A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Toshi no Ichi (年の市) – Japan`s Traditional End-of-The Year Markets- The Asakusa Hagoita Market ( with easy access from Tsukuba by TX) December 17-19

O-Shogatsu Decorations at Tsukuba`s Doro-Ichi in Yatabe

Though preparing for the New Years Festival in Japan is no easy task (as I have explained in  previous  articles), these days all the necessary foods and festive decorations are readilly available at department stores, supermarkets or even COMBINI (convenience stores).
In past ages, however, before the advent of all these modern conveniences, any New Year`s goods which could not be made or acquired on ones own would be bought at special markets which have traditionally been held at the end of December.
Many of these markets, generally referred to as TOSHI NO ICHI ( though it seems that many of these markets have their own special names, depending on the location), continue to be held to this day.
A woodblock print depicting one of Edo`s traditional End-of-the Year Markets

A woodblock print depicting one of Edo`s traditional End-of-the Year Markets

From 5pm on Dec. 28th the traditional New Years Goods market in the Yatabe district of Tsukuba, referred to by locals as the DORO-ICHI, will be held. There, as in all such markets, you will be able to buy all the  seasonal decorations that you will need, as well as many of the ingredients required for making New Year`s dishes. There are also stalls selling traditional childrens toys and games ( of the season), while others offer a variety of kitchen and cleaning ware. These would be for those people who would like to start the new year off with fresh utensils.

Asakusa`s Hagoita Market

The HAGOITA market in Asakusa

The HAGOITA market in Asakusa

 In past years, I have often visited one of Japan`s oldest ( from the late 17th century) and most famous special markets- The Hagoita Market ( Hagoita Ichi, 羽子板市) held at Tokyo`s Sensoji Temple in Asakusa ( conveniently located along the TX Line).
This market is held every December, from the 17th to the 19th (that means from tomorrow!), and specializes in selling one of Japan`s most important traditional ENGI MONO (縁起物), which are auspicious objects, which I guess is another way of saying lucky charms.

Hagoita in my collection

Hagoita are highly decorated versions of a  paddle ( racket) used in a traditional children`s game (that resembles badminton without a net) called Hane Tsuki. This game was thought to bring good health as batting the fly-like shuttle-cock represented swatting away disease carrying mosquitos.
An old picture of girls playing HANE TSUKI with their HAGOITA

An old picture of girls playing HANE TSUKI with their HAGOITA (though these are make especially for playing with and not the highly decorated- and expensive – ones sold as Auspicious Items at the HAGOITA MARKET)

Edo period girls playing HANE TSUKI

In the same way, the decorative HAGOITA are meant to represent driving away bad energies and bad luck, etc. These paddles come in various sizes ( size reflects economic status!!) and in the Edo Period they began to decorate them with images of the great Kabuki stars of the day. And though these old stars still predominate on the hagoita designs, every year we can find images of the past years biggest stars- the last time I went a few years back Michael Jackson was big. Go to Asakusa and see for yourself who is popular on this year`s hagoitas

These ENGI-MONO are bought by or for families with daughters, and put on display at home.

At the year end markets closer to the end of the year you will also find a lot of Daruma Dolls ( as you will at practically all temples and shrines over the holiday).For more on the evolution of this enduring character, read my article:

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