The president of a consulting firm in Otaru, Hokkaido, has created a nationwide association to promote snow shoveling, with the aim of turning the tedious work into a seasonal sport.

The first international competition for snow shoveling took place in Otaru in January and attracted 80 participants from 10 countries, including exchange students at local universities.

"Aging communities in snow-heavy regions lack the human resources to shovel snow, and face the risk of sliding accidents and of transportation being cut off," said Hiroyuki Matsushiro, 51. "But I expect snow shoveling to become a tourist attraction some day."

He got the idea from a Tokyo-based organization that stages regular competitions for collecting trash — rather than treating them as chores done only by volunteers.

"The participants in the event were so excited. It gave me a clue to solving the snow shoveling issue in Hokkaido," Matsushiro said.

He established the Japan Sports Yukikaki Association last October and has created official rules for the competition. In the first event in Otaru, four-member teams using shovels and carts competed to see who could carry a 600-kg chunk of snow some 10 meters the fastest.

The city of Sapporo might seek to host the Winter Olympic Games again in 2026, having held them in 1972.

"I hope we can increase the number of 'yukikaki' (snow shoveling) players by then and make it an official event at the Olympic Games," Matsushiro said.