Over the past couple of weeks, Japan enjoyed a tremendous amount of global attention for the jam-packed roster of sports hosted in the country. Not only was Japan home to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as well as the Tokyo Grand Prix, but Japan will also be the host to the 2020 Olympic Games. When the Japanese aren’t busy to host the world on their doorstep to deliver only the best experience in professional sports, they have various other forms of much lesser-known sporting activities which they love to partake in. Not only are they lesser known to the rest of the world, but also bordering weird and probably wonderful.
- Kendama – Kendama is a classic, and even though it dates back far into history, it is still as popular as ever within the country. It is their version of the better-known cup and ball game. Kendama originated somewhere between the 17th and 18th centuries and entails two cups of different sizes, a ball with holes in it and a stick. Although ancient, the game is still popular and an annual international kendama tournament is held by the very much active local kendama community.
- Botaoshi – This game is probably at the top of the charts of the unconventional. Directly translated the games means “pole bring-down” and what is referred to as a brutal version of capture the flag. Two teams face each other in a cruel attempt to take possession of a rather large pole. The competing teams each have impressive 150 players on its side, and once the action starts, it appears like you are indeed in the middle of a combat zone.
- Onbashira – This game topping the charts as the most dangerous is only played every six years. The name translates to “log riding”, and that explains what to expect. The village’s men ride massive logs down the side of the mountain, taking them to the leading site of the Onbashira matsuri or festival. From there onwards the adrenaline levels are increased when the logs are hoisted into the air, making riding even more dangerous, yet impossible not to keep on watching.
- Slippery Stairs – For those who choose life above all else, Slippery Stairs is a much safer option. This show can be best defined as a game show combined with sports, and since it is televised, it does achieve a fair number of viewers globally. The players in Slippery Stairs are Japanese comedians dressed up in the most outrageous tight-fitting garments while fighting it out to see who will reach the top of a set of lubricated stairs first — both are exciting and funny to watch.
- Yukigassen – Directly translated as snow battle. This game is held during February since snow is an essential element of the game. During this time the Showa Shinzan Yukigassen tournament is being held in Hokkaido, and this is the largest yukigassen competition. Two teams of seven members each battle it out against each other. Once you are hit, you are eliminated. Each team only has 90 balls, so use them wisely.