About a decade ago I read this website on Japanese pop culture which you can find archived at the internet archive here. Strangely enough, it was called syberpunk.com and it had accounts of the strange gameshows, popular English mistranslations, and cultural oddities like remote controlled boat racing, the pancake rabbit, and 2chan.
I had always been fascinated by the account of Nasubi, a comedian who was locked in a room and forced to live off prizes he won from mail-in sweepstakes. In the years following this and other torture-like gameshows and reality shows, Japan passed legislation which outlawed this type of treatment and showcasing it for entertainment.
Despite the obvious ethical qualms, Nasubi is a fascinating character. As Japan was struggling in a recession, this man’s suffering was aired on television. And in the face of his torturous situation he remained optimistic, jovial, and worked hard towards his goal. He embodied Yamato-damashii, the unbreakable Japanese spirit, at a time when Japan was hurting.
Numerous times in the past 10 years, I have tried to find the show online. In 2009, Hulu posted translated versions of Denpa Shonen, the show where Nasubi’s account was aired under the subtitle “Sweepstakes life”/”Life of prizes.” They took it down soon after. However, I was reminded of it today as the current episode of This American Life on NPR discusses “Human Spectacle.” I looked up the show once again and found a few links to watch it!
Once you’re finished with the episode above, Episode 2 can be found here!