameBoy time waster. Contestants must jump and maneuver their bodies through the moving gaps in the wall. Unfortunately, they are not human-friendly shaped gaps, so this game appears to be a lost cause.
That said, it's still pretty entertaining to watch. It even made its way to the U.S., where for some reason, it didn't last.
9. Soccer. With Binoculars.
Hey, I wonder what happens when you strap binoculars to people's heads and make them play soccer?
That, friends, is what happens.
In "DERO! DERO!", contestants must solve difficult puzzles while in extremely high-pressure situations. Below, an innocent -looking average floor turns into quickly retracting planks, revealing a bottomless pit. You know, the usual heart-pumping competition stuff.
Hey, if you're the weakest link
Money In Bra Game
How many coins can your cleavage hold is the name of the game in this fabulous mix of capitalism and objectification of women.
How many coins does it take to buy back one's dignity?
Strip The Girl
Here, men attempt to knock down blocks, behind which stands a naked woman. Meanwhile, they are attached to ropes, which other men use to pull them into a nice, warm bathtub of tar.
He does it for the ladies.
Ultimate Dinosaur Prank
Another favorite genre of Japanese game shows involves fantastically creative pranks. Below, a giant dinosaur surprises some contestants:
It doesn't stop there:
These clips show just some of the best moments in a sometimes whimsical, sometimes depraved or sadistic, but always at the very least creative genre, in which Japan truly has no equal.
Bemused? Want more unbelievable sights from Japan? Look no further:
15 Weirdest Game Shows From Japan
Saturday, Aug 14, , pm
Japan never fails to entertain global audience with its weird and funny game shows. Many of their game shows leave you dumbstruck. Japanese game shows are all about fun and pain. Most of them are sexually explicit or socially awkward! At the end of the day, all of them are made to make people like us laugh. You may have seen funny Japanese game shows here and there, but these, what we are about to show you now is a grand collection of them!
1.This Painful Yet Funny Japanese Show
2.Surviving the Fall from Wall of Boxes
3.Candy or Not Candy Japanese Show
10 Hilarious Japanese Comedy Shows for Language Lessons While You Laugh
Let’s not kid around.
Japanese comedy can be… strange.
But in a good way.
There’s not much else like it and Western comedy really can’t match the ironic surrealism of Japan’s token comedy styles.
If you’re a Westerner who didn’t grow up in a Japanese family, you’ve probably still seen Japanese comedy and comedy styles trickle in from overseas.
The ’90s game show “” ( ) — “Showdown! Takeshi Castle,” known in the U.S. as “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge” on SpikeTV, became a cult classic here in the early s. Anime has influenced kids all over the world with its own brand of animated comedy.
The list goes on.
So you won’t be surprised to hear that anybody can enjoy a good Japanese comedy show. And for Japanese learners, engaging in a bit of Japanese entertainment is a great way to brush up on your fluency.
What’s better than having a good laugh and learning a little something at the same time?
Before we get into our awesome list of Japanese comedy shows, let’s look at some different kinds of Japanese comedy.
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Different Types of Japanese Comedy
To really grasp the humor used in some of these awesome Japanese TV comedies, it’s helpful to understand different types of Japanese comedy. There are quite a few!
- () — Kygen: Literally “wild speech,” this type of Japanese comedy involves traditional theater. When traditional ( ) — talent performances (known popularly as “Noh”) came about in the early 14th century, Kygen came with it and served as a sort of intermission comic relief for dramatic Noh performances.
Kygen is still practiced today.
In a Rakugo performance, a comedian will sit on the stage with only a fan and a cloth for props. They’ll simply tell a comical story to the audience, often using vocal impersonations of different characters.
- ( ) — Manzai: Osaka is known for conceiving this very punny brand of Japanese comedy, which translates to a form of the word “comedy.” A manzai performance involves two comedians doing standup comedy together. Typically, one comedian is the “dumb” one and the other is the “slick” one. Manzai usually involves a ton of puns, misunderstandings and quick talking.
Manzai TV shows can help you understand quickly spoken Japanese, along with particular Japanese accents and cultural elements. However, a manzai performance may be a little out of a beginner’s league. They talk really quickly!
- () — Konto: “Konto” is a transliteration of the French word conte, meaning “tale.” In this type of Japanese comedy, a group of comedians will perform a sketch involving a funny story or a surreal event. They typically wrap up after a few minutes, but the subject matter is always very strange and bizarre.
Konto is technically a part of manzai, but the surrealist aspect of konto makes it quite different from typical manzai.
Owarai typically involves game shows, performances, chat shows, etc.
The humor comes from the lack of coordination and silliness of the situation.
Watching Japanese media can help with word association and fluency. The entertainment value makes watching Japanese comedy shows a great way to fit some practice time in while lounging about.
If you enjoy this style of learning, you’ll also want to check out FluentU.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
It naturally and gradually eases you into learning Japanese language and culture. You’ll learn real Japanese as it’s spoken in real life.
Just take a look at the wide variety of authentic video content available in the program. Here’s a small sample:
You’ll discover tons of new Japanese vocabulary through these great clips.
Don’t worry about your skill level being an issue when it comes to understanding the language. FluentU makes native Japanese videos approachable through interactive transcripts.
Tap on any word to look it up instantly.
You’ll see definitions, in-context usage examples and helpful illustrations. Simply tap “Add to” to send interesting vocabulary words to your personal vocab list for later review.
