10 of the Weirdest Japanese Game Shows.

There really aren't any winners on these things, just people who keep a little more dignity...

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Japanese Game shows: A Complete Guide

I don’t know about you, but British (and I’m sure American) game shows can sometimes get just a little too repetitive.

Yes I know, you’re all better at answering general knowledge questions than I am, well done!

Oh you’ve picked a box and won some money! Thrilling television!

Today though, I want to divert your attention to by far the craziest, wackiest, and weirdest game shows in the entire world.

Japanese Game Shows of course!

Note from the editor: Interested in other weird and wacky parts of Japanese culture?

From five figure fruit, to indestructible backpacks, Japan is certainly a country that pushes limits.

Click here to learn more!

A brief history of Japanese game shows

The first Japanese game show showed up in around 1950, and all things considered, it was pretty tame by today’s standards.

It was called ‘Gesture’ and was literally just a televised version of charades.

No crazy stunts or lubricated stairs in sight, just a simple game of Japanese charades.

It probably wasn’t until another 36-40 years until the ‘Weird’ game shows in Japan started to become more frequent and popular.

And what gameshow led the way?

Takeshi’s Castle. More on that one later!

Why are Japanese gameshows so weird?

As you’ll learn from this list, Japanese game shows are certainly a far cry from programs like who wants to be a millionaire.

But are they really as weird as they get credit for?

Western media loves anything a bit different, and that’s exactly what these shows are. But don’t get the impression that everything on Japanese TV is like this so everyone in Japan must think this is normal.

A lot of these ‘Gameshows’ are just small segments from variety shows designed to be outrageous and a little weird.

So keep in mind that the shows on this list you’re about to see aren’t an everyday occurrence and are designed to be crazy. They aren’t designed to be ‘normal shows’ that everyone else thinks all Japanese people must all like.

Here are a couple of things I need to clear up before we get started:

What are punishment games?

Featured on a lot of the variety shows, ‘Batsu games’ are punishments that a loser must accept following a lost bet or competition.

They often happen relatively infrequently but are most definitely the videos that get shared around most on social media.

They might not be gameshows:

Remember that most of the videos you’ve seen before about crazy Japanese gameshows are probably just small sections or segments of a variety show meaning the chances of more footage being available is low.

It’s not about your brain:

In some Japanese gameshows it’s probably necessary to use your brain, like on ‘ Dasshutsu Game DERO!’, but on the whole physical elements play a far larger part in a Japanese gameshow’s makeup than mental.

Helpful resources

I’m confident enough to write this article on Japanese gameshows as I’m sure I know more than someone who happens upon a video from one of the shows. If however, you want to know more information about any of the titles on this list the people of the Japanese Game Show subreddit are who you should ask.

1. Slippery Stairs

Actual name: Nuru Nuru Treasure Hunter

Variety Show: All-Star Thanksgiving

slippery stairs weird Japanese game show
Is this slippery stairs or a return of the Power Rangers? (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

First on the list of weirdest Japanese game shows we have ‘Slippery stairs’.

Slippery stairs, or as it’s actually called ‘Nuru Nuru Treasure Hunter’ went viral a few years ago when a clip from the show was posted on YouTube from an unknown source. Fast forward 5 years and it’s on pretty much every social media platform and every top ten list, including this one!

Before we dive into what makes this game so hilariously perfect, lets clear up a few misconceptions. The Japanese game show called ‘Slippery stairs’ by westerners isn’t actually a game show at all. In fact, it’s a minigame on a bi-annual variety show called ‘All star thanksgiving’.

And its name ‘Slippery stairs’ isn’t actually its true name. I would hazard a guess that its fake name took off because it’s easy to remember and works in the mind of a non-Japanese speaker.

Its real name is ‘Nuru Nuru Treasure Hunter’.

Quick Japanese Vocab Lesson:

ぬるぬる (nuru nuru) : Slimy / slippery

But for the google gods, I’ll be referring to it as the stair game as I doubt many people type in Nuru Nuru Treasure Hunter game!

What is the goal of Slippery Stairs?

Everything you need to know about slippery stairs is in the title.

Contestants make their way up the slippery and slimy stairs attempting to retrieve the treasure at the top.

There is absolutely nothing to grab onto, no friction, and a high possibility of injury. Hence the protective clothing!

The video at the bottom shows it takes around 10 minutes for a victor to be crowned, and unsurprisingly they look absolutely shattered!

