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Japan's massive annual snowball fight

Recognizing there's a better way to survive the Polar Vortex than hurling boiling pots of water into the air, modern-day Japanese warriors took to the battlefield last weekend in Hokkaido to hurl something else -- snowballs. At each other. In a giant, sanctioned snow war.

In what's become an epic annual tournament since 1989, the game of Yukigassen (which means, "snow battle") pits opposing teams of seven against each other on a paintball-like field; each team has a mere three minutes to pellet 90 machine-made snowballs at each other. While we don't yet have shots from Saturday's battle royale, these pics from last year showcase all the frosty action.

Flickr user Daa Nell
Each winter, over 100 teams face off for the Showa-Shinzan International Yukigassen championship, often competing in front of huge crowds of adoring, pro-snowballing fans.
Yukigassen
Yukigassen snowballs aren't just any old, DIY made-these-in-my-yard 'balls. No sir. Spurted out of a hi-tech machine, these tailor-made snow-spheres measure about 2.5in in diameter (slightly smaller than a baseball) for optimum throwing power.
Yukigassen
To win a game of Yukigassen, a team must either "tag out" their opponents by clocking 'em with snowballs, or seize their flag; after cutting through the tournament bracket, you'll have to win two out of three matches in the final to crown yourself the champ.
Yukigassen
Yuki teams wear different colored helmets and bibs to avoid friendly fire, whilst sporting stylish visors to protect their peepers.
Picasa user Adam Danisovic
Though Yukigassen started in Japan, the concept's sprawled to wintry environs the world over; today you can catch games in Canada, Alaska, Finland, and Russia. Although you'd think, with Polar Vortex parts I, II, and (what feels like) 300, that somebody in the Contiguous 48 would have organized one by now? Seriously, not even a Meetup? Bueller?
YouTube user TheWombatStudio
But before you do (start a Meetup, that is -- not rewatch Ferris Bueller) check out the highlights from last year's tourney, complete with a winner's soundtrack that rivals anything from The Karate Kid, Part III.

Chloe Pantazi is an editorial assistant on Thrillist's travel team. The last Yukigassen game she played took place somewhere in the woods of Upstate New York. Contrary to popular opinion, and that of her woefully defeated boyfriend, she won. Follow her on Twitter at @ChloePantazi.

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