A lively fair brightly coloring Asakusa at the year-end

PHOTO: The Japan News/ANN

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/)

Hagoita-Ichi

Place: Sensoji temple in Taito Ward, Tokyo

Dates: Dec. 17-19Speech

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