In Japan pillow fighting has been elevated to the status of national sport, with teams made up of people of all ages competing against each other for fame and fortune. After first battling it out in regional qualifying events, winning teams meet up in the small fishing town of Ito, south of Tokyo, to compete in the All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships, for the title of Japan’s best pillow fighters.
Started by a group of high school students in Shizuoka, competitive pillow fighting is based on a set of quirky yet relatively simple rules. A game is played between two teams of five players wearing yucatas, a traditional summer outfit, and starts with the players pretending to sleep on futons, until the referee blows their whistle, signaling them to get up and reach for a pillow.
From this point on, pillow fighting is somewhat similar to dodgeball, in that the goal is to hit the opposing team’s players, preferably their captain, with pillows to send them out of the game. When that happens, even if all the opponents’ players are still in the game, the round is over. The first team to win two two-minute rounds wins the game. To make sure the captain is protected throughout the rounds, one player on each team can use a duvet to protect them against pillows.
Every February, the best competitive pillow fighting teams in Japan gather in the town of Ito for the national pillow fighting championship. They are made up of people of all ages, from nine-year-old kids, to veterans in their sixties, and while the $915 dollars on the line doesn’t sound like much, they are all in it to win.