Ultimate Guide to Japan’s Batsu Game

By ShaSha Sonoda | May 21st, 2023 

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    If you’ve been around the internet in the past 10 years, you may be familiar with the gifs (moving images) and memes (still images) that capture some of the most iconic moments from Japanese variety shows, most likely from a segment known as the Batsu game. From cake-hunting challenges to jumping through human-shaped holes in a fake wall, the hilariously painful glimpses of Japan’s Batsu game have been making people around the world laugh for well over three decades. 

    If you’ve ever been curious about the story behind these sometimes cruel-looking challenges, then you’re in the right place!

    Before we dive into some of the most painful and hilarious moments ever shown on Japanese television, we’ll share different kinds of games you can play with your friends and uncover the history behind the enigma that is Japan’s Batsu game.

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    What is a Batsu game?

    Batsu” means “penalty” in Japanese while the term “Batsu game” stands for “penalty games.” In short, a Batsu game is a game that is played because people want to see what happens when someone gets a penalty, which can be just as entertaining as the actual game itself. They became popular as a segment on Japanese variety shows, which later became internationally known after the shows were preserved with English subtitles in archives that can still be found on the internet. 

    Batsu Games vs. Variety Shows

    A Batsu game is a segment or element of a Japanese variety show. It has appeared in other places, such as in anime and in “owarai” (comedy) stage plays. 

    The Batsu game is the punishment a losing comedy duo or team must go through if they lose a preliminary match. The most popular punishment was sending the comedians to a specific location where they would film a 24-hour “no-laughing” challenge, which became known as the famous Batsu game segment. To decide who would have to participate in the Batsu game segment, comedy groups would have a preliminary match that would also be televised (usually within the same 60-minute programming). These matches could be anything from a bowling game to an intense game of rock-paper-scissors.

    In the wild wild west of Japanese variety TV, a savvy TV producer will be able to look at an innocent children’s game and transform it into something that makes even the hardiest grown adult cringe at the thought of receiving punishment for losing. The more extreme the punishment, the more entertaining it is for viewers at home to watch their favorite comedians go through with the program’s challenge. We’ll discuss some of our favorite challenges later in this article, but for now, let’s look at how Japan’s Batsu game started.

    Two friends, one male and female, looking shocked

    Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!

    Many fans recognize Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!! as being the first to implement the Batsu game as part of their program, back in 1989.

    The Batsu game became a popular feature of Gaki no Tsukai. Viewers, not knowing what was going to happen next, stayed until the very end of the 1-hour program to see who would be left standing and to watch the off-the-wall, borderline sadistic punishments the hosts would have to endure. Fans would tune in each night to watch their favorite comedians get a bamboo dart shot into their exposed buttocks, grit their teeth through the Do Not Laugh spank, and be on the receiving end of a baton from a member of the so-called “Black Army.”  The increase in ratings was unprecedented, and soon Gaki no Tsukai graduated to primetime television, also known as ‘Golden Time,’ which marked the Batsu game’s official launch to national fame. 

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    Batsu game makes ‘Golden Time’

    In Japan, late-night programs are subjected to more lax rules about what is permitted to be shown on TV. For example, sensitive topics, nudity, and violence may appear in a TV program that airs after 24:00 (12:00 PM). Fewer rules and more incentive to keep viewers hooked until the very last minute inspired producers to push the limits and come up with some of the most insane punishments that have turned the Batsu game into the infamous challenges they are today, like forcing comedians to strip in front of the camera and completely submerge themselves in a bath of super hot water

    When Japanese people use the term ‘Golden Time,’ they are usually referring to the most coveted hours of evening television that networks reserve for only their most popular programs. Golden time is usually 17:00 - 21:00 (5:00 PM to 9:00 PM) when people have finished their work and are sitting down with their families to watch the latest TV program or drama. For over a decade, one of those programs was Gaki no Tsukai.


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    New Year’s Eve - The greatest Batsu game event

    As time went on, networks became stricter and started to censor some of the harsher punishments Gaki no Tsukai had become known for. The Batsu game became a televised marathon event that only aired on Oshogatsu (New Year’s Eve). Filming of the Batsu game segment for Gaki no Tsukai begins at 8:00 AM and ends at 8:00 AM the next day.  

    Every New Year’s Eve, Japan’s biggest networks spend a large chunk of their yearly budget hiring top-class comedians and celebrities who regularly appear on the show. Stars like heavyweight champion Masahiro Chono and comedian Ega-chan often joined the regular cast of Gaki no Tsukai’s “no-laughing Batsu game.” One of their most infamous Batsu game appearances was in an episode known as, “Do Not Laugh Hospital.” 

