Kemari – Ancient Japanese Soccer/Football

10 years ago by in Travel

Kemari is an ancient Japanese sport originally from China which is a mix of soccer/football and hacky sack. Players try to keep the ball in air by using various parts of their body except the hands. The ball called "mari" is made of deer and horse skin.

The players were a type of clothing reminiscent of the style of the Asuka Period or 6th-7th century Japan when Kemari was first introduced to the country. They wear a specially designed leather shoe which they can even wear on wooden floors where usually normal footwear is removed.

Kemari is a unique sport in that there aren’t any winners or losers but rather it’s a group activity where the individual players’ skill and dexterity adds to the ability of the group to keep the ball aloft as long as they can. Thus kemari is a community sport not a competitive one where each player contributes to the group.

Although the sport came from China, kemari is different – not so much in the way of playing but in who plays and the purpose of playing. The Chinese game known as cuju initially was for the warriors to develop their martial skills. It was only sometime later that cuju was adopted by the upper class as a form of entertainment. In Japan, kemari was always the domain of the upper class and was seen as a refined game of skill and grace. It was played by aristocrats known as kuge. Once in the 10th century a group of kuge in the presence of the emperor were able to make 260 passes without the ball hitting the ground.

More photos and info on Kemari