FluentU even uses a learning program which adapts to your specific needs to turn every video into a language learning lesson and get you to actively practice your newly-learned language skills.
Access FluentU on the website to use it with your computer or tablet or, better yet, start learning Japanese on the go with the FluentU app for iOS or Android!
Sound fun? Let’s start laughing and learning with the 10 great shows below!
YOU( ) — “Why Did You Come to Japan?”
This show involves two Japanese comedians who hang outside of national airports to ask non-Japanese travelers why they came to Japan. The results are often much more hilarious than you’d expect.
You can watch “Why Did You Come to Japan?” on YouTube for free, but not all episodes have English subtitles. This show deals with English-speaking foreigners and Japanese-speaking natives, so the show can help learners see the differences between both languages.
² ! ( !) — “Mecha-Mecha Cool!”
If you could compare this Japanese comedy show to anything in the West, it could be “Saturday Night Live.” The sketches on this show are hilarious and often absurd, and are mostly based around different types of games. Warning: this one is addictive.
You can enjoy “Mecha-Mecha Cool!” episodes on Daily Motion with English and Japanese subtitles. It’s a perfect choice for beginner learners who want to learn more about Japanese comedy and speech!
( ) — “Spooky Romantics”
Who doesn’t love a little bit of horror and romance mixed in with their comedy? This Japanese drama-comedy is also known as “Horror Love Operation.” Three wildly different somethings attempt to sort through their personal and work lives, all while battling a very strange monster.
This is a captivating Japanese series with a lot of elements you wouldn’t usually see together. Not only is it entertaining, but it’s also perfect for learning to understand natural spoken Japanese. Even though this show is scripted, the dialogue is a bit faster than other dramas. As you watch you’ll get more comfortable keeping up with the speed of native Japanese conversations.
“Spooky Romantics” is available on Kiss Drama without any subtitles, so advanced learners would benefit best from this Japanese comedy show.
( ) — “Tokyo Tarareba Girls”
“I spent all my time wondering ‘What if?’ Then one day I woke up and I was ”
Wow, talk about relatable. This show gets real, but it’s also totally hilarious.
“Tokyo Tarareba Girls” is based off the manga of the same name. A young woman is unsatisfied in her personal and work life, usually dealing with her displeasure by drinking with her childhood friends. One night, while loudly complaining about their lack of marriage, someone gives them some hard truth that complaining will get them nowhere.
Our heroine makes a pact with herself to be married within six years.
You can watch this great slice-of-life comedy on Daily Motion with Japanese subtitles. Alternatively, Kiss Asian streams this show for free with English subtitles so beginners can enjoy as well.
( ) — “Showdown! Takeshi’s Castle”
We mentioned “Showdown!” in the introduction, so there’s no way we could leave it off of this list! This show was a hit in the ’90s, and for good reason. Absurd performances, strange competitions, silly games. This show has it all.
“Showdown!” is an excellent viewing choice for all levels of learners because it’s such a Japanese classic. Essential viewing, if you will.
You can watch this oldie-but-goodie on YouTube with English subtitles.
Q! ( !) — “Mystery-solving Variety Adventure to the Edge of the World!”
…Well that’s quite a mouthful.
This travel variety show features regular hosts going around the world and engaging in some pretty ridiculous antics. The show has been running for over 10 years and is so popular that it even spawned its own subreddit.
You can watch episodes from this series via YouTube with Japanese subtitles. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that an English subbed version of this show exists. Sorry, newbies!
( ) — “My Boss, My Hero”
“My Boss, My Hero” is a Japanese drama-comedy based off of a South Korean film of the same name. The series follows a yakuza member who isn’t the smartest, but wants to take over the leadership from his father. In order to succeed, his father gives him a deal. If he can graduate high school at 27 years old, then he can become the gang’s leader.
“My Boss, My Hero” is available on YouTube with English subtitles.
Due to the scripted nature of this dramedy, it’s much easier to keep up with the slow-paced dialogue. An excellent choice for learners of all levels, but especially beginners.
( ) — “Overprotected Kahoko”
“Overprotected Kahoko” is another great Japanese drama-comedy. A sheltered year-old student named Kahoko relies a bit too much on her mother to do everything for her. When she meets a young man who’s had the opposite life, things get a little crazy.
You can watch “Overprotected Kahoko” on Drama Nice with English subtitles. Like with most scripted dramas, this one is great for beginner learners.
( ) — “Operation Love”
“Operation Love” is a little bit drama, a little bit comedy and a little bit science fiction. You read that correctly! Ken, upset to be at his lost love’s wedding to another man, gets in touch with a fairy who allows him to travel back in time to fix their relationship.
You can find this Japanese comedy show on Daily Motion with English subtitles. Beginners, check this one out!
() — “Punch Line”
Also known as “Shten,” this Japanese comedy is the second-longest running TV show in Japan, starting in and still going strong. This series mixes the Rakugo style of comedy with an almost gameshow style. Much of it involves improv and features some seriously catchy music.
You can watch clips and episodes from “Shten” on YouTube, though much of what’s available doesn’t have subtitles.
All of these shows are entertaining and have merit for every kind of learner. Even if you’re a beginner that can’t keep up with a Japanese comedy show without English subtitles, you can still benefit from watching to learn about context clues, Japanese speech speed and modern Japanese culture.
