Kazuko and Ikuyo: Nasubi’s Family Supports Him Even Now

As a documentary film living up to its title in every way conceivable, Hulu’s Clair Titley-directed ‘The Contestant’ can only be described as equal parts bewildering, intriguing, and shocking. That’s because it delves deep into how then-22-year-old aspiring comedian Tomoaki “Nasubi” Hamatsu found himself trapped in a local Japanese reality show for 15 months in the late 1990s. We actually use the word trapped since he essentially was, and it was done so quickly even his family found out through producers after they’d called in worry of them reporting him missing.

Who is Nasubi’s Family?

It was on August 3, 1975, that Nasubi was born in Fukushima, Japan, as Tomoaki Hamatsu, the younger of two to a dedicated police officer father and a tirelessly loving homemaker mother. However, neither his nor his elder sister Ikuyo’s childhood had much stability considering they had to relocate every two to three years owing to the patriarch’s intensely challenging career. Little did any of them know this would inadvertently lead to the former being atrociously bullied for having a long face, that is, until he realized pure comedy and silly entertainment saved him.

Nasubi (なすび; a nickname that quite literally translates to eggplant) thus decided to pursue a full-fledged professional career in the same, only for his parents to actually be against it at first. “I still feel a pain in my heart about [my son being beaten up by bullies jus t for his appearance,” his mother Kazuko candidly stated in the aforementioned original before reiterating, “It’s painful.” As for why she and her husband didn’t want their son to be a part of the entertainment industry, they admittedly didn’t think it was a good “way to lead a normal life or put food on the table.”

Nevertheless, once Nasubi’s family realized this path was his true source of happiness, they decided to support him and let him move to Tokyo with a single promise: don’t get naked on camera. That’s not to say everything then went well because Kazuko still didn’t see him off from the train station — though this wasn’t out of anger, it was simply due to her being upset over him going away. Coming to that promise, the truth is he unwittingly broke it the minute he landed his big break in 1998 as he was lottery-selected to be the sole contestant on ‘Denpa Shōnen: A Life in Prizes.’

Nasubi was subsequently challenged to stay alone and utterly unclothed in a bare apartment, surviving only on his winnings from magazine sweepstakes until he secured goods worth ¥1 million. His family actually had no idea about this since it all happened literally within moments, so they were shocked when producers ultimately called to let them know of the reality series’ existence. “They were made to believe that I wanted to do it,” this player recently revealed in an interview. “In reality, this was kind of like a kidnapping call. My family did not know what I was going through.”

Nasubi’s Mother Kazuko

However, upon discovering Nasubi’s entire truth through the later-published journal entries he’d penned during his 15 months of isolation, his family could only sympathize with his experiences. After all, that’s when they learned he’d been so broken he’d seriously contemplated suicide while on the show just to get away from the loneliness that had taken hold of him from the inside out. They hence embraced him with their arms wide open when he finally returned home — he was fearful they’d long rejected him over his nudeness on television, yet that was not at all the case.

Where is Nasubi’s Family Now?

From what we can tell as of writing, Tomoaki “Nasubi” Hamatsu’s family is still based around rural Fukushima, from where they continue to back him up no matter where he is or what he is doing. In fact, his mother Kazuko now always ensures to see him off at the station following visits as a way to show she’ll stand by him every step of the way; whether this Eggplant Way stage troupe founder is simply returning to his base in Tokyo or traveling for any project, she’s always there. Coming to his equally supportive elder sister Ikuyo, the truth is that while she actually prefers to lead a relatively private life at the moment, it’s likely she’s an independent, hard-working woman with a family of her own.

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