Toyohara Chikanobu


A game of Kemari at the Chiyoda Palace  1897

Japanese woodblock print, a triptych

13¾ x 28 ins (34.9 x 71.1 cm)


Kemari was a ceremonial Japanese court game, which involved courtiers kicking a ball with the purpose of keeping it aloft for as long as possible; for all intents and purposes, a form of “keepy-uppy”. The ball was made of deerskin, and stuffed with sawdust. There could be any number of players from between two to twelve. There was no tackling, as the ball was kept in the air from player to player. A was played on an area of ground marked out by trees, sometimes planted and grown specifically for playing the game.