Japanese TV never fails to entertain, or to provide me with good neta, a word which means the fish part of a piece of sushi, though in this case it refers to ideas for these little updates that I write. One aspect of Japanese TV I’ve been generally impressed with us the large number of popular shows that manage to offer educational value. The other day I was watching “Time Shock!,” a Japanese quiz show in which teams of actors, commedians and other television personalities took turns sitting in a special chair while they were asked ten questions on subjects like geography, English or history. If they failed to answer at least six questions right, the chair would spin them around and upside-down at a very fast rate, emitting noise and steam. On the surface it may seem like another crazy Japanese “game show” (not really an accurate term, since no prizes are awarded and the participants are all professional entertainers), but I like the show because the questions are fascinating, and quite useful to my high school-age kids. A lot of these educational TV variety shows started appearing 6-7 years ago when Japan’s policy of yutori kyoiku (lit. “Take it Easy” Education) failed miserably, leaving Japan dead last in academic competitions with other countries in Asia. Considering the percent of American television that apparently seeks to rot the brains of viewers (*cough* American Idol *cough*), a fun show that actually teaches something is a breath of fresh air.
If players can’t answer the questions, their chair spins then around and around!