Ninja Warrior

posted by : Jon Kroupa on 05/11/2011
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Related Comics: Part 1, Part 2

Ninja Warrior is a television show on G4 that shows a real Japanese obstacle course which is run every six months (in Japan is it called Sasuke). Unlike MXC this is legitimate, with real commentators and competitors. The course contains 4 different stages, whomever can complete all of them gets the cash prize. To date only 3 people have ever completed it out of 26 competitions.

I've watched a number of the "seasons" and I have learned the following startling facts:

  1. While white collar workers put in 70 hours a week and cheat on their wives, blue collar workers spend their evenings training for Ninja Warrior.
  2. White collar workers live in tiny cramped apartments, blue collar workers all have backyards in which they can build replicas of the Ninja Warrior obstacles.
  3. Every contestant on Ninja Warrior is famous in some way. Japan's toughest firefighter, Japan's most muscular comedian, Tokyo's most famous gas station attendant.
  4. Ninja Warrior will allow any random contestant on the show who lives within 1 mile of the facility, including 60 year old men who cook octopi and built diaramas, with no regard to thier health.

Some of the contestants really dedicate their lives to the challenge. I can understand the appeal, it is exciting to watch people come back through the seasons and witness their improvements. It also inspires a desire within myself to get into Ninja Warrior shape so that maybe one day I could compete. But the extent to which some people go, like building large expensive replicas in their backyards, that seems very excessive.

This is particularly puzzling given the cash prize is not overly substational. I must express some confusion on the prize money. In one episode the announcer said the prize was 1,000,000 yen. On Makoto Nagano's Wikipedia entry it says he collected 2,000,000 yen when he won. The only time the Ninja Warrior entry mentions money is when describing the latest performance of the American competitors, and it says that none of them collected the $250,000 cash prize.

Today 2,000,000 yen would be roughly $25,000 usd. I would be shocked, shocked! to discover Wikipedia had an error on one of their pages, but it is possible that $250,000 is supposed to read $25,000, and that the prize money has increased somewhat over the years as the popularity has grown. Since I consider that to be the case, it doesn't seem like a cash payout of $25,000, particularly in one of the most expensive nations in the world, would be something people would decide to dedicate years of effort to obtain.

It would be easier to get a second job to earn $25,000 than to train your body to overcome the oftentimes ridiculously difficult obstacles. There is probably something to be said for being crowned the "best." But in Japan what does that mean? Even the humblest person in Japan already has a title (most likely Japan's Humblest Man/Woman).

I do wish they had something similar near me. It would be fun to occasionally go and give the obstacles a try. If I ever make it to Japan again I am definitely going to look up the Sasuke club in Tokyo where they allow "amatuers" an opportunity to try some of the real life obstacles. Tragically I had forgotten about this place on my first trip to Japan last year.

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