Do you enjoy wearing a skirt and tossing your caber? Well congratulations — you’re an honorary Scotsman. And you can celebrate that fact at the 26th RBS Japan Scottish Highland Games, a fascinating celebration of sports, food, music and dancing at Kanda University of International Studies in Makuhari, Chiba, on Oct 5.
Scotland, for those who don’t know it, is the formerly independent country that took over its southern neighbor in 1603, when James VI of Scotland also became James I of England. Although a single monarch ruled for over 100 years, the two countries did not unite politically until 1707. Scotland maintains an independent streak even today, with a culture and identity that the English can only dream of. An event like this is a rare chance (in Japan especially) for outsiders to get a glimpse.
“The Games benefit one local Japanese charity and one Scottish charity,” explains organizer Phil Gibb, “so everyone attending can be part of a fun-filled day and at the same time do something good for those less fortunate.” This means that all that whisky you drink will benefit someone worthwhile (if not yourself).
Gibb says the Japan Scottish Highland Games are a day out that both children and adults can enjoy, with enough events (and Scotch) to keep everyone happy. The proceedings will be opened by David Warren, the British ambassador.
The focal point of any Highland Games is the sports, and the Japan event is no exception. There is a soccer tournament with different age categories, as well as a tug-of-war competition (which, incidentally, was an Olympic event from 1900 to 1920), but the real focus is on the classic heavy events, including:
Open Stone Put
Very similar to the Olympic shot put event, whereby you have to heave a stone from a resting position on your neck.
Braemar Stone Put
Similar to the Open Stone Put, but no run-up.
Weight for Distance
Competitors see how far they can throw a weight of up to 56 pounds (25.5kg).
Weight for Height
A kind of high jump in which the weight is thrown over a bar.
Not dissimilar to the Olympic event, but the hammer can weight up to 22 pounds (10kg) and is on a fixed pole up to 50 inches (127cm) long.
Perhaps the best-known of the Highland sports, but cabers aren’t really tossed; instead, the aim is to turn it end over end on a vertical plane.
The Japan Highland Games normally draw a few high-ranked competitors for the heavy events, although last year’s overall champion was Japanese. “This year’s event will be the best ever because… we have Stephen Aitken flying in from Scotland to take part,” says Gibb. “Stephen is well-known on the heavy events circuit and has held world records in several of the disciplines, including the heavy hammer throw.”
Those who don’t take part in the sporting activities can enjoy the best of Scottish drink and food (haggis is not as disgusting as some think), listen to the pipes, and watch traditional Scottish dancers.
And don’t forget your kilt.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today