    Networks like NipponTV often rent large venues such as entire hospitals or schools and spend millions of yen on stage design, costumes, and, of course, elaborate punishments in an attempt to upstage the New Year’s Event of the years prior.

    Note: One of Downtown Gaki no Tsukai’s most iconic New Year’s Eve Batsu games that were adapted into an American TV show was called “Silent Library.” The challenge would take place on a studio set designed to look like a real library, with extras sitting in the background. If any participants laughed or even cracked a smile, a severe punishment would be handed down to those who failed to complete the challenge, like eating a blended smoothie of snails (yes, you read that right). You can watch a clip of some of the more outlandish punishments here.

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    Fan Favorites & The Most Popular Batsu Games

    It shouldn’t surprise you that some Batsu games are more popular than others. Some Batsu games are so popular that they’ve been brought up in online forums as repeat offenders for some of the craziest punishments that literally can only be seen in Japan.

    Once locked behind a language barrier, the internet has thankfully made the entire catalog of Nippon TV’s Gaki no Tsukai catalog available to English-speaking audiences all over the world. Here are just a few of the fan’s favorite and most popular “no-laughing” Batsu games:

    A TV studio in Japan with a blurred set before filimg a batsu game
    • 24-Hour Tag (2000): The original comedy duo known as “Downtown,” which consisted of Matsumoto Hitoshi and Masatoshi Hamada often collaborated with the junior comedic duo, “Cocorico” (Cock-a-doodle-doo) which was featured Tanaka Naoki and Endō Shōzō. Downtown and Cocorico were regular, unwilling participants that appeared in almost all of Gaki no Tsukai’s Batsu games. In the 2000’s 24-Hour Tag segment, the four members arrive at the school gym where they must remain for 24 hours. The objective? Avoid getting captured by the “oni” (Japanese demon) that will come out and try to get them. If they get caught, they will receive a “harisen” (paper fan) attack to their head.


    • Hot Spring Inn (2003): This segment was the very first no-laughing Batsu game to ever appear on Gaki no Tsukai. In 2003’s Hot Spring Inn, the members of Downtown and Cocorico go to an “onsen” (Japanese hot spring) to participate in a 24-hour challenge. The four members lose a bowling match and must stay overnight at a Japanese inn where there is only one rule: no laughing allowed. The punishment? Getting an arrow shot into your bum through a bamboo shoot. And yes, it looks as painful as it sounds.


    • First High School (2005): After playing a mini-Batsu game called “Shocking Electric Cord Russian Roulette Showdown,” where members of both Downtown and Cocorico must plug a cord into a socket and receive an electric shock, the losers must participate in a grand Batsu game that takes place at a high school. Dressed in boys’ high school uniforms, the foursome attempts to survive the no-laughing challenge for 24 hours until they complete the “sotsugyōshiki” (graduation ceremony) the next day. The punishment for laughing? A painful-looking whack from a bamboo stick to the bum.


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    • Do Not Laugh Hospital (2007):  In this segment, the crew arrives at a hospital that can “cure” the comedians of their inability to laugh. The crew promptly changes into pink nurses’ uniforms, complete with a mini-skirt, and the Batsu game commences. Not even one hour into the 24-hour challenge, one of the comedians falls victim to a pit hidden under a pile of leaves — one of the most iconic traps ever to be filmed in Gaki no Tsukai. The punishment for laughing is long-haired men in black appear and hit them as hard as they can in the bum with a police baton.

    • Earth Defence Force (2013): Downtown and Cocorico, plus Tsukitei Hōsei, are tasked with 24 hours of “brutal” duty as the newly recruited members of Earth’s Defence Force. Per usual, they are not allowed to laugh or they will receive a severe punishment (another baton to the bum). The elaborate traps and celebrity cameos are part of the reason why this segment is so popular among fans.

    Batsu Games You Can Play With Your Friends

    There are many types of Batsu games, ranging from harmless to outright sadistic that should only be played under a network’s close supervision. We’ve separated these games into two categories so that you know which ones are safe to play with your loved ones, and which ones are better to be left to the professionals. 

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    Children’s Batsu Games

    • Janken Batsu Game (Rock-Paper-Scissors): Rock-paper-scissors is also a form of a Batsu game that often appears in these types of shows. Using the example of rock-paper-scissors, on Japanese TV, the punishment for losing might be getting slapped in the face or the penalty of having to participate in a second Batsu game that will have some seriously painful (and hilarious) punishments as we will discuss later on.


