Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

At New Year’s Japan Breaks Out the Paddles – Hagoita Ichi

At New Year’s Japan Breaks Out the Paddles
Traditional game paddle hagoita is decorated with kabuki actors, geisha, and celebrities


A market stall brimming with traditional Hagoita paddles

The Annual Hagoita Ichi Fair is held in Asakusa, Tokyo close to the New Year. Around the temple grounds of Senso-ji Temple dozens of market stalls are set up to display and sell their decorative hagoita. Hagoita in English is known as Battledore but this word doesn’t really help many people understand what a hagoita is either. It’s best to say that a hagoita is a wooden paddle or racket.


A Hagoita salesman peddling his wares

In the past, hagoita were used in the game hanetsuki which was similar to badminton. The game was played by girls around New Year’s. If a girl missed the shuttlecock (called a hane), her face would be smeared with ink. The game would go on until one girl’s face was covered with ink.


Hagoita paddles with modern cute characters

Hanetsuki also served as a ritual bestowing health upon the players and providing protection from mosquitoes. Because of this belief, the traditional present to a newborn baby girl is a hagoita which is seen as a good luck charm to protect the health of girls.


Anime characters from the past to the near present

Although hanetsuki declined in popularity, the hagoita became popular in their own right as ornamental pieces. In the Edo Period (1615-1867) decorative hagoita paddles were sold at traditional fairs known as hagoita ichi. Hagoita are decorated with portraits printed on fabric and pasted to a paddle in order to make them protrude like a relief.


Geisha have always been popular Hagoita designs

Hagoita range in all sizes from small hand-size ones to gargantuan ones nearly the size of a person. Hagoita run from about 500 yen (US$5) to 500,000 yen ($5000) for the extremely large ones.


Hagoita depicting popular Kabuki Characters

Popular Kabuki characters or actors are the traditional hagoita portrait along with Geisha. Some hagoita portray scenes from well-known Kabuki plays such as the Atsumori incident which occurred during the Gempei War (1180-1185).


Atsumori and Kumagai – two famous figures from Japanese history

Atsumori is a famous incident from the epic “Heike Monogatari” which tells of the war between the Genji and the Heike clans. At the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani, a Genji samurai known as Kumagai captured the young and elegant Heike warrior Atsumori. Taking in account the boy’s youth and having recently almost lost a son of the same age, the Kumagai wanted to release the boy but there were too many Genji warriors about. The boy’s fate was sealed either way.

Kumagai took the youth’s head humanely with dignity and respect. Kumagai shortly left the life of a samurai and retired to become a monk. The story of the incident has been popularized in Noh and Kabuki plays. At the Hagoita Ichi, one can find many hagoita paddles of all different sizes depicting this scene.


Two hagoita paddles portray a famous woodblock print of a Kabuki actor by Sharaku

Nowadays, Kabuki hagoita paddles will find themselves next to Hello, Kitty! hagoita along other new popular themes such as anime characters, sumo wrestlers, baseball players, and TV stars.


Modern Celebrities adorning Hagoita


A saleswoman standing amongst her hagoita

December 16, 2008 Posted by | art, Asakusa, hagoita, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, New Years, tokyo, traditional art, travel | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hot Wet Sexy Japanese Samba Video

Hot Wet Sexy Japanese Samba Video

Highlights from the 2008 Asakusa Samba Carnival in Tokyo.

The event started off hot and sweaty then the clouds opened up and the rain poured down. The samba performers kept going though they were soaked to the bone. The Samba girls looked none the worse for it though.

September 6, 2008 Posted by | Asakusa, Blogroll, brazil, culture, dance, entertainment, festival, japan, japanese culture, life, samba, sexy, tokyo, travel, video, youtube | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Wet Sexy Japanese Samba!!!

Rain makes for Slippery Samba in Tokyo
Tokyo’s Asakusa Samba Carnival dances on despite showers


A Rain-soaked Samba Dancer defies downpour

Tokyo’s traditional Asakusa district once more swayed and bopped to the exotic strains of Brazilian samba music. Asakusa’s annual Samba Carnival festival took place this past Saturday, August 30th. Asakusa has been holding this event on the last Saturday of August for over twenty years and it never fails to draw a huge crowd.


Samba dancers in front of Senso-ji Temple’s gate


Nigh-naked be-feathered dancing samba girls move to the beat of Brazilian music and the feverish whirl and click of thousands of cameras held sweatily in hand by overly-enthusiastic photographers.



Every year, the samba groups choose a theme for their presentation. The nigh-naked samba girls are nearly always the same with feathers, tiara, and sequins but their companions sport different costumes every year based on a chosen theme.


Jesus makes a guest appearance



One group’s theme was based on sumo. Two performers twirled bows similar to the way that sumo wrestlers do at the end of each day of a sumo tournament. A large float was made out to depict a Yokozuna – sumo champion. The strangest part of the group by far were four golden gals wearing masks and very little else.





A Golden Duo

This year saw a bit of Akihabara otaku (nerd) culture mixed with saucy samba. Scantily-clad girls in outlandish sci-fi outfit pretended to fire space age cannons in rhythm to the music. The musicians were dressed like the bug-eyed abducting type aliens who appear in all those UFO documentaries and redneck nightmares. There were no probes to be seen, however.


Otaku (nerd) Samba – space age cuties fire imaginary rockets

Another odd ensemble was a group of pink haired heavy metal guys pulling a float from which hung suspended in air a black pig with large pink polka dots and skull and crossbones. My favorite one that summed up Japanese cutesy-ness was the midriff-baring girls wearing polar bear paws as gloves and a polar bear head as a hat.


Pink haired Heavy Metal Rockers with their pink polka-dotted pig


Polar bear girls?

The weather in Tokyo has been strange recently and it’s dubious presence was felt at this year’s Samba event. At the beginning, it was sunny, hot, and very humid. Sweat rolled down performers and spectators alike. Then suddenly the skies darkened and shortly afterwards rain began cascading downward.


Unfeathered wet dancing samba girls


Spectators either opened umbrellas or fled under awnings. The samba performers did not have either option. Surprisingly they didn’t call off or postpone the event. Undaunted by the pouring rain and the potential for electrocution by their sound systems, the samba performers wiped the rain from their brows and resolutely carried on.


Damp fairies flitter about

The samba dancing girls discarded their feathers weighed down as they were with rainwater. On the bright side, the nigh-naked once-befeathered dancing samba girls were now unfeathered wet dancing samba girls – a silver lining to our rain cloud.



Rain can’t stop a samba girl from having a good time

September 6, 2008 Posted by | Asakusa, Blogroll, brazil, carnaval, carnival, culture, dance, entertainment, festival, japan, japanese culture, life, samba, sexy, tokyo, travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Golden Dragon Dance of Tokyo Video

Kinryu-no-Mai or Golden Dragon Dance is performed every year in Asakusa, Tokyo to celebrate the founding of Senso-ji Temple.

On March 18, 628 AD two fisherman found a small gold Buddhist statue in the river. Supposedely, a Golden Dragon appeared in the sky to mark the event. A temple was built for the statue and Asakusa grew from then on.

Music by the Secret Commonwealth:

The Secret Commonwealth

March 28, 2008 Posted by | Asakusa, buddhism, culture, dance, dragons, Golden Dragon, Golden Dragon Dance, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, Kinryu-no-Mai, Senso-Ji, tokyo, tradition, traditional art, travel, video, vlog, youtube | Leave a comment