Botaoshi: madness in the name of sport

Botaoshi is a Japanese sport that sort of resembles a Western king-of-the-hill capture-the-flag sport but on a much larger, more intense scale.There are two teams, each with 75 people a side. They take turns playing offensively or defensively.

The aim for the defensive team is to build a fort out of human bodies with an upright pole in the middle. One person, called “the Ninja” (no, seriously!) stands on the top of this pole and others, called the barrier, crowd around the Ninja to both keep the pole standing and protecting the pole-stander from attackers.

The aim for the offensive team is to take-over the pole, overthrow the Ninja and lower it to a 30 degree angle. They come in two types: springboards and attackers. Springboards help throw attackers over the barrier.

Origins of Botaoshi

Botaoshi literally means “knocking-over pole” in Japanese. It was invented in the 1950s as a training for new army recruits.  Most famously, it’s played every Spring for the National Defense Academy of Japan’s annual induction ceremony. Now it’s also played for other major festivals and sporting events.

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