    • Onigokko Batsu Game (Tag / Cops & Robbers): Tag is also an example of a Batsu game that is child-friendly. A single “oni” or ogre is chosen amongst the players and if you are touched or tagged by this player, you then become an ogre yourself and are given the “punishment” of tagging other players instead of being the one who runs away.

    • Janken Batsu Game (Rock-Paper-Scissors): Rock-paper-scissors is also a form of a Batsu game that often appears in these types of shows. Using the example of rock-paper-scissors, on Japanese TV, the punishment for losing might be getting slapped in the face or the penalty of having to participate in a second Batsu game that will have some seriously painful (and hilarious) punishments as we will discuss later on.

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    • Shippé (The Volleyball Game): The rules of this game are very simple, which makes it a very popular game for children to play. The punishment is also simple. Japanese children will test their strength by slapping each other’s wrists by putting their pointer and index fingers together. The “Batsu” lies in the severity of their attacks. In the United States, a similar game called “Volleyball” is played, where friends will put their arms side by side and try to slap each other as hard as they can. Sounds painful, right? Well, it is!

    • Hot Potato Batsu Game: This game is very popular amongst English teachers in Japan. Students must pass a pen to each other after speaking in English under the pressure of a timer. When the timer goes off, the student holding the pen must undergo a “punishment,” usually answering a question in English that is provided by their instructor.

    • Déco Pin (“Forehead Smash!”): This game, like many others, starts with a regular match of rock-paper-scissors, but usually only has a maximum of two players. The winner flicks the head of the losing player and the game repeats until someone gives up (or gets a headache).
    4 friends playing a batsu game at a kitchen table and 1 looking disappointed for losing

    College-Friendly Batsu Games (18+)

    • Takoyaki (Fried-Octopus Balls) Challenge: This game is popular amongst Japanese college students, but by no means has to be limited to Japanese food. A group of friends makes fried-octopus balls together, but each person decides the main ingredient of their ball. Flavors range from normal to tabasco and even wasabi. The balls are then mixed and each person must take a bite to discover who has chosen the “Batsu” ball.

    • Matcha Ice Cream Challenge: Yet another food-related Batsu game, this one follows a very similar process to the Takoyaki Challenge. A group of friends will order matcha ice cream dessert (commonly found at sushi restaurants). One person hides wasabi inside one of the ice cream and everyone shuffles the dishes around until not even the person who hid it knows which scoop contains the dreaded wasabi

    • Batsu Drinking Game: Similar to the Takoyaki game, participants play their favorite drinking game of choice and replace one of the cups with a more potent form of alcohol. For example, the drink of choice in the popular American drinking game Beer Pong is usually beer. In a Batsu game version, one of the red solo cups would be filled with vodka. The person who throws the ping-pong ball into the cup filled with vodka would then be required to drink it per the rules of the game. 


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    • Yakyuken Batsu (Baseball Fist): At first, this game looks like rock-paper-scissors, but if you lose, you have to take off an article of clothing as punishment. While this game may be hilarious to play with a group of friends, you’ll most likely only see it if you enjoy watching adult entertainment videos….

    • No-Laughing Challenge: This game is pretty self-explanatory. A group of 2-4 people must watch a compilation of funny videos or do some humorous activity that has a high probability of making someone laugh. If someone laughs, they lose and must take the punishment (usually a shot of their drink of choice).

    • Acchi Muite Hoi!: One of the hallmarks of Japanese hand games is acchi-muite-hoi (which, loosely translated, means “Look over there, now!”). The goal is to avoid looking in the same direction that your opponent is pointing in. The options are left, right, up, and down. If you happen to look in the same direction their finger is pointing towards, you lose and must undergo a punishment of some kind. Punishments can vary, depending on the situation, but a popular choice is imitating a famous comedian or character in front of a group of people, or posting an embarrassing photo of yourself on your story and keeping it up for 24 hours. 
    Asian girl holding her stomach after eating something gross as part of a batsu game

    Batsu Games in Anime

    Now let’s take a look at some examples of Batsu games that have appeared in Japanese animation, also known as “anime.” If you are interested in learning more about the Japanese language, anime is an excellent resource for language acquisition. Here are some examples of Batsu games in anime:

