I Survived a Japanese Game Show: Round two and its getting nasty

This week was round two of I Survived a Japanese Game Show. Here’s the recap of last week’s show. Now that the American contestants know the framework–they’ve been whisked to Japan without their prior knowledge to appear in the Japanese game show Majide, that element of surprise is gone. Still there were plot twists that added some flavor, and some people just don’t like each other.

The first twist was when Ben from Punxsutawney clutched his stomach and said he wasn’t feeling well. Off he went to see a doctor never to return. Was it something he ate? A travel bug–not the good kind, but the bad kind? Whatever sent him to the hospital wasn’t part of the banter.

Personally, from a cross-cultural/travel perspective, I wish Ben’s trip to the hospital had been included, at least minimally since going to the doctor in another country is always enlightening–I’ve always had great luck no matter where I’ve been, but since that wasn’t part of the planned show, it didn’t fit the format.

Here is what was part of the format:

Mamasan made a Japanese style breakfast of shaved fish and soup. The shaved fish wasn’t a fave and folks weren’t sure how to get the soup out of a bowl with chopsticks.

Justin had the right approach to the meal, “I’ll try anything,” while Cathy’s attitude is the type that courts travel unhappiness. “You can take the girl out of Staten Island, but you can’t take Staten Island out of the girl,” she said.

With breakfast over it was back to the studio.

Next surprise, Darcy, who had been eliminated for not being the better bug, came back replenished and ready to replace Ben. She won’t be back in Idaho any time soon after all.

The Japanese audience was still as rowdy as last week, happy to beat on drums, shout out and make a racket at every opportunity while Rome Kanda, the game show host, dovetailed between speaking English to the Americans and Japanese to the audience. The games were as nutty as last week.

For the “Human Crane Finds Fluffy Bear,” a member from each team became part of a giant-sized arcade game–the one where you drop in money and tell it good-bye as you attempt to pick up a stuffed animal with a metal claw in order to win it.

In Majide’s version, a person is attached to a contraption so that the claws become part of the person’s arms and the person can be lowered and raised by remote control. The other team members operated the controls with each member controlling a different movement. One person’s button was up, another was down, another left and another right.

Justin, always ready to try anything, said, “I’ll hang” and scored ten bears–not easily at first, but he let the team members control away as they saw fit and did his part to pick up the large pink bears and dump them into the chute.

Meaghan, a 22-year old bartender from San Antonio, Texas, on the other hand, is a control freak who is used to getting her way. She tried to direct from her suspended state and failed miserably–only one bear was dropped into the shoot making the Yellow Penguin team this week’s winner.

For losing, the Green Monkey team had jobs working at a pachinko parlor and the winners, the Yellow Penguins were treated to a Japanese style massage.

Whether a team is the winner or the loser, members learn something about Japan so from my perspective, it doesn’t matter so much what side you’re on.

Pachinko, a Japanese version of a pinball machine of sorts, involves several small steel balls that players dump into the machine that bounces them around between metal pegs. The more balls come out, the more the players wins. It’s loud. The parlors are garish and bright. Plus there’s blaring music.

As the pachinko boss explained to the Green Monkey losers, who were decked out in pachinko parlor wear, what they would be doing, no one could hear him. Eventually, Darnell is polishing balls, Mary is outside in the rain passing out fliers and Meaghan is picking steel balls off the floor. Taking drink orders is another job.

As for the Yellow Penguins, their massage involved being buried in warm sand–they loved it, and letting small catfish eat the dead skin off their feet. That treatment is called Doctor Fish. They loved that too. So far, Japan has been a big hit.

Through a bunch of haggling that wore me out Olga and Darcy were picked for the elimination round which meant each struggled through a wind tunnel to drop packages in slots while the other lobbed objects like the large pink pandas, blow up dolphins and air matresses. Despite her difficulty staying on her feet, Darcy won and Olga was carried out of the studio by the men in the black suits.

Last week I gave the show a rousing thumbs up but a few commenters disagreed with me. One thought host, Rome Kanda was arrogant and one didn’t like a few of the comments Kanda made about the American contestants. Other commenters agreed with me and liked the show.

This week, although the show was entertaining, and I enjoyed the glimpses into life in Tokyo, I wish the game had a different way to eliminate people. Instead of the back biting, and sucking up that happens as the team members pick two players to be eliminated, I think all the losing team should compete against each other. This other way seems like a waste of time and takes away from what makes the show entertaining.

This episode made one thing clear; if you need a traveling companion, pick Justin. He’s a gem.