Eat till your insides beg for mercy: competitive noodle eating in Japan

A 300-year-old tradition of gargantuan wanko soba noodle slurping sees our writer beaten after a mere 75 bowls in Morioka, northern Japan

On a backstreet in Morioka, northern Japan, I take a deep breath and steel myself. I’m at a restaurant called Azumaya, about to be inducted into the world of competitive noodle eating. I’ve skipped lunch in preparation.

Wanko soba, literally bowl noodles, is a traditional dish in Iwate prefecture, and speed-eating competitions are held in the cities of Hanamaki and Morioka each year. On 6 November, Morioka will host the 31st All Japan Wanko Soba Contest, with 176 contestants from across Japan descending on the Nanak shopping mall for a feasting frenzy. (Hanamaki holds its competition in February.)

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