In 1989 the residents of Sōbetsu, Japan, formalised rules for competitive snowball fighting. Thirty-one world championships have since been played in the town.
Golf has been described as “a good walk, spoiled.” Why would you want to take something as pure and uncomplicated as pelting someone else with snow and introduce rules and structure? Well, the residents of Sōbetsu – a town in Hokkaido, Japan – originally did it to boost a lull in their tourist season. It has since taken on a life of its own, with tournaments held throughout the (snowy) world and an annual world championship right there in Sōbetsu: the Shōwa-shinzan International Snowball Fight.
Yukigassen (Japanese for “snow battle”) involves fourteen players, a hundred and eighty snowballs, and two flags. Capture your opponent’s flag and you win the game; get hit by a snowball and you’re out of the match. The playing field has a number of convenient but inadequate shelters. There’s a surprising amount of tactics to this game – here’s a sample playbook:
- Everyone rushes to the rear shelters.
- One person rushes to the front shelters, nearer to the enemy.
- The people in the rear shelters roll snowballs to the person in front, effectively operating as a munitions supply train.
- The people in the rear shelters try to triangulate where the opponents are hiding and communicate this to the person in front.
- The person in the front shelter lobs snowballs blindly over the opponent shelters, hoping to deliver snowy defeat from above.
- If a window opens up, or enough opponents are eliminated, they make a grab for the flag.
If you can handle the cheesy commentary there’s a full match on YouTube here:
(End note: if Shōwa-shinzan, the site of this tournament, sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same place as the secret volcano I wrote about last month.)
[Thanks to Alistair S. for suggesting this topic.]