These shows are just too funny to pass up. Why not make a day of it and binge-watch them all? Enjoy and don’t forget that ( ) — practice makes perfect!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
Emily Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. She writes about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.
Yaso, a mysterious figure in a demonic red and blue mask, has transported Takahiro Ogata to a realm of pain.
“You gamble with your life here!”
Yaso shouts. Ogata, a young Japanese actor with a mop of shaggy brown hair, tries to look brave as he is presented with a tureen full of scalding hot soup. Yaso informs Ogata that he has 60 seconds to transfer the soup’s chunky bits—radish, fish, octopus—onto a plate.
Using only his mouth.
If Ogata fails to meet Yaso’s challenges, a merciless punishment will follow. If Ogata succeeds … a merciless punishment will follow anyway.
Also in this issue
A piercing horn blast marks the start of the challenge. As dramatic lights flash, Ogata dips his head into the tureen—and jerks back immediately, grimacing in pain. “Can I at least take off my microphone?” pleads Ogata, gesturing at the headset he’s wearing.
“You ask too much!” Yaso replies.
Ogata and his tormentor are on the set of Power Purin, a show that airs at am every Wednesday on the Japanese network TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System.) Ogata continues to dip his face into the soup. Again and again he comes up empty, emitting anguished yelps. “I can feel the heat in my teeth!” he says as Yaso looks on, cackling.
This is not a game show—Power Purin is devoted mostly to humorous skits performed by a cast of young comedians. But there’s a regular segment on the show that features a batsu gēmu (punishment game) in which Ogata, one of the stars of Power Purin, must endure creative tortures. A sadistic Saw-style challenge like this might seem incongruous in the middle of a late-night comedy show. But it’s the norm in Japan, where batsu games permeate TV.
Much has been written about Japan’s gross national cool—the worldwide demand for the country’s fashion, cuisine, anime, manga, videogames, and consumer electronics. But less attention has been paid to the country’s gross national gross—unscripted TV shows focused on imaginatively disgusting and cruel physical challenges—even though they’re just as popular and influential.
Indeed, batsu games are already poised to make their way into television programming around the world. You’ve seen their impact on US stunt/reality programs like Fear Factor and Endurance, while shows like American Ninja Warrior and Hole in the Wall are direct imports of Japanese concepts. But the difference between the real thing and the American spinoffs is like the difference between sushi fresh from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market and the stuff you get at the food court in your local mall. Search “Japan game show” on Google for the real deal: men coated in oil trying to climb a slippery ramp so they can peek at a pretty girl in the shower. A machine that whacks contestants in the groin. Or a guy bobbing for radishes in scalding fish broth.
On the set of Power Purin, Ogata has failed the boiling-soup test, extracting only a couple of ingredients before his time runs out. Now he’s faced with a new challenge: Grope around inside a small box and try to deduce what it contains. Thanks to a window on the opposite side of the box, viewers already know what’s there: a trio of live scorpions.
The air horn wails again, and Ogata jams his hands into the holes. His fingers close on one of the scorpions, and with a shriek he jerks back, flinging the creature down on the set. Crew members back away as the scorpion scurries toward the cameras. “I know what’s in the box!” Ogata cries, his hand raised like an eager student.
Yaso is having none of it. (He’s actually fellow Power Purin star Hiroyuki Yasoshima, dressed in a mask and velvet suit.) The point was to guess what was in the box without seeing it. When Ogata inadvertently flung the scorpion onto the set, he violated the rules. Another challenge failed.
This segment may not look like much fun for Ogata, but it’s a point of pride for a cast member to be chosen to star in the show’s batsu game. Japan has quiz shows and athletic challenges like Sasuke that invite the general public to participate in ways that Western game shows do. But a good chunk of games on Japanese television feature comedians and TV personalities, not average citizens. The prize element is removed; these shows are pure spectacle, with the focus on punishing losers rather than rewarding winners. Like many Japanese comedians, Ogata was formally trained at a humor academy, and part of that training was to be entertaining while enduring things like batsu games. Ogata works for the Japanese comedy juggernaut Yoshimoto Kogyo. In fact, everyone on this soundstage is employed by the company—the cast, the director, even the camera operators. In addition to being one of the nation’s largest TV production companies, Yoshimoto manages of the biggest performers and owns many of the hottest comedy theaters. “Some people say that comedy should be nice and clean,” says Hiroshi Osaki, the conglomerate’s president. “That’s just not so. People retain a vicious sense of humor and a vicious nature.” That’s why watching comedians react to unexpected torments can be so compelling. Yoshimoto Kogyo played a crucial rule in refining the modern Japanese game formula, and it’s currently airing more than a dozen variety programs that feature batsu game segments.
“In Japan, Yoshimoto equals comedy,” Osaki says. “All you have to do is drop our name and someone might laugh. And that’s what we want in a wider territory.” The company has taken some tentative steps to export pure, unvarnished Japanese game shows to a worldwide audience. But can Yoshimoto surmount differences in language, culture, and taste? And is the world ready for this brand of punishing play?
Japanese actors are formally trained to endure painful batsu games.
Photo: Panda Kanno As Ogata tries to make the best of steaming soup and stinging arthropods on the set of Power Purin, Horie B-Men stands off to the side monitoring the mayhem. B-Men is one of Yoshimoto Kogyo’s plus TV writers, who are responsible for filling 3, episodes a year with dialog, skits, and batsu games. “Since this is a late-night show, viewers want something exciting,” B-Men says. To meet that need, he and his colleagues are constantly brainstorming new ideas for fresh challenges. To keep costs down, they devise scenarios that find interesting new uses for old standbys like the giant hammer, the tank full of eels, and other bizarre paraphernalia they get from prop companies.