What are the stairs made of?

I’ve read some suggestions that the stairs are made of ice, but that’s simply not true. After a fair bit of research, I’ve discovered it’s possible the stairs are coated with Propylene Glycol which makes them almost impossible to climb up, much to the pleasure of viewers.

Where can I watch the slippery stairs gameshow?

As the slippery stairs minigame is part of a bi-annual variety show, it’s unlikely you’ll get to watch this live unless you live in Japan.

If you do live in Japan or have access to the Tokyo Broadcasting System (The channel all-star variety show is on) then be sure to tune in sometime in April and October. Exact dates within the months where the variety show is on are announced nearer to the time.

Can’t get TBS or want to watch slippery stairs online?

2. The wall of boxes

Actual name: Bokkusu no kabe

Variety show: Downtown no Gottsu Ee Kanji

wall of boxes weird Japanese game show
Comedy duo ‘Downtown’ in one of their earlier shows ‘Gottsu Ee Kanji’ (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

The wall of boxes was a ‘Batsu’ or punishment game in the variety show ‘Downtown no Gottsu Ee Kanji’.

Quick Japanese Vocab Lesson:

罰ゲーム (batsu gēmu) : Penalty Game

The aim of ‘wall of boxes’ is to outlast your opponents and stay on your tower of boxes for as long as possible. Contestants (or comedians as they are here) chose a number from the panel in front of them and are surprised by one of 20 creative ways of knocking the boxes down.

I won’t spoil anything for you, instead, you should just watch the video below. It’s only 20 minutes long and is honestly incredibly funny to watch.

The show premiered on the 8th of December 1991 and continued until November 2nd, 1997. In the meantime, Hitoshi Matsumoto and Masatoshi Hamada worked on their more well known show and one that’s still running to this day, Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!

Where can I watch the wall of boxes gameshow?

The wall of boxes formed one of their ‘Batsu’ or punishment games for the year. As such, these are probably the only clips you’ll ever see of the game unless they revamp it. But I don’t think they’ve run out of crazy ideas just yet!


3. Marshmallow Rubber Band

Actual name: Marshmallow Rubber Band (sometimes called ‘Funny Face’)

Variety show: Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai

weird Japanese marshmallow game show
I mean, marshmallows probably are that tasty… (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

The simply named ‘Marshmallow Rubber Band Game’ is another Batsu punishment game on the extremely popular Gaki no Tsukai variety show run by the Downton duo.

What is the goal of the marshmallow rubber band game?

Contestants were split into blue and red teams.

One by one, each ‘player’ attempts to eat a marshmallow whilst having their head strapped to the back wall via a rubber band causing some truly ‘Funny’ faces. (see video for clarification)

Where can I watch the marshmallow rubber band game?

Once again, this is a ‘Batsu Gēmu’ which means it’s sort of a one off. As such, the best place to see this funny Japanese mini-game is probably on YouTube, just like the video below!


4. Human Tetris

Actual name: Nokabe (Brain wall)

Variety show: Tonneruzu no Minasan no Okage deshita (Though later became an individual gameshow)

weird hole in the wall Japanese game show
This is like yoga with extreme consequences… (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

What once started off on the Variety show ‘Tonneruzu no Minasan no Okage deshita’ has now become it’s own standalone game show. Brain Wall has spread around the world to such a degree that there are now 45 different versions of the show from other countries.

Quick Japanese Vocab Lesson:

脳カベ  (Nōkabe) : Brain Wall

How do you win the Japanese gameshow ‘Human Tetris’?

The contestant (or contestants, depending on whether it’s a team round or solo) stand in a predesignated area whilst waiting for the count of three.

On three, a moving wall of Styrofoam appears from the end of the hall with a specific shape cut out of it. In the beginning rounds, these may be fairly easy to recreate but as the game progresses the shapes get more and more ridiculous leading to some ‘interesting’ shapes.

Rounds with both team members are often more funny as they spend much of the time arguing between themselves trying to find the best solution.

If the contestants are unable to make the shape allowing the Styrofoam to pass over them, they’ll end up in the pool of water at the end and lose points for their team (or themselves).

How can I watch the Japanese version of Human Tetris?

As stated before, the show originally aired as part of the ‘Tonneruzu no Minasan no Okage deshita’ (Tunnels thanks to everyone) variety show, but has since passed into its own game show.

