How to play Bo-taoshi for beginners

Bo-taoshi is a capture-the-flag-like game, played on sports days at schools in Japan.

To play Bo-taoshi:

  1. Start with two teams of 150 individuals in which both teams vie for control of a single large pole.
  2. When starting a game of Bo-taoshi, the teams are split into 75 attackers and 75 defenders. The defenders begin in a defensive orientation respective to their own pole and the attackers assume position some measure away from the other team’s pole.
  3. A team is victorious if it is able to lower the pole of the opposing team (which begins perpendicular to the ground) to a thirty-degree angle (respective to the ground). The aim to do this before the other team does. Until a rule-change in 1973, the angle of victory was only forty-five degrees.
How to play Bo-taoshi
Bo-taoshi game


The positions below are what we see in Japan and the key difference in other schools is that the the position Ninja is usually absent. On the defensive half, positions include: pole support, barrier, interference, scrum disabler and the ninja and offensive positions include: springboard/scrum, pole attackers and general support attacks.


  • Pole support – to hold the pole in the upright position. As a result, they try to avoid the opposing team from tilting the pole.
  • Barrier – the largest part of the defense and their job is to protect the pole. Hence, a successful barrier is key to keeping the opposition at bay.
  • Interference – harass and interrupt attacks that get within the barrier.
  • Scrum disabler – scrum is the offensive strategy in which the attackers use their teammates back to spring themselves over the barrier and onto the pole. As a result, they do whatever they can to eliminate this attack.
  • Ninja – this is the single man at the top of the pole and is one of the most important positions on defense.


  • Springboard/scrum – the scrum acts as stepping stones so their offensive teammates can jump over the barrier. As a result, they have easy access to the pole.
  • Pole attackers – in charge of taking the ninja down and using their weight to bring the pole down.
  • General support attackers – Do anything to make it hard on the defense.

For more information, see the wikipedia article on Bo-taoshi

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