Oh, and the writers and producers also try not to kill or maim their performers. “You have to maintain safety,” says Aki Yorihiro, CEO of the company’s new American subsidiary, Yoshimoto Entertainment USA. “But first and foremost it has to be entertaining. Our comedians are playing a real game, and they are subjected to real punishments. But their reactions, their state of mind, their overall attitude … all of that combines to make it entertaining.”
Japanese television doesn’t always translate in the West, but that hasn’t kept producers from developing their own versions. Consider these international imitators.
This series, which ran from to , had contestants navigating absurd obstacle courses before a final battle with TV personality “Beat” Takeshi Kitano. Kitano also peppered the contestants with ridicule as they competed.
The ABC series was sued for its similarites to Takeshi’s Castle and two other Japanese game shows. Takeshi’s Castle ran on SpikeTV with an English overdub as MXC ( Most Extreme Elimination Challenge).
Dubbed “Human Tetris,” this sequence on the Japanese variety show Minasan no Okage Deshita forced celebrity contestants to strike poses so they could fit through oddly shaped holes in an oncoming wall.
Hole in the Wall
This officially licensed US adaptation of “Brain Wall” debuted on Fox in and moved to Cartoon Network in Local versions of the show were also made in some 40 countries.
This sequence from the long-running show Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! made comedians endure torments and indignities—like having nose hairs plucked out—while maintaining complete silence, so as not to disturb other patrons.
MTV’s version of the segment ran for 89 episodes. Many featured D-list celebs and MTV reality show stars, like the cast of Jersey Shore. A UK adaptation called Fist of Zen was also made.
Screenshots, From Top: Courtesy of Spike TV; Photofest; Courtesy of FujiTV; courtesy of Cartoon Network; Courtesy of NTV; Courtesy of MTV
“Cut!” yells the director of Power Purin. Ogata and his colleagues retire to their dressing room, exhausted—this is their fourth straight day of shooting. The comedians compare batsu-game horror stories. One performer had to eat a raw lemon, skin and all. Another was forced to sniff the seat of a colleague’s pants after it had been scorched by a flame.
Some observers have suggested that the danger and pain of batsu games are exaggerated for dramatic effect—for instance, there was no way for Power Purin viewers to know whether the soup was actually boiling. But Ogata claims, through a translator, that it really was skin-searingly hot. Gum-blisteringly hot. “Hot!” he insists, the only English word I’ve heard him use all day.
Comedians have not always been the go-to stars of Japanese game shows. The popular series The Trans America Ultra Quiz sent ordinary people to exotic locales around the world and made them complete grueling challenges if they failed to answer questions correctly. In the show Za Gaman (The Endurance), college students were forced to sit in a “starvation chamber” all day, exercise nonstop until they sweated off 6 pounds, and be buried up to their necks in sand. Then lizards were set upon them.
The influential series Takeshi’s Castle hit upon a mix of absurdism and cruelty that became a template for most modern TV games. It starred standup comedian “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, one of the most popular TV personalities in Japan. (He has since become an acclaimed film director and writer.) The conceit of the show was that Kitano ruled a fictional realm and challenged people to endure a ludicrous gauntlet before they could face him. Contestants had to run up a steep incline while dodging fake boulders or cling to a giant mushroom attached to a zipline as it whizzed over a muddy swamp. Survivors advanced to the finals at Takeshi’s ersatz castle, where they engaged in a sort of cosplay demolition derby. The rare winner received about $5,
The program was unmistakably an outgrowth of Japan’s videogame boom; the absurd challenges that crescendoed to a final boss battle were like a live-action Super Mario Bros. Matt Alt, a translator and author in Tokyo, says it was also a metaphor for Japan’s booming s economy. “Shows like Takeshi’s Castle were the product of an era when Japan was on top,” he says. “They were a fictionalized version of how far Japanese people were willing go to reach their goal.”
The giant sets and ambitious challenges of Takeshi’s Castle fell out of fashion after Japan’s economic bubble burst. According to several Japanese producers and writers, there was also a feeling that average Japanese citizens were too reserved to be truly entertaining contestants—in close-up, their faces failed to convey the requisite anguish or elation. In the s a new generation of programs devised a far better way to deliver this type of spectacle: Use actors.
One of the most influential was the TV show Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! (This Ain’t Kid’s Stuff!!). The variety show—still in production today—stars a comedy duo known as Downtown, who were trained and managed by Yoshimoto Kogyo. It features improvisational humor, but it became a phenomenon thanks to the imaginative batsu games its stars were forced to endure. There was the segment called “Silent Library,” in which participants were asked to tolerate punishments like having nose hairs pulled out while struggling to maintain complete silence. And then there was “Chinko Machine” (Penis Machine), in which the comedians stood on top of said machine and answered trivia questions or recited tongue twisters. If they made a mistake, the machine punched them squarely in the chinko.
Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! perfected a formula that many Japanese shows followed: subjecting comedians to batsu games on the same soundstage where they performed skits and stand-up. Minasan no Okage Deshita had “Brain Wall,” in which comedians had to contort their bodies to fit through oddly shaped holes in a wall that was rushing toward them. (American fans who discovered clips online nicknamed it “Human Tetris.”) On Haneru no Tobira, comedians slid down a giant pachinko board and bounced off bumpers.
