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.
Incense burning is a unique Japanese art in which fragrant wood is burnt for the enjoyment of its scent.
Fragrant wood was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism and the custom of adding scent to clothes or hair was born. By the mid-Muromachi period, the burning of fragant wood had become stylised in the same way as the tea ceremony and flower arranging.
The basic style of incense burning involves cutting a piece of fragrant wood and putting it into a censer; the censer is passed back and forth so that its scent can be enjoyed.
Incense burning has an element of game and you guess which scent is which by comparing it with the Japanese classics and waka poems relating to it. This is different from other arts but, of course, winning and losing are not as important as enjoying the scent.
Incense burning is a very profound art that integrates one's literary knowledge, etiquette and mastery of books and tools. Many people love this art.
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.
The Naha great tug-of-war is the main event of the Naha festival, held annually on National Sports Day.
The origins of this tug-of-war date back to the Juri Horse Parade in the 17th century when courtesans competed against each other. The present form of the festival began in 1971.
The dynamic tug-of-war takes place on national route 58, to the cries of 'Haa-iya, haa-iya', as a gigantic 200m-long rope is tugged between east and west sides. 15,000 people, including townspeople, servicemen and tourists, participate. This match ends when either side get pulled more than 2 meters in one direction. After the match is over, a piece of the rope, which is believed to be a charm for good health, can be taken back home.
In 1995, the rope used in the Naha Great Tug-of-War was registered in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest rope. Its gigantic scale is just amazing.
The way to play with Bidama (glass marble balls) differs from one locality to another. In one basic version of the game, players draw a square (or a triangle) on the ground. The leading player puts his marble inside the square. Then the opponent player tries to knock the marble out of the square with his own marble. If it shoots the target marble rightly, he will win it, but in return for this, his marble is in the position to be shot. Another version involves digging several holes in the ground. The players take turns flipping their own marbles to shoot the holes according to the designated route. It is possible to add various optional rules to the play, for example, when a player mistakenly shoots another player’s marble on the way, this will carry some penalty. Or the player who reached the goal first will be given the right to hit his marble against another one and so on.