That variety show stopped broadcasting in 2018, but the new gameshow is still going on today under the name Nōkabe on Fuji TV (Channel 8 in Japan).

Unfortunately, I can’t find its broadcasting schedule so unless you live in Japan or have regular access to the Fuji TV channel, you’ll have to rely on older versions from YouTube.


5. Candy or Not Candy?

Actual name: Sokkuri suītsu

Variety show: Tokio Vs Arashi Ultraman Dash

candy or not candy weird Japanese game show
Shoe or chocolate? You be the judge! (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

Known by many names, Candy or not candy is/was a small segment on the annual gameshow Tokio Vs Arashi Ultraman Dash.

Other known names for Candy or not candy:

Sokkuri suītsu – The original name it was given.

Sweets or not sweets – Popular western version.

Chocolate or not chocolate – I found this one in a few subreddits, you may or may not have heard it referred to as this.

Quick Japanese Vocab Lesson:

そっくりスイーツ  (Sokkuri suītsu): Spitting image/Look-alike sweets

What is the aim of Candy or not candy?

Sokkuri suītsu (candy or not candy) is definitely one of the more gentle or less chaotic Japanese game shows. Though that’s not to say the entire premise is still absolutely, yet perfectly ridiculous.

Contestants must guess which out of several objects are and are not edible. Once they have guessed, the host will move the object towards them and the contestant must take a bite.

As you can see from the above picture and the video below, you’ll likely to end up with some pretty strange things in your mouth like shoes, picture frames, and maybe even a whole table.

This takes Japanese food to a whole new level!

Where can I find “Candy or not candy”?

Unfortunately, like a lot of the shows on this list ‘Candy or not candy’ is only a small segment on an annual variety show. This means that the clips you’ve found online are potentially the only ones that exist and there’s no guarantee next time the Tokio Vs Arashi Ultraman Dash variety show rolls around that candy or not candy will be a part of it.

Too much of a good thing could be a bad thing!

6. Don’t eat noodles in a washing machine

Actual name: N/A

Variety Show: Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai

Don't eat noodles in a washing machine weird Japanese game show
Is he about to laugh?! (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

Is this the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on a Japanese game show? It very well could be.

What’s the aim of the noodle washing machine Japanese gameshow?

This is a segment from the Gaki no Tsukai gameshow, a batsu game. The aim of these games are to make the main cast in the studio laugh so they get punished. And if you think you’d pass, the games are 24 hours long so chances are there’ll be one or two segments that tickle you!

So, no contestants actually take part in the game but instead watch it as you can see in the top right.

I’m unsure if I would laugh at this or feel really sorry for the poor guy. At least he got some noodles, though…

Of course, it goes without saying, DONT TRY THIS AT HOME!

Where can I watch it?

Can you guess yet?

If for some reason you haven’t read the other editions on the list then let me tell you again.

They’re just tiny segments on a bigger variety show, so this video below is likely the only one you’ll ever see.

And for some reason, this one just repeats itself and plays some very annoying music on top…

7. Takeshi’s Castle

Actual name: Takeshi’s Castle

Variety show: N/A (Individual gameshow)

takeshis castle Japan game show
Be honest, have you actually ever seen anyone win Takeshi’s castle?… (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

Finally! An actual gameshow on this Japanese gameshow list! Who’d have thought!

The game show that put Japanese gameshows on the radar of westerners, and probably the only one you’ve ever fully watched on the list, welcome to Takeshi’s castle.

How do you win Takeshi’s castle?

The Japanese episodes of Takeshi’s castle would feature 86-142 contestants that would have to pass a series of hard obstacle course style challenges in an effort to reach the final showdown.

General Tani (played by Hayato Tani) or General Lee as he was known if you lived in the UK was the man that led these people to their rather frequent demise.

Once the general had put the contestants through these challenges, he would be left with a few people ready to take on Count Takeshi and his Gundan troops. In earlier seasons the contestants would ride around in mini cars and used a water pistol to try and penetrate the enemy paper ring on the car. If they failed to stop the count or were taken out themselves, the game would be lost.

Fun fact: Many people believe only 8 or 9 contestants have won Takeshi’s castle, however in Takeshi’s Castle Rebooted it was confirmed the number was actually 36.

Where can I watch the UK Takeshi’s Castle?

