Summer in Japan becomes much more than just a hot season thanks to a variety of cultural activities. One of them is playing traditional games with friends and family at a summer festival. These Japanese festival games aren’t just fun things to do at summer festivals, but also some of the best childhood memories for some Japanese people.
After visiting a Japanese yatai (food stall) for festive food and before enjoying the fireworks, it’s time to enjoy some games. Let’s explore some Japanese festival games – another specialty of the Japanese summer festival!
This is one of the most typical games at summer festivals in Japan. It’s a simple game of catching goldfish that are released into a tank with a paper racket that is easy to tear apart. Because the racket is made of paper, it gets wet when immersed in water and tears immediately if there’s a strong impact.
So, although it seems easy, it actually takes a bit of skill and technique to catch the fish. As this is a difficult game for children, some kind shop owners still give goldfish to the children to bring back even if they can’t catch anything.
This game has been around for a long time, but there are other games even older than it. Check out these traditional Japanese games to learn about more classic games!
Super balls are rubber balls with great elasticity and bounce that are put into a water tank. Bouncing balls are also a common game in Japanese summer festivals. Similar to the goldfish scooping game, players have to use a paper racket to pick the balls up.
Some people even use blowers to make the balls float around in the water to increase the difficulty. This is also a popular game in summer festivals for children since they’re excited by the colorful balls floating in the water.
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In this game, a deep water tank is prepared with a bowl or plate at the bottom. The players compete by dropping the coins into the bowl to see who has more coins landed right in the bowl. The game’s difficulty can be adjusted by choosing different sizes of bowls or placing them in different depths of the tank. The smaller the bowl and the deeper, the harder it gets.
Ring toss is a game where players toss rings to the prize you want to get. The prizes are usually presented in numbers attached to each pillar fixed on the floor. It’s a bit tricky, but you usually get around three to five chances to challenge your luck!
Shooting is a game that uses an air gun with paper button bullets to shoot down prizes. The player will try to shoot down children’s toys, candies, or sometimes even jewelry, and receive the item they shoot down as a reward. At the festival, the shooting games corner is often the most exciting and crowded place as people compete to see who’s the better shot or hunt down targets as gifts for each other.
Yo-yo, in this case, refers to a small rubber ball-like balloon that contains water and air inside. One end of the ball is tied with a string, and the other end has holes to slip onto the finger, or for this game, to fish. At summer festivals, you can often buy a yo-yo directly or play the yoyo fishing games instead.
In the game, yo-yos are placed into a water tank. The player uses a W-shaped paper band to fish up and “catch” one of the yo-yos. Coming to a Japanese natsu matsuri (summer festival), you’ll see a lot of people, especially children wearing eye-catchingly colorful yo-yo balls.
Katanuki is a game that uses a rectangular candy mold made of sugar, flour, and a pre-shaped mold that forms shapes, such as animals, stars, trees, flowers, and more. The player uses a needle to engrave the outline on that mold and separate the shape from the mold. Although it’s made of sugar and flour, the candy mold is not used for eating but for playing, and it’s pretty easy to crack, so players have to be very careful.
In addition to Japanese festivals, Katanuki can be bought at small snack shops, but it’s quite rare these days. If you’ve ever watched Squid Game – a Korean survival drama on Netflix – you can imagine how hard the game is – even for adults!
Does your country have similar games to these Japanese festival games? Share your most fun childhood game in the comments below!
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