Japanese toys come out to play in exhibition of children’s games

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Japanese toys come out to play in exhibition of children’s games

Do you ever wonder what children did to pass the time before PlayStations were invented? In Japan, simple games such as origami (paper-folding), kite-flying or menko (a game of throwing playing cards to try and flip your opponent’s cards over) have long entertained the young and old alike.
In the exhibition, “The Japanese Toys: Traditional and Contemporary”, at the Japanese Cultural Center in Jongno-gu, until Dec. 14, traditional toys from the Edo period (1603-1868) and modern games and dolls, such as Ricca-chan, are on display.
“By looking at the displays, we hope that people will get a chance to see the process of how Japanese toys evolved throughout the years. Especially for Koreans who grew up during the ’70s and ’80s like myself, this will be a nostalgic experience, as many of the Japanese games on display, such as menko or koma [spinning a wooden top with a string and trying to knock over your opponent’s top], were widely popular in Korea as well,” said Kong Jang-won, a manager of the Cultural Exchange Team at the center.
Sponsored and organized by The Japan Foundation and the Embassy of Japan in Korea, “The Japanese Toys: Traditional and Contemporary” is a touring exhibition which has already been shown across the country, arriving in Seoul this month.
Among other toys featured are intricately-made kites, traditional Japanese masks of cats, clowns and figures from Japanese folk tales, and masks of Pokemon and Hello Kitty.
One game at the exhibition still played by adults in Korea is karuta, which uses Japanese playing cards with poems and pictures of nature on them. It’s somehwhat like snap.
Some of the most visually stimulating pieces are the hanetsuki, a popular game, especially among Japanese girls. Hanetsuki is similar to badminton, but can be played alone, using a wooden board with a handle called a hagoita and a shuttlecock made of seeds and feathers. The hagoitas on display have figures such as samurai and geisha woven into them.


“The Japanese Toys: Traditional and Contemporary” runs until Dec. 14 at the Japanese Culture Center in Jongno-gu (Anguk station, line No. 3, exit 4), from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (02) 765-3011 or visit www.kr.emb-japan.go.jp for details.


by Cho Jae-eun

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