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Traditional Japanese Games: Hanetsuki

It's time for another post in the traditional Japanese games series, this time about hanetsuki. Originating in China, hanetsuki originally served as a rite during exorcisms, becoming a game for girls during the Muromachi period (1333-1568). It was often played at the New Year, using a hagoita (decorated wooden battledore) and a brightly-coloured hane (a shuttlecock made from a hard soapberry and a few feathers) and could be played by one or more players. It was similar to badminton, but without the use of a net, and playing it was said to protect against mosquitos. The aim of the game was to bat the hane back and forth between the players as many times as possible without it touching the ground, or for the single player to keep the hane aloft all by herself, with the amount of protection received for the coming year increasing the longer the hane remained in the air. The player who dropped the hane received a daub of black ink to her face. 

Young women playing hanetsuki, hand-coloured albumen photo by Kusakabe Kimbei, c. 1880s.

Children playing hanetsuki from the album Kodomo-asobi gajo (Children's Games), by Kobayashi Eitaku, published 1888.

Young woman playing hanetsuki, from the series Bijin jūni-sugata (Twelve Portraits of Beauties), by Migita Toshihide (1863-1925), 1901.