Suikawari Smashing Watermelon in Japan

What is Suikawari

Suikawari, or watermelon smashing, the classic Japanese beach activity in summer. Similar to the Mexican piñata, suikawari involves blindfolded players trying to smash open a watermelon guided by the shouts of their friends. Usually, a sheet or piece of cardboard is placed under the watermelon. This is, of course, to keep the smashed pieces safe from the ground. The first person to split the rotund fruit using a bokutou (木刀, wooden sword) or baseball bat is the winner of the game!

suikawari, watermelon smashing
Watermelon splitting on the beach

Rules of Suikawari in Japan

If you want to eat your watermelon in an original and destructive way, then try out suikawari yourself! Suikawari is so popular that in 1991 the “Japan Suika-Wari Association (JSWA)” established a set of written rules for the game. The association no longer exists but it is pretty amazing that it even did. Some of the rules concerned the distance between the watermelon and the player, the type of stick to be used, and the type of JSWA-recognized blindfolds to be used.

According to the regulations, the distance between the smasher and the juicy watermelon must be between 5 and 7 meters. The stick must have a circumference of 5 centimeters with a length no longer than 120 centimeters. Then, most importantly, a well-ripened domestic Japanese watermelon must be used and smashed within 3 minutes. There are also points awarded for how cleanly the melon is busted. Splitting the juicy fruit in half is ideal.

Additionally, judges at the competition need to have eaten at least ten watermelons in the current year. It makes you wonder how they were even able to check all these rules.

suikawari, watermelon smashing

Why Do Japanese People Smash Watermelons?

Like many traditions, it is difficult to trace back the exact origins of suikawari. It may have something to do with the introduction of watermelons to Japan, which also brought along the tradition from abroad. Perhaps it has something to do with the Japanese martial art of drawing swords. The image of a disciplined samurai slicing open a luxurious watermelon is certainly an entertaining idea. The bottom line is that suikawari is great summer fun that  people of all ages can enjoy. So, for your next Japanese summer beach party, find the juciest watermelon you can and give suikawari a swing!

Click here to learn more about Japanese traditions related to watermelon.