【Culture】Traditional wooden toys are simple but well-designed and warm2015.06.30


Simple but sturdy and well-designed. No battery but some skill required. Many of Japanese traditional toys are made of wood as the people like its warm feeling since olden days. Some crafted toys of artistic value can be enjoyed as a kind of ornaments. Although nothing beats video games in terms of the popularity among today’s kids in Japan, time-honored wooden toys are still loved by both children and grown-ups who appreciate something classical.

Kendama” is the most well-known Japanese toy with promotion associations operating in Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.A. It consists of a hand grip “ken” and a ball “tama” connected by a string. “Ken” has three different sizes of cups and a tip. Players try to catch the ball in the cups and on the tip. There are more than 1,000 “kendama” techniques. Players can attain different grades of excellence, depending on performance skills. It was in 1919 that the current form of “kendama” became available in Japan.

Daruma otoshi” is also a classic wooden toy, which comes with a top doll, five or so colored disks and a hammer. Players hit each of the stacked disks from bottom with the hammer without letting them fall. If successfully hit, the top with a painting of a bearded man “daruma” will remain.

Koma” or spinning top is one of the most familiar traditional toys in Japan. There are many kinds of “koma” that developed in each region of the country. But it is typically divided into two groups – those spun by hand or with a string. Some of the carefully-designed tops change their colors when spinning.

Other traditional wooden toys include “hanetsuki” and “taketonbo.” “Hanetsuki” is similar to badminton, using a wooden paddle “hagoita” and a shuttlecock. The one who fails to hit the shuttlecock will get marked with black ink on his or her face. This may be a familiar scene in Japanese animated TV programs such as “Doraemon.” “Taketonbo” is a T-shaped flying toy made of bamboo.