The Land of the Rising Sun is known for its dependable automobiles, high-tech gadgetry and weird Japanese game shows. Forget the tame TV you’ve grown up with. Weird Japanese game shows subject their contestants to far stranger things than ageless Vanna Whites and bad hair pieces. In Japan, appearing on a game show includes excruciating pain, mockery and ridicule in exchange for a possible yen or two along the way.
Many consider Takeshi’s Castle to be the proto-game show that influenced waves and waves of weird Japanese game shows. Contestants go through a battery of challenges like the “Avalanche” where competitors try to cross a narrow gully while game henchmen try to knock them down with polystyrene boulders. Those who are fortunate enough to survive the difficult challenges team up and assault Count “Beat” Takeshi’s castle in small motorized cars armed with water guns while Takeshi’s minions engage them in similar vehicles.
Fans of the U.S. version should be familiar with the mechanics of Iron Chef. A talented chef picks out one of several master Iron Chefs and challenges them to a cooking showdown. The twist is that the combatants are given a mystery ingredient that when revealed, should be used as the primary ingredient in all their dishes. What makes this different—and weirder— than the stateside version is that whil the American show sticks to the mundane with beef, pork or celery, the original focuses on odd (disgusting?) ingredients like fish head and cow brains.
Apron of Love
Cooking shows are a dime a dozen. Wanna be chefs are expected to whip up incredibly delicious dishes in order to impress celebrity hosts and judges. Aside from its bizarre title, what makes Apron of Love so different is that contestants are expected to cook in a massive studio kitchen where absolutely none of the ingredients are labeled. The judges’ reactions to the mysterious dishes is just priceless.
Another gem from the ’80s, Endurance is as weird as weird Japanese shows gets. Contestants undergo a variety of unpleasant ordeals such as eating marshmallows suspended in midair while their faces are restrained by bungee cords or repeating difficult tongue twisters knowing full well that if they make a mistake, a slapping machine is ready to smack a very sensitive part of their anatomy. The last man standing wins.
Viking is another game picked up by American producers. In this game show, a massive and extremely difficult obstacle course await hoards of eager contestants. There are three stages and while completing each one is difficult enough, those who join are also competing against the clock. Those who fall off the course land in a pool of deep water. Celebrities and athletes sometimes try their luck, but they end up failing as much as the average Hiroki. The show sometimes has a “Family Edition” where entire families try to complete the challenges together.