2017/11/15 What's On
Strangest Gameshows In Japan
by Jordan Mounteer
In terms of what sort of Japanese culture makes it across the pond to North America, video games, cosplay, and anime certainly rank near the top. In terms of media, though, and with the proliferation of platforms like Youtube where it’s possible to host videos, another phenomenon has begun to catch the eyes of people who don’t live in Japan – namely, a bizarre fascination with some truly strange gameshows (at least from a Western standpoint). Whether it’s full on nudity and oddly sexual shows, or ones which involve blowing cockroaches into contestants’ mouths, here are some of the weirdest that have aired.
Candy or Not Candy – This gameshow basically describes itself. On camera, contestants are presented with everyday objects, ranging from shoes to door knobs to other pieces of furniture, and instructed to tell the audience whether or not it’s candy. Confused, yet? Well, in addition to having to speculate on whether a chair leg or a piece of chocolate is edible or not, the premise of the show focuses on an old art form known as sokkuri, in which everyday mundane objects were intricately modeled using only chocolate. The show has earned huge ratings, and a popular following. The ante is raised considerably when the contestants are forced to eat things that are, if real, decidedly not edible, including giant beetles or pieces of wood. If you have a sweet tooth, and want to try a form of humor that is a bit unique, this might be for you. Personally, I am more taken with how lifelike some of the objects actually are.
Orgasm Wars – Proving that reality is stranger than fiction, at least when you visit Japan, this show feels like it should probably feature on Pornhub rather than a public broadcasting station. There are two things to unpack with this show: first, as a very conservative country, issues of gender and sexuality tend to be a lot more traditional here (minus the subcultures), and secondly a common theme of gameshows of this nature involves humiliation or embarrassment of the contestants. So, without further ado… Orgasm Wars basically features men who have identified as gay attempting to make their heterosexual male counterparts climax. In the clip I saw, a well known straight porn star meets his opponent, and after some mild banter has fellatio performed on him as university students watch from the bleachers and cheer them on. The actual “act” takes place under the veil of a cardboard box, but all the same, it’s probably one of those channels I’d flip past.
Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! – For a show that’s been on since 1989, this variety-esque show is hosted by the famous owarai comedy duo Downtown, and features a sprawling cast of permanent and returning contestants. In fact, in 2010 they celebrated their 1000th episode and are still going strong. Many of the segments on the game are quite creative in their design and application, and a feature is their batsu games. Roughly translated this means ‘punishment’ games, and include everything from one of the hosts losing a bet and having to skydive from 4000 meters, to ‘no laughing’ scenarios where hosts were punished if they started laughing as a result of antics from their colleagues. Another amusing game involves contestants attempting to catch hanging marshmallows on strings with their mouths while a rubber band has been fitted over their heads. It’s weird, it’s colorful, it’s loud, and apparently they’re doing something right to have last this long!
Dero! Dero! – This game actually looks pretty fun, if only because I kind of want to be on it just to see how I do. If you’re familiar with escape room scenarios, in which you and a team are locked in a room and have to use clues to figure out how to escape, then you’re already familiar with the basic premise of this gameshow. A wide variety of contestants, ranging from professionals to university students, are thrown into very high stress situations and have to figure out creative ways to ‘survive’. In keeping with the torture and punishment themes that seem to make up the most popular of these gameshow types, it’s what you would get if you crossed the Saw movie franchise with the board game Clue with a laughing audience. In one scenario, for example, the floor begins to move back into the wall, revealing a “perilous” drop below, and only a few small skinny platforms remaining, so contestants have to shuffle onto them or fall into the pit. It sounds a bit grim, but it’s actually quite funny – at the same time, it definitely gives a new meaning to the phrase schadenfreude.
AKBingo! – What do you get when a gameshow meets an all-girl idol band? The eminent AKB48 musical group, which if you’ve been living under a rock is a very large all-female cast of attractive singers whose ranks are constantly changing, stars in this gameshow which asks the questions “how do we combine the ratings of punishments games with the sex appeal of Japan’s most famous band?”. In the show, the girls have to compete against one another in a variety of tests and skill-based challenges, and are often submitted to extravagant punishments as a result. For instance, in one case the girls had to affix their mouths to a long plastic horizontal tube with a single cockroach inside, and then had to try and blow the insect into the other’s mouth. The format of the show includes news, sports, and quizzes, but really has all the look of early American gameshows from the 1960’s. In any case, if you’re a fan of AKB48, tune in.
Strip the Girl – In keeping with the strange obsessions with perversion, Strip the Girl is even more bizarre than the last, starring male contestants wearing odd nappy like diapers, and attached to giant elastic bands. The goal of this insane game? To scuttle up a slick plastic incline as fast as they can and knock away plastic blocks, behind which is a naked woman. Of course, the majority are pulled by the elastic band back into a pit of tar. So, I guess this is entertainment? I encourage you all to find a Youtube clip – I feel like no one will believe me.
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