US TV networks soon noticed the popularity of these shows and set about adapting or importing them. Takeshi’s Castle aired on Spike TV with an English overdub, rebranded as MXC (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge). The companies behind the ABC show Wipeout were sued over its similarities to Takeshi’s Castle and two other shows. Fox created its own “Human Tetris” called Hole in the Wall. MTV westernized Yoshimoto’s “Silent Library”; one episode saw Jersey Shore’s Snooki fighting nausea as she tried to lick cocoa butter out of a stranger’s back hair. Mystifyingly, “Penis Machine” has not yet been Americanized.
“Don’t move around the stage so much! Project your voice!”
Tomiaki Daiku, a year-old with glasses and graying hair, barks instructions at a roomful of college-age pupils. He’s teaching a stand-up comedy class at Yoshimoto’s New Star Creation school in Tokyo. The students take turns dashing to the center of the room, where they recite a comedy routine. “Don’t make fun of women; most of your live audiences will be ladies!” Daiku says. “And if you’re going to pretend to be a girl, you really have to sell it!” The performers listen expressionlessly, bow politely, and hurry back to their seats.
Two comedy duos—Hannya (left) and Fruit Punch (right)—from the Japanese show Piramekino.
Photo: Panda Kanno After class Daiku wearily tells me about the long road ahead for his pupils. If this class is typical, he says, only 3 percent of them will have a successful job in comedy five years from now. Those odds don’t dissuade people from shelling out , yen (roughly $5,) for a course at the New Star Creation school in Tokyo or its sister campus in Osaka, where up to 1, students enroll each year. They’re hoping to earn a spot in Yoshimoto’s talent stable, work their way through the company’s theaters, and eventually hit the airwaves as owarai geinin—television comedians—like the stars of Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!, who were members of NSC’s first graduating class in
Yoshimoto trains comedians, places them on the stage, casts them on shows, and takes a percentage of their earnings. “It’s like the old studio system,” says Yorihiro, of Yoshimoto Entertainment USA. “We take care of people throughout their careers and throughout their lives.” Top comedians are on several shows at once, sometimes recording more than one show a day. Yorihiro claims that a comedy superstar in Japan can earn as much as a top Hollywood actor.
It’s a given that part of what these stars will be called upon to do is perform in batsu games. Yoshimoto Kogyo prepares them to be entertaining regardless of the indignities they suffer. You can see this in another class at New Star Creation, about acting out emotions. The decorum of the stand-up class is gone; students now perform with ferocious abandon. One gyrates uncontrollably on an imaginary stripper pole. Two others slap each other in the groin while shouting, “Let’s get it on!” Another duo simulates oral sex with such intensity that their instructor suggests they get a room. There’s a hint of desperation to their antics, but it’s easy to see how aspiring comedians would endure strange punishments and humiliation to stand out. Eat a tube of wasabi? Sure. Nipple-clamp tug-of-war? A small price to pay for stardom.
In , ABC sent American reality show contestants to Tokyo to compete for a $, prize in the straightforwardly titled I Survived a Japanese Game Show. It wasn’t really a Japanese game show—it was the US TV producer’s idea of a Japanese game show, with challenges like “You Look Funny Stuck on a Wall” and “Big Chicken Butt Scramble.” I Survived a Japanese Game Show had can’t-fail material, but according to Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik, it turned “into a boring, American-style reality show, complete with confessional segments and backstage scenes.”
Yoshimoto Kogyo’s latest goal is to succeed where I Survived a Japanese Game Show didn’t—by delivering the real thing. For years the company has been laying the groundwork for an American invasion: inking a strategic alliance with the Hollywood talent powerhouse Creative Artists Agency, investing in the cross-platform channel Nerdist Industries (founded by Wired correspondent Chris Hardwick), and schmoozing with US reality show production companies. Now it’s hoping to create TV series that bring the pure unvarnished madness of batsu games to a worldwide audience. These will be Japanese shows shot in Japan, on Japanese sets, for consumption by Japanese and US audiences.
Yoshimoto is producing two versions of the same game show using the same sets and props—a Japanese version as well as a version with American contestants, directors, and hosts. Yoshimoto has produced six such dual pilots, including You vs. America, a quiz show hosted by Ted Allen of Chopped. With Yoshimoto’s experience and warehouse of props, these Americanized pilots cost only a fraction of what they’d run stateside.
One of the most instructive examples of how this cross-cultural initiative is faring is Yoshimoto Kogyo’s The Luckiest. In late , Craig Piligian, the reality-TV mogul behind Survivor, approached Yoshimoto about collaborating on an anti-Survivor: a game show about pure dumb luck, not cutthroat dealmaking. Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios and Yoshimoto inked a coproduction deal, and producers from both outfits met for an epic brainstorming session in Tokyo. Japanese-born Masi Oka of Heroes and Hawaii Five-0 fame was brought in as a consultant. (According to Oka, it’s easier if “a fellow Japanese guy who has succeeded in Hollywood” is the one telling the Japanese how to Americanize their shows, such as using wide, sweeping camera shots instead of just close-ups of suffering faces.)
