Curolling: ice-free curling, Japan-style

Courtesy of Shizuoka Prefecture’s curolling association
People take part in a curolling game in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Jan. 13.

Curolling, an indoor sport resembling curling but played on ordinary floors instead of ice, is becoming increasingly popular in Shizuoka Prefecture, partly due to the popularity of curling at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Loco Solare, Japan’s national women’s curling team, excelled in Beijing, generating nationwide attention and fueling interest in the sport. People were fascinated by the combination of stones, brushes and wits, inspiring many to try the sport which has been dubbed “chess on ice.”

In Shizuoka Prefecture, which has few winter sports facilities, an increasing number of mainly elderly people have been enjoying curolling, experiencing the same kind of fun and excitement generated by curling, but on ordinary indoor floors.

According to the secretariat of the prefectural curolling association in Susono in the prefecture, curolling was invented in Nagoya in June 1993.

In curling, players slide stones across an icy surface, but in curolling, participants use “jet rollers,” which resemble scaled-down curling stones. Jet rollers are made from resin, have three wheels and weigh only 2 kilograms (the curling stones used in the Beijing Games weighed 20 kilograms).

Players propel their jet roller toward a circular target 90 centimeters in diameter. The target, which is divided into point zones, is placed 11 meters away from the players’ throwing area. Unlike curling, players cannot influence the projectile once it is released, so there is no sweeping involved.

Each team comprises three players, who take turns trying to get their jet rollers as close to the center of the target as possible. Points are allotted depending on where the disc comes to rest on the target, as in curling.

According to the prefectural association, curolling enthusiasts have been swelling in number year after year. Presently, about 500 people ranging from junior high school students to those in their 90s enjoy playing the sport in gyms and community halls, mainly in the central and eastern parts of the prefecture.

The prefectural curolling association experiences an uptick in interest in the sport whenever a Winter Olympics is held. During the Beijing Games, for example, the association received numerous telephone calls asking about where the sport could be tried.

“[Curolling] is a profound sport,” said Koichi Okada, 80, chairman of the prefectural association. “Players don’t need physical power, but they have to engage their brains. It’s a game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.”

Due to the impact of the novel coronavirus, regular practice sessions held in Shizuoka City, Numazu, Fuji and other places have been suspended, though the prefectural association plans to resume sessions once the pandemic eases.