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 2013. 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 2013, and in 2020, 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 $8,000 US. The show was so famous that it was repeated after a few years of initial streaming. Although it dates back to the 1990s 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.