NIKKO, Tochigi -- The annual soba noodle speed eating contest finished on March 13 here with the winner gulping down three serving's worth of the soba noodles -- around 650 grams -- in just 46 seconds.
Participants in the annual event, which is sponsored by the local tourist association and aims to promote the area's local products, competed to see who could down the chilled noodles in the shortest period of time.
The doughy treats were prepared by the Nikko Teuchi Soba (handmade buckwheat noodle) group. Sold under the "hyo-on kannetsu" brand name, the buckwheat was harvested in autumn and then stored for around three months at a temperature of minus 2 degrees Celsius in order to ensure that their sweetness, fragrance and umami were on par with the new buckwheat from the beginning of the season.
A total of 93 participants tried their speed-slurping skills during this year's event, which was held at the Nikko Highway Niko-Niko Honjin roadside station. Bringing their faces close to their bamboo sieve baskets, they stuffed the noodles and accompanying sauce into their mouths while challenging themselves to use all of the speed-slurping skills at their disposal.
While some contestants rushed too quickly and ended up choking on their servings, others -- clearly not fussed about winning -- utilized the full allotted four minutes to artfully finish off their lunch.
In the end, the victor in the contest's general category was 29-year-old Shohei Kamiyama from the city of Naka, Ibaraki Prefecture, who polished off his noodles in 46 seconds. A fifth-time winner, Kamiyama holds the fastest-ever record in the event, at 24.41 seconds.
In the women's section, 47-year-old Eiko Takatori -- who has won the contest 10 years in a row and 12 times in total including the latest contest -- came out on top at 1:36.
"This year's noodles were firm, and it was difficult to swallow them," Kamiyama was quoted as saying.