Natto Speed-Eating Contest Held in Japan’s Mito; Annual Competition By Lake Senba Marks its 20th Year

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants bolt down natto at the men’s final of an annual natto speed-eating contest in Mito on Saturday.

MITO — An annual natto speed-eating contest was held in Mito, with 132 people competing to eat the sticky fermented soybeans.

The Mito Tourism and Convention Association organizes the event in an effort to expand the consumption of natto, which is a speciality of the city. This year’s event — held Saturday on the shores of Lake Senba — marked its 20th edition.

In the preliminary stage, men raced to eat 90 grams of natto with 310 grams of rice in a bowl, while women competed to finish the same amount of natto with 210 grams of rice. In the finals, 10 men took on five bundles of natto wrapped in straw, weighing a total of 350 grams, and nine women tackled three such bundles totaling 210 grams.

The contestants used such methods as washing the natto down with water, occasionally with pained expressions on their faces.

Yasushi Iwabuchi, a 39-year-old company employee from Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, defended his title with a time of 42.99 seconds. A regular at speed-eating contests, Iwabuchi has devised a creative way of putting the natto in a container.

“I couldn’t produce a good result in a wanko soba competition this year, but I was able to make up for it at this natto contest,” Iwabuchi said. Wanko soba noodles, a specialty of Iwate Prefecture, are served in small bowls one after another until the customer asks to stop.

Yukiko Otake, a 48-year-old public servant in Mito, won the women’s division with a time of 46.68 seconds.

“I want to continue eating lots of natto so it will become a part of my body,” Otake said.