Called suikawari (スイカ割り), the game is akin to whacking a piñata.
In the suikawari game, a watermelon is placed down onto the ground—sandy ground works best—while one person is blindfolded.
The rest of the people spin around the blindfolded person and much hilarity ensues as the blindfolded person attempts to whack the watermelon with a wooden stick.
If successful, everyone scrambles around for a tasty treat, otherwise everyone laughs at the person swinging and missing, and it’s the next person’s try to win.
Oh yeah, to prevent sandy and dirt from getting onto the watermelon, the fruit/vegetable is placed atop a blanket that sits over the sand. Sand is preferred to better prevent the watermelon from rolling when it is struck. In the event pictured above, they have used a flattened cardboard (corrugated) box.
Nowadays, at least in North America, some people are placing rubber bands tightly around watermelons until the explode under the pressure, with hilarity for all.
Hmm… I wonder when rubber bands were first used in Japan?
Anyhow, back in 1991, the Japan Agricultural Cooperative created a set of rules for the game—the Japan Suika-Wari Association Rules.
No doubt about it, aside from the rules turning spontaneous fun into classic Japanese kata (structure of how things must be done), the purpose of the rules creation was to increase the consumption of watermelon.
Here are the official rules - feel free to ignore:
- Distance between player and watermelon: over 5m, and within 7m;
- Stick: Circumference of 5cm; length equal to or less than 1m, 20cm;
- Material to use for blindfold: JSWA-recognized blindfolds. To verify that the player was truly blinded, observers were encouraged to drop a 10,000-yen note in front of him/her;
- Watermelon: a well-ripened domestic melon;
- Time limit: 3 minutes;
- Judging: Judges should rate the player on how pretty a break between halves she managed to make. Players who cleaved the watermelon in equal halves could come close to a perfect score, while players who broke them into unequal parts would receive lower marks;
- Other details: Judges should have eaten at least 10 watermelons in the current year.
I love the rule stating that one can only be a judge if they have eaten 10+ watermelons in the calendar year. Yeah… never say die, eat more fruit/vegetables!
PS: Photo taken from Wikipedia via Flicker: konitomo1027 - スイカ ヒットの瞬間