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Otedama
Otedama, お手玉,  おてだま - A traditional Japanese children's game. Small bean bags are tossed and juggled in a game similar to jacks. Although it is mostly a social game, Otedama can be played either alone or in groups. It is rarely competitive and often accompanied by sing songs.

Otedama was most popular among young girls in post World War II Japan. The bean bags called ojami were sewn together from strips of cloth and contained small azuki beans. During war times, parents could smuggle extra food for their hungry children inside them.

Unfortunately, very few people today remember how to play Otedama. The songs which accompanied them have been all but forgotten and the next generation of children have never heard of such a game.

How to play
Specific game play varies widely from region to region. One variation, transmitted to Hawaii by the children of Japanese descent, requires three bean bags; two small ones, and one large one called the kini. Play proceeds in rounds which become increasingly more difficult as the game goes on.

The first round begins with one hand.

throw the kini into the air, pick up a bean bag, catch the kini in the same hand
throw the kini into the air, drop the bean bag, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, pick up the second bean bag, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, drop the second bean bag, catch the kini
(Do not move the bean bags.)

throw the kini into the air, pick up both bean bags, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, drop the bean bags, catch the kini
During the second round, place your left hand (if you are right-handed) out in front of you, a flat open palm, oriented facing your right hand.

throw the kini into the air, tap the first bean bag against your left palm let it drop, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, tap the second bean bag against your left palm let it drop, catch the kini
(Do not move the bean bags.)

throw the kini into the air, tap both bean bags against your left palm let them drop, catch the kini
In the third round,

starting with the kini, pick it up with two fingers (thumb and index) swing it up and over the back of your hand
pick up the first bean bag with two fingers, swing it up and over the back of your hand
pick up the second bean bag with two fingers, swing it up and over the back of your hand
Now begins the “doubles” rounds which are variations of the first three. In the fourth round, with one hand,

throw the kini into the air, pick up a bean bag, catch the kini in the same hand
throw the kini into the air, THROW DOWN the bean bag, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, pick up the second bean bag, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, throw down the second bean bag, catch the kini
(Do not move the bean bags.)

throw the kini into the air, pick up both bean bags, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, throw down the bean bags, catch the kini
During the fifth round, place your left hand (if you are right-handed) out in front of you, a flat open palm, oriented facing your right hand, like in round two.

throw the kini into the air, tap the first bean bag TWICE against your left palm let it drop, catch the kini
throw the kini into the air, tap the second bean bag twice against your left palm let it drop, catch the kini
(Do not move the bean bags.)

throw the kini into the air, tap both bean bags twice against your left palm let them drop, catch the kini
In the sixth round,

throw the kini into the air, catch it on the back of your right hand (if you are right-handed)
wedge the kini between your fingers
pick up the first bean bag with two fingers swing it up and catch it on the back of your hand with the kini still wedged between your other fingers
drop the first bean bag
pick up the second bean bag with two fingers swing it up and catch it on the back of your hand with the kini still wedged between your other fingers
drop the second bean bag
The seventh round is called the sandwich and is easier to do if your bean bags are flat.

stack all three bean bags with the kini in the middle and balance them on the back of your hand
toss them carefully, flip your hand over, and try to catch them on the front of your hand without the stack falling over
toss and flip, try to catch the stack on the back of your hand again without the stack falling over
In the eighth and final round, with the two bean bags on the floor in front of you

toss the kini into the air, pick up both the bean bags, catch the kini
toss the kini and the bean bags into the air, catch the kini, quickly place your forearm flat on the ground so that the two bean bags land on either side of your arm

Information source: “Otedama.” wikipedia.org. Article date: 4 Dec. 2006. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 8 Feb. 2008 <Otedama>.

Video - The following is two girls really trying to explain this game in English.
 
 

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