If you grew up in an area with cold winters, you might have fond memories of childhood snowball fights. Snowball fighting is a popular children’s pastime in areas with harsh winters, which is why you may be surprised to hear that it is also actually a professional sport.
Snowball fighting is a sport. Yukigassen, or “snow battle,” was invented in Japan in 1988. Since then, annual championships have taken place every year (except 2020). Yukigassen events and organizations have since sprung up in other countries, such as Canada, Russia, the USA, Norway, and Finland.
In this article, we will go over the sport of snowball fighting, delve into its history, and learn about the annual snowball fighting championships. Let us dive right in.
Where Is Snowball Fighting a Sport?
Snowball fighting originated as a sport in Japan. However, it has since spread internationally. For example, there is Team Canada, which competes in the snowball fighting championships in Japan. Team Canada was founded in 2011, and they first started competing in the snowball fighting championships in Edmonton. They only started competing in Japan in 2016.
As you can see, snowball fighting championships take place in other countries as well, not just Japan. Canada is far from the only country where Yukigassen events take place.
Finland, Norway, Australia, the USA, Russia, and Armenia are just some countries where there are annual Yukigassen snowball fighting tournaments. Some are pretty recent; for example, the Australian Championship, which takes place in Mount Baw Baw, only started in 2019.
However, Japan remains the main country where snowball fighting is well known and accepted as a sport. It is still gaining traction in other countries, but more and more people are getting warmed up to the idea of it being a professional sport.
What Is Yukigassen?
Yukigassen is the official name for the sport that is snowball fighting. According to Tyler Maltman, the coach of Team Canada, Yukigassen is a “combination of dodgeball and paintball, a high-intensity sport that requires skill and teamwork. A form of moving chess.”
The history of Yukigassen dates back to the 1980s. At the foot of a volcanic mountain in Hokkaido, Japan, in the town of Sobetsu, Yukigassen was born. The actual origin of the word “Yukigassen” is pretty simple: It means snow battle in Japanese. Yuki means snow, and gassen means battle.
Since its start, there have been annual Yukigassen championships in Sobetsu, Japan. In fact, 2020 would have been the 32nd Showa Shinzan International Yukigassen World Championship.
Here is a quick video explaining the origins and sport of Yukigassen:
When Were Snowball Fights Invented?
Snowball fights have probably been around from the beginning of time, or at least since humans lived in snowy areas such as the Arctic. What better game is there to play than a snowball fight? It is fun, harmless, and a great pastime.
However, snowball fighting did not emerge as a professional sport until recently. The exact year the sport was invented was 1988. The town was looking for a way to add a bit of spice and energy into the town, which was missing every winter when the weather got cold, and tourists stopped visiting. Someone came up with the bright idea of holding a snowball championship, and the idea stuck.
- The Yukigassen Rules Committee was formed in 1988, and the rules were formalized towards the end of the year, on December 6th.
- The first Annual Showa Shinzan International Yukigassen Championship was held in 1989, with a whopping 70 teams participating!
- Two years later, in 1991, the sport of snowball fighting was taken a step further with the first Ladies Division tournament.
However, the only professional snowball fighting tournaments were held in Japan; the idea had not yet caught on in other countries until the next year, 1992, when Australia hosted the first snowball fighting competition outside of Japan.
The Japan Yukigassen Alliance was formed a year later, and two years after that, in 1995, the first professional Yukigassen organization outside of Japan was formed in Finland, another cold country with plenty of snow.
However, it took another 13 years until the Hokkaido Sports Association recognized snowball fighting as an official sport with its recognition of the Hokkaido Yukigassen Federation. In 2013, the International Alliance of Sports Yukigassen was created.
What Are the Rules of Yukigassen?
Yukigassen is kind of a mix of dodgeball (with snowballs, of course) and Capture the Flag. It is not difficult to play; in fact, you can start your own Yukigassen game anywhere (as long as you have access to snow, of course). There are seven players on a team (four forwards and three backcourts), as well as an additional three backup players that generally stay off the court.
Each team will get 90 snowballs for a set, and each set will last three minutes. The goal is to eliminate the other team’s opponents, which is done by hitting them with a snowball. This hit must be a direct hit. The team that has the least players eliminated wins. In this sense, the game is similar to dodgeball.
The snowballs are 7 cm (2.76 in) in diameter. They are dense, making them a bit hard, which is why players use face shields and helmets to protect themselves.
There is another way to win a set, which is by capturing the other team’s flag. The flag is located towards the end of the court. In this sense, the game is similar to Capture the Flag.
Now that we know how to win a set, how can you win a game? The game is automatically won by whichever team first wins two sets.
Like any professional sport, players get better through practice. Teams that play in the championship take the sport very seriously; this is no longer child’s play! Instead, they practice hard in advance in an effort to win.
Where and When Is the World Championship Held?
The Yukigassen World Championship is held every year in Showa-Shinzan. It is usually held on February 20.
Sponsors of the championship include Japan Airlines, Sapporo Beer, and the Japan Sport Council.
Although the first championship started out with only 70 teams, there are now 150 teams that compete in the Yukigassen World Champion snowball fights every year.
How Many Yukigassen Fans Are There?
It is hard to say how many Yukigassen fans are out there. Most Yukigassen fans live in Japan, where the sport first started. However, awareness of the sport is slowly spreading in other countries. If you live in a snowy area, look online for teams, events, or fans in your area. There is also a Yukigassen community on Reddit.
Most people still don’t know that snowball fighting is a professional sport that has been around for decades, with yearly championships, high-profile sponsors, dedicated teams, and fans around the world.
Yukigassen is a serious sport, but it is also light-hearted and fun. You can find Yukigassen clips on Youtube or perhaps even an event taking place near you, depending on where you live.
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