I’m talking about the UK version of Takeshi’s castle not just because it’s what I used to watch growing up, but because Craig Charles does a fantastic voiceover. DO NOT mistake this with the newer Jonathan Ross episodes. Those are beyond terrible…

All these episodes used to be on repeat on the UK tv channel ‘Challenge’ but sadly their contract ended in 2019 and it’s unlikely they’ll be reshown.

Luckily, by simply typing Takeshi’s Castle full episodes into YouTube, you’ll probably come across loads of similar videos like the one below!


8. Dasshutsu Game DERO!

Actual Name: Missitsu Nazotoki Variety Dasshutsu Game DERO!

Variety show: N/A (Individual gameshow)

weird Japanese game show no floor
I haven’t watched it yet, but I’m 99% sure they’re all gonna fall… (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

In Dasshutsu Game DERO!, contestants are led into a number of puzzle rooms and must work together to find an exit.

For instance, in the room pictured above contestants have to find their way up to the top of the room whilst navigating a slowly inclining floor.

Fun fact: For a long time, people in Japan and those who had seen the gameshow online (specifically this room and the Beam room) actually thought people were gone forever in the game show. The ‘Bottomless pit’ is actually just a greenscreen with mats at the bottom to protect them from the fall.

The show has 7 types of challenge rooms so instead of reading about them here, you can take a look at them below if you’re interested. Just imagine a slightly more intense version of the crystal maze and you’re on the right track!

Where can I watch ‘Dasshutsu Game DERO!’?

The show itself is on Nippon TV (NTV Channel 4) but unless you live in Japan you won’t be able to catch the full episodes. America has also released their own version of the show titled ‘Exit!’ but I’m not interested in it and I don’t think you should be either. The utter lunacy of Japanese game shows comes from more than just an idea, and it’s certainly not something that’s easily replicable.

For now, it’s short clips on YouTube for your Japanese gameshow addiction!

9. Silent Library

Actual Name: Silent Library

Variety show: Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!

japan silent library game show
This may look innocent, but take a look at the video below to see why it isn’t! (Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

Silent Library is a game show that originates in Japan but has had a few international reboots.

The premise is simple. Contestants (comedians in the Japanese edition) are sat in a library and given a deck of six cards between them.

5 of those cards are safe, but 1 has a skull on. If you pick the card with the skull then you’ll be next for the challenge.

Most of the challenges the contestants will be exposed to involve pain and humiliation, and through the entire ordeal, they have one goal.

Don’t make a sound!

And if you laugh or make a sound that’s too loud, you’ll lose a point.

Quick Japanese Vocab Lesson:

頭蓋骨 (Zugaikotsu): Skull

Do they still do silent library?

The Japanese version of ‘silent library’, the original version, has the possibility to come back now and again as it’s part of a weekly variety show. The American version which is possibly more popular aired for a total of 2 years and 89 episodes before being cancelled.

Is ‘Silent library’ a real library?

According to the research I’ve carried out, ‘Silent library’ was conducted in a real library to add to the atmosphere of the show.

I’m unsure how far I believe this, though. In both version American and Japanese versions you have a presenter and lots of camera gear.

It seems far more likely that everyone in the room is a paid actor or at least told way beforehand what’s happening, even if the contestants are not.

Where can I watch silent library?

Once again, as this is part of a variety show the segments may be few and far between. Gaki no Tsukai is fairly frequent though, so you’ll have better luck finding this one online than some of the annual Japanese variety shows.


10. I survived a Japanese game show

Actual Name: Majide (the Japanese gameshow within the show)

Variety show: N/A (Individual gameshow)

I survived a japanese game show
(Screenshot of YouTube video below.)

For our final Japanese gameshow, I have something a little different from the rest!

‘I survived a Japanese Game show’ was an American game show that attempted to emulate the Japanese gameshow experience by bringing American contestants to Japan and having them compete in a show called ‘Majide’. Kind of like a show within a show.

Still with me? Good!

Quick Japanese Vocab Lesson:

まじで  (Majide) : You gotta be crazy!/Are you serious!? (rough translation)

Where can I watch ‘I survived a Japanese game show’?

Do you live in America and want to watch ‘I survived a Japanese game show?’?

Well, you’re in luck!

Even though the show stopped many years ago, and sadly isn’t being renewed, ABC has a catalogue of both seasons with full length episodes!

So it’s pretty clear that Japanese gameshows are incredibly popular all over the world, but what about Japanese dramas? Unfortunately, they aren’t held to the same standard, and it’s fairly easy to see why!

Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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