The Eggplant

The content below is from Episode 130 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This week I recommend you check out a very good audiobook: One by One written by Ruth Ware and read by Imogen Church
    • The book:
      • Getting snowed in at a luxurious, rustic ski chalet high in the French Alps doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world. Especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a full-service chef and housekeeper, a cozy fire to keep you warm, and others to keep you company. Unless that company happens to be eight coworkers…each with something to gain, something to lose, and something to hide.
      • When the cofounder of Snoop, a trendy London-based tech startup, organizes a weeklong trip for the team in the French Alps, it starts out as a corporate retreat like any other: PowerPoint presentations and strategy sessions broken up by mandatory bonding on the slopes. But as soon as one shareholder upends the agenda by pushing a lucrative but contentious buyout offer, tensions simmer and loyalties are tested. The storm brewing inside the chalet is no match for the one outside, however, and a devastating avalanche leaves the group cut off from all access to the outside world. Even worse, one Snooper hadn’t made it back from the slopes when the avalanche hit.
      • As each hour passes without any sign of rescue, panic mounts, the chalet grows colder, and the group dwindles further…one by one.
    • The author:
      • Ruth Ware worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language, and a press officer before settling down as a full-time writer. She now lives with her family in Sussex, on the south coast of England. She is the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail (Toronto) bestselling author of In a Dark, Dark WoodThe Woman in Cabin 10The Lying GameThe Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Turn of the KeyOne by One; and The It Girl. Visit her at or follow her on Twitter @RuthWareWriter.


  • Have you ever seen the movie The Truman Show? It was the main topic of Episode #3 of this podcast… way back when I first started. The film stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, a man who grew up living an ordinary life that—unbeknownst to him—takes place on a large TV set populated by actors for a television show about him. His entire life is broadcasted live for the whole world to watch.
    • This episode is about a sort-of similar true story about a guy named Tomoaki Hamatsu, better known as Nasubi (the Eggplant).
  • Tomoaki Hamatsu (who will be referred to simply as Nasubi for the rest of the episode), a Japanese comedian born in August of 1975, entered into a lottery one day. What the lottery was for was quite vague stating only that it was to win a “show-business-related job.” Nasubi won the lottery.
    • Shortly after, he was approached by a Japanese reality TV show called Susunu! Denpa Shonen (it was a show that ran from 1998 to 2002).
    • Every season of Susunu! Denpa Shonen had a different, often malicious approach, usually like a survival movie gone horribly wrong. Two contestants were stranded on an island and had to make a raft, spending four months trying to escape in one season, while others had to hitchhike from South Africa to Norway in another. One season saw a contestant placed in a room with a TV to watch his favorite baseball team play each day; if the team won, he would receive food, but if the team lost, he wouldn’t eat and the electricity would be shut off in the room, with a losing streak meaning starvation.
    • The show producers informed him what his winning lottery ticket had won him: a unique challenge to enter mail-in sweepstakes (from magazines, newspapers, catelogues, etc.) until he accumulated enough money (or equivalent prizes) that amounted to ¥1 million (about $10,000 US).
    • Sounds easy enough, but the catch was that he started the challenge with NOTHING: No food, no furniture, and no clothing.
      • He was given shelter in an empty apartment, running water, heating, and electricity… but besides that, the only things to keep him company were the piles of magazines and newspapers he combed through to gather his winnings. Oh, and the post cards necessary to mail in the sweepstakes entries.
      • There was no access to TV, radio, or any other form of communication with the outside world for the duration of the competition.
      • He was however given a camera. How else would the Reality TV show capitalize on this challenge?

Here is a complete inventory of Nasubi’s apartment at the start of the show:

