Japan has long had the reputation not just for their technological advancements, but also for their unique game shows. They’re downright weird, absurd, and sometimes brutal, but at the same time, of course, they’re always entertaining and very hilarious. The cult of the Japanese game show has spread to the United States as well as some other parts of the world. They have their own versions of some of the most popular Japanese game shows (like MTV’s Silent Library, which is based on a hilarious Japanese segment, and Wipeout which is obviously inspired by Takeshi’s Castle). They are always guaranteed to leave you in stitches!
Takeshi Castle as the trailblazer of quirky Japanese game shows
From 1986 through 1990, Takeshi’s Castle was a Japanese game show. Participants in the game show compete in absurd challenges like using their bodies as bowling balls or slapping one other while wearing enormous hands. Due to the success of the program, it was copied in approximately 30 nations, including ABC’s Wipeout.
Attack Takeshi’s Castle was the original name of the program, which starred the Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano (better known as Beat Takeshi) as a count who poses difficult obstacles for players to overcome in order to approach him. The program’s portrayal of participants as being “forced” into the games garnered it a reputation for tormenting defenseless individuals.
Takeshi’s Castle gained international acclaim and was shown in nearly 30 nations, including the US and the UK, where it was known as MXC and aired on Spike TV from 2003 to 2007. The original show was subtitled in English with frequently absurd and incorrect translations. Takeshi Kitano was a part of the comedic team known as Two Beat, where he and a friend engaged in a quickfire back-and-forth conversation.
The competition is held in a relay race-style where contestants’ face are bound with a rubber band while they try to eat a marshmallow hanging from a string (with no hands, of course). The looks on the contestants’ faces are often very funny.
In Japan, the game show is known as “Brain Wall,” but it’s known to non-Japanese viewers more as Human Tetris or Hole in the Wall. In this game, contestants try to fit themselves through the cut-out shapes in the styrofoam wall coming toward them. If they fail to do so they will be pushed by the moving wall into a shallow pool of water; of course, no points will be awarded to them.
Wall of Boxes
The game known to many non-Japanese viewers as “Wall of Boxes” is a popular segment from the variety show Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende! In this game, four contestants perch on top of a wall which consists of stacked boxes. Each of them picks a number which has a corresponding random action assigned to them. Whatever is on the card then comes out and tries to knock the boxes down. The first contestant whose wall finally collapses is out, and the last contestant with the still-standing wall comes out as the winner. In true Japanese fashion, what comes out towards the boxes is nonsensical and this makes the game very hilarious.
As you might have guessed it from the title, contestants play as teams who try to make it to the top of a set of stairs which are coated with a slippery substance. It’s a lot harder to do than it looks, but it always produces uproarious results!
In this game, contestants must try to correctly solve the seven puzzles while simultaneously being “mummified.” Truly weird and pretty funny stuff (and sometimes undeniably creepy). Don’t try to even watch this show if you’re feeling claustrophobic.
Death by Lizard
In this really absurd game show, brave contestants wear a strap of meat to their heads and let a carnivorous lizard charge towards their faces. The reaction of the screaming contestants is priceless! This beats Fear Factor anytime!
After Human Tetris, there’s Human Bowling! Contestants are pushed down and then slide on the slope in an attempt to hit all the giant bowling pins (“strike”). This is like tubing and bowling in one! We think this is probably the only Japanese game show in this list that we would love to join. Even if we lose the game, the consolation prize we’d get is the sheer fun from sliding down the slope. You may also check out our post, Which Game Shows Defined the 1960s Television Experience? for more classic game shows.
In this game, three contestants are put in a room, with each of them standing on long, narrow wooden beams. As the beams gradually shrink back to the wall (therefore leaving them less and less space to remain standing on), contestants must solve the puzzles correctly in order to survive. Those who fail to correctly answer all the puzzles fall to their “deaths” down what looks like a deep abyss.
Candy or Not Candy
This is the show that we would like to see coming to our shores. In this bizarre game show, celebrities try to figure out if an everyday object is made out of candy or is otherwise the real thing by taking a bite of it. One successful contestant chomps a “shoe” that actually turns out to be chocolate (I’d say the chocolate does look like a genuine leather shoe!).
Human Sticky Jump
This game is somewhat similar to Human Tetris, but here in this game two opposing contestants jump against a wall and strike a particular pose. The wall, which the contestants cling onto after making the jump, consists of outlines which they try to fit in. The contestant who mimics the outline more closely comes out as the winner.
This game is just plain crazy as it sounds. It’s like the classic soccer game, only the players wear binoculars which certainly brings an element of challenge to them.. and a lot of belly-laughs to us!
Human Pac Man
This game show basically works like the classic arcade game, but in a live-action version. A contestant who plays as Pac-Man must finish all the pellets in the maze and escape his enemies. The funny moment comes when the enemies trap Pac-Man, they proceed to beat him up with a “stick.” If you want to discover more classic television game shows, you may read our post, What Were the Must-Watch Game Shows of the 1950s?