Summer in Japan: Watermelon Splitting


Have you ever heard of Watermelon Splitting? Suika-wari (スイカ割り, literally “Watermelon Splitting”) is a traditional Japanese game that involves splitting a watermelon with a stick while blindfolded. It is often played by kids in the summertime, usually at beaches but also at picnics, festivals, and other summer events. I first heard about this game from a Japanese friend, and recently tried playing it myself on the beach at Odaiba! Read on for my experience of this game, some fun facts and a short quiz!



スイカ割りって、日本だと夏って印象ですが、海外ではないと思います。 似たような文化はメキシコで行われる「ピニャータ」ということかもしれません。とても面白そうですので、絶対やってみたいなぁと思いました。最近やっとお台場海浜公園に自分自身でやってみました!

The rules are similar to Mexico’s candy-filled piñata: watermelon is laid out on a picnic sheet (to avoid dirt and sand from getting onto the fruit), and participants attempt to smash it open one by one. Each person is first handed a bat or wooden stick (called bokken), then blindfolded and spun around multiple times. The first to split the watermelon open wins! Check out the video of me playing the game below! 

スイカ割りとは、用意したスイカの果実を目隠しをした挑戦者が周囲の声だけを頼りに棒で割るというゲームです。動画は下記をご覧ください~ きっと盛り上がりましたよ♪

Unfortunately, I was rather far away from hitting the watermelon… My head was still spinning but it was still really fun! 

残念ながら、私はかなり離れていました。でも、とても楽しかったです!!もう一回やりたかったですが、回った後にかなりめまいを感じていたので、やめました… T.T

After the game, everybody shared in some watermelon on the beach!


Origins of Watermelon Splitting 

By the way, whenever I asked anybody the history behind suika-wari or how the game was created, nobody could give me an answer and so I did some searching on my own. The most likely origin story is that it was used as a form of sword practice or as a game to cheer up workers during the construction of Azuchi Castle.



Japan Suika-Wari Association (JSWA) Official Rules!

There is actually a Japan Suika-Wari Association (JSWA), established by the Japan Agricultural Cooperative (JA), setting the game’s official rules! The JSWA was created by the JA to increase watermelon consumption and sales. Rules include:

  • Distance between player and watermelon: over 5m, and within 7m
  • Stick: Circumference of 5cm; length equal to or less than 1m, 20cm.
  • Material to use for blindfold: JSWA-recognized blindfolds. To verify that the player was truly blinded, observers were encouraged to drop a 10,000-yen note in front of him/her.
  • Watermelon: a well-ripened domestic melon.
  • Time limit: 3 minutes.
  • Judging: Judges should rate the player on how pretty a break between halves she managed to make. Players who cleaved the watermelon in equal halves could come close to a perfect score, while players who broke them into unequal parts would receive lower marks.

The requirements to be a judge were particularly interesting! Not only did you have to eat at least 10 watermelons that year, you also had to answer at least 3 or 5 watermelon-related questions correctly! Such questions included: ① Which part of the watermelon is sweetest? ② What is the water content of a watermelon? ③ How many seeds are in a typical watermelon? ④ Where are watermelons originally from?

**Scroll down for the answers!!**





一番面白いことは、審判員になるための要件です。スイカに関する質問5問に3問以上答えられる人物に限りますよ。質問はかなり難しいそうです!例えば、① すいかの一番甘い部分はどこか? ② すいかの水分はどのくらい?③ すいかの種ってどのくらいあるか?④ すいかの原産地は?


Beautiful Sunset at Odaiba


Answers to Watermelon Quiz

① The center part is sweetest!

② The water content of a watermelon is 85%~91%

③ A typical watermelon has about 400~500 seeds

④ Watermelons are originally from South Africa or the Savannah area around the Kalahari Desert







About Rachel

Rachel Leng is COO and Co-Founder of SeiRogai, Inc., a Tokyo-based business consultancy & media production company. Previously, she was Leader of Business Development on the Investment Management team at a Japanese private equity fund, as well as Policy Analyst at a top think tank in Seoul, South Korea.

As an East Asia specialist and former Miss Singapore titleholder, Rachel is passionate about the potential of media to educate and raise awareness about history, culture, art, business, and societal issues to enhance mutual understanding.

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