    1. One Punch Man

    One Punch Man is a Japanese animated TV series about Saitama, a shiny-templed, former salaryman who exercised his way into obtaining god-like superstrength. One Punch Man has several examples of Batsu games. Perhaps the best example is when Saitama and his disciple Genos play a Batsu game against martial arts master, Silverfang. The game is a combination of rock-paper-scissors and a “pick-em-up” game where the winner picks up a rubber mallet and the loser picks up a helmet. If the loser doesn’t pick up the helmet fast enough, they get hit on the head as a punishment. So what happens when you play the game with someone with super-strength? Well, you can see for yourself here

    2. Nichijou (Everyday)

    Nichijou has an example of a reverse Batsu game. “Daruma-san ga Koronda” (Red Light, Green Light) is a popular children’s game that can also be considered a family-friendly Batsu game. In Nichijou, the main characters are Mio Naganohara, Yuuko Aioi, and Mai Minakami, three schoolgirls that live in the fictional town of Tokisadame. They prepare to play a regular game of red light green light in front of a Shinto shrine. Things take a turn when Minakami, who is “it,” turns and sits down on the ground, thus transforming their play into a textbook example of a Batsu game. If either of the other girls moves, they are considered out. The joke becomes crystal clear once the sounds of a sweltering Japanese summer drown out a long, awkward silence between the three heroines.

    3. Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival)

    Hinamatsuri is a Japanese manga that was adapted into a 12-episode anime series. The story centers on Yoshifumi Nitta, who is a member of the yakuza, and a young girl named Hina who he discovers has telekinetic powers. After taking Hina in his wing, he learns that there are others with telekinetic powers, such as Anzu Hayashi. Anzu challenges Hina to a duel which ends up being another combination Batsu game. This time, it’s rock-paper-scissors and “Acchi-Muite-Hoi!” The match results in hilarious facial expressions courtesy of Hina, who ends up winning the match. You can watch their telekinetic-powered dual here.












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    Funny phrases from Japan’s Batsu game

    If you are studying Japanese, then you may have learned about “ben” (dialect) and how different regions of Japan have unique dialects. Arguably the most famous is Kansai-ben, which is spoken by people who are from the Kansai region of Japan. This dialect is spoken by people from Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto prefectures as well as people from Nara, Wakayama, Hyōgo, Shiga, and Mie. 

    Many comedians and hosts of Gaki no Tsukai are from the Kansai region, so much of the humor and jokes are delivered using Kansai-ben. Because Gaki no Tsukai is a comedy show, it should be noted that many of these phrases are extremely casual and would only be shared between long-term friends and people who grew up in that region (so saying them to your new boss is probably not the best idea). If you’re still curious, here are some funny phrases you can learn from watching Japan’s Batsu games:







    Honma ni oishii wa!”

    “This is really delicious!”



    “Sonna koto shitara akan yan!” 

    Don’t!” / “That’s bad!” 

    なにしてん /

    Nani shiten / Nandeyanen

    Nani shiten?” / “Nandeyanen?”

    “What are you doing?” / “Why?”

    えっ + ちゃうちゃう

    Ee + ChyauChyau

    Ee? Chyauchyau!”

    “Eh? This is wrong!”






    Anta, honma aho yana

    Anta, honma aho yana.

    “You really are stupid.” *

    * While these two phrases are acceptable to say to close friends and even new friends, please keep in mind that the phrase “baka” (idiot) is still an insult across Japan and should only be used under special circumstances.


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    Future of Japan’s Batsu Game

    In 2021, Nippon TV announced that Gaki no Tsukai would not be returning for their 15th-anniversary special and is currently on hiatus. Although producers like Ichiro Goda still have a glimmering hope that the show might resume sometime soon, after the comedians have the chance to “rest their butts,” another Batsu game segment of Gaki no Tsukai has yet to be announced as of publishing this article.

    Over the years, as Gaki no Tsukai’s Batsu gained international fame, fans started noticing some controversial jokes being made by the comedian, such as when Masatoshi Hamada did black face while imitating American comedian and actor Eddie Murphy on a 2017 no-laughing segment called American Police. Other concerns about the safety of the comedians and questions about how realistic the punishments are have been raised as well.

    Although the future of Japan’s Batsu game is uncertain, the memories and wildest, side-aching moments continue to be cherished in the hearts of Gaki no Tsukai fans all over the world. Fans of Japan’s Batsu game continue to wait patiently for an announcement of the next New Year’s Eve special.

    Final Thoughts

    The influence of Japan’s variety shows and their Batsu game segments has left a lasting mark on the television industry. With copycat shows appearing around the world, such as MTV’s version of “Silent Library” and  Australia’s “Hole in the Wall,” new iterations of Japan’s Batsu games continue to make people around the world laugh. 

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