Tomoaki Hamatsu was a struggling comedian seeking success. Picked out in a raffle organized by the Japanese reality TV show Susunu! Denpa Shohen, Hamatsu celebrated his big break. Given a new name, “Nasubi,” (eggplant), due to the unusually long shape of his face, Hamatsu’s new life had begun.
Blindfolded and taken away from the location, he never suspected he would spend the next fifteen months of his life living off only what he could win by entering sweepstakes. The show’s producers named this challenge Denpa Shōnen Teki Kenshō Seikatsu (“Denpa Shohen’s Prize Life”).
The First 335 Days
The rules of the challenge were simple. The room was empty apart from a mountain of postcards and magazines, a radio, a cushion, a bathroom, and a gas stove. Following the producers’ instructions, he proceeded to strip to find out his challenge. He had to win a total of 1 million yen by entering sweepstakes. He was also tasked to survive off these sweepstake winnings.
What proceeded was nothing short of horrific. Backdropped by silly music, viewers watched as Nasubi’s mental and physical state deteriorated. Throughout the first 335 days, he remained naked. All he managed to win were a pair of undersized used panties and a pair of leather shoes. The producers covered his genitalia with a cartoon eggplant, which tracked his movement.
Forced to scrounge to survive, Nasubi lived off rice he cooked via a tin can and a gas stove. The rice eventually ran out, forcing Nasubi to live off dog food. Throughout this time frame, his commitment to completing the challenge was admirable. His “signature winning dance,” became a display of strength as he rejoiced in the prizes he would win.
The Show Must Go On
Nasubi had reached his 1-million-yen goal after the first year. As a reward, he was taken to a theme park in Korea, where he celebrated his return to everyday life. The same producers then blindfolded Nasubi again and took him to another location. He was then tasked to strip and earn enough money via sweepstakes to buy his plane ticket home. Nasubi, conditioned to
this way of life, made enough money for the plane trip home in mere weeks. In response to this, the producers upgraded his ticket to prolong the show. They upgraded the ticket repeatedly until Nasubi flew home on a first-class flight.
Where Is Nasubi Now?
After fifteen months in isolation, Nasubi returned to everyday life. The effects of the competition complicated this transition. Clothes now felt itchy and uncomfortable to him. The deterioration of his comedy skills led to him abandoning his dream. Despite never achieving the stardom he was promised upon entering the show, he has managed to build up a modicum of fame. The diary of his fifteen months on the show has since become a bestseller in Japan, and he has also featured in minor Japanese dramas.
‘Susunu! Denpa Shohen’ was finally canceled in 2002, reaching a peak in Japan of 15 million viewers. The most viewed Game of Throne episode reached around fourteen million.
The early days of reality TV were wild, to say the least; click here, to find out about the reality TV show that scammed everybody.