Crazy Japanese Gameshows:
Actually, Nasubi was not an actual show in the way Big Brother was one show, but rather a segment of the show Denpa Shonen, which aired on Nippon Television. In this segment, called Denpa Shonen-teki Kensho Seikatsu (roughly Airwave Boy's prize competition life), young comedian known as Nasubi (translateable as eggplant) was chosen from a group of aspiring candidates by drawing the right lot, immediately blindfolded and taken into an empty apartment and told to undress. The appartment contained nothing but a stand of magazines, stacks of postcards and writing utensils.
His mission? Compete in as many prize competitions as possible, win in excess of one million Yen and live of the prizes. Nope, no further assistance. This poor fellow had to win everything, even toilet paper (well, he did have magazines, but...), clothes, food, kitchen appliances, entertainment... You get the picture
He needed to win everything he needed to survive, spending his days writing between 3 000 and 8 000 postcards a month. The segment started in mid-January 1998. He won his first competition on February 8. His prize? Packets of jelly, his first food in a fortnight. When he won a bag of rice some time later, he was extremely glad, until he realized, he had nothing to cook it with. So he tried eating it raw, and then devised a cooking method by putting it in an empty can beside a burner for an hour until it was "cooked". He ate about a half cup of rice a day using two pens for chopsticks. When the rice ran out a while later, he subsisted on dog food, praying for new rice every day. When he did win, he made a small celebration, danced around extatically and played with his new things. Well, you would, too...
As he never had any clothes apart from a pair of womens pants that did not fit him at all, he stayed naked all the time, his private parts covered up by a small eggplant symbol on TV. Another highlight showed a delighted Nasubi heading off to the toilet after winning his first rolls of toilet paper in 10 months. Or you got to watch his expression drop from pure happiness to dismay upon winning a TV set, but then realizing his appartment had neither antenna nor cable.
He also had a very limited amount of contact to the rest of humanity: The only visits he got were from the doctor (twice in 15 months), the producer (AFAIK three times) and the postman (always a happy occasion). He did win a television set, but as his room had no cable or antenna connection, he did not get to see much.
When he finally completed his goal of winning one million Yen, he was put on an airplane to Korea, to do the same thing again, with the added difficulty of not understanding the language. But this too ended, and finally, after 15 months in total, he returned home, ending his ordeal.
The show, broadcast every Sunday showing the best scenes of the week, was a huge success, prompting over 15 mio viewers to watch Nasubi's ordeals. When the show ended, Nasubi, who had not been aware that he had been on national TV the whole time, but had taken everything with a lot of humor, for example dancing wildy everytime he won something, realized he had become an instant star, his diary was an immediate bestseller, and he remains a familiar figure on Japanese TV. A detailed story of Nasubi's ordeal is online at: http://www3.tky.3web.ne.jp/~edjacob/nasubi.html
When I think of the show, I cannot help but admire poor Nasubi. Despite everything he went through for about 15 months, he never lost his good spirits. I think I would have gone mad, paranoid and aggressive instead.
BTW: While he did win goods valuing over 1 million yen in the time he was on, the cost of postage and cards used amounted to more than three times that amount. So whatever you do,don't try this at home...
Quoth Toshio Tsuchiya, presenter of Denpa Shonen when asked if poor Nasubi was perhaps pushed to far:
I don't think so, but who cares if he suffers long-term psychological damage? Just think of all the prizes he's won!"
Nasubi's reaction after being freed:
"I suffered mentally every day. I felt trapped between sanity and madness, and I had no idea that everyone was watching my naked body all this time. It shouldn't be allowed.
But, to be fair, they've just given me hot miso soup and a bowl of rice and pickled plums, so I've agreed to go to South Korea and repeat the challenge."