Snowball fights are a staple of wintertime fun, right alongside building snowpeople and sledding down hills.
In parts of Japan, snowball fights are even more important since it has elevated to being a professional sport.
Called yukigassen, meaning “snow battle” in English, snowball fights have become a fight of outlasting the other team with as many team members still in the game as possible.
In a mirror to dodgeball and capture the flag, two teams must throw snowballs at each other to tag the other team out while still keeping themselves clear of the returning fire and also capturing the other team’s flag.
According to BBC, the annual Showa Shinzan International Yukigassen World Championship is played at the foot of Mount Showa Shinzan in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan.
The tournament was created in 1989 as a way to draw tourists to the Hokkaido region in the colder parts of the year. The sport has grown in popularity internationally, with countries like Canada, Finland, the United States and Australia joining in on the competition.
Yukigassen is played with two competing teams at a time, with seven players on the field to start. According to the official Yukigassen International website, two substitutes are allowed, along with an optional coach.
As an added bonus, players don’t need to make their own snowballs. According to Shoulders of Giants, snowballs are premade in batches of 90 and are seven centimeters in diameter.
The snowballs are hard and icy enough that players must use helmets and face shields as they play. Matches are played in three minute periods, each new period gaining 90 new snowballs.
The matches are carried out in an arena roughly the size of a basketball court. Inside the arena are various barriers to take cover behind or move around as a team progresses across the field.
Ultimately, there are three different ways to win a match. Either the other team’s flag is captured, all opposing players are taken out of play by getting hit with a snowball or the time runs out and the team with the most players left takes the win.
Whoever wins the best of three matches continues on in the tournament or championship.
According to BBC, winners of yukigassen tournaments in other countries can earn an automatic spot in the Showa Shinzan Yukigassen International World Championship, which has above 100 teams that participate every year.
Players in countries that don’t have championships to compete in are able to attempt to join the tournament through wild card slot applications.
According to the Yukigassen International website, the 2019 winners were ASSC from the Iburi Hokkaido region with the runner up being N-kai Yusho Sapporo Team from the Central Hokkaido region.
The second runner ups were OZ from the Tokai region and Inaho Blizzard from the Central Hokkaido region. No international teams placed this past year.
The 2020 Showa Shinzan International Yukigassen World Championship will take place on Feb. 22 and 23 in Sobetsu, Hokkaido.
Find out more about the Showa Shinzan International Yukigassen World Championship on the official website.
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