Eventually the brainstorming team settled on a show that would feature a handful of chance-based contests. There would be a spinning cannon that randomly knocked people off a ledge, swinging pendulums that strike contestants based on a die roll, and a challenge in which participants would don helmets covered with raw Kobe beef and pray that a hawk didn’t perch on their head. Both the Japanese and American versions of the pilot were filmed in early on a Tokyo soundstage bedecked in faux Roman columns. The two shows featured the same games—but that’s where the similarities ended.
The Japanese version, Un Dake Shokin Variety! Lucky Coliseum, featured fading comedy stars who’d achieved fleeting fame due to a single bit or catchphrase. Now, Yorihiro says, “they could resurrect themselves on television.” But the Western version, called The Luckiest, cast a bunch of everyday, English-speaking people living in Tokyo.
On Lucky Coliseum, losing comedians would trot out their signature one-liners and gags as they exited the stage and then head to a dark room for the duration of the episode. Every now and then, the show’s emcee would check in on the poor schmucks and rub their noses in their defeat. On The Luckiest, losing contestants were escorted off the show with typical Western melodrama.
Lucky Coliseum aired in Japan on ABC (Asahi Broadcasting Corporation) as a one-off late-night special in March , and there’s talk of shooting more episodes. The Luckiest has yet to be purchased by an American network. That might be because the challenges are bizarre, but they still seem tame compared to a show like Fear Factor, where contestants dive into vats of blood to find cow hearts. “Some people in the West want to see more pain or bad reactions,” Yorihiro says. “But in Japan you are going for the laughable punishment. It’s quite scary to have a hawk on the top of your head, eating away at a piece of meat.” But because the contestants on America’s Luckiest haven’t been trained to milk pain for laughs, they often simply look uncomfortable while enduring stunts.
None of Yoshimoto Kogyo’s pilots have been picked up in the West yet. But at company headquarters near the busy Shinjuku commercial ward, Yoshimoto CEO Osaki is cautiously optimistic. “It might take a thousand years for us to reach Hollywood, but I think we have a shot at it,” he says as he puffs on a Lucky Strike. But he’s not betting on Louis CK and Sarah Silverman performing batsu game challenges. And he isn’t sure that different humor styles always mix. “I personally don’t find American stand-up that funny,” Osaki says. “Maybe it’s lost in translation.”
Joel Warner ([email protected]) wrote about the science of humor in issue
Show japan funny
Some would say “zany,” others may say “bizarre,” but no matter what adjective you use to describe them, some of Japan’s game shows are, plain and simply put, weird.
Compiled below is a list of the top ten most bizarre Japanese game shows, listed in no particular order.
- Candy or Not Candy
- Or***m Wars
- Man Eats Spaghetti in a Dryer
- The Bum Game
- Slippery Stairs
- Spread Your Legs
- Takeshi’s Castle
- Silent Library
- Marshmallow Rubber Band
- It’s Electrifying
In Japan’s defense, there is a stark difference from a cultural standpoint as what is deemed to be acceptable than the Western World. In Japanese culture, it is common to use sexuality, in a comical concept, producing a more risqué game show, especially if the television show aired during prime time. This obviously means there are shows on this list for Adults Only. Let’s dive into this list and discuss just why these shows are so off the mark.
Candy or Not Candy
This game show seems to be on every list of odd Japanese game shows, and for good reason. The concept behind Candy or Not Candy is contestants take a bite out of what they think is the object that is candy out of three options. Sounds easy, right?
Well, thanks to the Japanese art of Sokkuri, or “Sweets Sculpting” as it translates into English, being able to tell which object is a gourmet chocolate delicacy and which object is, well, potentially an old shoe, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Kind of on the eccentric side, to be completely honest. Definitely treads the water of “weird.”
As weird as it sounds, the players have to eat the object if they think it is made of chocolate or if they are wrong not only will they lose score, they will also be biting some really weird stuff. This game show is one of the most famous Japanese shows on different social media platforms. And it is kind of fun to watch with someone.
Yes, this is a real game show, airing in The concept of this game show is interesting, to say the least. The goal of Or***m Wars was for a homosexual man to make a heterosexual man, well, or***m. This was a pretty risky move in , and in , at least in the Western World, this wouldn’t slip under the radar too easily.
However, this is a perfect example of Japanese television using more X-Rated humor than a lot of Western Cultures tend to be comfortable with. Japan took quite a risk airing a show like this as it was a bold move to make. Definitely weird, but definitely bold.
Man Eats Spaghetti In A Dryer
The title and the video truly do speak for themselves about this game show. There’s really no need to go into elaborate details as to why this is so weird. This is also incredibly dangerous, and please don’t try this at home. I think there are easier ways to consume a bowl of spaghetti, but a monetary prize is also quite enticing in the defense of the contestants. No doubt this was also entertaining to watch.
This show, though, is where we might be crossing over from weird and into the territory of potential insanity to put it in no uncertain terms. You can seriously cause harm to your body inside the dryer. But that’s the fun for Japanese people and those who are watching.
The Bum Game
Circling back to another example of provocative humor in Japanese Culture is The Bum Game. A model puts her bum in a cement or plastic barrier, with 2 holes cut out for her derrière. The person behind the barrier uses any way needed to evaluate the model, including kissing.
The end goal is to guess which model was in front of the contestant. Is anybody a bit uncomfortable right now? The models in the picture down below certainly seem to be. Based upon the previous show listed, though, this can’t even be called as weird as it gets. Definitely an unflattering circumstance for the models.
