Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Saturday, October 3, 2009

COULD THIS BE the start of a trend? Here’s another example of the Japanese using a commonplace item for casual recreation to promote neighborhood amity and have some fun while they’re at it.

This May, we had a post about yacurling that described how some people in Tokushima had modified Japanese kettles, or yakan, to play curling on a gymnasium floor. Now here’s a report about a game created for the Kabocha Project in Nanyo, Yamagata. Kabocha is the word for squash in Japanese, and the folks in Nanyo came up with all sorts of ways to enjoy the food in an event they called the Kabolympics, timed to coincide with the autumn harvest.

Visitors to the Kabolympics had the chance to try their hand at ring toss and other amusements using the vegetable while feasting on such treats as squash doughnuts, squash ice cream, and squash soup. They were entertained by local singer-songwriter Sugai Tomo’o performing his composition, The Kabocha Song. And best of all, they got to bowl kabocha style.

In the Nanyo version of the game, 25-centimeter-tall butternut squash—usually found in soups—replaced the bowling pins. Instead of balls, they rolled red, white, or orange-striped Pucchini squash 10-20 centimeters in diameter. Ten 3-person teams completed—and they kept score.

kabocha curling

Between the requirement that the bowlers yell Kabocha! before tossing every squash and the impossibility of rolling what amounts to a mini-pumpkin down a five-meter lane with any hope that it would go in a straight line or hit the intended spot, it wouldn’t be surprising if they all collapsed in helpless laughter before they finished 10 frames.

After a bit more research, it turns out that the folks in Nanyo really do have a thing about gourds. They also used kabocha for outdoor curling this February. Competing in what were probably the Winter Kabolympics were 13 teams with three members each. They slid a squash instead of a curling stone at an 80-centimeter-wide target 15 meters away.

They had to yell Kabocha! before each shot, too.

What could be next? Using gobo (burdock root) for javelin competitions?

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