Hanetsuki (Japanese badminton) (羽根突き)

Hanetsuki, with a history of 1,300 years, is one of traditional games often played in New Year's Holidays in Japan, and is a girls' game or action for good luck where two players bandy a fletched soapberry seed with Hagoita (battledore). It used to be a Shinto ritual.


Original meaning
Hanetsuki was a Shinto ritual performed in the hope of girls' healthy growth, and was a Shinto ritual or game which had been played among court nobles since the Nara period. It was originally called Gi-Cho.
(For information, Hamaya (ritual arrows to drive away devils) and Hamayumi (ritual bow used to drive off devils) are given to boys, and as a Shinto ritual, various kinds of bows and arrows are equivalent to those.)
Since Hagoita is decorated mainly during the period from New Year's Holidays to the New Year's festival around January 15, Hanetsuki is often played around this time.

How to play
Basically, Hanetsuki is played by two players on a one-on-one basis. Two players who stand opposite each other hold a wooden racket called Hagoita, respectively, and bandy Hane (shuttlecock) (a small wooden ball into which several feathers are put, and a soapberry seed was originally used for the small wooden ball; also called Hago). Although nets are not used, and the size of the court is not prescribed, a failure to hit Hane is regarded as a loss, and a failing player receives a penalty of putting an X mark on the face with India ink. The action of painting a face with India ink also used to be an action for good luck, and India ink was considered to have an effect of protection from evil, and of protection from disease due to its antiseptic effect.

Current social recognition
Pictures of ladies and children wearing traditional Japanese clothes enjoying playing Hanetsuki are often reported as a seasonal tradition in the New Year's Holidays. Hanetsuki is similar to badminton. Since the above penalty is funny, games resulting from making a modification to Hanetsuki are played in TV variety programs, and games giving a loser a penalty of painting the face with India ink are often played.


It is said that Gi-Cho changed with times, and Cho (stick) was replaced by Hagoita, and Gi (ball) was replaced by Hane. One theory says that the reason why Gi was replaced by Hane was that the martial art, dance or game of kicking a laced or fletched weight was imported from China, and was blended together with Gi-Cho in Japan, and then present-day Hanetsuki was formed.
(Hagoita is specific to Japan.)

In the Nara period, Kemari (ancient football game in Japan) existed as a Shinto ritual for boys, while Gi-Cho was performed for girls.
(Gi-Cho was a game of bandying Gi (ball) with Cho (stick) shaped like Noh (spatula), and was a Shinto ritual.)

In the Muromachi period, a stick (although it was called 'Gi-Cho,' the term 'stick' is used here in order to avoid confusion with Gi-Cho as a Shinto ritual) was transformed into Hagoita, and a ball was transformed into a fletched soapberry nut. Gi-Cho changed to the form almost similar to present-day Hanetsuki, and Hanetsuki taikai (Japanese badminton tournament) called 'Koginoko shobu' was held among court nobles. This was a competition between men and women, and it is said that losers entertained winners with sake. As the term "soapberry" uses Japanese characters meaning 'children without disease,' a wish for a perfect state of health of girls was contained.

In the Sengoku period (period of warring states), since the factor of rites and festivals became stronger, decorations as exorcism or luck were provided to Hagoita rather than Hanetsuki, and Hagoita came to be tinged with an accessory as a lucky charm. Literature from around this time said that Hane was regarded as a dragonfly, and a wish for protecting from mosquito bites was contained. As infectious diseases often spread by the medium of mosquitoes, the protection from mosquitoes was important at that time.

In the Edo period, samurai families started presenting Hagoita in celebration of girl's birth. This custom spread among the common people, and it became popular to present Hagoita to families with girls as seibo (year-end gift) of lucky charms at the end of the year. This was the origin of playing Hanetsuki in New Year's Holidays.


Since a tree exists called Koginoki, whose seed looks like the Hane of Hanetsuki, it was named 'Tsukubane' after 'tsuku Hane' (striking a shuttlecock).

Hagoita is sometimes made for decoration, and is decorated luxuriously with raised cloth pictures of portraits, and designs of flowers and birds (for details, refer to the article of Hagoita).

Haneuta (A song that goes with Hanetsuki)

Haneuta is a song sung when playing Hanetsuki.

One example of the words is 'Hito (one) go ni Futa (two) go, Mi (three) watashi Yo (four) mego, Itsu (five) kitemo, Mu (six) kashi, Nana (seven) n no Ya (eight) kushi, Koko (nine) no maede To (ten) yo.'

Or, 'Hito go ni Futa go, Mi watashi Yomego, Itsu kitemitemo, Nana (seven) ko no obi wo, Ya (eight) noji ni shimete, Koko (nine) nohade To (ten) kashita.'

Or 'Hitori (one) kina, Futari (two) kina, Sannin (three) kitara, Yotte (four) kina, Itsu (five) kite mitemo, Nana (seven) ko no obiwo, Ya (eight) tara ni shimete, Koko (nine) no maede To (ten) yo.'

[Original Japanese]