Six contestants that are dressed to the nines in Lycra. The way to win this competition is to get to the top of the stairs where the treasure chest awaits you. Of course, though, there are buckets full of oil strategically placed through this staircase that dump out. Down goes one contestant, taking others with them. Eventually, one contestant (that truly must have some enviable stamina) does make it to the top of the stairs to claim their well-deserved prize.
This game show took YouTube by storm and there are a plethora of videos online. These videos are watched globally. With millions of views, these are the ultimate source of fun and laughter. Is this weird or hilarious? The verdict via the internet: hilarious.
Spread Your Legs
No one really knows the reason why, but the pain is often the source of humor in many parts of the world, not just in Japanese game shows. The girl that wins Spread Your Legs deserves a prize that is quite nice, for sure. In this show, one woman straps her legs to the machine that spreads them apart, eventually landing into a split. Another girl cranks the wheel that slowly spreads the contestant’s legs apart.
Flexibility is a must to win this game because if she gives up due to the physical pain, the contestant loses. Weird is a pretty mild way to put this show, to be honest.
Takeshi’s Castle has been considered where Japanese game shows got their “weird” reputation, due to the fact that this was the first Japanese game show to become a global phenomenon. Countries all around the world dubbed their own similar game shows, the end concept being to “take out” Count Takeshi in a challenge after winning other games in the competition, which often involved the losing contestants falling into a pit of mud or water.
Maybe this is not so much weird, except for the global cult following. Definitely extreme, though, for the contestants of this variety show. It was totally worth it for the winner who got 1 million Yen which was roughly equivalent to $8, US. The show was so famous that it was repeated after a few years of initial streaming. Although it dates back to the s it is still a popular show in Japan.
Silent Library is, for the most part, a Japanese take on the American Television Show, Jackass, where strange and embarrassing stunts are performed. In the version created by the Japanese producers on this show, however, the contestants are performing their stunts in a library and can’t make noise, lest they disturb the students studying.
This is definitely weird, most likely quite humorous, and honestly probably a bit bizarre for the students trying to prepare for their finals. They truly may not be completely sure what is actually happening around them, due to lack of sleep and the stress of school.
Marshmallow Rubber Band
In this particular variety show, the contestants put at least one rubber band around their head, if not several. Their main objective is to catch the marshmallows, dangling in front of them on a string, in their mouths. This is pretty high up there on humiliating, not just weird, based on photos. Again with pain equating humor on a pretty global standpoint, there is no way this is doesn’t hurt.
For the sake of the contestants, hopefully, there was a nice monetary prize, rather than simply their fifteen minutes of fame being on a nationally syndicated game show. The pictures online are forever, too.
Rounding out our Top Ten List is It’s Electrifying. This game show actually involves men being electrified. Aside from weird, this is another game show that just seems to equate physical pain to humor, and puts the woman in another unflattering position, to put it bluntly.
The contestants slide down a shuffleboard deck on what appears to be a large scooter and glide directly into a woman’s chest. Once the contestant hits the model’s chest, he gets jolted with a shock of electricity. There isn’t much information online about this game show, so it’s difficult to determine any other concept of the game.
In the Western World, popular game shows tend to be quiz-type and lean more towards being family-friendly rather than sexualized, due in large part to daytime syndication and less so much at nighttime. Cultural differences truly do shine when it comes to Japanese Game Shows.
This list is only ten examples, specifically pointing out the “weird” ones, but a quick search on the internet will pull up dozens more. Not all Japanese game shows are quite as bizarre as the ones that made this list, as quiz types are also popular in Japan. Had it not been for Tasheki’s Castle becoming a global sensation, the reputation of Japanese game shows may have never become what we think of today.
15 Weirdest Japanese Game Shows That Will Blow Your Mind
Television networks across the world are producing all kinds of game shows but undoubtedly the American television industry is the pioneer of such entertainment. Their game shows are known all over the world for their authentic approach and interesting concepts.
The leap from ‘Jeopardy’ to ‘Double Dare’ clearly shows the evolution process of such shows. Now, they even have their own separate game show network.
On the other hand, Japan television industry is known for its weirdest game shows. Their game shows are absurd, inappropriate and crazy.
Most of them are for adult audiences and involve women in a disgracing manner. The challenges asked to perform are embarrassing and sometimes downright foolish. The show usually consists of over-enthusiastic hosts, ugly sets, bright flashing lights, insane ideas, etc.
Given below is the list of Japanese shows that can easily be placed under the banner of weirdest and absurd game shows presented on television networks.
Note: some game shows are clearly for adults only.
Though the name has nothing common with Bingo game, it is basically a weird version of dodge the ball.
The show has two famous comedians who decide the punishment of the ones getting hit by the ball. As the show proceeds, the punishment gets grosser and even very brutal. The odd show tries to entertain the audience by making the losing person eat an insect.
One of the penalties included two persons trying to blow an insect through the tube to each others mouth.
2. Strip the Girl
As the name suggests, this game is quite embarrassing for both male and female generation. Basically, the game is all about catching a sight of an undressed girl and in order to do that men are supposed to perform a series of not so entertaining tasks.
For example, one of the challenges involved tossing bean bags towards the boxes that are placed in front of the naked girl.
3. It’s Electrifying
Being electrocuted is dangerous but not according to this bizarre Japanese game show. This is a crazy game show where players are actually electrocuted for the sake of fun and entertainment.
