In the old times, the Japanese kids were having fun during the New Year by playing traditional games like karuta (card game), sugoroku (board game) or fukuwarai (similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey). Outside the house, the boys were flying kites and the girls were playing hanetsuki, a game similar to badminton, played with paddles called hagoita. Hagoita are rectangular paddles, made of wood and often decorated with vivid colored paintings.
Today hanetsuki is almost forgotten, but hagoita became collectors items and good luck charms. They are no longer just painted but more sophisticated, with complex ornaments made from washi (Japanese paper) and expensive textile materials. The traditional decorations are themed with kabuki stars or geishas (like those from this photo - they are still my favorites), but you can buy now hagoita with pop singers, athletes, actors or even anime characters or Hello Kitty.
Travel tip: Between December 17 and 19 at the Senso-ji Temple in Tokyo takes place Hagoita-ichi, a large annual hagoita fair, which draws in about 300000 visitors.
There are dozens of stalls, with hundreds (or maybe thousands) of hagoita models, in many sizes and degrees of complexity and prices varying from tens to hundreds of dollars…
Even if you cannot reach Tokyo during this period, the stalls are still opened at Senso-ji long after the fair - I found a lot of them still available after the New Year…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: