Temari (手まり?) balls are a folk art form that originated in China and was introduced to Japan around the 7th century A.D. "Temari" means "hand ball" in Japanese. Embroidered balls may be used in handball games.
Historically, temari were constructed from the remnants of old kimonos. Pieces of silk fabric would be wadded up to form a ball, and then the wad would be wrapped with strips of fabric. As time passed, traditional temari became an art, with the functional stitching becoming more decorative and detailed, until the balls displayed intricate embroidery. With the introduction of rubber to Japan, the balls went from toys to art objects, although mothers still make them for their children. Temari became an art and craft of the Japanese upper class and aristocracy, and noble women competed in creating increasingly beautiful and intricate objects.
Temari are highly valued and cherished gifts, symbolizing deep friendship and loyalty. Also, the brilliant colors and threads used are symbolic of wishing the recipient a brilliant and happy life. Traditionally, becoming a craftsman in Japan was a tedious process. Becoming a temari artist in Japan today requires specific training, and one must be tested on one's skills and technique before being acknowledged as a crafter of temari.
Traditionally, temari were often given to children from their parents on New Year's Day. Inside the tightly wrapped layers of each ball, the mother would have placed a small piece of paper with a goodwill wish for her child. The child would never be told what wish their mother had made while making the ball.
Alternately, some balls contained "noisemakers" consisting of rice grains or bells to add to the play value. It is said that traditional temari were wrapped so tightly they would bounce.
Temari are also known as "gotenmari."
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- Berken, Bernadette A. Ethnomathematics: Unlocking the Wonders of Mathematical Ideas. (PDF). pp. 14–15. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
- Vandervoort, Diana. "History of Temari". Retrieved 13 August 2012.
- "Item Introduction: Goten-mari (decorative silk thread balls) (Tsuruoka City)". Yamagata Prefectural Government. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
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