TOKYO Over a thousand people gathered on the outskirts of Tokyo, shovels and ladders in hand. Their goal: to dig their way to victory in the Japan All-National Hole Digging Competition, and claim the coveted Golden Shovel.
The annual contest, now in its 12th year, drew 259 teams from around the country at the weekend to test their hole-digging prowess and claim awards for the deepest hole, the most creative hole and the most original costume worn during the digging.
At the shriek of a whistle, contestants -- some dressed as skeletons or wearing Arabian-style headgear -- began digging frantically, tossing earth behind them as their shovels bit into the soil.
Some went for creativity, carving a heart out of the ground. Others aimed at depth, using buckets to haul up the earth.
When the contest ended, 30 minutes later, the winning team had dug 3.39 meters deep, winning the Golden Shovel and 100,000 yen ($1,300).
Even those who didn't win said the contest was worth it.
"The whole team did their best and I really feel that we became closer as a result of this," said Tomoyuki Tsumita, a construction worker.
The event, held at a campground, began as a way of attracting visitors during the off-season. Once the contest is over, staff refill the holes to turn it back into a campground and level the site for next year's contest.
($1 = 76.5850 Japanese yen)