Recently, I visited a traditional Japanese battledore festival called “Hagoita-ichi (羽子板市・はごいたいち)” in the precincts of Sensoji Temple, which is in Asakusa, Tokyo.
What is a Hagoita ?
The festival is held every year on the same three days from December 17th through the 19th.
A Hagoita is like a wooden battledore or paddle, and we use it to play “Hanetsuki (羽根つき・はねつき)”, which is a kind of traditional Japanese badminton, during the New Year holidays.
“Hane (羽根・はね)” in Japanese means a shuttlecock, and “Tsuki” is a form of the verb “Tsuku”, which means “to hit”.
Hanetsuki started in the Muromachi Era (14th – 16th centuries), and during the Edo period (17th – 19th centuries), members of the noble classes gave each other Hagoita as good luck charms.
Report on Hagoita-ichi
The Hagoita sold at the festival are actually beautifully decorated good luck charms rather than battledores for use in games. Decorating these ornamental Hagoita is considered to be an art form.
There is a variety of decorations and pictures on the Hagoita such as famous Kabuki actors’ faces, the faces of the most popular celebrities of the year, girls in beautiful Kimono, and so on.
A lady at a stall named “Edokatsu Honten”, which has sold Hagoita for more than 100 years, told me that “Customers buy them because they are considered to be good luck for the New Year, and also as gifts to send when a baby girl has been born in their family and she greets the New Year for the first time. Nowadays people display them from mid-December through January 15th”.
These ornaments look so gorgeous because they were made entirely by hand.
She explained that the craftsmen sew the Kimono in several separate parts, and then stuff with cotton to give a plump, 3-D effect.
Because of this, they really look like actual Kimono.
If you are planning to visit Tokyo at this time of year, it is really worth a trip to see these beautifully decorated Hagoita.
AND if you have enough money to buy one, it would make a wonderful souvenir!
Date: From 17th to 19th December every year
Place: Sensoji Shrine, Asakusa in Tokyo