Hagoita Fair at Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa
« Toshi-no-ichi (Hagoita-ichi) »
17 – 19 December 2018
Hagoita-ichi is an annual fair of hagoita or elaborately decorated battledores. The lively fair will take place just before New Year at Senso-ji Temple, full of stalls selling them.
It will be a wonderful occasion to feel winter in Tokyo and to have a glimpse of a tradition dating to the Edo period.
Hane-tsuki is a Japanese badminton-like game with paddles, which goes back probably to the medieval period. It later became a game to be played during o-shogatsu or New Year’s celebration in the beginning of January.
The hagoita paddle also used to be a gift to a baby girl, as a charm to cast off evils and pray for her good health.
As such battledores bear paintings of auspicious designs and motifs. Later during the Edo period, elaborate collage of paper and cloths was applied on the surface, depicting, like ukiyo-e painting, popular kabuki actors. It became a blockbuster success among the towners of Edo (pre-modern Tokyo).
Such paddles are not really battledores, but a canvas of pop art and works of craft, to be displayed on New Year’s Day at home and other places.
The fair at Senso-ji Temple
At Senso-ji Temple, the 18th day of every month is the day of fair and worship of Kannon (Avalokitesvara or the Buddha of Compassion), its main deity.
The temple fair held on 17 and 18 December is also the end-of-the-year fair (“toshi-no-ichi”). Already in the Edo period, the fair attracted crowds of people, initially with stalls selling items to prepare for the New Year’s celebration.
But the shopping for New Year became possible elsewhere at shops across town. Meanwhile, toward the end of the Edo period, the battledores with renditions of kabuki actors became extremely popular.
So the temple fair eventually came to focus on hagoita as its main merchandise.
The end-of-the-year Hatagoya Fair 2018 at Asakusa
Today a variety of elaborate battledores and colourful shuttlecocks will be on sale at a number of stalls set up inside Senso-ji Temple during the three-day fair.
Apart from kabuki actors and the Edo-style beauties, some works depict celebrities and also caricature political and other incidents most impressive of the year.
The fair will take place around the Five-storied Pagoda, attracting people who will pack Nakamise-dori (the main approach to the temple) to the inner precincts of Senso-ji Temple.
It is hard to visit the fair without feeling a joyous, ebullient atmosphere. Witness lively interactions between vendors and buyers, and the rhythmic clapping of hands called “sambon-jime” when the deal is done.
If you happen to purchase a hagoita battledore by yourself, you may also like to drop by the nearby amusement park “Asakusa Hanayashiki”. The admission will be free with the purchased hagoita (rides and attractions fees extra).
Read a related article: NYE at Asakusa Hanayashiki
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