TOKYO (AP) _ It was a close race, but Masayuki Sadahisa won by half a length - of a hot dog.

Jamming the front half of the 15th frankfurter into his mouth just as the buzzer rang Wednesday, Sadahisa won a spot at the annual Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at the original Nathan's Famous shop at Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y.

But the barrel-chested truck driver, who stands 6-foot-2, isn't sure he can cut the mustard against two-time champ Frank ''Large'' Dellarossa of Brooklyn, whose personal best is 21 1/2 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

''It would be pretty tough to do more than what I did today,'' said Sadahisa, 32. ''But I'll be happy just to be able to see the New York skyline.''

This is the first time Nathan's has recruited a Japanese contender for its contest.

Larry Feierstein, Nathan's vice president for marketing, said the company tried unsuccessfully to get sumo wrestlers to compete.

''You have to be a big guy to put away that many hot dogs,'' he said. ''We figured that when these sumo guys are training they're not exactly on a diet.''