NIPPONIA No.26 September 15, 2003
Traditional Japanese Games
Japan has many games that have been passed down through the generations. Rules and materials may change over time, but even today Japanese children are fond of pastimes from the old days. Some of the games introduced on these pages are probably similar to those in your own country.
Photos by Sugawara Chiyoshi, Illustrations by Haraguchi Ken-ichiro

Origami is one of Japan's best-known pastimes. The idea is to fold a square piece of paper into different shapes. The photo here shows a hollow cube, a samurai helmet, and a crane.
This is generally considered a girls' game. Players take turns flicking small, coin-shaped pieces called ohajiki with their fingers, to hit other pieces. In the old days, they used pebbles, or pieces from another game, go. Today, the pieces are usually made of glass. When playing, make a circle with your thumb and index finger (or middle finger), then flick one piece with your thumb.
How to play
All players lay down the same number of ohajiki pieces on a flat surface, and then do jan-ken (rock, paper, scissors) to decide the order of play.
The first person to take a turn gathers everyone's pieces, using one hand, and then scatters them on the surface.
The player then indicates two pieces, and draws an imaginary line between them to show how he or she intends to hit one with the other.
If the player hits the piece as indicated, he or she keeps it. Otherwise, it is the next person's turn. At the end of the game, the person with the most pieces is the winner.


   Special Feature*    Wonders of Japan    Living In Japan
   Traditional Japanese Games    Japanese Animals and Culture
   Bon Appetit!    Japan Travelogue    Cover Interview    In Japan Today