The first evidence of kemari is from 644 AD. The rules were standardized from the 13th century. It was the first Japanese sport to become highly developed. The game was influenced by the Chinese sport of Cuju. The characters for Kemari are the same as Cuju in Chinese. The sport was introduced to Japan about 600, during the Asuka period. Nowadays, it is played in Shinto shrines for festivals.
It is a non-competitive sport. The object of Kemari is to keep one ball in the air, with all players cooperating to do so. Players may use any body part with the exception of arms and hands – their head, feet, knees, back, and depending on the rules, elbows to keep the ball aloft. The ball, known as a Mari, is made of deerskin with the hair facing inside and the hide on the outside. The ball is stuffed with barley grains to give it shape. When the hide has set in this shape, the grains are removed from the ball, and it is then sewn together using the skin of a horse. The one who kicks the ball is called a mariashi. A good mariashi makes it easy for the receiver to control the mari, and serves it with a soft touch to make it easy to keep the mari in the air.
Kemari is played on a flat ground, about 6–7 meters squared. The uniforms that the players wear are reminiscent of the clothes of the Asuka age and include a crow hat. This type of clothing was called kariginu and it was fashionable at that time.
- InuYasha mentions that he played Kemari when he was little in the third movie, Swords of an Honorable Ruler.
- In the Samurai Warriors series from Koei, Imagawa Yoshimoto uses a Mari as a weapon along with his Nodachi.
- In the anime and manga Soul Eater, Tsubaki reminisces about playing Kemari with her older brother when they were little, despite her being bad at the game.
- In the anime Ouran Highschool Host Club, episode 14, "Covering The Famous Host Club" Tamaki and the twins, Hikaru and Kaoru, play kemari. Hikaru aims to kick the Mari toward Tamaki but sends it toward the heroine, Haruhi who is relaxing in the courtyard. Tamaki rushes over to protect Haruhi.
- In the anime Inazuma eleven go chrono stone episode 15, Kemari is played in soccer style.
- In the anime Garo: Guren no Tsuki episode 11, the ball is used as a murder weapon by a Horror.
- Allen Guttmann, Lee Austin Thompson (2001). Japanese sports: a history. University of Hawaii Press. p. 307. ISBN 9780824824648. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
- Witzig, Richard (2006). The Global Art of Soccer. CusiBoy Publishing. p. 5. ISBN 9780977668809. Retrieved 2010-07-08.
- "History of Football". FIFA. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
- Wines, Michael (1992-01-07). "On Japan Leg of Journey, Bush's Stakes Are High". The New York Times.
- Wines, Michael (1992-01-08). "Japanese Visit, on the Surface: Jovial Bush, Friendly Crowds". The New York Times.
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