It has a long way to go before becoming an Olympic event, but several hundred Japanese on Sunday (February 2) enjoyed an alternative form of exercise -- hole-digging.
From across the country, 271 teams, each with a maximum of 6 members, squared off in a campground to compete for cash prizes, the golden shovel and the title of winner of the Japan All-National Hole Digging Competition.
Carrying the golden shovel, last year's champions came 420 kilometers(260 miles) from Toyota city in Aichi prefecture to defend their title.
"We are working together for the same goal, which is to dig a deep hole. We are a team. You said it was a bit like the military, but yes that is what it is like," said Katsuyuki Usami, 44.
The participants had 30 minutes to dig the deepest hole possible.
Usami's team managed to hold onto the title again this year, digging a total of 3.41 meters (11.2 feet).
His prize was 100,000 yen (978.00 USD) and a golden shovel valued at 78,000 yen (764.00 USD).
Organizers say that the event was originally created as a way to give adults a chance to play in the dirt.
"Once you become a grown up adult, I don't think there is anywhere else in the world where you can seriously dig a hole so we thought that people would enjoy this and that's is why we thought of this event," said event organizer Taku Suzuki of Narita dream dairy farm, who hosted the event.
This year, forecasts of rain almost cancelled the event and the "condition" of the dirt was not conveyed to the contestants beforehand.
"Well nature is your opponent so it's always difficult," said Sho Yagiya, one of the participants.
Apart from the deepest hole, competitors were also give prizes for other categories such as the "most creative hole" and the "most original team costume".
The contest is in its 14th year.