Crazy Japanese Gameshows:
This Nippon TV show, first known as Susume Denpa Shonen (Onward, Airwave Boy!), and then as Susunu Denpa Shonen (Don't go on, Airwave Boy), contained some of the craziest/cruelest sections on Japanese television. Its basic concept was to take people from their usual surroundings by promising fame and fortune, and then stranding them in unbelievable, often dangerous situations with seemingly impossible missions. Despite its highly controversial nature, millions of people watched the show every week, to see how the contestants fared.
Mostly, contestants were aspiring young comedians, easily lured by the promise of fame and fortune, tasked to do missions that make Survivor, Big Brother and other reality shows look like child's play. They were often taken directly from the audition or shortly afterward, and then had to give their best in order to survive.
For example, we had the section which featured Nasubi, locked in a small apartment for one-and-a-half years, living only off the winnings of prize competions he wrote in for. After 18 months, he completed his goal of winning one million Yen. See this writeup for more on poor Nasubi.
In another case, a man was woken in his house in the early morning without any prior warning (the producer entered with a replicate key), and is told that it's time to go. After being given a rude awakening, he has to put on put an eye mask and earphones playing loud music and is then lead out of his house. After sitting in a car, a plane, another plane, and another, then a bus - all in all, a couple of days later, the whole time completely shut off from the outside world by the eye mask and earphones, he finally reaches the destination point, where his mission is to begin.
When he takes off his eye mask, he finds himself at the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of Africa, right by the ocean. Unable to understand what's going on, the producer informs the viewers and him that this is Denpa Shonen's version of "hitchhiking across the African and European continents." The man's mission is to start from the Cape of Good Hope and reach the goal, which is at the Northern most tip of Norway, a lighthouse right by the Arctic Ocean. "Have fun!". At this pont, western host would start laughing, and letting the poor fellow in on the joke - but it is no joke. And: "oh yes, you have to travel together with this chinese fellow here who doesn't speak any Japanese..." They took 290 days.
Go on, Airwave Boy!
Then there was Saruganseki, a comedy duo that took on the challenge to hitchhike from Hong Kong to London on $1000. When their money ran out shortly after setting out, they had to beg, borrow and work their way across two continents, until they arrived at Trafalgar Square half a year later.
Others were blindfolded, flown to South America to tramp to Alaska, all without prior knowledge or training. A famous japanese singer took the challenge of going to the U.S. with only $ 1000 on her and then try and make it in the american showbiz, without help from home...
Then there was the group that pedalled across the Indian Ocean on one of those swan boats you have on some seas (a 4000 km trip), and that after first having to get off a small uninhabited island off the coast of Japan... Tools? None! Total time spent? One and a half years...
Some other missions like persistantly asking a super model for a date (and of course having to seek them out on their own) and slapping porn stars in the face sound rather harmless, but this show broke barriers wherever it went. Sometimes, people wondered whether those ordeals were real or faked, but the evidence points to the former. Most of the "stars" went on to become celebrities in their own, after having been made famous on the show. The program is not shown anymore, ending about last year, but it was ample proof the the Japanese are truly mad!. And its stars are still visible icons on Japanese TV.