Event in Japan – Beanbag play convention to be held in Niihama, October 16

All Japan Otedama Festival 2006 August

The 16th Annual All-Japan Otedama (Beanbag Play) Festival to be held on Oct 16 in Niihama, Japan. (Cultural News Photo, 2006)

NIIHAMA, Japan – Timed to occur during the Taiko Matsuri of Niihama, Japan’s number one, soul-stirring Fall Festival, the 16th Annual All-Japan Otedama (beanbag play) Festival will be presented by the Otedama Club in Japan, on Saturday, October 16, in the Dome Niihama facilities of Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture. Organizers anticipate over 700 participants from throughout Japan.

This will be the first time the festival has been held focusing on “Yosedama-asobi” the Japanese beanbag version of the ancient game we know in America as “jacks.”

Preserved locally throughout Japan, Yosedama-asobi comes together in Niihama, Ehime Prefecture, to be shared with a wider audience.

The slogan of the festival is “Warmth – From Hand to Heart.”

Handed down across generations, from grandparent to grandchild, the festival organizers hope to communicate the wonder of Japan’s traditional culture to a wider audience beyond the boundaries of its native country.

There are two basic forms of traditional Otedama play: the “Nagedama” form which is played by tossing the beanbags into the air in a form of juggling, and the “Yosedama” form, resembling jacks.

This year, the main focus of the festival is on Yosedama, traditionally accompanied by traditional children’s songs.

In Yosedama, the movements and songs of the players reflect the flavor of each region. By watching and learning from one another’s play, the players and audience members are participating in a cultural exchange, learning about the diversity of Japan’s past that still survives to the present day.

This year, as well, the festival organizers have invited the psychologist, Dr. Kazuhiko Nakahara, to speak on “The Role of Otedama Play in Curing Depression.”

On the day following the Otedama Festival, a sightseeing tour has been organized, including the competition among the Niihama Fall Festival floats (each embroidered in gold, weighing close to 2,000 lbs., and carried by 200 costumed men) and a visit to the ruins of the Besshi Copper Mines to view the roots of Japan’s industrial modernization.

The “Otedama Club in Japan” was founded twenty years ago by volunteers interested in preserving Japan’s contribution to this 4,000 year old game found in many diverse locations around the world.

The organization has since put together a standard for the game as it has existed in Japan, and this standard has now become the standard wherever Japanese-style Otedama is played in the world. The Club has grown to 42 branches in Japan, as well as two overseas branches, and now counts approximately a thousand members.

For inquiry about the All-Japan Otedama Festival, email tamachan@otedama.shikoku.ne.jp