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Muddy merriment: 100-plus people enjoy playing rugby in east Japan rice paddy

Children play rugby while covered in mud in Fujimi, Saitama Prefecture, on May 28, 2023. (Masaaki Hashimoto)

FUJIMI, Saitama -- A rugby event was held in a muddy rice paddy here on May 28 ahead of this year's rice planting, drawing cheers and laughter as participants caked in mud scored dynamic tries.

    About 130 people in 14 teams from within and outside the Saitama Prefecture city of Fujimi participated in the event, which was held for the fourth time. The matches were played in a touch rugby style with no kicking, tackling, scrums, or other contact play.

    Each team consisted of four members, not restricted by age or gender. Wearing traditional "tabi" socks or other footwear, the players entered a rice paddy filled with water up to their knees, and splashed forward toward their try lines, making quick passes.

    During one match, the shoe of one player came off and was buried in the mud, leading to the unusual sight of both sides trying to find it.

    Tomoya Oyama, 28, who took part in the event for the first time, said with a muddy face, "Children and women also participated, and it was fun to play a game that everyone could enjoy equally."

    Makoto Takizawa of the Higashiiruma Rugby Football Club, which organized the event, said, "I hope that many people will learn about rugby, which is fun for everyone, and enjoy the Rugby World Cup to be held in France in September."

    (Japanese original by Masaaki Hashimoto)

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