Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Flipping Off Africa, One Bowl At A Time

There are many cultural phenomena that Japan appears to have inherited from America. A love of baseball is one. The ingenuous mistake of referring to 'lifts' as 'elevators' is another. Perhaps the most graphic, however, is the 'eating competition'.

There's something farcical, I find, about competitive eating. Something farcical and disturbing. Maybe it's because in a world where countless people are starving to death, paying someone to eat freakish portions of food that they neither enjoy nor need seems at least insensitive. But at the same time it's also hypnotic to watch. I recently watched a man eat his way through a few hundred bowls of soba, and then found myself feeling disappointed and grumpy when he finally had to stop, like I'd been cheated or something. Weird.

Tonight, I'm going to show you three superstars of Japanese competitive eating. There are two types of competition: those in which contestants eat as much as possible within a time limit, and those in which contestants eat a set amount of food and the fastest finisher wins. Both are equally frightening.

Meet Sugawara Hatsuyo, a 44-year-old woman from Iwate. This video shows her defending her title at the 23rd "Wankosoba" National Tournament, eating 383 "bowls" of ramen in 10 minutes. They're not full, normal-sized bowls, but apparently 10 bowls of wankosoba make up one standard bowl of kakesoba, and 38 bowls of noodles is a crazy amount to eat in 10 minutes.

One of the most famous Japanese eaters is Kobayashi Takeru. He's won the "Nathan's Hot Dog" Eating Contest six years in a row, holding the world record during those years (63 hot dogs in 10 minutes), the Glutton Bowl competition, and the Krystal Square Off for three years running with a world record 97 hamburgers in 8 minutes (no, seriously). I recently found him performing in the most ludicrous television stunt you'll ever see: he has to compete against a bear. The commentating is so transcendentally stupid it'll make you cry. And the phrase "appetite for destruction" is used.

"See how casual the bear is", they say. What the hell does that mean?! What's it supposed to look like? It's a freaking BEAR. What a world.

This is Gal Sone, who hit the eating-scene in 2005. She's in the pop group Gyaruru, who were formed off her fame as an eater. In this video she eats 9 kilos of curry, noodles and rice on daytime tv. She does a lot of this sort of thing - often she just sits eating on programmes whilst they film things around her.

So there you are, that's competitive eating. Now you won't have to lie when people ask you if you've ever seen a woman consume 20% of her weight in curry.


Sly said...

Did you see the one where Gal Sone eats the downtown comedians and the other guys under the table? My perfect women.

Maxamilian said...

Yes I did. She's got quite a stomach, that one.