TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Over a thousand people gathered on the outskirts of Tokyo, shovels in hand, to dig it out for the top prize in the Japan All-National Hole Digging Competition and claim the coveted Golden Shovel award.
The contest drew participants from all over the country to test their hole-digging prowess and claim awards not only for the deepest hole, but also for most creative hole and the most original costume worn during the digging.
Just over 200 teams took part in the Sunday event, with an additional 30 teams made up of either women only or groups of elementary school-age children, or younger, competing in special categories.
"There are a lot of families and groups of friends," said Manabu Saito, a public relations officer at the Narita Dream Dairy Farm, just east of Tokyo, where the contest took place.
"However, the most numerous are those who are 'professionals' who dig for a living, such as gas company workers or those who deal with the water supply."
Participants were given 30 minutes to dig as deep as possible. Regulations govern the size of shovels, which are measured before the contest kicks off.
Throwing dirt into a competitor's hole is, of course, strictly forbidden.
While the majority of competitors dug as fast and deep as possible, others took a different tack.
The group led by 53-year-old Nobutaka Nakane, a waterworks engineer from the central Japanese city of Nagoya, used the uncovered dirt to build a pyramid.
"We look at dirt every day. But being here and having people pass by and say it looks really nice, makes me very happy," he said.
The winning hole this year was 3.26 meters (10 ft 8 in) deep and the winners took home 100,000 yen ($1,215), along with the Golden Shovel.
The contest, held at a campground, began as a way of attracting visitors during the off-season. Once the contest is over, staff refill all the holes using machinery to turn it back into a campground and level the area for next year's contest.
Reporting by Chris Meyers at Reuters Television; editing by Elaine Lies