Boxing beetles face off in Tokyo tournament

Last updated 00:00 02/08/2007
Reuters
MINI SUMOS: A hotly contested bout during the Insect World Battle Championships in Tokyo. The sport is very popular among Japanese boys.

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They're hardly cuddly pets, but for Japanese boys like Yoshiaki Handa, beetles have the right stuff.

"I like them because they are strong fighters," said 9-year-old Handa, petting his favourite beetle on the palm of his hand as it readied to do battle in a "Kid's Beetle King" boxing tournament held in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Rhino beetles – which look like miniature tanks with a horn – are popular pets among Japanese boys, many of whom catch and collect them on lazy summer days, breed them and even put them in a ring for a round of beetle boxing.

At Wednesday's event, a race among contenders eliminated the slow and the weak. Then about 15 "beetle boxers" took part in the final round – some needing to be coaxed into battle by their young owners, while others attacked their rivals on their own.

Some ardent beetle fans have even turned to imports in a search for bigger and stronger breeds.

There's no official data on how many beetles are imported into Japan, but the number of beetles inspected at Japanese airports has quadrupled since 2000, according to the agriculture ministry, and beetle shops are doing brisk business.

At Daiba Forest shop, which sells beetles from Japan and other countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, and as far away as Cameroon, prices range from around 100 yen (80 cents) to 1.2 million yen (5,000 pounds) for a stag beetle about 8.5 cm (3 inches) long.

"When it's a busy weekend, we sell as many as 100 beetles a day," said the shop's Hokuto Narumiya.

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- Reuters

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