Get to know traditional Japanese toys!

Japan is known as a video game superpower, but the country also has many interesting old-fashioned toys that are very Japanese. Traditional toys that Japanese children grew up with have unique appearances, so they are also perfect as a souvenir too!

The good old Japanese toys made of wood, bamboo, or Japanese paper are characterized by a gentle and rustic texture that embodies the country with its rich nature. Featuring meticulous details and requiring a bit of skill to play, they are a wonderful way for experiencing the dexterity of Japanese people. From countless traditional toys, we have picked out two popular toys that are not only fun, but also leave a strong impression and are recommended as a souvenir.

The first one is Kendama. Many of you may already know it, as Kendama performers are famous not only in Japan but also overseas. You can play it in various ways, such as catching the wooden ball, which is attached to one end of the string, on the spike or on one of the cups of different sizes. It seems simple, but there are so many different tricks, such as pulling the ball high up in the air or catching the ball consecutively, so you can improve your dexterity and sense of balance while having fun. Learning advanced techniques enables you to execute acrobatic tricks, so it has also been gaining popularity as street performance.

In Japan, Kendama is recognized as one of Japan’s traditional toys, but it actually originated in France in the 16th century. Although there are different theories, it is said to have come to Japan during the 18th century. Back then, it was a toy to simply put the ball into an actual “cup,” but it gradually changed with the times into this familiar shape. Do you have a similar toy in your country?

Performers show their amazing skills on social media such as YouTube, so let’s practice by emulating them! Senbiki Kendama (Medium) / Tax-free price ¥1,700

The other one is “Daruma Otoshi” which has a unique, eye-catching shape. “Daruma” is a doll created based on Bodhidharma, a monk who transmitted Buddhism from India to China. It is rooted in Japanese culture as a charm used for wishing for achievement of goals or for dreams to come true. It consists of several wood blocks and one block with Daruma’s face on it. When you play, you first stack the wood blocks, then place the “face” block on top. Next, you knock the wood blocks away one by one until only the face block remains, without the blocks collapsing. It is said that, if you succeed, you can avoid misfortunes throughout the year, so people enjoy it as New Year’s fun for good luck. You could try your luck, or you could enjoy it with others like a Japanese version of Jenga. With its colorful blocks and iconic look, it is perfect as a souvenir as well as a decoration.

Both of these toys are available at Fa-So-La AKIHABARA, so why not pick them up as a souvenir for experiencing Japanese culture?

(Information as of July 2023)