Having been running for the last 15 years, TV Asahi’s Zenryokuzaka is one of Japan’s most longstanding television shows, which is a bit strange considering its simple premise.
Every night at 1:20 a.m., Monday to Thursday, thousands of people tune in to TV Asahi to watch the latest episode of Zenryokuzaka, a bizarre show featuring women running up steep streets.
Each episode lasts no more than six minute, including the opening and closing credits, and focuses solely on following the protagonist as she runs up the street. It’s an extremely simplistic concept, even for late-night TV, but one that has somehow remained popular in Japan for the last 15 years.
Zenryokuzaka features a different protagonist every time, usually a young actress, media personality or entertainer of some sort, and is shot at a different location in Tokyo or nearby municipalities. With nearly 3,000 episodes uploaded to the show’s dedicated YouTube channel alone, I guess it’s safe to say that Japan has its share of steep streets.Apart from the different protagonist and location, every Zenryokuzaka is pretty much the same, down to narrator Mitsuru Fukikoshi uttering the phrase “This, too, is a hill that makes you want to run up it,” as the young woman starts running up the street.
Having watched a few episodes out of pure curiosity, I can’t say I get the appeal, but maybe it’s a Japanese thing. Maybe watching young girls run up slopes, or just seeing them sweating and hearing them panting when they reach the top is weirdly satisfying in a way I can’t understand. Anyway, that’s Zenryokuzaka in a nutshell.
I may have remained completely oblivious to the existence of Zenryokuzaka if not for a recent article by Japanese magazine SoraNews24, announcing that TV Asahi is making a major change to the show for the first time in 15 years. The show has recorded its first episode featuring a male protagonist, actor Ryosuke Miura, best known for playing Ankh/Shingo Izumi in the Kamen Rider OOO series.
The producers of Zenryokuzaka have announced that young women will remain the main focus of the show, but the recent announcement has caused quite the stir in Japan. It remains to be seen how the public reacts.