Ohajiki is a traditional game enjoyed by Japanese children, especially girls. Its name comes from the flicking (“hajiku” in Japanese) of fingers that is done to ohajiki (flat glass marbles) with a diameter of about 12 mm.
The game dates back to the Nara period (710-794), when it was introduced from China. In those days pebbles were used to play, and the game was called “Ishi-hajiki (stone flicking).” It was mainly enjoyed among the nobility at the Imperial court. It was in the Edo period (1603-1868) when the game began to be played by girls. In the late Meiji period (1868-1912), glass marbles appeared.
To play the game, players scatter the ohajiki on a flat surface and then take turns hitting one piece against another with the flick of a finger. If a player is successful, she can get the other player’s ohajiki. The player with the most pieces wins. Ohajiki marbles are cute-looking stuff and the game is enjoyable even for adults.
Igo is a match-up board game, in which two players alternately place black and white stones on the vacant intersections of line grid on the board called “Goban.” The objective is to control a larger territory than the opponent’s by placing one’s stones tactically. Igo originated in ancient Chinese horoscope, which was carried out around 2000 years ago, and it was gradually changed into the present form. Igo was introduced into Japan in the Nara period (710-794), when it gained popularity among noblemen and priests. In the Edo period, it came to be played by the general public and “Gokaijo (Igo play house)” were established in towns. The Shogunate encouraged the establishment of Go academy and the schools of Honinbo, Yasui, Inoue, and Hayashi competed each other. After the Meiji Restoration, the school system was abolished and anyone could challenge to be a professional Igo player through ability. In these days a manga story has created Igo boom among the young generation, and a lot of young people have become interested in Igo. Igo is also played on the Internet. It can be said that full-scale inernationalization of Igo game has gotten under way.
Walking on stilts was an activity that began in China. It came to Japan during the Heian period.
Stilt-walking is a game that uses sticks of bamboo with some kind of peg as foothold. There are two types of stilt-walking. The first one, which was enjoyed by children in China, was a game using one bamboo like a witch's broom. The other type is the famous one, which is enjoyed by Japanese children.
Even today, children enjoy the common form of stilt-walking, using two sticks with footholds. It is said that stilt-walking is good for training muscles and to get a sense of balance.
Nowadays, there are stilt-walking competitions held as sports, and the activity is beloved by many people.
Kamakura is a Lunar New Year festival held sometime in January or February in Akita prefecture. Kamakura is a kind of small igloo made from compacted snow with a small opening and a larger space inside. This festival is from the Tohoku region, but its origins are unclear.
The contents of the festival differ according to region. In Rokugo, Akita, a 'blue-bamboo battle' is held. On the other hand, in Yokote, children make an altar inside the kakamura as a dedication to a god of water inside, while adults visit to pay money to the god and are served sweet sake and rice cakes.
'Bamboo battle' means driving birds away and praying for bumper crops. The dedications to the water god are also a way to pray for bumper crops.
The kamakura igloos have spread all over Japan as an attractive winter display loved by both children and adults.
The hagoita originated in China and was brought over to Japan during the Muromachi period. At first, it was only used as a toy, or as equipment to play hanetsuki (a badminton-like game), but it gradually became an article to drive away evil spirits, and later became a charm given to women on oshogatsu (new year's day).
During the Edo period, hagoita decorated with pictures of Kabuki actors were very popular. Today, the hagoita has been designated as a traditional Tokyo handicraft.
Since the Edo period, a famous fair called Hagoitaichi takes place at Asakusa Temple over three days from December 17th. Many visitors come each year. The decorated hagoita sold at this event are famous for being made in Kasukabe, or Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama Prefecture.
Additionally, at the Hagoitaichi, hagoita with pictures of the people who received the most attention during the year, are notable and are often taken up by the media.
The 'Hyakunin-isshu' is a compilation of 100 exceptional poems from 100 famous poets, each individually chosen in chronological order.
The compilation was made by Sadaie Fujiwara, a poet of the Kamakura period, and the poems were carefully selected from the 'Kokinshu' and 'Shin-Kokinshu'.
The making of the compilation first started when Sadaie was requested to choose a poem to put on the fusuma door of Rensho Utsunomiya's villa, the Ogura-sanso, in Sagano, Kyoto. The compilation was first named the 'Ogura-sanso-shikishi-waka' or 'Sagasanso-shikishi-waka', but it is most famously known as 'Ogura-hyakunin-isshu'.
After the completion of the 'Ogura-hyakunin-isshu', many other private compilations of 100 poems, each from a different poet, followed. These include the 'Gosen-hyakunin-isshu', 'Genji-hyakunin-isshu', and 'Nyobo-hyakunin-isshu'. Additionally, there is a game called 'utakaruta', which is based on the 'Ogura-hyakunin-isshu'. This 'utakaruta' game started during the mid-Edo period and continues even now.
A Japanese word “omocha” meaning a toy originally means a thing to hold in a hand and play with. In the Heian period (794-1192), it was called “mote (or mochi)-asobimono (mote or mochi means to hold in a hand, and asobimono means something to play with),” or it was referred to as simply “asobimono” in the Tale of Genji. In the Edo period, the word “omochi-asobi” or “te-asobi (hand play)” came to be used. Although some of the figures or masks made of clay dug out of Jomon excavation sites are considered as toys, most of the Japanese toys were originally introduced from China. Take koma (a top) for example, this toy is called koma in Japanese because it was introduced into Japan in the Nara period (701-794) via Goguryeo (called Koma in Japanese). Mari (a Japanese ball) was directly introduced from China during the Tang Dynasty and later it developed into “temari” for girls. After coming from China or Korea, these toys were improved and developed into something unique to each locality. Each of the traditional toys still found in various places in the country has been deep rooted in the people’s lives and religious ceremonies.
The word “mari” comes from the ancient Japanese word “maro,” which means something round. In the Nara period (701-794), kickball game was introduced from China to Japan and the game continued to be played mainly by noblemen in the Heian period (794-1192). As time moved on kickball games were replaced by handball games. There were even jongleurs called “Shinadama-zukai,” who gave acrobatic performances using temari balls. In the Edo period, when well-bouncing thread balls came to be made, bouncing games became more popular than handball games. In making a thread ball, something bouncing such as saw dust or osmund is used as the core, which is then wrapped with cotton cloth and finally finished by wrapping tightly with thread. Patterns created by silk thread are very elegant. Temari balls still have been loved by a lot of people not only as a toy for children but also as a decorative ornament.