  • a shower
  • a radio
  • a telephone
  • a gas burner
  • a sink
  • a large rack of magazines
  • a giant stack of postcards
  • a small table
  • a single cushion.
  • The walls of the apartment were rigged up with cameras
  • and he had a portable mic around his neck
  • Now I said earlier that he started the challenge with no clothing. So the TV Show people edited the video by putting a cartoon eggplant graphic over his private bits. Nasubi is the Japanese word for Eggplant. This is why this struggling and desperate comedian (willing to enter a lottery to appear on Reality TV) came to be known as the Eggplant… and still is today.
    • This was in the late 90’s, early 2000s mind you. Long before the eggplant emoji was used by people to symbolize… male genitals.
  • Now the entire time Nasubi was doing this challenge he thought the camera he had in the room with him was under his control. He thought he could press record and stop and all the footage taken would later be reviewed and edited by the Reality TV show people…
  • But in fact the Reality TV Show people were live streaming their experiment to the world. They were using (at the time) new technology that allowed them to re-air the video with sound effects, and graphics (like the eggplant and sometimes a joystick used to cover his genitals).
    • This poor guy was under the impression that everything was being edited by him, and also later by professionals… when all of his most vulnerable moments were being broadcast live.
    • He was livestreamed 24 hours a day to internet viewers, a large staff had to be on hand to move the censorship eggplant as he moved around
    • They even told Nasubi that this was more of an experiment than a TV show and there was a good chance it wouldn’t ever see the light of day… The reality being that the show wound up breaking ratings records it was so popular.
  • So the challenge began. He didn’t get to start out with any food so he only had water and that caused significant weight loss in a man who was already a slender Japanese guy.
    • Fortunately, from a couple sweepstakes, he did win some energy drinks that had lots of sugar in them.
    • Then he did eventually win a bag of rice! Some real food!… but he didn’t have any pots or any sort of container to cook the rice in… so he had to eat it raw.
      • He did make a ghetto-Esque heating container out of a trash bag that he was able to hold the rice in and near the stove. This did cook the rice.
    • But rice would not be his main source of food throughout this challenge. Can you guess what magazine sweepstakes proved to be a reliable source of food? Dog food.
    • The dude had to eat canned and kibble dog food for the majority of his caloric intake after the rice ran out.
    • The next big win came in the form of a stuffed toy. Nasubi’s fracturing psyche latched on to the toy and soon he was having full conversations with it and referring to it as Sensei. That was his onfly form of interaction for quite sometime.
  • An edited summary of Nasubi’s experience would appear on Denpa Shonen for 8-10 minutes a week over the next 15 months, a dark comedy segment about a life spent writing letters (roughly 1,400 a week) and answering the door.
    • Every episode shows Nasubi waking up, telling the camera what day it is, writing sweepstakes letters (he quickly gives up on trying to win radio contests and instead devotes his time to magazine write-in sweepstakes), then receiving a series of delivered prize winnings which range from life-saving to worthless. The first episode shows him answer the door for a ramen delivery sent to the wrong address, a taunting moment for someone who ostensibly has no food for the first two weeks (viewers have to assume he received some food off-camera to get through this opening period).
  • All this while naked and on camera, streaming live to the masses. He did eventually win a pair of underwear, but it was ladies panties and was far too small to fit him. So for the entirety of the show he was naked… other than the graphic of the Eggplant digitally placed over his privates.
    • On top of being naked and exposed, he never won anything to trim his hair or facial hair. As all of his hair grew out he began to look more like a caveman… an animal more than a member of society. His fingernails didn’t help as they grew to the length of claws.
    • Every once in awhile he would win something useful like some sports drinks to boost his morale, but he also won lots of prizes that crushed his morale just as much. Movie tickets, a bicycle, museum tickets were all prizes he won, but couldn’t use as they required him to leave the apartment and therefore lose the challenge that the Reality TV show put him in.
      • He did create a makeshift stationary bike with the bicycle which was an engineering feat and improved his mental and physical health.
  • Nasubi would enter sweepstakes en masse without even looking to see what the prize was. Anything he could win to improve his situation helped.
    • He won a Television set one day and was elated as it would help pass the time. But the TV show producers intentionally put him in an apartment with no antenna or cable hookup in fear that me might find the channel he was being broadcasted on.
      • Remember, he didn’t know he was being watched.
    • But eventually he won a Sony Playstation, 1 controller, and 1 game that came with it: Densha de Go! (a train simulator).
  • Nasubi was the first-ever video game livestreamer.
    • From This year, 2022, the games live-streaming audience will grow by +13.8% year on year to reach 921.2 million—almost doubling the esports market’s audience. Streaming’s audience will cross the billion mark by 2023, increasing with a CAGR of +16.3% from 2020 to reach 1.4 billion in 2025
    • “Tomoaki Hamatsu (浜津 智明) also known as Nasubi (なすび, “Eggplant“) is credited as the first video game live streamer due to the fact that he won a Playstation, a TV, and the video game Densha de Go! all through Magazine Sweepstakes during the game show Denpa Shōnen teki Kenshō Seikatsu. (Denpa Shonen Sweepstakes Life) The goal of the game was to win ¥1 million ($6894.50) in sweepstake prizes all whilst being naked and he could only use stuff he won for food, clothing, and entertainment. By November 1998 Nasubi became the first to livestream a video game after winning a PlayStation along with his TV and the video game. He ended up playing this game for 3 whole days straight before banning himself from it due to it distracting him from his goal.”

For 3 days straight, this was Nasubi’s home:

The man was losing his damn mind.

