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Kemari was a popular game in Japan during Heian period. The history of this ball game dates back to 644 AD. The game took its origination from Cuju — a Chinese sport. The characters of Kemari are exactly the same as in Cuju.

The game is played with a ball made of deerskin and the ball’s name is Mari. Mari is given a shape by stuffing it with barley grains and when the hide is set in shape, the grains are removed and skin of horse is used to sew the ball.

The unique aspect of Kemari is that it is a non-competitive sport. The main aim of Kemari is to keep one ball in the air and the entire players cooperate to do so. Players cannot use arms and hands and use any body parts including their knees, feet, head, back and sometimes even elbows according to certain rules. The one who kicks the ball is known as mariashi.

A flat ground is ideal field to play Kemari. The ground should ideally be 6-7 meters squared. The uniforms played by the players are quite old fashioned and have a crow hat. This type of clothing was popular back in old times and was known as Kariginu. The first Kemari event of the year is known to be called kemari hajime and usually takes place at a shrine.


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