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People in Japan Are Racing Office Chairs on the Streets to Win Free Rice

That’s how they roll.

by Shamani Joshi
12 June 2019, 9:27pm

Photo: Issei Kato/Reuters

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

Japan’s competitive sports scene just got a lot more wholesome when the city of Hanyu held the latest round of the country’s annual office chair race, known as the ‘Isu’ grand prix.

Inspired by Formula 1 and Le Mans, office chair racing is a 10-year-old tradition in Japan that was started as a test of endurance. Because hey, if you can complete an obstacle course on an office chair without falling smack on your face, you’re already winning at life.

The race consists of teams of three battling it out for two back-breaking hours to complete the most laps in a 200-metre course. From pushing the chair backwards to rapidly rotating to maintaining a balance, players give it their all to win a grand prize of 90 kgs of local rice in a fight to earn the winning title and be the best ‘driver’.

The race can get pretty gruelling though, so wearing helmets and elbow guards is mandatory. But at least those competing are allowed to choose their own outfits and aren't told to replicate what is appropriate office wear.

This series was first started by Tsuyoshi Tahara in Kyoto in 2009 and has become a regular feature at 10 different “grand prix” events across Japan. “The origin of this race came to my head when I saw a tricycle endurance race,” Tahara told Reuters. In a bid to create something no one had done before, Tahara’s concept has become incredibly popular in the country, with more than 55 teams coming from far and wide to compete. The next Isu Grand Prix will take place next month in Iwate. But turns out you needn't even go all the way to Japan to rock and roll—the races also take place in Germany, Switzerland and Taiwan.

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