Stacy Lee
Hawaii Special‘i Herald

Overall, entertainment sources have responded to the COVID-19 epidemic. Our expanding waistlines are a result of food being a great source for comfort and binge-watching TV shows and movies on Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu, YouTube TV and Viki, among others. 

There may have been an opportunity for those with children (or adults) to be able to take part in a “parent-child” discussion. “some” gaming — Animal Crossing, Roblox, Minecraft and PUBG? 

With Christmas and New Year’s Day quickly approaching, it might be fun to look at some non-blue-light entertainment to be enjoyed with family or friends at home or outdoors — particularly Japanese toys. These toys can be used as stocking stuffers and gifts, with some being timeless while others modern. 


You mix Portuguese cards and Japanese poetry to create clamshells. What does this give you? The answer is one of Japan’s oldest and most traditional Oshogatsu games, KarutaJapanese cards, or? 

Uta-garuta are “poem cards.”Each set contains 100 cards and 200 karuta cards. “Japanese poems.”Both sets of cards are intended for readers and players. (Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ commons.wikimedia.org)

Karuta was born from two sources. Karuta’s inspirations came first from the Heian Period, which featured clamshells. kaiawase, Matching shells is a game. The shells of clam and oyster shells were painted by artists with matching poetry and scenes. The shells were placed face-down by participants. It was important to have as many shells as possible in the same scene or poem.

From 15 to 15, the second source of karuta influence was.ThCentury-old Portuguese sailors introduced Japan to the world. Matchlock guns were introduced to the world by these Portuguese sailors. SamuraiEuropean playing cards are also known as Carta. The name was changed eventually to “karuta”Japanese In Japanese. 

The Japanese enjoy many types of karuta. These are the two most well-known games in Japan. Uta-garuta Iroha-karuta. Uta-garuta are “poem cards.”Each set contains 200 cards. Each set contains 100 cards. waka, Or “Japanese poems.”The cards are meant to be read, and one set is for the players to pick up. 

Hyakunin IsshuThe most well-known uta–garuta is the traditional cards that have been used in Japan since the Edo Period. A great choice for literature lovers is the Hyakunin Isshu Set. You will find 100 of the most famous Japanese poetry written by 100 poets.ThFrom 13Th century. This game is a perennial favorite pastime for many during Japan’s Oshogatsu (New Year’s holiday). International Karuta contests are held every year since 2012.

Karuta was played by girls around 1900. (Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library’s Digital Library)

Iroha–karuta, however, is a type Iroha-karuta that is more popular with children. This card game does not use classical poetry, it uses the 48. Haragana (a Japanese lettering system) “syllables.”This game is popular in Japanese schools.

This 48 card set has fewer cards that the original uta garuta (96). Irohakaruta is more about prose than poetry. “Iroha”The kana arrangement is determined by a Japanese poem.Kana once. The game is fun for kids to learn hiragana. 

Beigoma und Beyblade

However beigoma may not be included in many children’s letters to Santa today, Beyblade might. Beyblade is the best-known line by Takao Tomy, featuring spinning top toys. American toy company Hasbro licensed the product. 

Beyblade was a spin top first introduced in Japan in 1999. It was animated by the series. Beyblade has become a very popular toy worldwide. The Beigoma, a Japanese traditional top that was used to create it, is the inspiration for its creation. It was probably imported from China. koma, Kamakura (1185-13333) was the time when wooden tops were first introduced.

The Edo Period saw further development of these tops. Edo craftsmen made beigomatops out of spiral whelk seashells, which were then filled with clay and sand. They also sealed the tops with wax. Later, the beigoma tops were made from cast iron. 

Beigoma remained very popular in Japan throughout the 20th Century.Th century. Names of sumo wrestlers were inscribed onto toys by the beigoma maker during the 1920s and 30s. 

Edo craftsmen created beigomatops from spiral whelk marineshells filled with clay and sand. The shells were then sealed with wax. Cast iron was used to make the beigoma.

In World War II, steel was rare and many companies made beigegoma using porcelain and glasses. Traditional beigoma is a mere 1.18” diameter and is decorated with hiragana or kanji at the top. The game using beigoma is played by a minimum of two players, each trying to either knock the other player’s top off the playing surface or make their top spin the longest. 

Beigoma is played on a canvas that has been covered with a bucket. Players wind a cord, which is about 24” long, around their beigoma and then launch them onto the playing surface. Some beigoma enthusiasts add wax to their tops to make them more competitive. 

