"Street Arm" pumps up quake-hit Japan city

Tue Nov 1, 2011 3:37am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Chris Gallagher

SENDAI, Japan (Reuters) - By day, Kenichi Watanabe runs an insurance agency. By night, he's an arm wrestler -- and on a recent Saturday, he's preparing to do battle.

Under a moonlit sky, Watanabe and his opponent face off across an arm wrestling table in a bustling pedestrian street in Sendai, a northern Japanese city hit hard by the March quake. Watanabe is lean and cut, like a lightweight boxer, but his rival looks a couple of weight classes bigger.

They grip hands and adjust elbow positions. Biceps bulge, forearm veins pop. Lights from arcade and karaoke signs dance across their faces as they lock eyes and await the "Go" signal.

"Come on, you can do it!" says a female voice among the crowd of some 30 onlookers.

Welcome to "Street Arm," an event held in the middle of Sendai's entertainment district, in which anyone from beginner to pro can step up and take a shot at arm wrestling.

Organized several times a year, Street Arm helps spread awareness of the sport as well as amp up weekend nightlife.

Uniting people is especially vital in Japan's disaster-hit northeast. In Sendai, the nearest big city to the epicenter of the massive March 11 quake, the downtown area survived relatively unscathed but the coastal areas suffered major tsunami damage.

"With arm wrestling, people can become closer more easily because they're grasping hands," the 34-year-old Watanabe said.   Continued...

<p>Mai Takahashi (R) and her friend arm wrestle during a "Street Arm" event on a pedestrian street in the shopping district of Sendai, Miyagi prefecture October 8, 2011. REUTERS/Christopher Gallagher</p>