Sunday, December 18, 2011

Games people play - for New Year

New Year or "Shogatsu" has a whole lot of customs and traditions associated with it. I have already written about the other customs : cleaning and decorating of homes, food that is eaten, visit to shrines on New Year Day. 

There is another interesting custom about New Year. It is also a day when people play traditional games. 

Playing cards, known as "Karuta" in Japanese, is one of the most popular of the New year games. One popular card game is "Uta-Garuta" where a poem is written on each card. When the poem is read out, players try to grab the card containing the card which has the corresponding verses. Another game is 

Kite flying, known as "Tako-age" is another popular New year game. The kites come in all shapes - diamond, rectangular, hexagonal and at times may also resemble human beings and animals. Designs which signify good luck are sometimes printed on these kites.

Spinning tops, (koma) made of wood is another of the New year games. 

"Hanetsuki" is a game popular with girls. It is similar to badminton and is played with a rectangular wooden paddle called "Hagoita" and a bright, colourful shuttlecock but there is no net. These days, the "Hagoita" is displayed as a good luck charm. Its bright painted design make it a good souvenir too.

Some other games are "Fuku warai", a contest where players take turns arranging parts of a face, while being blindfolded; and "Sugoroku", a Japanese boardgame which is a mix of snakes and ladders and backgammon.  

Gift shops also sell lot of these traditional game packs around New Year time. People gift these traditional gifts to children or younger relatives. 

These days, it is not so common to play the traditional games and it has been reduced to just another custom. 

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