Perhaps you’re thinking of buying a beigoma to stock your stockings. Santa might have sent his elves to help, as Nissan Chuzousho, Ltd in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, is the last remaining beigoma factory. 


“Go fly a kite” doesn’t have the negative connotation today as it did in the past. It’s one of the healthier activities one can engage in during the pandemic. Kite sales have increased in Japan dramatically since the outbreak of the pandemic. 

Tako, or kites, have been around in Japan for quite a while, entering Japan from China during Japan’s Nara period in The 8Th century. Kites brought likely by Buddhist monks were used at religious festivals during that period. Later, during the Heian Period, aristocrats in the capital of Heian-kyö (present-day Kyöto) occupied their leisure time by writing poetry or playing the kaiawase game and flying kites. 

Kiteflies could be flown for prayers of good harvests and good health. Later, kites enjoyed Their height of popularity amongst The people of Edo (present-day Tökyö) during the 17th18Th centuries. This policy of isolation was initiated by the Tokugawa Shogunate at that point. Japan had to be isolated from all other countries, which enabled it to live in peace for 200 years.

The Samurai did not have to fight, and the townspeople were able to enjoy many other leisure activities like flying kites. Because kite flying was so popular among townspeople, the Edo Period Tokugawa Shogun prohibited it because it would take too much time. Another reason kite flying was banned was because of the possibility of kite battles. During kite battles, participants’ kites fell on the traveling samurai or daimyo — not a good thing at the time, given that samurai had the right to kill anyone at any time. Because of the disturbances that kites could cause, the shogun prohibited kite flying during Oshogatsu holidays. Kite flying has been associated with Oshogatsu as well as Boys Day in May.

Traditional construction WashiBamboo (Japanese Paper). You will find many different types of kites in Japan. There are many variations in the shape, size and construction of these kites. There were many shapes and sizes for kites, including rectangles and hexagons. This Edo-era inspired these attractive and colorful illustrations. UkiyoePrints include samurai and kabuki subjects. Some other features Daruma,Seven Gods refer to the seven gods who bring good fortune. sumöImages of strength, endurance and courage are represented by the crane, wrestlers, and carp. 

Tako. “kite”The Japanese gods were appeased or good harvests were prayed for by them. They later became popular amongst the people of Edo (present-day Tökyö) during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Kites can be more than a toy for kids. They focus on Japan’s many annual festivals. These festivals are most well-known: Shirone Kite Festival and Hamamatsu Kite Festival. Hamamatsu Festival (a three-day celebration held in May) has its roots in 16ThCentury at Hamamatsu Castle. The festival features the traditional kitefights that include kite fighting. Powdered glasses are used to line the strings of battle kites. Participants battle to sever each other’s kite strings to bring their opponent’s kites. Shirone’s festival battle features giant kites or ödakoThe kites are 23 feet wide by 16.5ft long and will require between 40-50 people to fly. A traditional kite, rather than one that Santa could fit on his sleigh for this Christmas, would make an interesting gift.


Plastic plate sashimi, haniwa figure eraser, plastic poop characters, a plastic garbage can, a cat with an octopus on its head, a plastic dried stingray, or, wait for it … underwear for drink bottles? Real underwear is another option. They aren’t what you might expect. “Christmassy” toys … but, they are trendy in Japan recently. 

You might be lucky enough to find these miniature toys from an auction. gazhaponMachine in Japan Gashapon gachaponThese machines are toy-capsule dispensers that let toys pop out. They are smaller than the Japanese food- and drink dispenser machines. These machines are smaller than the American gumball/toy machines. These capsule toys cost only 100-500yen instead of American capsule toys that are 75 cents each. They are called the name “Gashapon”It is actually a mixture of two Japanese onomatopoeic words. “gasha,”You hear the machine turning its dial. “pon”It is called the sound capsule breaking. Collecting capsule toys isn’t just for children. Gashapon toys, according to the New York Times, are becoming more popular, particularly among women, in recent years.”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener” href=”https://nytimes.com/2021/10/08/business/japan-capsule-toys-gachapon.html”>nytimes.com/2021/10/08/business/japan-capsule-toys-gachapon.html). 

Gashapon shop in Akihabara, Tökyö, Japan.

Gashapon toys are available for mature themes and are suitable only for adults. Although many toys are licensed characters from manga, anime or video games, the toys can be virtually anything — animals, historical figures, everyday items like air conditioners, kitchenware, food items, models of offices or stores and more. And some of these miniature plastic toys are limited edition collectors’ items that can be found on online auction sites for hundreds of dollars. 

