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Go can be said to be Japan's most traditional and widely played indoor game. It is also one of the most intellectually demanding games in the world. The wooden board, goban, is marked with intersecting lines to produce a total of 361 crosses (me: literally meaning "eyes"). These crosses may be covered by white or black stones, made of shell and slate respectively. In the simplest terms, the object of the game is to gain the largest share of the board, but many fine points of play and etiquette are involved. The game was introduced from China during the 7th-8th centuries and the Japanese form has been introduced in recent decades to other countries where it is mainly enjoyed by university students and intellectuals.
The game of shogi originated in India and was introduced to Japan via China in the 8th century. It is a form of chess, played on a wooden board with 81 spaces. Each player has 20 pieces of varying power and, as in chess, the aim of the game is to capture the king (most valuable piece) of the opposing player. The pieces are as follows: one king, rook and bishop, two gold generals and two silver generals, two spearmen, two knights and nine pawns. There are some ten million shogi players in Japan.
Mah-jong, introduced from China and America at the end of the Meiji period, is played by four persons around a square table using pieces called "tiles". Traditionally, these are made of ivory but in modern times they are usually made of plastic. Each tile is marked with its "suit" – bamboo, characters or circles – and its number (1 to 9). In addition there are special tiles representing red, green and white dragons and east, south, west and north winds, four pieces in each case. The rules of the game are fairly complicated and there are a large number of scoring "hands." Mah-jong is very popular in Japan ; it is estimated that over 1 million people play the game for leisure or business entertainment. In the latter case, the game is played in a mah-jong parlour, of which there are many in every Japanese town.
Hanafuda, literally "flower cards", are used for various card games, one of which is called koikoi. The cards depict the flowers of the twelve months of the year e.g. January/pine, February/plum blossom, March/ cherry blossom. Despite their delicate appearance, hanafuda have strong associations with gambling. They were introduced to Japan from Portugal at the end of the 16th century, but the games played in Japan can now be said to be typically Japanese.
Originally a game for children in the 1920's pachinko has become a pastime for people of all ages and pachinko parlours are found everywhere in the side-streets of Japanese towns. The parlours feature row upon row of pinball machines and a counter at which the players can purchase a stock of 11mm steel balls. Prizes are given according to the number of balls a player can accumulate by the end of the session. In 1970, some 10,000 pachinko parlours were in operation throughout the nation with a total of l.6 million machines. The annual turnover of the pachinko industry is in the region of ¥450 billion.
Around 1967, this peculiar addiction was introduced to Japan from the United States of America. At that time, various hallucinatory or stimulant drugs were in circulation among the young people of Western countries and Japanese youths, deprived of access to this fashionable but dangerous trend, turned to thinner-sniffing as a substitute. Paint thinner, composed largely of toluene, causes intoxication; the method of inhaling it is to place the thinner in a plastic bag and sniff the aromatic fumes. The side effects – nausea and paralysis of the nervous system – can be lethal. The habit is difficult to eradicate since paint thinner, unlike synthetic drugs, can be obtained almost anywhere.
Christmas is not a Japanese festival, yet it has been adopted as an annual celebration, particularly in the big cities and among the younger generation. By the middle of November, many shops and stores are decorated with the symbols of Christmas – Santa Claus, Christmas trees, holly and artificial snow – and the period up to Christmas Day is celebrated with much festivity. However, with the exception of the Japanese Christian community, the Japanese people do not observe the actual days of Christmas; on December 25th, the Christmas decorations give way to those of a traditionally Japanese festival, New Year.
The contents of this site are excerpted from THE OFFICIAL RECORD OF TIME CAPSULE EXPO'70(March 1975). Please note that company and organization names may differ from those of the current ones.
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