TV game shows have been a popular staple in the industry since its very early days. While American readers may think of shows such as Family Feud, The Price is Right, or Let’s Make a Deal, These are not the vanilla shows we will be discussing. These shows don’t have contestants answer simple questions or complete harmless challenges. Instead, contestants have to humiliate, hurt, or even torture themselves in order to rise to the top. American reality shows have their own humiliations and exploitation, but Japanese game shows have become infamous around the world for their bizarre and ridiculous premises.
What many may not realize, is that many of the most famous “shows” are actually segments. A popular type of show in Japan is, in essence, variety shows with each segment being a different game show. Because of this, some shows listed here are actually one-offs as opposed to full shows. These aren’t the kinds of game shows to watch on a weekday while laying out of school. These are the kinds that make audiences scratch their heads, weep for humanity, or laugh hysterically…or all of the above.
7 Takeshi’s Castle
Often referred to as the Grandfather of Japanese game shows, Takeshi’s Castle is where Japanese game shows first earned worldwide recognition. Think of this show as a more ridiculous version of Wipeout. Takeshi Kitano (the surprisingly great director) is featured as a Count who challenges players to storm his castle and take him out. Along the way, they encounter daunting challenges and difficult obstacles. The players must navigate through crazy obstacles that more often than not end with them in mud or water.
As stated before, this show inspired the likes of Wipeout and Ninja Warrior. Takeshi’s Castle Was mostly played for laughs, and injuries were usually nothing more than bumps and bruises. American audiences may know the show better as Most Extreme Elimination Challenge or simply MXC. This American version served as mostly a parody, with humorous dubbing over the original footage. This is a tame competition show in comparison to some others out of Japan, but remains one of the most popular.
6 Candy Or Not Candy
A popular social media craze from the past year involves everyday objects being cut into, only to reveal it is actually cake. This is a concept that has existed in some ways prior years, and one of them is a Japanese game show. While the actual title has been lost in translation, many agree on calling it Candy or Not Candy. The objective is simple enough: contestants must bite into various objects. If they are lucky, they have bitten into chocolate. If they aren’t, then they just stuck random household objects into their mouths.
Things such as shoes, doorknobs, and picture frames must be bitten into. Again, this isn’t even the weirdest example. The oddness comes from the idea that constants must put these items into their mouths in the slight possibility it is some sort of chocolate. The whole “is it cake phenomenon” isn’t as out there because nobody has to eat anything. Someone putting a shoe in their mouth on live television is a weird idea, even if it is candy.
5 Slippery Stairs
Seeing people fall and hurt themselves is a universal bit of comedy. From early Vaudeville acts to internet fail compilations, the human species loves a good pratfall. This explains why Slippery Stairs caught on. The idea is simple: climb a large set of stairs and make it to the top. The challenge comes from the fact that the stairs are coated in something that makes them next to impossible to climb without slipping and falling.
Each time a contestant falls, a cartoony sound effect is played to offset the fact that someone has painfully fallen down a flight of stairs. The players are wearing plenty of padding, and they seem to be in good spirits, but slipping and hitting your chin on a step has to hurt.
4 Be Cute or Get Pie
Nobody feels their best right after waking up. It usually takes a bit to get themselves together and be a functioning member of society. This game show forces women to be at their best after waking up or suffer the consequences. The basic idea behind Be Cute or Get Pie is that there are a number of women sleeping on the ground. One by one they are awoken. When it is their turn, they must wake up in the cutest way possible. If the judges deem them not cute enough, they get smacked in the face with a pie.
The fact is, it is next to impossible to wake up and immediately be cute. On top of this, they aren’t gently awoken. They are scared typically awake. This show’s critics claim this is sending a bad message to younger girls, claiming they must make every effort to fit society’s definition of cute at any given time. This is just one of many Japanese game shows that paint women in an unflattering light, but at least they can remain clothed for this one.
3 The Bum Game
This one is weird from all conceivable angles. A male contestant must pick his significant other out from a group of models. How does he do this? By her exposed rear end. The women stand behind a wall and stick their nude behind into holes in the wall for the contestant, and the live audience, to see.
The man must decide which bum is the right bum by any means necessary. He can feel, squeeze, and even kiss. This is a very clearly uncomfortable experience for the women, and their reactions are typically not ones of pleasure. This is just plain unsettling, and many find it in very poor taste. There is nothing stopping the man from endlessly groping the women, and oftentimes this is what happens. This show fits right in with some of the worst reality shows. This would be uncomfortable to watch even if it was fake, but it is very much real.
This Japanese quiz show is, for the most part, somewhat harmless. Contestants must answer a variety of Family Feud-like questions while doing some sort of challenge. These challenges could be something like scaling a wall that becomes steeper and steeper. However, one challenge is where Tore! receives its infamy. Contestants must list things based on a topic given by the judges. They are timed and are being wrapped up like a mummy throughout the whole process.
If they run out of time, they are fully wrapped and stuck in a tomb. This is very difficult to watch for those with claustrophobia, and the contestants are clearly actually scared. On top of this, oftentimes the players are mocked in the process. For example, one man had to list seven words that use the kanji for thin because his hair was thinning. The show is certainly popular, but many agree this segment is hard to watch.
1 Susunu! Denpa Shonen
Susunu! Denpa Shonen is a show for putting its contestants through brutal and sometimes famous inhumane challenges for the entertainment of viewers. One of the most infamous segments follows an aspiring comedian named Nasubi. Nasubi was placed in an apartment and stripped of all contact with the outside world. All he had access to were various magazines; he wasn’t even allowed to have food or clothes. Nasubi was to use the magazines to win sweepstakes in order to win items he needed such as food, water, and clothes. After nearly a year, Nasubi was able to win enough to be set free, until he was forced to continue the game in a different location.
Nasubi was under the impression he was being filmed, and his exploits would be edited and aired on TV at a later date. In reality, his misery was being live-streamed to the entire country. Countless people tuned in to see a very real man slowly lose his sanity in an isolated apartment. He even began talking to stuffed animals. Susunu! Denpa Shonen was known for this kind of unnatural punishment towards people simply wanting to appear on a game show. The show was canceled at the behest of the Japanese government, and the show now lives in infamy. Nasubi’s life was ruined after his appearance on the show, and it goes to show just how dangerous survival reality shows can truly be.