NICK: 2 more reasons to hate me.

Trip Start Jan 25, 2006
Trip End Feb 25, 2008

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Flag of Japan  ,
Monday, July 17, 2006

Yes, that's right, there are 2 more reasons to hate me.

Some people may say that they can't think of any reasons to hate me, but I've always felt that you're probably just being nice.

There's always a reason to hate someone, it just depends on whether you're interested in ignoring that little piece.

Anyways, we were in the city of Kochi (I guess it's pronounced "Koch," since the word "kochi" means something like "here"), and like every city in Japan, there is SOMETHING that it is famous for. Kyoto has geisha, Matsuyama has the haiku, and Tokyo has nightlife and captive Russian prostitutes. Kochi's claim to fame is their famous seared bonito, the silent sumo-style fighting dogs, and slightly scientific whale meat.

We'd tried the bonito the day before, and since I was curious, I wanted to go see the "amazing" dogs. I'd researched on the web before we left and had seen numerous sites purporting that there is a breed of mastiff that has been popular in the Tosa region for a hundred years or so. According to the wikipedia article, the dogs are specially trained to fight each other, but not bite, growl, or bark. These dog fights are also not anything like the fights that you hear of in amores perros and illegal dog pit fighting. True, the dogs are put into a pit, but they don't fight to the death.

The wikipedia article says that the dogs are released into the ring, and they push and try to knock each other off of their feet and pin each other. After 3 mins of one dog controlling the match or the other yelping or turning to get away, the top dog is declared the winner. Other research says that there is supposedly full tournaments, similar to the Sumo ones that they have here. The top dog is given the rank of Yokozuna, just like in sumo. They even have small posters that are similar to the sumo ones showing the names of the dogs and their rankings as ozeki. The matches have a 30 min time limit, and the matches sometimes end up bloody, and deaths are extremely rare.

I would have liked to seen Japanese information on it, since I was only able to read the English information. Who knows, maybe most Japanese sites say the opposite about the dog-fighting, and I would assume that they know more about it than any English speaker. Either way, this dog is huge. It's around 140lbs, and stands a little under 3 ft tall. I imagine that pitting any animal against another animal for sport isn't a good thing; I just wanted to see it for myself.

We went out to the Katsurahama region and wandered around. There, we saw all sorts of touristy knick-knacks and posters and such devoted to the dogs and we got our tickets. We had a while to wait until the next demonstration, so we went to the beach and wandered around looking at statues where a famous poet spent most of his life drinking himself to death. He was lamenting some chick that dumped him.

Ain't it always the same?

I got some pretty pics of the beach and the coast, and we touched the others side of the Pacific Ocean. It was kinda neat to think that I'd touched both sides of the Atlantic ocean, both sides of the Pacific ocean and a smattering of seas.

We walked back towards the tourist center and found a small restaurant to get out of the heat. We looked thru the menu and saw that they had whale on it. I was super curious since they'd made such a big stink in the Japanese news that they were going to increase whaling production since they'd found that certain whales are making a comeback. The Japanese government also has made it into a big deal that whales are responsible for depleteing the fish stock in the oceans.

Uh, no, it's because of the Japanese.

The whales they catch, mostly minke, are baleen whales - they eat plankton, not fish.

But anyways, I wanted to try it and Kochi is supposed to be a good region to try it at. I ordered it and was surprised that they serve it tataki style - cooked on the outside and raw in the middle. Whale meat is also extremely purple. I'm guessing that it needs to have a super high-density of blood to maintain the pressures underwater and the periods without oxygen that the whale endures.

Overall, it was quite good. It had a texture that was really tender, and tasted good.

OK, so I'm a bad person for eating a whale, but my curiosity is pretty important to satisfy. As most of you know, I've got to find out what something's like - and if the opportunity arises, I'll usually try and take it, otherwise I'll kick myself anytime anything reminds me of it.

of course, it did almost get me stuck waist deep in a hole 25 meters under the city of Budapest.

But that's a minor detail.

I would most likely never seek whalemeat out in a restaurant again, but if offered to me, I would gladly take it.

After lunch, we went back to watch the dogfights. We waited in line with a bunch of other tourists (all Japanese, I think it's great that Japanese are such tourists in their own country.

We were led into the pit fighting ring, where it was surrounded by posters of fighting dogs, banners, and other religious paraphenalia. I'm guessing that like sumo, dog fighting has some ties to the Shinto religion. I guess it mimics the sumo in more ways than just the rankings.

See pics to see the ring.

They first announced the yokozuna dog - they brought him out and dressed him up in all his aproned glory (these are the similar aprons that the sumo wrestlers wear when they come out to start the bouts.

The dog was huge. It was a beautiful dog, well-groomed and obedient. It just stood there and looked at all the people taking pictures of him with his apron and rope belt on him. After they were done showboating him, they took him back into the back room and a series of Japanese announcements came over the loud speaker. I'm sure they were giving a description as to what was going to happen and the procedure. Two more dogs were brought out, one was left outside the ring while the other was turned around to face the other dog. They took off his collar and wrapped a towel around his neck. They opened the door, let the other dog into the ring and let them loose.

The two handlers jumped out of the ring and sat on two chairs. From what I've read, in the real tournament, the audience has to be silent so the handlers could yell commands to the dogs during the match. The two guys sitting on the little chairs pretty much just watched the dogs wrestle. They did use their teeth, and I'd imagine they have a high threshold for pain since it's hard to imagine it not hurting if a 140lb dog throws another 140lb dog to the ground with his teeth.

They were silent. It was kind of like watching two huge puppies playing. Violently.

See the video if you're curious.

The match went on for about 8-9 mins, and it ended with the dog that was obviously losing mounting the other dog and starting to hump him. After about 10 seconds of this, they hopped into the ring with a burning rolled up sheet of newspaper. They showed it to the dogs and they just sat down. After this, they put the collars on the dogs and led them out. I think most people in the audience were like us and pretty surprised to see what a dog fight really entailed. A lot of shocked faces.

Afterwards, they invited the audience backstage to see how the dogs lived and what they're fed. The dogs are kept in large cages away from each other and look pretty healthy. They're not starved, I didn't see many scars on their fur, and they looked like big normal dogs. I should have taken a picture of their cages. They had memorabilia of the dogs collars, pictures, and the first dogs bred into modern Tosa dogs. They then led us to the puppy corral where they kept the future fighters. They showed them with their fighting training gear, and once again, the thought of taking pictures of the puppies escaped me. We pet the dogs and left.

I would say that it's not really something that I'd ever do again as well. I can't imagine how someone would want to see their own pets go thru this, nor how they could afford to keep these dogs if they didn't somehow gamble on them. Pachinko is illegal to gamble with, but people still make money with it, so I'd imagine this would be the same.

Still, I feel kinda guilty for going to go watch this, but I feel more informed about it now, and I will say that I would never go see a pit dog-fight. That's not something that I'd like to see.
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