Japan from the inside out

Yacurling we will go

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, May 30, 2009

THERE MAY BE nothing new under the sun, but big fun often results when imaginative people modify and adapt whatever’s at hand to create something semi-new. One such group of people, led by 66-year-old physical education instructor Kita Ryoko in Mima, Tokushima, decided they wanted to invent a new sport that could be played by people of any age.


What they came up with was yacurling. It’s similar to curling, but played on a gymnasium floor with a kettle instead of on specially treated ice with a granite stone. Curling has shown up on everyone’s radar in Japan since the better-than-expected performance of the women’s team at the 2006 Winter Olympics. The women’s team also finished fourth at the 2008 World Championships, though they didn’t fare so well this year. (The women from China won instead.)

Ms. Kita and her crew started with a five-liter yakan, which is a Japanese-style kettle. (There are different sizes, but they all look the same.) They cut three holes in the bottom of the kettle and inserted casters to allow it to roll. To make sure it moves along smartly, they put 2.5 kilograms of ballast inside.

The players stand nine meters away from the target (which in curling is called the house). The house in yacurling has a diameter of 0.65 meters. The winner is the player who can roll the stone (yakan) closest to the center. Unlike curling, the stone is recovered after each toss, so strategic placement and knocking the the other team’s stones out of the way aren’t factors in this game.

The inventors worked out the kinks at a local sports club on Saturdays and were delighted to discover that it was harder than they thought it would be. Now they hope to get other people interested.

For the sake of comparison, a curling stone is from 17 to 20 kilograms in weight (and costs several hundred dollars). The house is 3.7 meters wide, and the players stand from 45 to 46 meters away.

Yacurling looks like an inexpensive way to have fun to me. Of course it’s just a game rather than a new sport, but who wouldn’t want to try it at least once?

About that name—Japanese vowels have only one pronunciation each. The Japanese A is always pronounced like the A in “father”. Curling in Japanese is rendered ka-ri-n-gu, so the first two syllables in yakan (N at the end of words is a separate unit) are pronounced the same as the first two in yaka-ringu (yacurling).

The reports didn’t say whether it was an individual sport or a team sport, so I don’t know if the team members use a mop on the floor to help the kettle roll home!

The more I think about this, the more it reminds me of something the members of my college fraternity would have cooked up. One night well past the witching hour, two of the members stole a wheelchair from a nearby hospital (I know, I know), and within 24 hours, we were having contests in the living room to see who could do a wheelie the longest (i.e., ride around balanced on the two back wheels with the front wheels in the air).

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3 Responses to “Yacurling we will go”

  1. camphortree said

    Did you win the wheelchair race?
    It sounds thrilling and fun!
    I am the last generation that attended a small village elementary school. On the athletic day we had a slow bicycle race in the tiny school ground. The slower the better. Once your leg touched the ground, you were out. In order to maintain your balance our bicycles often headed sideways, bumping and colliding with each other. The children ended up in a pile of fallen bicycles. We did not know that being scratched or even bleeding was something to complain about. The athletic day always ended with a piniarta(can’t spell). All of the school children (50+-) gathered and threw bean bags fiercely at the piniarta bells. When the paper bells were torn open, screeching chickens popped out and flew in the sky. They landed on the ground and ran around the small school yard. The chickens looked pretty upset every year. The school was closed, and a new school in town no longer plays this game.

  2. Bender said

    Se llama piñata, mi amigo.

  3. ampontan said

    Camphortree: Your school sounds like it was a lot of fun. Kids crashing into each other on bicycles and cruelty to chickens! I bet you laughed yourselves silly!

    Some years ago a small town near me had an eel catching contest. They set up big pools outside like kids use in the summer, only bigger, and put in some eels. The idea was for kids to go in and catch the eels with their bare hands!

    I was only average at wheelchair wheelies.

    Our fraternity used to do other stuff, too. When new members joined, they used to make them do stuff. They put blindfolds on them, made them reach into a toilet (that had been washed out carefully) and eat a banana covered in peanut butter.

    They also dug a two broad jump pits in the back yard. The first one was small, but they filled it with broken glass and made people jump with their bare feet. Everyone could see. You had to make a little effort, but it was easy to jump.

    The second broad jump pit was hidden in the back and too big to jump. They put blindfolds on everyone again and made them jump into the second pit, which was filled with potato chips.

    Then there was the formal party we had every year for the new first year students at a nearby women’s college. They got formal invitations and they were told to wear formal dresses. They did.

    We wore formal suits too, with bow ties you had to tie by hand and everything, except we didn’t wear any trousers. Just shoes and socks and underpants.

    Some of us thought we were funny and bought old-fashioned sanitary napkin belts for women and used them as garters to hold up our socks.

    Of course the older students at the women’s college told them what was going to happen before they came, but they all came and everybody had a great time. I knew one couple who met at that party and got married later. I wonder what story they told their kids about how they met.

    I sure learned a lot in college!

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