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Japanese compete to qualify in national pillow fighting tournament

People of all ages competed in one of Japan's quirkiest events on Saturday: a pillow fighting contest.

In the small fishing town of Ito, just 150 kilometres south of Tokyo, teams gathered to qualify for a nationwide pillow fighting championship next year in an event started by a group of high school children in Shizuoka in 2013.

The pillow fighters start by pretending to sleep on futons. But when the whistle sounds, they spring to their feet and race to get a pillow.

It's a mix between dodgeball and chess as teams throw pillows at each other while protecting the 'King' from being attacked. Duvets can be used as shields by one player on each team. They play in two-minute sets.

Saturday's regional tournament contained 16 teams vying for the qualification for the national competition, which has 64 entrants and is held in February.

The teams draw from a wide range of players. The players come from local businesses, high school basketball teams, and local athletic clubs.

"Through track and field activities, the team have been in touch a long time," said Kazuteru Takigawa, who at 75 was the oldest participant on Saturday.

It was the team that had the second youngest competitor — nine-year-old Soda Wamanobe — that won the tournament, receiving local produce as their prize and of course the qualification for next year's tournament.

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