As with many aspects Japanese culture, gashapon machine follow adapt, adapt, proficient patterns. The Japanese adapt something they see from other cultures, make their own adaptations, and finally, become adept at making it their own. 

KanjiBaseball is another example. Buddhism is one. The capsule vending machines from America were introduced to Japan in the 1960s. Ryuzo Shigeta is also called the “Grandfather of Gashapon,” put toys in plastic capsules and set up the first machine outside his shop in Tökyö. Today, gashapon can be found just about anywhere in Japan at airports, train stations, and stores, including the world’s largest gashapon store and Bandai Namco’s Gashapon Department store in Tökyö’s Ikebukuro, which houses 3,000 gashapon machines. This miniature toy can also be kept in a Christmas stocking.

Unfortunately, with the shuttering of Shirokiya’s Japan Village Walk, gashapon machines that thrilled many children here locally are no longer available. Amazon stocks a selection of replicas for gachapon toys that Santa may need.


Around World War II azuki beans weren’t just for shave ice and filling mochi.In the game of Bean Bags, the beans served as filling. otedama, a traditional Japanese bean bag game. Also known as Beanbags ojamiThey were once filled with scraps from cloth and silk from kimono. Later, the bags were filled with pebbles, beans and beans. These beans bags were useful in feeding children during World War II, when there was little food. Bean bags can be made in many different shapes including fruit, fish and pillows as well as balls. 

The game of otedama combines western jacks, juggling and combining them to create a combination that involves nine, seven, or five bean bags. Two types of otedama are available. NagedamaThis is similar to juggling but YosedamaIt’s more like a game called western jacks. One player will be seated on the ground with the bean bags in his/her hands. The bag can be thrown into the air using one hand. Next, the player grabs another bag to catch the first. The game continues until five bags are collected. Each round becomes more complicated. The five bags may need to be thrown into the air. You can then pick them up on your hands. Various ways of play and names existed depending on Japan’s region, and children often sang particular songs while playing.

Otedama, a Japanese traditional game that uses bean bags, is called Otedama. Bean bags (also called Ojami) were created from fabric scraps and filled with beans, beans or pebbles.

As for otedama’s history, it is speculated That The first bean bag game was invented by the Lydians around the 5thCentury BC. The Silk Road allowed it to spread across Asia, including China, India and Greece. It was popular in Japan, where it was used with pebbles and crystals during the Nara Period (710-814). Japan’s famed Prince Shotoku, regent in the Asuka Period (538-710), owned a game’s predecessor called “Ishina Otedama.” His collection of crystals is called Ishinatoridama and can be found today at the Tökyö Metropolitan Museum.” The artifact includes 16 crystal balls, amber and beans. It was originally called “Ishinatoridama” in its early days. “Ishinago”Or “Ishinango”Pebbles were used for the game. It was used by Kamakura period children. Hifu. During the Edo Period, people started using tiny pebbles to fill bean bags. Pebbles eventually gave way to beans. It was simple to make bean bags because there were few toys. This allowed the game to continue to be enjoyed well into post-World War II. The tradition of the bean bag game has been passed down from mothers and grandmothers to daughters, even though it is not as popular today. Otedama day is observed in Japan every September 20th. It’s especially well-liked in Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture. A large otedama tournament was first held in 1992. With the availability of instructional videos on YouTube, ojami can be easily made for a child’s Christmas stocking. 

Technology is a major part of Japanese culture today. manga anime. Nintendo Switch and toys that are related to this popular anime “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba,”These items are highly sought-after. Many other Japanese toys are available that I did not list. Daruma, and traditional Japanese toys, are also available. otoshiOder the more well-known kendama.You can also find modern options such as the Tamagotchi or Poppin Cookin models as well as Gundam kit kits. However, while these may undoubtedly be more edgy, exciting and fast-moving, it’s sometimes nice to take a break with simplicity. These toys and games don’t require a battery or charger. You can practice dexterity, agility and perseverance with these toys.

Japanese toys can be unique, and many are rich in tradition. These toys offer an enjoyable break from television screens. Do Japan’s pandemic restrictions prevent even Santa from entering the country?

Stacy Lee, a Punahou summer school tutor and an Asian History teacher. She is a lifelong Japanophile and devotee of author Natsume Söseki. Her years of living, studying and working in Japan have taken her from urban Tökyö to a traditional onsen inn in Kanazawa and made her an avowed fan of all types of Japanese cuisine.


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