The contenders are made to slide on shuffleboards and are given the task of entering into a women’s chest. When a contestant enters the chest he gets electrified.
Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say that some women are literally electrifying.
4. Soapy Stairs
This game show has a simple demand: Climb the stairs and win the game. But there is a catch, i.e. the stairs are extremely greasy. Though climbing soapy stairs dont look or sound tough in reality, it is quite the opposite.
The contestants usually slip and land on their chin or batter their back on the stone steps of the staircase. The risk factor of getting hurt is quite high in this painful approach.
While trying to cover the staircase, if a contestant slips all the way down then he/she is welcomed a pool of water.
5. Candy or not Candy
The game is entertaining for the audience but certainly at times not for the ones actually going through it. This game has the tendency to be sweet or disgusting at different moments of the time.
This game show makes use of an art form called sokkuri which enables to remake objects like glass wares or shoes from chocolate.
The celebrities are given the challenge to taste different things and find out if they have eaten some edible candy or not edible everyday object.
6. Human Tetris
This game is actually quite entertaining to watch. As the name suggests, it is Tetris involving humans in real time instead of blocks. There is a wall having different human body shape cutout patterns that come towards the contenders.
The contestants can go to the next level only by adhering to the cutout patterns on the wall.
They are not pushed off the platform as long as they maneuver their bodies according to the design which is a very hilarious sight most of the times.
7. The Bum Game
This game show adds itself in the category of the most embarrassing and inappropriate game shows ever. The show’s concept is extremely bizarre. Imagine a large wall having holes in it.
Now imagine those holes showing butt cheeks of women. Yes, you read it right! That’s exactly what this show is offering to the audience.
The contestant’s partner will stand on the other side of the wall and their task will be to identify the bum of their respective partner by kissing the exposed rear ends of the girls.
8. Be Cute Or Get Pie
This game has a different level of cuteness that doesn’t make sense at all. The show contains a room which is full of girls sleeping on the floor.
The judges ( two male models) named as ‘mama’ and ‘son’ are supposed to wake them up one by one in whichever style they want to.
Their main criterion of judgment is to decide which of the girl wakes up in the cutest manner. If according to their verdict, someone wakes up in a not so cute way then she gets a pie on her face as a penalty.
9. Undressing Her with Your Eyes
It seems like Japanese games shows are quite obsessed with undressing women or in other words, objectifying the naked women. This obnoxious game involves male contestants who attach various clamps to the different body parts of their body like nipples, shoulders, eyes, ears, etc.
The clamps have strings attached to them and the other side of the string is attached to woman participant’s clothes. After that, the contender pulls the strings so that the woman gets undressed because of ripped clothes.
As far as enjoyment is concerned, this game is not less enjoyable than the original bowling game. As the name portrays, this game involves humans as a throwing object rather than bowling towards the giant pins.
For safety measures, the contestants are present in the inner tubes and slide down an inclined position. Unlike many other game shows, this particular show is enjoyable for the audiences as well.
If you like throwing yourself into things then you must try for this show for sure.
This show is for the ones who have steel nerves and courage to try new adventures. It tests one’s intelligence and bravery at the same time.
The contenders are made to answer questions, solve puzzles, and complete mental challenges while facing terrifying situations. They are not given the comfort zone of a studio instead, they are put through dangerous scenarios that include filling up of the room with water, balancing on retracting narrow planks, and various high-pressure situations, etc.
Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that Dero! Dero! Is one hell of an exciting plus intriguing game show.
Let’s Go to the Other End of the World!
Traveling across the world is a dream of everyone. This show fulfills this fantasy of lucky contestants by giving them the opportunity to explore different countries.
The only catch is that the bravery of the contestants is put to test by putting them in terrifying situations with wildlife. In one of the game episodes, a girl was made to encounter a fierce bear while being placed in plexiglass.
Moreover, the strange part is that she has to record this unusual meeting with the wildlife creature despite being scared as hell.
It would be more appropriate to refer to this game show as brutal rather than being weird. Here, the contenders stress management capability is tested by asking them seven questions under an extremely terrifying situation of being wrapped under the gauze.
If they give the wrong answers their body parts from head to toe gets continuously covered with a white cloth. They are forced to control their nerves and answer the questions quickly otherwise they will become one step closer to being mummified.
To top it all, in the end their mummified body is placed in the tomb. Yes, you read it right that’s how their sacrifice is glorified.
Spread Your Leg
This game show is the weirdest of all where the winner is decided by spreading the legs with most distance in between. The game consists of three participant girls, a spinning wheel and a torture device.
One girl is made to spin the wheel and the other one of the girls is responsible for operating the torture device. The third girl left actually endures the torture by sitting in the device and the machine spreads her legs apart according to the number on the spinning wheel.
Imagine a higher number on the spinning wheel and then imagine how pain will it cause to the contestant involved. OUCH!!
A Human Slot Machine
Like many other bizarre games shows, this game show is also investing in degrading women for fun factor.
It is a weird kind of coin game where women are supposed to fill their piece of clothing with as many coins as the can.
The only catch is that their clothing only consists of a bikini.
This article was written by a freelance writer.
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Fuck you. - the girl was already fully dressed, picking up her hat from the shelf, she abruptly pulled the handle of the front door, rapidly leaving the apartment. Without. Calling the elevator, she rushed down the stairs. Andrei slowly closed the door, clicking the lock, went into the bathroom and thoroughly washed his hands.