Japan is well-known as the home of many peculiarities, and Japanese game shows are the perfect example of that. The organizers of these games embrace weirdness to the fullest, with an emphasis on eccentric costumes, flashing lights, and degrading, borderline torturous physical challenges.
Combining the animated culture to be expected from Japan and the sadism of the Saw film franchise, these game shows are wildly entertaining yet horrifyingly insane.
Here are 12 of the weirdest Japanese game shows that actually exist.
1. Candy or Not Candy — The simple premise challenges celebrity contestants to find out if what they’re putting in their mouth is candy or the everyday object it appears to be.
Using an art form known as sokkuri, chocolate has been created to look like anything from a shoe to a doorknob. However, contestants will unlikely end up potentially biting into these inanimate objects.
2. DERO! DERO! — Contestants on this game show are forced to solve puzzles and answer questions, which may sound simple enough. However, the show makes sure the pressure is at an all-time extreme by having the contestants in high-stress scenarios while playing.
Playing involves anything from balancing on a retracting plank to being trapped in a room quickly filling with water.
3. TORE! — When it comes to Japanese game shows, the pressure of answering a question is never enough. Also, getting an answer wrong could mean being subject to truly peculiar punishment.
In TORE!, the contestant attempts to answer seven questions before they are completely mummified. Not only are the contestants wrapped in a tightly wound cloth from their head to toe, but they also get placed in a tomb.
4. Human Tetris — Contestants stand on a platform while a series of walls come rapidly towards them. The only way to make it through the wall is to maneuver one’s body to get through the challenging cutouts.
The hilariously entertaining game has increasingly difficult cutouts, which results in most players being pushed off the platform.
5. The Bum Game — Sometimes, skill and strategy aren’t really requirements in Japanese game shows. This particular game involves girls placing their bottoms in a mold that hides their identities from the contestants.
The objective is for the players to try and figure out which rear end belongs to each girl, judging solely on the two holes revealing their bums.
6. AKBingo! — What starts out as a seemingly innocuous game of dodgeball ends up with some seriously disturbing consequences for those who get hit.
The punishment for being hit by one of the balls is chosen by a comedy duo. Their job is to increase the grotesque factor throughout the game. One punishment involved two girls having to blow a large insect in a tube. The loser would end up with the bug in her mouth.
7. Let’s Go To The End Of The World. Contestants on this show get to travel the world but have to endure some truly strange tasks along the way.
To give some insight into the oddity of these tasks, one contestant was placed in a Plexiglas cube called the “predator box” in order to “confront wildlife.” A grizzly bear was then released and taunted the terrified contestant, who was required to still film while inside.
8. In this bizarre game, judges go around a room of attractive girls sleeping on the floor and attempt to wake them up however they please.
The girls are judged according to the cuteness of how they wake up. Those who don’t make the cut get a pie to the face.
9. Strip the Girl — In this game, male contestants are put through a series of challenging and embarrassing tasks in order to catch a glimpse of a naked model standing behind a board.
The board has numbered boxes, and most challenges involve the contestant having to throw bean bags at the boxes in order to remove the sections one by one.
10. Spread Your Legs — This painful game involves three girls: one who spins a wheel, one who sits inside a torture device, and one who manipulates it.
The number the wheel lands on results in just how much the torture device is manipulated. The machine spreads the girl’s legs further and further apart. How anyone really wins is unclear.
11. Pain tends to be the name of the game for most Japanese competition shows, as seen with this one, which involves attempting to climb soapy stairs.
However, most contestants end up plunging down the staircase and sliding into a large pool of goop to make the chance of success for their next attempt even more unlikely.
12. Human Bowling — This game features contestants taking the place of bowling balls and being sent down a sloped lane in order to knock down giant pins.
The show even made a cameo on American television when it was featured in the finale of the reality competition show Amazing Race 23.
Takeshi’s Castle is one of the most influential Japanese television programs in history. Since its introduction by the Tokyo Broadcasting System in 1986, this show has entailed various daunting physical challenges involving the participants risking injury, humiliation, and drinking some unpleasant-looking water.
Initially written off as an eccentric novelty, Takeshi’s Castle endured the test of time and even became the blueprint for various similar shows involving elaborate stunts, such as American Ninja Warrior, Total Wipeout, Jackass, Tough Mudder, and Ultimate Beastmaster. Anyone who has participated and won a prize in these shows based on the concept of obstacle races has the creators of Takeshi’s Castle to thank for that.
With a similar premise to Takeshi’s Castle, the videogame Fall Guys has sold tens of millions of copies. The legacy of this game show even extends to one of the most popular Netflix shows in the last few years, Squid Game. When you look at it closely, Squid Game is just a much more extreme and harrowing version of Takeshi’s Castle, where the punishment for failure is death.
This month, Takeshi’s Castle has a spectacular return on Amazon Prime Video with a new Hindu language commentator. The Indian actor and content creator Bhuvan Ban will re-enact his famous YouTube personality, Titu Mama, as he provides his comedic voiceover for the iconic game show.
The new eight-episode season of Takeshi’s Castle premieres on September 26 on the popular online platform. It will reportedly set up exhilarating challenges for the contestants while bringing back the original Castle Lord Takeshi Kitano. The organizers announced the complete cast lineup earlier this year and released the show's original version for the Japanese audience in April, while the rest of the world has to wait until the end of this month.
The rules are more or less unchanged since the original Japanese show in the 1980s, where the so-called ‘attacking army’ of 100 volunteer contestants tried to storm the impenetrable castle. For that purpose, they would put their bodies through incredibly demanding and somewhat degrading physical challenges, such as going through mazes, skipping floating rocks, crossing through muddy pits, and jumping across huge rolling pins.
The last round of Takeshi’s Castle has the participants in a cart battle, where they use laser guns to try and defeat the Castle Lord Takeshi for the main prize of 1 million JPY. This version of the show promises the same sum of money to the winner, only with trickier and more complicated obstacles.
The new season of Takeshi’s Castle promises to add hilarious commentary to the typical eccentricities that make the show popular - such as fun set-ups, challenging games, and exciting adventures. Bhuvan Bam aims to spice up the contestants’ bizarre challenges with his unique Indian perspective and comical elements.
This August, the UK got its reboot of Takeshi’s Castle, featuring Tom Davis and Romesh Ranganathan as brand-new commentators. Davis, who is a diehard fan of the game show, and Ranganathan, a comedian who enjoys seeing people fall and humiliate themselves, are the perfect duo to guide you through the chaotic world of Takeshi’s Castle.