January 30, 2023
TOKYO — Eight men on Saturday competed to outshine each other. Aged between 40 and 90 years old, they took part in an annual competition for the shiniest balding head in Yokote, Akita Prefecture.
Founded by a group of enthusiasts, the Koto-kai (shining heads organization) has held this annual event since 1991 as a New Year’s tradition, hoping to brighten and invigorate the community.
The men participated in a suction cup tug-of-war, in which suction cups linked by a string are attached to each participant.
At one point there was a heated battle that lasted more than five seconds with the string taut, and the audience cheered when one of the suction cups came loose and the victor was decided.
Hiroshi Fujiwara, 84, the chairman of the group, won the competition for the second time in about 10 years.
In the Koto sumo event, the winner was determined by the shine and luster of his head. Participants facing off removed a hand towel covering their heads at the same time, while the gyoji referee used a penlight to determine the winner.
“I didn’t realize how painful it was to be pulled by the suction cup,” said Takashi Kunugihara, 49, a company owner from Nabari, Mie Prefecture, who heard about the event on TV last year and participated for the first time.
“I want to take care of my head next year by putting on some lotion,” he said with a smile.