Japanese Man Wins Hot Dog Contest

N E W   Y O R K, July 4, 2000 -- A 100-pound Japanese mattress salesman known as “The Rabbit” set a new world record today by eating more than 25 hot dogs in 12 minutes at Nathan’s annual Independence Day hot dog-eating contest in Coney Island.

Kazutoyo Arai, 32, came from Saitama, Japan, to beat out his 391-pound American rival. Reigning hot dog champ Steve “The Terminator” Keiner, 35, of Atlantic City, N.J., won last year’s contest by downing 21-plus hot dogs in 12 minutes. But Keiner finished in the middle of the pack this year, only eating 15 franks and buns.

After the contest, Arai, who wolfed down 24 hot dogs during a 1997 contest, said he has been training for the Nathan’s Famous event all year. He said on Monday night he had eaten enough “Chinese food for 10 people.”

Arai promised to be back next year to defend his title. He walked away with the coveted mustard-yellow International Belt, a huge red trophy and 20 pounds of Nathan’s hot dogs to take back to Japan.

An International Tradition

Dozens of people competed in the eating contest, which has been held at Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand in Brooklyn’s Coney Island amusement park every Fourth of July since 1916. Contestants traveled to New York from all over the world to participate.

Two other Japanese contenders, Misao “The Big Banana” Fujita and Takako Akasaka, took second and third place in the contest. Fujita ate 24 hot dogs, and Akasaka, the only woman to enter the wiener fest, set a record by eating just over 22.

The best the Americans could do was fourth place. A locomotive machinist, Steve Addicks. 41, of Finksburg, Md., took the honors by eating 21 franks and buns.

The National Hot Dog Council estimates Americans will eat 88 million hot dogs at Independence Day celebrations today.