Saturday, 13 Jul 2024


Kemari is a fascinating ball game with a rich history that originated in Japan during the Heian period. Although it is now primarily a ceremonial sport, it holds great cultural significance. Let’s delve into the captivating world of Kemari and discover its origins, rules, and unique gameplay.

Origins and Gameplay

The roots of Kemari can be traced back to 644 AD. This captivating game draws inspiration from Cuju, a similar sport in China. In fact, the characters used to spell Kemari are exactly the same as in Cuju. Kemari is played using a ball called Mari, which is made from deerskin. The Mari is meticulously crafted by stuffing it with barley grains. Once the desired shape is achieved, the grains are removed, and the ball is sewn using horse skin.

The objective of Kemari is simple yet challenging: to keep the ball in the air. The players work together as a team to achieve this goal. However, there’s a unique twist to the game – players are prohibited from using their arms and hands. Instead, they rely on various body parts such as their knees, feet, head, back, and sometimes even elbows, following specific rules. The player who kicks the ball is known as the mariashi.

The Ideal Field and Attire

To fully enjoy the game of Kemari, it is best played on a flat ground with an area ideally measuring 6-7 square meters. As for the attire, players don traditional and old-fashioned uniforms, often complete with a crow hat. These outfits, known as Kariginu, were popular during ancient times. It is worth noting that the first Kemari event of the year, called Kemari Hajime, typically takes place at a shrine, adding a touch of spirituality to this remarkable sport.

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Similar Sports

Kemari shares similarities with several other sports from different parts of the world. Let’s explore some of these fascinating games:

  • Freestyle Football: Athletes compete to perform various tricks using a football.
  • Jianzi: A traditional Chinese national sport where players aim to keep a shuttlecock-type object, known as Jianzi, in the air by striking it predominantly with their legs.
  • Picigin: A traditional water sport from Croatia where the objective is to prevent a small ball from touching the surface of the water.
  • Cuju: An ancient ball game that involved kicking a ball into a net.
  • Freestyle Footbag: This sport involves performing various tricks with a footbag.
  • Basse: A bag ball game from Norway where players must prevent the ball from landing in their area, using any part of their body except their hands.
  • Chinlone: The traditional sport of Burma or Myanmar, which combines team sport with dance (also known as Caneball).
  • Sepak Takraw: An Asian sport similar to volleyball, but players use their feet to kick a ball over a net.


1. Is Kemari still played competitively?
Although Kemari is now primarily a ceremonial sport, it is occasionally played in a competitive manner in Japan.

2. Are there any specific Kemari tournaments or events to watch?
While Kemari is not as widely known as other sports, it is possible to find Kemari events or demonstrations at certain shrines or cultural festivals in Japan.

3. Can anyone participate in Kemari?
Kemari is a sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. It is a recreational activity that brings people together to have fun and appreciate Japanese culture.

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Kemari is a captivating and culturally significant ball game that has deep roots in Japanese history. From its origins in ancient China to its unique gameplay and traditional attire, Kemari offers a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era. Whether playing it ceremonially or competitively, Kemari continues to captivate and engage people from all walks of life.

For more information on Kemari and other traditional sports, visit Auralpressure.