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Togs away: Feathers fly in All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships

Togs away: Feathers fly in All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships
The action was fast, furious and feathery soft in the world's most comfortable combat sport as the Japanese town of Ito staged the qualifying rounds of the All-Japan Pillow Fighting Championships in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Teams from across the region converged on the small fishing town in a bid to qualify for the finals of the championship, which has been one of the quirkiest dates on the Japanese sporting calendar since its inception in 2013.

The event was the brainchild of a group of Shizuoka high-school children, who created the game as a tribute to the old tradition of youngsters fighting with their pillows during sleepovers or school field trips.

The game starts with teams of five players 'sleeping' under duvets on futons, but the stillness is broken by the starter's whistle, as the players 'wake up', jump to their feet and grab a pillow as the action begins.

The aim of the game is for the team to hit the opposition's 'King' with pillows while also protecting their own 'King' from being hit. One player is permitted to use a duvet as a shield.

The game is played over two one-minute sets as the teams hurl pillows at the opposition's king in a bid to score.

The action on Saturday saw 16 teams from local businesses, sporting teams and athletic clubs battle it out for a qualification place in the 64-team national tournament, which takes place in February.

The oldest competitor, 75-year-old Kazuteru Takigawa, explained that the event was a great social day out for him and his team.

"Through track and field activities, the team have been in touch a long time," he said.

"They are all married and brought their children and families today to enjoy a day out."

The qualifying tournament was eventually won by 'BlancWhite', a team who featured Soda Wamanobe, the second-youngest competitor in the entire tournament at just nine years of age.

The winning team received a selection of local produce as well as a berth in next year's national tournament.