Traditional Games Japanese Children Play

Mother and daughter in the park

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One way to help children connect with Japanese culture is to play traditional games Japanese children play. Japanese children still play many traditional games, some of which have been around since the 1600s. You can start with some of the traditional games Japanese children play that many of us are already familiar with, such as origami (decorative paper folding) and kite flying. Then, move on to some traditional Japanese games that are less familiar to many of us.

Fuku Warai

Fuku Warai is traditionally played by Japanese children on New Year's Day. To play, cut out a large drawing of a woman's face without any facial features. Cut out pictures of facial features from different paper. Have children sit in a circle around the face. Blindfold one child, and place the cutout features in front of her. The blindfolded child tries to place the eyes, nose, and mouth while the other children call out directions and encouragement. When the child is done, take off the blindfold and let him see his handiwork, then let another child try.


Beigoma is traditionally played by Japanese boys. Cover the open end of a large bucket with canvas. The canvas should be secured taut to the bucket. Each player is given a spinning top (hand spun or chord spun tops are both used). Tops should be distinctively marked, so you will know which top belongs to which player. Players all spin their tops on the canvas at the same time. The last top spinning on the canvas is declared the winner. Tops falling off the canvass are disqualified.


Hanaichimonme is a group outdoor game. Divide the children into two equal groups. The two groups hold hands with the members of their own group. The two groups face one another. Each team picks a players they would like to "win" from the other group. Then, those two players play jan-ken-pon (better known to many of us as rock, paper, scissors). The loser leaves his team and joins the other team, while the winning team takes a step forward and sings out "We are happy we won this round"; the losing team takes a step backwards and sings "we hate to lose." The entire process is repeated until all of the players are in one group.