• Kazuko Lillie

Game of Festivals! - Wasshoi Wednesday #9

We've talked about Japanese festivals (both famous and strange) and the delicious, beloved food you can find while there. To round out our matsuri posts, let's talk about games you're sure to find, regardless of what festival you attend. Readers will probably recognize these games from TV shows, movies, and even from past JapanFest's! They are just as much of a staple as wearing yukata or eating shaved ice, and can be enjoyed by all ages!

Goldfish Scooping (kingyo sukui )

In the market for a pet goldfish? Try looking for this stand at your next summer festival! You are handed a tool called "poi", which is a hoop with a thin piece of washi paper over it. The rule may seem simple; scoop as many of the goldfish into the bowl as you can, until the paper breaks. However, this paper breaks easily when wet, and it doesn't help that the goldfish keep moving around! How many fish will you be able to take home? Another popular variant of this game replaces the fish with colorful bouncy balls.

Yo-Yo Fishing (yo-yo tsuri )

If you've ever walked around a festival (or JapanFest) you've probably seen kids running around with colorful water balloons attached to long rubber bands. They won these from the yo-yo fishing booth! The balloons all float in a kiddie pool, and you are given a special fishing tool; a hook attached to a long strip of paper. If you can successfully hook the band of a water balloon and pull it out, it's yours! Be quick, though! The water balloons are heavy, and it makes fishing them out before the paper breaks tricky!

Ring Toss (wanage)

A universally popular game at matsuri and county fairs alike, the ring toss is always more challenging than it looks. Booth vendors get creative with their set up, ranging from the traditional wooden pegs to toys or action figures. If the set up is the latter, if you get your ring around any of the objects, you get to take those home! Rarer, more expensive toys will usually be placed at the back of the booth, so you have to decide if you want to buy enough for 3 rings or 5 rings!

Gun-shooting (shateki )

Don't worry, there are no real guns involved! These air rifles are similar to the ones found in carnival shooting ranges in America. Whatever toy you successfully shoot down is yours to keep! This is such a popular game for kids in Japan that they can be found outside of festivals. In hot spring resort towns, you can often find a shateki game in its own small building!

Have you ever played any of these festival games? We hope to have some of these back at JapanFest next year since we know these are loved by people of all ages!