Japanese playings for New Year’s Holidays

日本の正月(しょうがつ): Japanese New Year's Day

※「謹賀新年(Kinga-shinnen)」means “We celebrate the coming of New Year respectfully”. We use it for the higher ranking or superior, senior persons.

Japanese article is here; https://japaneselanguagesalonbymikapanda.com/the-playing-of-japanese-new-years-holidays-1275

Japanese children’s song「お正月(Osyougatsu;New Year’s Holidays)」

Hello everyone! This is MIKA.

Finally it’s New Year’s Eve today, how are you doing?

By the way, the movie upside here is playing “Osyougatsu”, “New Year’s Holidays”, one of the Japanese children’s songs with a piano.

Its words of song means “We hope the coming of Oshougatsu, and want to enjoy the playing of Osyougatsu”. However, the words of the song has been holding a copyright, that’s why I’ve introduced you only the melody.

If you want to know its words of the song, search 「お正月(しょうがつ)」on YouTube to find the movie with it.

And there are 4 playings for New Year’s Holidays; “Tako-age”, “Koma-mawashi”, “Mari-tsuki” and “Hane-tsuki”.

So this time, I’ll show you these 4 playings for New Year’s Holidays and others!

4 playings for New Year’s Holidays in “Oshougatsu”



First, there is the word “Tako-age” in “Osyougatu”. And “Tako” means Japanese kite.

A kite had been used in ancient China for a fortune telling and a war.

After it had come to Japan, it had become the playing for the nobility in Heian era【794~1192】. But in Sengoku era【1467~1600】, it had been used as a weapon to set fire to the enemy’s camp.

And in peaceful Edo era【1603~1868】, it had become established as the playing for ordinary people. Because people played it especially for the celebration for the birth of boys, it was believed that “The higher the kite goes on, the more the boy grows up healthy”.

Contemporary children play the kites which has been drown the characters enjoyably.


Second one is “Koma”, the ancestor of “Beyblade”, surprisingly its birthplace is ancient Egipt!!

It had come to Nara era【710~794】, and we spin it with hand or round a rope on it to spin for playing.

If I had to say, it’s the mainstream to round a rope on “Koma” to spin it as the upside movie.

Like as this illustration, 2 persons spin “Koma”, and loser is whose “Koma” will be stopped earlier.

Additionally, like as the last part of the movie, “Koma” is sometiomes used as a tool for a performance.


Third one is “Mari-tsuki”. “Mari” is the ball which had come from the ancient China to Japan in Nara era【710~794】.

In Heian era【794~1192】, the nobilities used it to play “Kemari”, the sport like a soccer. However, in Edo era【1603~1868】, it had been established the tool to play for girls.

“Mari” is also artistic works made by an embroidery.

Then, “Temari-uta”, the songs for playing “Temari” had been born in Edo era to Meiji era【1868~1912】. We can say「あんたがたどこさ(Antagata-dokosa)」is a synonym of it.

In addition, this song which had been used in “Crossroad in the Ancient Capital”, the 7th movie of “Detective Conan” and Kazuha Touyama as a child sings this song and plays “Temari”. However, this song is to just remember the name of roads in Kyoto, not a “Temari-uta”.


Forth one is “Hane-tsuki”, a battledore, this is a playing like a badminton. In the song “Osyougatsu”, songer says “Oibane”, but it’s a same thing.

“Hane-tsuki” is a playing to hit a shuttlecock which is made by a black ball and colored feathers of a bird.

Its black ball is a seed of “無患子(Mukuroji)”, kind of a plant. And “Mukuroji” means “Children never be sick” in Kanji, so it had become the playing to wish children’s health.

And then, the fethers of its shuttlecock is made by a bird, the look of it flies is similar to flying dragonfly.

A dragonfly is beneficial insect to eat a mosquito which is tought as a noxious insect. That’s why “Hane-tsuki” is also the playing which has the meaning of a warding off evils.

The other playings which are not in “Osyougatsu”

“Karuta” and “Hyakunin-issyu”

The origin of “Karuta” is “Carta”, the portuguese word which means “A card”.

“Karuta” has picture cards and cards to be read. The reader reads a sentence of a card to be read, and participants touch fast to take the picture card which is corresponding the card to be read. The winner is the person which has the most numerous cards.

At present, there are many “Karuta” made with some kinds of characters in 「あいうえお」 order; However, the origin of “Karuta” is “Iroha-karuta”, which had been born in the middle of Edo era【1603~1868】.

“Iroha” is “Iroha-song”, it was made to remember Japanese characters instead of 「あいうえお」. And “Iroha-karuta” is based on Japanese proverbs to make children learn.

For example, this is the picture card of 「馬(うま)の耳(みみ)に念仏(ねんぶつ)」, “Uma-no-mimi-ni-nembutsu”, preaching to the deaf.

This proverb means “It’s meaningless to tell Buddhist invocation for a hourse”. In other words, “It’s wasteful”.

And then, the kind of “Karuta” which is based on 100 Japanese old style poems by “Ogura-hyakunin-issyu” is called “Hyakunin-issyu”.

When we play it, putting 100 cards to pick up, not picture cards. Moreover, a card to pick up is written only the latter half of the poem! It means that it’s advantageous to remember all of 100 poems perfectly and touch the card while a reader is reading the first half of the poem.

Because the children in this movie remember all of 100 poems of “Hyakunin-issyu”, they can take the card while a reader is reading the first half of the poem.


“Fuku-warai” is the playing to put some parts of the face; eyes, a nose, a mouth and something on the contour of the face with a blindfold.

Because of a blindfold, usually it will be funny done. In Japan, we have the proverb 「笑(わら)う門(かど)には福(ふく)来(きた)る」(Warau-kado-ni-wa-fuku-kitaru), it means “Good luck is coming to people who is laughing”; that’s why we play it.


Most people think the origin of “Ken-dama” is Japan, but in fact, its root hasn’t been cleared yet.

There is the record that adults were playing it with the rule to drink an alcohol if anyone lose in Edo era【1603~1868】,however, present style of “Ken-dama” has been completed in Taisyo era【1912~1926】. And after the WW2, it had become a popular trend among children.



“Daruma-otoshi” is the game to continue to strike all of layers under “Daruma”, the red doll by a small mallet, but never to knock down “Daruma”.

To begin with, “Daruma” is one of Japanese bringers of good luck and removers evils, but it has only one eye when we buy it. And if the person who bought “Daruma” fulfill a wish of that year, he or she can drow the another eye of “Daruma”.

And the model of “Daruma” is 「菩提(ぼだい)達磨(だるま)」(Bodai-daruma), he was not only a Buddhist priest but also the founder of Zen-Buddhism in China.

In addition, Japanese call a snowman as “Yuki(Snow)-daruma”.

Final comment

How was it?

Now children are absorbed in digital games. However, New Year’s Holidays are the term to have a pleasures of a happy home with relatives, so we need the playings to enjoy with adults and siniors.

Above all, they are the part of important Japanese cultures, so we should make efforts to hand them down to posterity!

Because of that, I’ll do my best when we play “Hyakunin-issyu” at my father’s home!

Finally, please tell me if there are any playings or customs in New Year’s Holidays in your country!