Don your kilt and follow the bagpipes to Chiba

By Fred Varcoe

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.

Hammer Throw

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.

Caber Toss

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 (

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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.

Good to see somebody getting their historical facts correct for a change, but...

Why does any celebration of Scotland's obviously colourful culture have to contain a totally baseless jibe about England's supposed lack of culture? The fact the English don't continuously flag-wave and bang on about their folk festivals, traditions wacky games and ceremonies (the burning barrel race in Devon is my favourite), traditional dance (mummers plays etc), traditional music (from mediaeval to folk), rich literary heritage (non 'just' Shakespeare, Wilfred Owen etc) modern musical contribution the world (not 'just' Holst, Beatles, Stones, Queen, Floyd, Zeppelin etc), sporting contribution to the world (not 'just' inventing football, rugby, cricket, tennis etc) doesn't mean they're figments of the imagination.

I'm looking forward to the time when Scots feel able to celebrate their culture without having to insult their neighbours... or is that an integral part of Scots' culture?

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I might turn up just for the haggis. Boy oh boy, could I do with a nice haggis...

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Taiko666- a bit sensitive there mate. Its been a few hundred years, let it go!

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with a culture and identity that the English can only dream of

hahahahaha, okay. keep your rab c nesbitt

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Hey great culture Scots,; Deep fried Mars bars and pizza, i saw on TV.

Must help the guys keep in good shape. Hee Hee!

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neverknow2: Yep, I have to admit you're right! I was sensitised to this issue during my first visit to Scotland, when drinking with some Scottish mates I was subjected to a 'ye havenae culture' whisky'n'fag-wreaking lecture. I'll finally get over it when England gets its long overdue independence :-) BTW, speaking of Scottish culture, which I actually admire inspite of its loathing of England- I wonder how many Japanese realise that the tune that's played in shops at closing time, 'Auld Lang Syne', is Scottish? All my friends thought it was traditional Japanese. I've even done an amdassadorial thing for Scottish culture by amazing some Japanese mates by playing several Scottish tunes using only the black keys on the piano. Maybe next time I'll fry a Mars Bar, yell 'see yoo' and punch their lights out for the totally authentic touch :-)

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Great it must be to live 15 yrs less on average than those who exist dreaming to reach the dizzy heights of the world reknowned culture of Scotland. Go on then be part of that great tradition of drinking 'all the whiskey you can', how very cultured. I think Renton summed it up best.

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There's a world of difference between a skirt and a kilt, and jokes about men in skirts are just.....old.

Kilts be manly, damnit!

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Thats a lovely tirade Patrick. Im Scottish and i generally dont make sweeping attacks on people based solely on their nationality, but thats perhaps because im Scottish...where are you from?

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Sorry about the stale joke, I really luv the Scots. It was more of a jibe against Chiba.

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C'mon man, think about it. Here the estute J-cop working his koban near a JR station and along comes a big strappin guy wearing a japanese school girl's uniform. And what does he find when he looks unbder it???

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It was more of a jibe against Chiba

While Chiba might have some serious deficiencies, chibaman cannot endorse this event and prays to any god that it rains and the bagpipes stay in there bags.

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I may just hafta' go!!!!!

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techall, no problem, I was at least half-joking ;-) My great grandfather might tear you limb from limb though, were he still with us LOL!

along comes a big strappin guy wearing a japanese school girl's uniform.

Ha, ha! I bet that's what would cross their minds at first!

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talko666 - if it makes you feel any better, both the modern kilt and tartan are English inventions.

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ahaaaaaa so Chiba dude, seems your weather prayers were answered today ?^^ unless the clouds parted over Chiba ;_;)

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