AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

National persimmon seed spitting contest

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 25, 2012

WHAT sort of image do people overseas have in their mind’s eye about Japan? Other than the noodniks fixated on Edo-period tentacle porn, I mean. Perhaps they have the traditional picture of a clean, simple, fastidious elegance.

If so, it might be because they haven’t swung by Nanbu-cho in Tottori in late November every year. That’s when the Tottorians hold their annual National Persimmon Seed Spitting Contest using the seeds from the famed local fuyu persimmons. This year’s event was the 24th, and about 400 people came to see how far they could hawk an oblong spherical seed that’s about five to 10 times larger than a watermelon seed.

And when I say 400 people, that includes men, women, boys, and girls who compete in four separate divisions. That’s what makes Japan such a fascinating place — any other day of the week, some of those persimmon seed-spitting housewives might be in kimono practicing the tea ceremony. In this event, they get to behave in public like bored fratboys on a Wednesday night in midwinter and be cheered by an audience.

Of course there are rules and techniques. The seeds have to land within a four-meter lane, and there’s said to be a special body snap for ejecting the projectile the maximum distance.

This year’s winner in the men’s division was a 41-year-old company employee from Imabari, Ehime, with an expectoration of 17.46 meters. The women’s champ was a 40-year-old local who shot her seed 10.67 meters. Before you start snickering, keep in mind that both of them won free trips to Hawaii. Now isn’t that enough to make you buy a crate of persimmons and start practicing?

It might be fun to watch, or even test my seed-spitting abilities against the other competitors. But here’s where I’d draw the line: I wouldn’t want to be one of the event workers assigned to pick up the spent seeds from the mat.

Yeah there’s a Youtube. In fact, this one is a report by the Nihonkai Shimbun on last year’s event. That featured 350 people from five Chugoku region prefectures and the Kansai area. The men’s winner managed a spit of only 14.87 meters. He still won a trip to Hawaii, though.

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