  • Now as you can imagine, this show was gathering quite a lot of popularity. People all over the island of Japan were tuning in to watch this crazy dude going through WAY too much suffering for a reality TV show prize… of which he didn’t know specifics.
    • With all that popularity, some were bound to figure out where Nasubi was staying, where his apartment was located. Fans, media people, paparazzi started showing up to the building hoping to get a glimpse of the now-famouse man, but the producers were worried. If Nasubi saw all the attention he was getting, he would quickly realize the show wasn’t being saved to be edited, but livestreamed. So the producers took action.
    • They blindfolded Nasubi, and took him far away to a different, but very similar apartment. When he took off his blindfold after a long journey and found himself in virtually the same apartment, with all the same sweepstakes winnings he had already won he was like “Um… did I win?”
      • The producers just told Nasubi they moved him because this new location was better luck than the last…
      • It wasn’t.
    • Nasubi did win a large chair and a desk which was nice, but that was about all he won. It seemed this new location was bad luck… so the producers moved him AGAIN to another boring apartment via blindfold car ride… naked.
    • In this 3rd location Nasubi won a VCR which he put to use with two tapes he had won earlier.
      • I couldn’t find what the tapes were that he won, but I like to think they were something quirky like Japanese version of antiques roadshow and a cartoon movie for kids LOL
    • In order to escape his agonizing situation he watched those two tapes on VCR and played that Train simulator for days on end… only stopping in hopes that he could finally win enough in sweepstakes money to get him out of the situation.
  • Well Nasubi was hard at work filling out post cards to enter into sweepsteaks competitions. One day he got a struck of luck and won a set of 4 car tires that was worth about 84,000¥ (about $600 USD) which got him very close to the 1 million¥ mark. It was a bag of rice that finally allowed him to reach his goal. … 355 days after the challenge started, Nasubi had won.
    • Nasubi was elated. He had suffered for a year living like a desparate hermit all to further his career as a comedian But now he had won!
    • He was informed of his victory, given back his clothes, blindfolded and taken to a surprise location.
      • When he put his clothes on he immediately felt itchy and hot. He took them off as soon as he could.
    • When they arrived at the surprise location Nasubi (still blindfolded) was excited to see what his hard work had won him. But when the show producers removed the blindfold he found himself in South Korea. His prize was 1 day at an amusement park… He ordered all the food he wanted and rode all the rides he could… Then they blindfolded him again.
    • The show producers had the audacity to put Nasubi, after he had beaten their absurd challenge, back into another empty apartment and tell him to enter into more sweepsteaks… so that he could get a plain ticket home with Japan Airlines… This crazy SOB went along with it fearing that if he didn’t, they would strand him in South Korea (a foreign nation from his home of Japan) and not give him a worthy prize for his year of hard work.
    • This time Nasubi was a sweepsteaks pro. He beat this new challenge in record time, just a few weeks. What did the producers do? They said “oh, did we say any ticket? Sorry Nasubi, but you have to win enough money in prizes for business class.”
    • When Nasubi quickly got enough sweepsteaks prizes to cover a business class ticket… they said “sorry, did we say business class? You have to win enough for First class.” The producers were set on milking Nasubi’s fame for all it was worth regardless of the suffering it caused him.
      • Unfortunately, for the producers, this didn’t take Nasubi long at all to accomplish either. Within just a few more weeks he had won enough for a first-class ticket home to Japan… can you guess what the producers did? They gave him his clothes back, blindfolded him, and took him to another undisclosed location.
  • This time Nasubi’s blindfold was removed and he found himself in another empty apartment. As he had done about a half dozen times before, he removed his clothes to prepare for another stint of the challenge that seemed to never end. That’s when the walls around him fell away and revealed that he was on stage with a humungous live studio audience watching him… naked.
    • What happened next wasn’t Nasubi laughing, or getting embarassed. No, he was downright confused because all along he was told the footage was being kept for an experiment. He had no idea that people even knew he was doing this challenge, let alone that he had gathered such a large amount of fame.
  • This entire messed up journey lasted about 15 months. 15 months of Nasubi’s life was spent being manipulated by these show producers and all they gave him was a day at a kids amusement park. Yeah he became famous and he was able to capitalize on that a bit, but the only thing the show actually provided as a prize was 1 day at an amusement park!
    • Nasubi did keep a diary throughout the experience and he published that diary (multiple diaries) and it became a best seller in Japan. The TV show broke records with over 17 million viewers every Sunday night for months in a row.
    • He also made it into the Guinness book of world records for “the longest time survived on competition winnings.”
    • It was about a year after the challenge had ACTUALLY ended that Nasubi felt comfortable in his own clothes again. So used to being naked for so long he found himself sweaty and itchy with them on for quite sometime. Not to mention the fact that he had to re-learn how to hold a conversation with people.
    • During Covid, in April of 2020, he helped create a bunch of PSAs to encourage people to stay isolated. He urged the people to stay away from others because even though it seems dark, he survived it.
      • He sounds like a pretty cool dude.
  • Although he agreed to take part in this “experiment” to boost his comedy career, he was unable to find footing as a Variety TV host. But he did become a local legend in Fukushima Japan. He is the leader of the stage group named Eggplant Way.
  • And a happy/cool note to end the episode, Nasubi (Tomoako Hamatsu) did what few adventurers ever get the chance to: in 2016 he scaled Mount freaking Everest.




This meme, found on the subreddit r/HistoryMemes, is what put me onto the story of Nasubi.