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Cornhole for the People

Cornhole for the People Nozawa Onsen

The past year or so dished out its fair share of stress and people have dealt with it in various ways. Most Netflixed or Primed themselves through the dark days of COVID; some turned to exercise, others booze, many began new hobbies such as knitting and gardening—and it seemed like everyone and their grandmother baked sourdough bread. For us it was cornhole.

In the summer of 2019 I managed to get some cornhole bags into my suitcase and barely stay under the weight limit for my flight back to Japan. We spend time in Oregon each summer to see family and friends. It is a beautiful time in the Pacific Northwest for barbecues, concerts in the park, outdoor activities and enjoying some time in the backyard with a craft beer and a game of cornhole.

For the uninitiated, cornhole is kind of a mix of horseshoes and shuffle board. You score points by getting your bag on the board or even better, in the hole. Traditionally the bags were filled with—you guessed it—corn, but nowadays the most durable bags use resin pellets that don’t break down as quickly with use. 

I brought the bags back intending to make cornhole boards that autumn, but didn’t get to it before winter. Then COVID-19 arrived and changed everything. Suddenly we all had more time on our hands than we knew what to do with, less money and nowhere to go. It was a great time for DIY projects. I finally built a fence in my backyard and then worked with a local carpenter to make the cornhole boards. 

My friend Jack stopped by to help test them out and we spent the next week playing nearly every evening after work. We soon realized the boards were too thin, light and springy; the bags were jumping instead of sliding. We set out to create boards that would perform like those we use back in Oregon and Jack, a carpenter by trade, built the the first set of cornhole boards, then a second for our local taproom.

More friends came by to play and we soon had a small cornhole community in Nozawa Onsen. We’d play in the backyard, in the park and even get together some evenings and play at our local pizza joint. We started getting more inquiries for boards and bags and realized we needed to give the people what they want—cornhole! 

Cornhole Japan was born as a pandemic pastime with a simple goal to spread the love by getting more people playing cornhole with friends, family or strangers. The boards are made from hardwood birch with poplar framing and there is info on the Cornhole Japan Facebook page for upcoming events this green season. 

For better or worse, cornhole was made for COVID times. Social—definitely, and there is plenty of distancing—the boards are laid out on flat ground 24 feet (just over seven meters) for casual play and 27 feet (just over eight meters) for tournament play. It’s simply a great reason to get outside, enjoy an adult beverage and have fun with friends. 

On Halloween, we organized the first annual Nozawa Cornhole Invitational. About thirty people gathered under cloudless Nagano skies for a friendly singles and doubles tournament sponsored by the Winterland Taproom. It was a blast and there are plans for a spring tournament in late April. Just be warned it’s highly addictive and may produce involuntary smack talking, profanity and laughter if played correctly.  

Cornhole for the People Nozawa Onsen

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Keith Stubbs, a veteran in the snowboard industry, transitioned from rider to coach and instructor trainer for Snowboard Instruction New Zealand. After coaching in various Japanese resorts, he has established a permanent base in Madarao, outlining his plans for the area and future snowboard endeavors.

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