August 7th 2008
I Survived a Japanese Game Show was one of the surprise hits of the summer, combining elements of American reality and game shows with the absurdity and hilarity of Japanese game shows. Each week one contestant was eliminated until the finale, which featured the final four contestants battling it out in a series of three games until only one remained standing.
The contestant who actually survived the Japanese game show is Justin Wood, who hails from Alabama. Justin played exceptionally well in the games, and brought a bit of Southern charm to the show with his wide-eyed confessionals and Alabama accent. He ended up winning $250,000.
Question: Hi Justin – congratulations!
Justin Wood: Thank you!
Q: What inspired you to apply to be on the show? Did you know anything about it at the time?
Justin: Oh I didn't know a thing about it! I was just really interested in the entertainment business, mostly acting and modeling. I've got a little bit of experience in modeling – I did Cosmo's Alabama Bachelor magazine special, and I've always been interested in learning more.
I just applied through the ABC casting call online, which was really vague. It just said something about being physically fit, and hometown pride and stuff. So I figured I would be a good fit for this.
Q: Can you describe how things transpired between your arrival for the first day of taping, and landing in Tokyo?
Justin: Oh man. We all arrived in L.A. from all across the country for the first day of taping, and then we're shuttled off on a bus. Tony Sano, who at the time was just this guy who none of us had ever seen or met before, shows up and drops the bomb that we're going to Japan! And I'm thinking, "Wow, are you kidding me?" Then we're on the plane to Tokyo, and during the flight my mind was going crazy thinking of what could be going on.
Q: Did you have any idea of what the show would be about once you got to Japan?
Justin: No clue. I mean, the casting call had hinted at it being physical, but that's all I could figure out. I had seen Japanese game shows before, but it never crossed my mind that we were about to do that ourselves. The night we got into Tokyo, Tony told us what we were going to be doing. I couldn't believe it. How do you prepare for something like that? You can't just go out and practice eating Moshi Balls!
Q: Speaking of those, what exactly do Moshi Balls taste like?
Justin: Well, there's no real distinct taste. They're just these big, mushy, gummy things. Imagine eating a donut, putting that in your mouth, and then instead on ingesting it, the thing just keeps popping back up. It's kind of like chewing on a soft rubber ball.
Q: Which of the games were the most challenging for you?
Justin: I'd have to say Pedal Fast or Big Splash. That was exhausting, just full-speed pedaling trying to keep the girls on the treadmill and in the scoring zone. We were just so tired after that one.
Also, I can't remember the name if it, but the one with the spinning seats where we were dressed as brides and grooms. Those chairs really shake you up! I was almost sick to my stomach on that one.
Q: That would have made a nice little show clip!
Justin: Oh yeah, it would have been good for entertainment value!
Q: Was there ever a problem with the language barrier? It looked like the Japanese television crew only spoke Japanese.
Justin: Yeah, at times there were problems. They had the Japanese crew on the game show, and then there was the American crew for the house scenes and stuff. A couple of times it was an issue, but we got used to it. We learned a few Japanese words, and everyone got used to pointing a lot and using gestures.
Q: Aside from what we saw on the show, did you get any time to actually see Tokyo?
Justin: No, not really. Most of our time was absorbed on the set, we were really involved in the show. During the rewards and punishments we saw a lot though, and I loved it.
Q: Would you like to go back to Japan?
Justin: Oh for sure. One of the nice things is that Rome, the host of Majide, gave Donnell and I each a pair of airline tickets so we can go back and have a vacation. So I'm really looking forward to going back there.
Q: In the last episode, the show flew in the loved ones for each person in the final three, but it didn't seem that you had much time with them. How long did you actually get to talk with your girlfriend before you had to go back out and play Squishy Squishy?
Justin: Only about fifteen minutes – it was really short. Then we had to get ready and put on those huge fat suits.
Q: How did she feel about the whole thing?
Justin: Oh, she was really shocked! She said she was on the verge of a heart attack! But she was really honored that the show would fly her out there to see me and everything. She had no idea where I was at, and I'll be honest, I'm not a big fan of flying. And the flight to Tokyo was twelve and a half hours, so she was surprised that I made it. She was honored and overwhelmed.
To me though, I don't want to say it was an advantage because the others had loved ones there too, but it was a definite boost for me. You know, you wanna be your best for the most important person in your life! I definitely didn't want to end up having to explain why I came in second!