Enjoy winter to the fullest in Japan and play in the snow!

A Snowball fight

A battle in a snowball fight tournament
A battle in a snowball fight tournament
The rules of a snowball fight tournament and how it is fought

Snowball fights are enjoyed all over the world where it snows. It is an activity where the participants make round snowballs and throw them at each other, but the history of snowball fights was written with its development as a team sport in 1987 in Japan. Since then, international rules were established in 1988 and an international snowball fight was held in 1989. The sport has become so popular that there are tournaments and events held in ten countries around the world including those in North America and North Europe, and the number of players continues to grow.

The focal point of snowball fight tournaments is the players’ use of the barriers made of snow in the court and seeing how skillful they are at both offense and defense. That is why each team has their own strategies. One striking aspect of the matches is the refreshing smiles on the players’ faces at the end. Snowball fights are a sport that can be played feverishly, but teamwork is also important.

“Kamakura” (Snow Hut)

Snow Hut
“Kamakura” (Snow Hut)

The term, “Kamakura” usually refers to snow huts that are made by scooping up snow while pouring water on them to harden them up and scooping out the entrances, but in ancient times, it was the name of a ritual for worshipping deities. These igloos are now a popular form of recreation while even serving as shops for some people in snowy areas and are named so due to their attractive appearance.

Places to observe “Kamakura” (Snow Hut)

Snow festival in Yokote (Akita Prefecture)
The snow festival in Yokote, Akita Prefecture presents many small igloos that are lit up inside

Places to eat inside snow huts

A restaurant where you can order hot potted dishes to enjoy inside an igloo
Noroshinabe (a potted dish with local mushrooms, vegetables, meat, etc. boiled with miso paste), which is a favorite “Kamakura” (Snow Hut) village restaurant dish in Shinanotaira, Nagano Prefecture

Snowmen

Snowmen are made with two snowballs in Japan
Snowmen are made with two snowballs in Japan

People make snowmen all around the world. They are made with three snowballs in the West but generally with two in Japan. This may be because a snowman made with two snowballs resembles a priest practicing zazen meditation.

A woodblock print of a snowman
The snowman in “Edo meisho doke zukushi Okuramae no Yuki” (Snow at Onkuramae) (circa 1855) by an artist Hirokage Utagawa is made with two snowballs

A snowman appears in “Edo meisho doke zukushi Okuramae no Yuki”(Snow at Onkuramae) (circa 1855) by an artist Hirokage Utagawa.

It is also fun to enter a contest where general participants can make their own snowmen and see how well they do. They are held at locations such as Hotel Epinard Nasu (Tochigi) (around December to March), Koiwai Farm (Iwate) (the end of January to the first week of February), and Shichikashuku (Miyagi) (the last Sunday of January).

Kanjiki experience

Traditional Japanese kanjiki snow footwear made of bamboo and straw
Traditional Japanese “kanjiki” snow footwear made of bamboo and straw

Footwear made of bamboo and straw known as “kanjiki” was used in Japan for walking on snow before Western snowshoes were imported. They allow people to walk more easily on the snow by dispersing body weight, as is done with snowshoes. They are made with bamboo and straw, and according to historical documents, have been used since over seven hundred years ago. Today, there are tours in areas such as Kitayatsugatake and the Norikura Highlands in Nagano Prefecture where you can see what it is like to walk on snowy roads with kanjiki footwear. Kanjiki footwear can also be tried out at Minakami Hot Springs in Gunma Prefecture and Oku-Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture.