Battledore and shuttlecock is one of the traditional New Year game in Japan. I think that there are many people who have seen them in Japanese movies and animation. Battledore has been inherited as an auspicious game wishing for girl’s healthy growth and warding off disaster. We will introduce history, rules of battledore and practical information for those who want to buy battledore in Japan!

History of Battledore

Tracing back the history of battledore, it is said to be the roots of this game called ‘Giccho’, which hit wooden balls with a wand decorated with colored threads and who drives in the opponent’s position win. In this battledore, the ball has feathers which are attached to the Mukuroji tree seed and it is said that it became popular among the court nobles during Muromachi period and tournaments were held too.

After that, when it came to the Edo period, it was widely spread to the common people. It was said that at the end of the year, the battledore was given as a lucky charm to families with young girls, and since then, it is used to play during New Year. It is said to have a meaning as an amulet and warding off evil by putting on feathers while making ‘concon’ sound on New Year’s Day.

Tools used in battledore – Battledore and shuttlecock

A battledore (left side of the photo), which is like a racket made of rectangular plate with a handle and shuttlecock (right side of the photo) with a black ball attached is used in battledore. The black ball with feathers is made from a seed called Mukuroji, and Mukuroji when written in Kanji bear the meaning of “child does not suffer”.

There are 2 types of battledore: a simple plate without decoration for playing purpose and decorated plate that ‘bounce off evil’ which pray for the well being of girls. The latter, which is called Oshie Hagoita, is decorated as a lucky charm at store or other places.

Oshie Hagoita is made by putting cloth over cardboard and raising it with cotton, giving it a three dimensional feeling. In the Edo period, a padded cloth picture is attached onto battledore as a substitute for popular Kabuki actor’s photograph.

The Oshie Hagoita is made up of 3 pieces of board that stick together and on the reverse side is drawn with auspicious picture such as plum. Oshie Hagoita is a special product in Kasukabe city Saitama prefecture, and the craftsman of Oshie Hagoita still inherits the technique till today.

The battledore for playing purpose is about 1,000-2,000 Yen for one set that comes with shuttlecock and for Oshie Hagoita can range from 1,000 Yen to expensive one which is about 60,000 Yen.

Furthermore, there is Hagoita Ichi fair held yearly from 17th December to 19th December in the precinct of Sensoji temple. There are dozens of shops selling Oshie Hagoita and many tourists visit in search for battledore. Images such as TV star’s portraits, topic of the year or a subject based on certain people can be seen.

How to play battledore

There are 2 types; ‘chasing shuttlecock’ which is played by 2 people facing each other and ‘lifting shuttlecock’ which compete the number of times a person can lift the shuttlecock. For chasing shuttlecock, the person who dropped the shuttlecock is painted with black ink on the face. It is said that it has the meaning as an amulet when paint with black.

Method of chasing shuttlecock

  1. Each person holds a battledore and faces each other
  2. Hit the first blow and the other person hit it back
  3. Continue to do so until either one drops the shuttlecock to the ground
  4. The person who drops the shuttlecock is painted with black ink on the face

Method of lifting shuttlecock

  1. Hold the battledore and shuttlecock.
  2. Count how many times the shuttlecock can be lifted without dropping down. Depending on region, it is also possible to accompany with a song when playing alone.

You can enjoy it easily as long there is battledore and shuttlecock. Try it out even it is not on New Year’s Day!