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Hagoita-Ichi

Tokyo

A lively fair full of Edo sentiments, brightly coloring downtown Tokyo at the year-end

Senso-ji 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 Senso-ji Temple, some 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, 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 popular celebrities, TV personalities, athletes, and anime characters of 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.

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[Walk]About 5 minutes'walk from Asakusa Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line.

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