Tomoko Otake for The Japan Times
Nearly 300 spectators cheered wildly as disco music blared. A spotlight picked out two fighters approaching the ring to kick off a puroresu (prowrestling) event held recently in a Tokyo town hall. Then a female MC announced, in a startlingly high-pitched voice: "In the blue corner, E.T.! In the red corner, Arm Bomb Fujiwara!" Both wrestlers were physically handicapped and had to be helped or lifted into the ring. But when the starting bell rang, the men -- both of them sitting and rolling around on the canvas -- began punching each other with all the power and accuracy they could muster.
Blows landed thick and fast, and the crowd roared. Then Arm Bomb Fujiwara got his arm round E.T.'s neck and began to throttle him. As E.T.'s face reddened to puce and he started shaking, the referee called a halt to the bout and declared a win for Arm Bomb -- who raised his fist high as the crowd laughed and shrieked.
That night, many of the dozen disabled wrestlers from the Doglegs group that staged the show in western Tokyo's Shimokitazawa district looked truly fired up and fearless. In melodramatic contrast, the few able-bodied participants were wimps, including one going by the name of "Mushikera Goro (Worthless Goro)" who, according to the program, was a hikikomori (long-term stay-at-home recluse) with a big-time Oedipus complex. He lost out to 41-year-old "Anchi-teze" (Antithesis) Kitajima, the broad-shouldered nondisabled man who is also Doglegs' leader.
But why stage contests in which one or both participants are so clearly disadvantaged? What is it all about?
"That's our intention -- to make people think," said Doglegs' leader and cofounder Kitajima -- real name, Yukinori Kitajima -- who makes a living not from running Doglegs but from writing fiction and computer-game scenarios.
Speaking after the two-hour event had ended, the father of two young girls said that over the past 15 years the group has performed around 70 times all over Japan, and once in South Korea. Then he explained: "We don't want to show something for people to simply laugh at and walk away. You might get a laugh out of our matches at times, but we also want people to wonder what this all means. We want to give people a nasty aftertaste."