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Two squads scrambling for possession of the pole.

Bo-taoshi (Japanese: 棒倒し, Hepburn: bōtaoshi, "pole toppling"), is a capture-the-flag-like game, played on sports days at schools in Japan. The game, traditionally played by cadets at the National Defense Academy (NDA) of Japan on its anniversary, is famous for its size, wherein two teams of 150 individuals each vie for control of a single large pole.[1] Each team is split into two groups of 75 attackers and 75 defenders. The defenders begin in a defensive orientation respective to their own pole, while the attackers assume position some measure away from the other team's pole. A team is victorious if it is able to lower the pole of the opposing team (which begins perpendicular to the ground) to a thirty-degree angle (respective to the ground), before the other team reaches this goal. Until a rule-change in 1973, the angle of victory was only forty-five degrees.[2]


Described here are positions seen in the NDA of Japan, but usually the position Ninja is absent when played in other schools. On the defensive half, positions include: pole support, barrier, interference, scrum disabler, and the ninja. Offensive positions include: springboard/scrum, pole attackers, and general support attackers.


  • Pole support - hold the pole in the upright position.
  • Barrier - the largest part of the defense, their job is to protect the pole.
  • Interference - harass and interrupt attacks that get within the barrier.
  • Scrum disabler - the scrum is the offensive strategy in which the attackers use their teammate's back to spring themselves over the barrier and onto the pole. The scrum disablers do whatever they can to eliminate this attack.
  • Ninja - this is the single man at the top of the pole. This is one of the most important positions on defense. The ninja must lean to the opposite side if the pole is being tilted to counteract the weight.


  • Springboard/scrum - the scrum act as stepping stones so their offensive teammates can jump over the barrier and have easy access to the pole.
  • Pole attackers - in charge of taking the ninja down and using their weight to bring the pole down.
  • General support attackers - do anything to make it hard on the defense.


  1. ^ Furbush, James (2011-07-14). "Bo-Taoshi: Super Happy Pole Pulldown Sport Time". :. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2011-07-18.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. ^ "New Sport: Bo-Taoshi". Deuce of Davenport. 2011-05-18. Archived from the original on 2011-08-07. Retrieved 2011-07-18.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bodlak, Tyler. The Scribe November 12, 2011. Obscure Sports: Bo-Taoshi. This article on bo-toashi describes the rules, objectives, and some history of the sport.
  • National Defense Academy of Japan official website. Regular Annual Events. This source is the National Defense Academy of Japan's official website. It contains schedules, classes, professors, activities, traditions, and sporting events. Bo-taoshi is traditionally played on November 1 which is also Self Defense Forces Day.