The Queen Is Dead
Ayako Miyake abdicates her Ninja Warrior Throne
Ready for anything...except failure!
Saturday, March 8, 2008: International Women's Day
What better way for the guy-centric G4 cable TV network to celebrate International Women's Day in the Women's History Month of March then airing the first four episodes of the new (seventh) season of Women of Ninja Warrior (known in Japan as Kunoichi, from the Japanese term for a female ninja or practitioner of ninpo/ninjutsu) during a Saturday night programming marathon. Only one woman had ever won the sports challenge competition in its first six years, but that woman, Ayako Miyake, had won the last three years in a row and was poised for her fourth crown this evening.
But she failed.
Unexpectedly, inexplicably, inconceivably.
And for the first time ever the reigning Queen of Ninja Warriors fell into the drink, plunging into the icy waters of Mount Midoriyama in the second stage. From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat...Miyake, the acrobatic star of Tokyo's G-Rockets dance troupe and popular Muscle Musical revue (known in the West as Matsuri, which is now playing at the Sahara in Las Vegas), seemed dazed as her mascara ran down her face, merging with her tears.
The crowd couldn't believe their eyes as a huge collective groan followed the splashdown. Their agonized faces belayed their shock, like post-War survivors being told Emperor Hirohito wasn't a god.
All a dazed Miyake could do was mumble, "I failed..." and, addressing the crowd, "I am...so sorry."
Besides Miyake, another acrobatic star of Japan's Muscle Musical had previously plunged into the water, and she too burst into tears and bore a grimaced expression. These two women took the competition very seriously and acted as if they had disgraced their entire nation. I worried for a moment that perhaps these despondent damsels might commit hari-kari to abet their shame. Even everyone's Kunoichi heir apparent, intense celebrity athlete Yuko Mizuno (pictured at right - without her constricting sports bra) wasn't that shattered when she was eliminated.
Last year's runner-up, Maho Tanaka, the beautiful and leggy snow and wake boarder, also failed and was clearly disappointed (me too - I thought she was the most serious contender for Miyake's crown this season), but she showed exceptional poise under pressure, seemingly resigning herself to the fickleness of fate and the vanquishing vicissitudes of athletic competition. She'll be back next year for sure.
To say I'm heart-broken is the understatement of the world. I haven't been this sad since Pee-Wee Herman got busted at the movies. Alas, a hero ain't nothing but a sandwich in today's topsy-turvy world.
Here's the video showing Misake's - and her closest rivals - undoing on the Season 7 premiere of Women of Ninja Warrior. For me, watching it is like seeing the Zapruder footage of Kennedy's assasination. Unbelievable but irrefutable. And still shocking.
The Agony of Defeat, Lady Ninja-style
That's OK, Ayako. I still love you. And will be rooting for you next year!
So take heart from Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman" and "come back even stronger." Repeat after me (and Helen): I am woman. I am [almost] invincible. I am strong.
Japan Probe's Kunoichi Season 7 Videos
Women of Ninja Warrior (previous AD post)