Japan’s games displayed at the Culture House [Archives:2005/901/Last Page]

December 8 2005

Kites, spinning tops, and other games meet you at the Sana'a-based Culture House. Inaugurated Sunday Dec 4, 2005, the show is extending over eight days in the city of Sana'a before it moves to Taiz, 260 kms south of Sana'a, to be staged at the headquarters of al-Sa'eed Foundation for Science and Culture during December 14-24, 2005.

The event was the offshot of collaboration between the Japanese Embassy, Yemeni Ministry of Culture and Al-Sa'eed Foundation. A wide range of kites with different labels and shapes face you and one gets amazed at the exotic products.

Mrs Terumi Yamazak, the Cultural Attache at the Japanese Embassy, admits that kites and spinning tops are popular games played by children in particular all over the world but the Japanese variants “have their own distinctive features”.

The origin of kites was China and they moved and flourished in Japan. They were flown even by grownups on festive occasions. Kites were also flown in order to ward off evil. They were often decorated with demon's faces in order to pray for the safety of the family and to ensure its protection from sickness and disaster. Some kites have faces with long tongues sticking out since that gesture is thought to frighten away evil spirits. In another vein, there are also games in which one's kite tries to win by cutting the strings of the other kites.

Tops, on the other hand, were introduced into Japan from China and Korea about 1200 years ago. Around the turn of the eighteenth century, clever performing tops manipulated by entertainers were very popular and they were used in gambling with some people betting their entire houses and fortunes on their favorite top. Depending on how they are spun, tops can be divided into four categories: twisted tops, rubbed tops, string tops, and thrown tops.

According to the Japanese officer, the estimated number of visitors on the first day was in the excess of 2000 and all showed interest in the exhibition and gave their comments which rated the function high.

Although it is a simple idea, the show has a significance in terms of enhancing cultural bonds with Japan.

“We would like to introduce the Japanese traditional games into Yemen and further improve relations”, the Cultural Attache added.

The major part of the show is devoted to kites and tops but there were other games such as Darumaotoshi, Hanetsuki, Wanage, Kendama etc.

Children's paintings:

In another wing of the show, there lay a host of paintings drawn by Japanese students as a gesture of friendship with Yemeni students who earlier had showed their gratitude to Japan for educational aids in the form of constructing schools in some areas of the country.

It is not the first time for Japan to hold such activities in Yemen. Last February, there was a theatrical performance and last year a number of activities were organized like the Japanese graphic arts exhibition and the visit of a Japanese troupe as part of the celebration of Sana'a as the Capital of the Arab Culture in 2004.