Hagoita (羽子板 ｢はごいた｣) are the large wooden rectangular paddles made of soapberry seeds and bird feathers that used to play traditional Japanese pastime called hanetsuki during the New Year. The paddles are decorated with various images, sometimes executed in relief, of girls in kimonos, kabuki actors, and so on. Japanese people think playing the hanetsuki is adequate to drive away evil spirits because the movement of hagoita is similar to the harau action (a Japanese expression meaning “to drive away”). Thus playing hanetsuki with hagoita is often used as a charm against evil.
Hagoita were introduced into Japan during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) from Ming dynasty China. In the Edo period (1603-1868), oshie-hagoita were designed with images of elegantly made-up kabuki actors (oshie meaning raised cloth pictures). They were made using washi or cloth cut out in the shape of flowers and people and pasted onto the paddle stuffed with cotton to give them a three-dimensional appearance. Over time, hagoita were not only used as game equipment but also as popular collectibles. During the Edo and Meiji period, many different kinds appeared; some high-quality paddles even used gold leaf and silver foil. With the industrial revolution, improved manufacturing technology promoted the development of hagoita. Also, among farmers, producing hagoita was a popular off-season side business.
After World War 2, hagoita became popular decorations and souvenirs for locals and tourists. In the present, hagoita are not limited to featuring portraits of kabuki actors but also depict movie and TV stars and famous athletes. For 350 years, the annual hagoita market has been held at the Sensō-ji temple in Tokyo. Operating from December 17 to 19, it attracts a large number of customers and also marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new.
- "Hagoita Paddle". Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO). (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- "Traditional Japanese Toys". Web Japan. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- "Hagoita and Hane (Paddle and Shuttle) 羽子板". Nippon-Kichi. February 16, 2007. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
- "Hagoita Market". Web Japan. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2019.
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