‘The Contestant’ doc reveals true story of unwitting Japanese reality star isolated in a room for over a year

‘The Contestant’ doc reveals true story of unwitting Japanese reality star isolated in a room for over a year‘The Contestant’ doc reveals true story of unwitting Japanese reality star isolated in a room for over a year
via Hulu
Michelle De Pacina
19 days ago
“The Contestant,” which tells the true story of a Japanese reality television star who endured over a year of isolation in a room while stripped naked, will be available to stream on Hulu in May.  
Key points:
  • On May 2, subscribers will be able to stream “The Contestant” directed by Clair Titley, offering insights into Tomoaki Hamatsu’s experiences.
  • Hamatsu, nicknamed “Nasubi” (Eggplant) in reference to his long chin, was left isolated in a room, naked and reliant on mail-in coupons for survival by a Japanese TV producer. He unwittingly became an extreme case study when his behavior and experience was broadcasted in a 1998 TV show called “Denpa Shonen: A Life in Prizes” without his consent.
  • The documentary previously premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2023, garnering positive reviews.
The details:
  • In 1998, Hamatsu attended an audition and was recruited by TV producer Toshio Tsuchiya for a challenge. Tsuchiya instructed Nasubi to strip naked and left him in a room with magazines. Nasubi’s task was to fill out contest coupons to win necessities until he reached the prize goal of 1 million yen (around over $8,000 at the time).
  • Despite the option to leave, Hamatsu remained determined to complete the challenge for more than a year, isolated from his family and the outside world, with only occasional interactions with Tsuchiya.
  • However, Hamatsu was unaware that his experiences were being televised to an audience of over 15 million people. Without his knowledge or consent, Nasubi reportedly became the most renowned TV personality in Japan.
  • Today, Hamatsu still works as an actor. However, he devotes most of his time to the reconstruction of Fukushima, which was severely impacted by the triple disaster in March 2011, comprising a giant tsunami followed by a 9.0 magnitude quake that triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
About the documentary: 
  • Through the documentary, British director Titley tells Hamatsu’s side of the story, offering insights into his experiences and life after “Denpa Shonen,” including interviews with his family and friends. 
  • In the film, Hamatsu revealed that the hardest part of the show was the solitude. It sheds light on the emotional toll and raises questions about the culture of reality television and voyeurism.
  • The documentary also delves into Hamatsu’s childhood, where he endured bullying due to his perceived long chin, and depicts how he used humor as a defense mechanism.
  • Despite perceptions that the reality show marked the peak of his life, Hamatsu views it as “the worst point” from which he has since emerged, now free to pursue his own path.
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