The pride of Kasukabe City is a long tradition of crafting paulownia wood furniture, baskets and hats. But the most eye-catching craft in the city is undoubtedly the hagoita. Since the Muromachi Period, nearly 700 years ago, the hanetsuki game became popular in Japan. The game is similar to badminton. Players bat a shuttlecock back and forth as long as they can using wooden paddles called hagoita. The longer the players can keep the shuttlecock in play, the more luck they can receive in the coming year.
Gradually, the hagoita became an ornamental object in the Edo Period. Oshie, a form of fabric relief sculpture, is applied to the hagoita to depict kabuki actors, celebrities, and even animation characters. The hagoita come in various sizes, and are priced accordingly. Shoppers can take home an image of a warrior or kabuki actor for prosperity, or a maiden for happiness and good luck in the new year.
The Kasukabe Hagoita Market also displays the other traditional crafts produced in the city, so you have a wide variety of gifts and souvenirs to choose from.
If you want to learn more about hagoita and doll production or miss the market, visit the neighboring Iwatsuki Ward of Saitama City, home of the Doll History Museum.
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The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program took me to Ehime Prefecture in 1999, and Japan’s culture and beautiful places kept me here. You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big tourist draws. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too. I've lived in cities in the Tokatsu area of Chiba Prefecture (Noda, Nagareyama, Matsudo, Kashiwa, Abiko and others) for the last 15 years and have discovered the many cultural, culinary, and historical treasures here which I share with our readers.