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Two women in yukata playing the yoyo tsuri game, which is as popular as the ring toss game.
Two women in yukata playing the yoyo tsuri game, which is as popular as the ring toss game.

Ring Toss Game and Other Great Matsuri Activities!

Thuy FangThuy Fang
Published Time
Posted on July 03, 2024
Modified Time
Updated last July 17, 2024

Summer in Japan is bustling with traditional cultural festivals, fireworks shows, and incredibly vibrant natsu matsuri (summer festivals). While there, you might find yourself spending hours in the maze of these fun activities! Let’s explore some popular games you shouldn’t miss at any Japanese festival, starting with the ring toss game!

Ring Toss Game

The ring toss game, known as wanage, is a fun and challenging activity that you’ll often find at any festival in Japan. In the ring toss game, players aim to toss rings over various pegs or quirky objects, such as bottles of ramune (Japanese lemonade soda) and tonkatsu sauce. Players typically get three to five chances to test their luck and aim for their desired prizes. The prizes are usually associated with different numbers or points, making it tricky but exciting.

A person throwing a ring the ring toss game.
The ring toss game is popular worldwide! Image via Shutterstock

Wanage originated in old Japan, where it was played with wooden rings and a tubular wooden stand. This game was popular during the late Meiji period and was similar to the Western game of horseshoe tossing. Traditionally, the rings were made of rope, but they evolved to be more uniform for better gameplay. 

This game is always a highlight among the mini-play game shops at Japanese festivals. The joy of playing a ring toss game lies in its combination of skill and luck, making every throw a thrilling experience.

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Goldfish Scooping

Goldfish scooping, or kingyo sukui, is a beloved and iconic festival game throughout Japan. You’ll see large pools with lively goldfish and players using fragile paper scoops called poi. The goal is to catch as many goldfish as possible before the paper net breaks.

A bunch of people playing the goldfish scooping game.
If you catch a fish, you can take it home! Image via Shutterstock

Originating in traditional Japanese festivals, kingyo sukui has been a favorite pastime for children and adults for many years. The thin paper nets dissolve when they touch the water, making the game especially tricky. The goldfish darting around also adds to the difficulty, requiring players to use skill and patience to catch them. 

There are different types of goldfish scooping games. Some use real goldfish, while others might have fake fish in the water. Regardless of the variation, the core of the game remains the same: using a thin paper scoop to catch the slippery and quick-moving fish. Successful players get to take home the goldfish they catch, bringing more happiness to the fun.

Target Practice

Target practice (shooting), or shateki in Japanese, is a thrilling game that offers excitement and skill-testing challenges. Players use toy rifles to aim and shoot soft cork bullets at prizes strategically placed throughout the booth. Safety is always a priority, ensuring everyone can enjoy the game safely. 

A woman at the target practice game at a matsuri. It's as popular as the ring toss game.
Be careful where you point your tour rifle! Image via Shutterstock

What makes shateki exciting is its variety of prizes and inventive setups. Prizes can be suspended by strings, delicately balanced, or cleverly hidden behind obstacles, adding a twist to the shooting experience. Participants aim to knock down their chosen prize–usually a stuffed animal, toy, or snack–to win it. The target practice area is usually lively at every event as people compete to show off their marksmanship.

Super Ball Scooping

This enjoyable game is similar to goldfish scooping but with a twist. Players use a sturdy scooper with a thin paper net to catch as many rubber balls as possible before the paper tears. It’s all about skill and strategy because the balls can bounce and roll, making them hard to capture. Some game booths use blowers to keep the balls floating and moving in the water to enhance the difficulty and fun.

A hand scooping up super balls in water.
How many super balls can you pick up in a short amount of time! Image via Shutterstock

The super ball scooping area is often bustling, with children and families eager to test their skills. Furthermore, prizes are also awarded based on the number of balls scooped, making the game even more rewarding. Plus, you can take home the super balls you’ve scooped yourself.

Yo-Yo Fishing 

Yo-yo fishing, or yo-yo tsuri, is a pleasant game at natsu matsuri. Players fish for small water balloons using a delicate paper string with a hook. The balloons are filled with water and air and have rubber strings with loops to bounce like yo-yos. These colorful balloons float in a water tank, creating a lively atmosphere.

Two women in yukata playing yoyo tsuri.
You have to fish for balloons with a hook! Image via Shutterstock

The game requires players to use a fishing pole with a paper string and a metal hook to catch the water balloons. The challenge comes from the fact that the paper string easily breaks when wet, so players must be quick and careful to hook the balloon and lift it out of the water without breaking the string. At natsu matsuri, yo-yo fishing is not just about the game but also the joy of winning a lovely and bouncy prize.

Why should I try fun matsuri activities like the ring toss game?

Trying interesting matsuri games adds joy and excitement to any festival experience. These traditional games blend skill and luck, making every attempt thrilling and rewarding. Whether aiming for prizes or simply enjoying the challenge, these activities will create memorable moments for everyone. Have you ever tried the ring toss game or any other matsuri activities? Share your favorite festival memories with us below!

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