Little known in America, botaoshi, or “topple the pole,” remains a rite of passage at Kaisei, which opened in 1871 and is one of Japan’s most prestigious secondary schools. Teachers say the game promotes teamwork, toughness and sportsmanship. Students eagerly await their chance to compete in the tournament in their junior and senior years. (Underclassmen play more rudimentary games.) Alumni can recount details of games played decades ago.
Kaisei Academy is Japan’s second-most prestigious school. It is an all-boy’s school located in Nishi-Nippori, a five-minute walk from the place I lived when I was on exchange.