Yes, it is that time of year again when people turn out in their thousands for the Japan All-National Hole Digging Competition.

This year, over a thousand participants gathered on the outskirts of Tokyo with shovels and ladders in hand to dig their way to victory and claim the coveted Golden Shovel.

The annual contest, now in its 12th year, drew 259 teams from around the country at the weekend to test their hole-digging prowess and claim awards for the deepest hole, the most creative hole and the most original costume worn during the digging.

When the contest ended, 30 minutes later, the winning team had dug 3.39 meters deep, winning the Golden Shovel and 100,000 yen ($1,300).

“The whole team did their best and I really feel that we became closer as a result of this,” said Tomoyuki Tsumita, a construction worker.

The event, held at a campground, began as a way of attracting visitors during the off-season. Once the contest is over, staff refill the holes to turn it back into a campground and level the site for next year’s contest.

Scenes from the 2011 competition:
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