Organized team snowball fights in Japan are awesome
The Japanese don’t mess around when it comes to snowball fights. You may find yourself in Japan, light-heartedly tossing a snowball at a friend, and the next minute a team of well-trained athletes will destroy you in a hail of snow missiles.
If that happens, you may have wandered into the middle of a competitive game of Yukigassen, a team-based competitive sport that combines elements of dodgeball, paintball, and capture the flag with a good, old-fashioned snowball fight.
The word “yukigassen” roughly translates as “snow battle,” an apt description. In the competition, two teams face off in an area roughly the size of a basketball arena, littered with small barriers. The teams each have 90 pre-made snowballs to use, and when someone is hit they have to leave the field. The snowballs are hard enough that competitors are required to wear helmets and moderate protective gear.
Each side then attempts to capture the opposing flag to win the round. Teams can also win be getting everyone on the opposite side out, or by having more players left when time runs out (rounds are three minutes each). The victorious team is the first to win two out of three rounds.
The game began when a small Japanese resort was looking for ways to increase tourism during the winter. Staff happened to see visitors break into snowball fights, and from there they ran with it. Soon an annual competition was born, with teams from around the world competing for the honors.
So far, the only team outside of Japan to even come remotely close to winning the championship is a group of Canadians who train year round. When there is no snow, they use tennis balls with padding. If they don’t have snow, they substitute sand. And yet still, the Canadians pale compared to the training and the execution of the Japanese, who seems to take victory in this event as a personal point of pride.
It just goes to show that anything can be a sport if you really, really want it to be. Snowball fights join hide-and-seek and other events that were once the exclusive dominion of the playground. If you are interested in getting a team together, you can check out the official Yukigassen website and sign up. Be prepared to spend a fair amount of money traveling to Japan though. It’s not like there are a lot of corporate sponsors waiting to drop huge bags of cash on competitive snowball fighting.
But still, it’s cool to watch. Check it out below.