Kemari (Ancient football game of the Imperial Court)

Photo Description
Picture of Kemari (Ancient football game of the Imperial Court)
(Photo: Kemari Preservation Society)

Kemari is a ball game that is said to have come from China to Japan during the Yamato period approximately 1,400 years ago. There are no winners or losers in this game, the objective of the game being simply to pass the ball to fellow players.

In Japan, depending on the era of history, Kemari was enthusiastically played within the Imperial Palace, and written records of Kemari games can be seen in ancient texts and documents dating back to the mid-Heian period.

During the Kamakura period, in addition to the Imperial court, the warrior classes also engaged in the sport of Kemari, and through the Muromachi period to the Edo period, the game's profile gradually increased, and it was mentioned in various places such as Noh theatre performances, Kyogen theatre, and Edo period novellas.

However, after the Meiji Restoration, Kemari declined in popularity and in 1903, with a donation from Emperor Meiji, a society to preserve the ancient game was established, resulting in the survival of Kemari to this day.

The performance of Kemari is shown to the public on the occasion of the special exhibition “Introduction of the Court Culture” held in spring and autumn.