Pillow fighting as a sport!

Most of us have enjoyed a good pillow fight at some time in our lives. (If you haven't, you don't know what you're missing!)

But in the city of Ito in Shizuoka Prefecture, pillow fighting is taken to a whole new level.

Welcome to the sport of competitive pillow fighting, known in Japanese as 枕投げ makura-nage

Since 2013, the All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships have been held here. Competitive makura-nage was inspired by the kind of pillow fights Japanese children on extended school trips often have when teachers aren't looking in the large tatami-matted communal rooms of the Japanese inn where they spend the night.

The game starts with all five players 'sleeping' under kakebuton comforters then leaping to their feet when the whistle is blown, as they grab a pillow and begin the match. A cross between chess and dodgeball, the purpose of the game, carried out in 2-minute sets, is to protect each team's 大将 taishō (meaning "General") from being whacked and trying to whack the other team's taishō as well. One player on each side can use a kakebuton to shield incoming pillows. There's even a special rule where one player can call out: "The teacher's coming!" which allows them to snatch the other team's pillows. The official uniform is a yukata and the game is played on a tatami mat field.

Pillow fighting as an art?

Now, a promotional campaign financed by Ito City's Office of Tourism and starring group rhythmic gymnast and current television reporter Airi Hatakeyama has given the sport a new glossy veneer. In the poster seen below, Hatakeyama demonstrates four representative aspects of the game. With her gymnastic prowess, Hatakeyama leaps in attack, dodges pillows, blocks them with a comforter and cheers with a portable loudspeaker, as the fabric of her undoubtedly lengthened yukata uniform billows dramatically.

In another image, she almost looks like a samurai ready to attack.

You can enjoy the promotional video below:

If you'd like to learn more about competitive pillow fighting and the All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships, please visit their official website here.

By - Ben K.