Fukuwarai and Kendama! 5 Traditional New Year’s Games that Japanese Play
Are there any other activities for New Year’s holiday?
This post introduces traditional Japanese games for New Year’s season.
5 Traditional Games for New Year’s Season
I pick 5 traditional games that Japanese play during New Year’s holiday. Do you know any of these?
What is Fukuwarai?
Fukuwarai (福笑い) literally means Lucky Laugh. What is it? Do Japanese laugh to be lucky?
Fukuwarai is a game to place parts of a face. It’s similar to “Pin the tail on the Donkey.”
Fukuwarai is played on the table, while Pin the tail on the Donkey is played on the wall.
Blindfolded Fukuwarai players are to place parts of a face, such as eyes, nose and mouth on a blank face.
Some of them try to make a perfect face, whereas others make a funny face.
Popular faces for Fukuwarai are Okame and Hyottoko but you can also use different faces.
Japanese believe that laughing brings happiness and luck so Fukuwarai is a perfect game to laugh and play with others.
Fukuwarai of Okame
Fukuwarai of Hyottoko
What is Otedama?
Otedama uses small bean bags and the players juggle them.
It’s believed that the first Otedama kind of game came from China during Nara period (710-794).
You can start with 2 Otedama and increase to 3 if possible.
Grandparents or parents usually teach grandchildren or children how to play Otedama.
I can only play with 2 Otedama because the 3rd one always jumps somewhere.
My grandmother made Otedama for me and I still have them!
Some people would sing and juggle Otedama.
What is Hanetsuki?
Gorgeous Hagoita. These are usually used for display purpose.
Hanetsuki is a game similar to badminton. Two players hold a wooden paddle, “Hagoita,” and hit the shuttlecock, called “Hane.”
Old Japanese believed that Hanetsuki helped to get rid of bad luck. The famous Hagoita is not only used for Hanetsuki but also displayed in a restaurant or shop by the owners.
Hanetsuki is usually played by girls.
What is Kendama?
Kendama is similar to cup-and-ball game and played to fit a ball into two cups or a spike.
The first Kendama came to Japan during Edo era (1603-1863) and it was a game played by adults.
There are various levels of difficulty and techniques depending on how to fit the ball into cups or a spike.
Kendama lovers practice hard to participate in competition.
The other day I found Kendama in Canadian Tire, so you might have seen it if you are in Canada.
What is Takoage?
Takoage is a Japanese kite. It’s said that if you can make the tako or kite stay higher in the sky, your wish will come true.
It was quite popular but the number of players decreased as utility poles have increased and people play in limited locations.
I recommend you to play in a big park or levee if there is any in your neighbour.
Japanese used to play those games before but now less people play those.
I hope they would at least play those games for New Year’s and inherit Japanese tradition to younger generations.
I’ve tried Fukuwarai, Otedama and Kendama. I should go buy Kendama in Canadian Tire, find my Otedama and make Fukuwarai by myself to enjoy New Year’s Day!
Happy Holidays, everyone!
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