Monday, December 15, 2008


A New Years game in Japan played by girls, which is becoming less popular over time, is hanetsuki. The game is somewhat similar to badminton or shuttlecock except there is no net. The game is played with a rectangular wooden paddle, called a hagoita, and a shuttlecock, called a hane (pictured above). There are two common variations of this game.
Tsukibane: one person attempts to keep the shuttlecock aloft as long as possible.
Oibane: Two people batting the shuttlecock back and forth.

In the two person version girls who fail to hit the shuttlecock get marked on the face with India Ink. Traditionally, the longer the shuttlecock remains in the air, the greater protection from mosquitoes the players will receive during the coming year.

Some history on the game:
The game dates back to at least 1433 AD. The game was originally a game for nobles played by both males and females. Over time guys stopped playing and it became a girls only game. As more time passed 19th century children started playing with the woman. Which brings us to the current time period where the game is no longer very popular.

The hagoita are very popular though, with people collecting them. The unusual shape of the hagoita plus the many different decoration of them make it a popular and desirable form of Japanese art. In the middle of December, the Hagoita Market is held at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo, where hagoita are sold at numerous stands. The paddles come in different sizes (ranging from really small to too large to ever play the game with, some over 4 feet), and most of them feature portraits of kabuki actors and beautiful Edo ladies. Though they also have many other designs like celebrities and popular culture (things like Harry Potter and Hello Kitty).

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