Sensoji Hagoita Fair 2019-Traditional Event Before the New Year in Asakusa



Where in Tokyo is the most popular place for tourists? According to various sources on the internet, the answer is Asakusa with its Sensoji Temple. Just before the New Year, Asakusa is also famous for Hagoita fair (羽子板市). Hagoita, rectangular wooden paddles, were used as rackets for Hanetsuki (羽根つき), a traditional game like badminton.

In this article, I would like to introduce you to a traditional Japanese Hagoita paddle, and Hagoita fair that takes place near Sensoji temple in Asakusa.

For your reference, the other popular places in Tokyo are:
No.2: Tokyo Tower
No.3: Tokyo Skytree
No.4: Akihabara
Harajuku, Ueno, Kokyo also have a high on some resources, but Asakusa is ranked No.1 almost everywhere.

Image courtesy of shuets udono

What is Hagoita?

Hagoita usually has a rectangular shape. When playing Hanetsuki, since the Hagoita’s movement is similar to the “Harau” (払う) action (a Japanese expression meaning “drive away”), people believe that it is effective to drive away evil spirits and nowadays use it as a charm against evil.

In the Edo Period (1603-1868), “Oshie-Hagoita”, paddles with images of elegant Kabuki actors, became very popular. The “Oshie” drawings are usually created with washi (和紙), Japanese traditional paper, or cloth cut in the shape of flowers and people, and then pasted onto the paddle with cotton inside to give it a three-dimensional look. Since the traditional “Hagoita” commonly featured portraits of famous Kabuki actors, they were close to something like the “3D idol goods” of our time. By the turn of the 17th century, a huge variety of “Hagoita” had spread across Japan.

Some high-quality paddles even used to have gold leaf and silver foil. Thus, many different kinds appeared, that Japan’s feudal government had to ban and impose constraints on the production of Hagoita at one point. Then, at the beginning of the Meiji Period, the new technologies allowed to increase the production level of Hagoita even more. Basically, the history of Hagoita starts in Saitama Prefecture and dates back to the Edo Period when people were encouraged to produce Hagoita as a side business to farming during the off-season.

Image courtesy of  Masaya I

The Origin of Hagoita

In the 14th century in China, there was a game where players would kick a feather with a coin attached to it. This game came to Japan in the Muromachi Period (1337-1587). It became the game of Hanetsuki, where players use wooden paddles to hit a shuttlecock.

By the way, from ancient times, Japanese people knew that mosquitoes are carriers of various diseases and that dragonflies eat mosquitoes. In the game of Hanetsuki, a shuttlecock would fly in the air like a dragonfly when it is hit by paddles. So, people started to play Hanetsuki during the New Year season to wish that their children would not be bitten by mosquitoes, especially young girls.

Image courtesy of 江戸村のとくぞう

Sensoji Temple Hagoita Fair

Unique and interesting festivals and fairs that take place in Asakusa always attract not only locals but festival-goers from around the globe. One of the most popular events is Hagoita fair, which is a three-day annual winter festival that people celebrate at Sensoji Temple every 17th of December. At this fair, you will notice around 50 stands selling only traditional wooden paddles. As the fair takes place in the temple’s vicinity, the festival serves as an excellent opportunity to explore the temple and reveal the beauty of Japan’s traditional edifice.

The paddles come in different sizes, and most of them feature portraits of Kabuki actors and beautiful Edo ladies. Also, you will find the portraits of celebrities, politicians, and cartoon characters such as Kitty-chan, Sazae san, on some Hagoita. The Hagoita sold at the fair are decorative pieces, which means they’re not made for playing Hanetsuki. The items are believed to bring good luck and great fortune.

In many cases, you will see only one Kabuki actor drawn on the paddle which is called “Hitori-dachi”. If the Hagoita features two actors, they call it “Futari-dachi”. Although this is very rare, when there are five actors on a paddle, it is “Gonin-dachi”. You will notice both, men and women on Hagoita, but the Kabuki actors are all men. If women are drawn, they play the role of a “female impersonator (Oyama)”. Hagoita with men is drawn ar lucky charms to shake off an economic recession. On the other hand, the portraits of women represent the celebration of a new-born baby girl.

Details and Access

Dates and Time: From December 17th to December 19th, 2018 (3 days). Usually held at the same dates every year from 9:00 to 22:00 (On the last day until21:00)

Place: Senso-ji Temple precincts.

Address: 2 chome 3-1, Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Inquiry: TEL: 03-3844-1221 (Asakusa Tourism Union)

Official Homepage (Japanese only):


・ 5 minutes on foot from Asakusa station (Tokyo Metro Line, and Tobu Isezaki Line)
・ 7 minutes on foot from Asakusa station (Toei Subway Asakusa Line)

Image courtesy of Masaya I

Closing Remarks

As you might know, Asakusa is a pleasant and enjoyable district in Tokyo with old goodness. Asakusa is always lively and a bit loud, but the town is crowded especially during the events and traditional festivals. But don’t you think being crowded is also a charming feature of Asakusa?

Also, you can eat delicious traditional Japanese foods and try some modern fusion at numerous stalls in the district. There are a lot of famous western restaurants as well. Besides, Asakusa boasts a fascinating fireworks festival by Sumida river. Winter season of Asakusa is good as well. Please come to see Hagoita fair, eat hot food to make your body warm, see Japanese traditional charms, and enjoy the traditional atmosphere of an oriental market!

If you would like to come to Asakusa with a local guide who will show you around and tell you even more about the customs and traditions of this district, please click on the banner below!

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l am living in Nagoya, the third largest city located between Tokyo and Osaka. I am looking forword to introducing you about wonderful festivals in Japan.

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