Sensoji temple in Asakusa is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Tokyo.
The Hagoita-Ichi (Battledore Fair) is an annual fair held in its precincts at the end of the year.
Near the Hondo or main hall of Sensoji temple, about 50 open-air stalls selling hagoita (battledores), shuttlecocks, kites and other New Year decorations stand huddled together, and numerous people gather here from all over the country.
This is a traditional fair dating back to the Edo period (1603-1867), but it was apparently only after World War II that the name Hagoita-Ichi became popular.
A hagoita is a rectangular board with a handle used for playing a New Year game called hanetsuki.
It is perhaps best described as a kind of game hitting badminton shuttlecocks with large ping-pong rackets. The hagoita sold at Hagoita-Ichi, however, are not for practical use; they are, in fact, good-luck charms for ornamental purposes, for they are decorated with gorgeous pictures and accessories.
The front of the hagoita is designed with images of elegantly made-up kabuki actors, or celebrities, TV personalities, athletes, and anime characters popular in the year.
Here, too, as in the Tori-no-Ichi held at shrines all over Tokyo in November, it is common practice for the sellers and buyers to clap their hands rhythmically in harmony with one another when a battledore is sold.
There's no need to feel embarrassed. Just add a little lively shouting as you join in the clapping.
(Information from the Japan National Tourism Organisation website: www.jnto.go.jp/)
Place: Sensoji temple in Taito Ward, Tokyo
Dates: Dec. 17-19Speech