ITO, SHIZUOKA PREF. - The Japanese may be known for their neatness, particularly when it comes to making their bed in the morning, but all social norms went out the window Saturday during qualifying for the All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships in Shizuoka Prefecture.
In the small fishing town of Ito, 150 kilometers south of Tokyo, teams gathered from across the region to compete in the event that has been one of the country’s quirkiest since 2013.
Started by a group of high school students in Shizuoka, the game is based on the age-old ritual of pillow fighting that occurs at sleepovers or on school trips.
The game starts with all five players “sleeping” under duvets on futons before the whistle goes and they leap to their feet and reach for a pillow.
A mix between dodgeball and chess, the aim is to protect each team’s king from being hit by pillows while trying to hit the opposition’s king during two-minute sets. One player on each team can also use a duvet as a shield.
Saturday’s regional tournament contained 16 teams vying for the qualification for the national competition, which has 64 entrants and is held in February.
The teams comprise a wide range of participating organizations, including local businesses, high school basketball teams and local athletic clubs.
“Through track and field activities, the team have been in touch a long time,” said Kazuteru Takigawa, who at 75 was the oldest participant on Saturday.
“(My team) are all married and brought their children and families today to enjoy a day out.”
Team BlancWhite, including 9-year-old Soda Wamanobe — the second youngest competitor — won the tournament.
As their prize, the team received an array of local produce as well as the all-important qualification for next year’s nationwide tournament.