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LastUpDate: February 1, 2011
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Hakata Culture vol.49

The Little-Known History of Tops

The Little-Known History of Tops image

The New Year’s holiday is over, but New Year’s under the old calendar falls on February 3. The old New Year’s Day is still celebrated as New Year’s in many countries and territories in Asia, including China and South Korea.

In Japan, traditional New Year’s games for children included kite flying, hanetsuki (a Japanese version of badminton), and top spinning. Few children are interested in amusements of this sort any more. Tops were introduced to Japan about 1,300 years ago during the Nara period through the Korean Peninsula from China. They were made of bamboo and called togoma, or Tang tops. In the latter part of the 17th century, the first of the tops in their current form were made in Hakata. A metal pin was inserted into a piece of wood and these were spun. Top spinning in those days involved a competition in which the object was to knock over the other person’s top with one’s own, and it became popular throughout the country. The Hakata top, however, developed on its own for use as a type of entertainment. It is very stable and spins well, so it can be moved with the hand. As a result, entertainers perfected the art of spinning them perched on the tips of swords and fans.

In addition to being a traditional craft object, today’s Hakata tops are also used for a traditional performing art that has been designated an intangible cultural treasure of the prefecture. Entertainers would travel as far as Kyoto to perform, and are reported to have been very popular. The art of the Hakata top began to die out from the middle of the 19th century, however. The Chikushi Shuraku line of Hakata top masters was later revived, and the techniques of top making and spinning were taught to the second modern holder of the traditional name, a woman who lives in Chikushino.

Tops finished with lacquer are made with wood from a camellia tree that is from 50 to 100 years old and then allowed to dry for about five years. Even if a master were to make 100 tops from a piece of wood for entertainment purposes, only two or three can actually be used.

There are few opportunities to see Hakata tops these days, but one can watch them being made every Wednesday at the Hakata Machiya Folk Museum near the Kushida Shrine in Reisen-machi, Hakata Ward. Visitors can also buy some as gifts or souvenirs at the shop.

Hakata Machiya Folk Museum, Tel: 092-281-7761



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あまり知られていない独楽(こま)の歴史

 お正月も終わりましたが、旧正月、今年は2月3日のようです。中国や韓国などアジア各国では、まだ旧正月を正月としている国や地域は多いようです。そして、子どもたちの正月の遊びといえば凧揚げ(たこあげ)や羽根付き、独楽まわしでした。今ではそんな遊びをしている子どもたちの姿を見ることはなくなりました。

 さて、独楽ですが、日本に独楽が伝えられたのは今から1300年ほど前の奈良時代、朝鮮半島を経由して中国から伝わった竹製の唐独楽といわれます。その後、江戸時代(17世紀後半)になって、現在の独楽の原型ともなる木台に鉄芯を打ち込んで回す独楽が博多で作られたのです。独楽は相手の独楽にたたきつける「けんか独楽」として全国に広がりましたが、博多独楽は曲芸独楽として独特の発展をとげました。博多独楽は揺れに強く、よく回ることから手にとって移動させたり、刀や扇の先にのせて回すという曲芸を生み出したのです。現在の博多独楽は伝統工芸品の独楽をさすだけではなく、県無形文化財に指定されている伝統芸能をもさしています。江戸時代には曲芸師が京都まで出向いて芸を披露し、大人気を博したそうですが、明治時代以降、博多独楽の芸は途絶えていました。それを初代・筑紫珠楽(ちくししゅらく)が復興し、2代目の珠楽さんに独楽を作る技術と回す技術が伝えられています。

 総漆(うるし)仕上げの独楽は、樹齢50~100年の椿の木を原料に、乾燥から入れると約5年の歳月をかけて作り上げられるとか。100個作っても曲芸用に使われるのはそのうちの2~3個しかないそうです。なかなか見る機会がない博多独楽、今では博多の総鎮守・櫛田神社の近くにある「博多町家」ふるさと館(博多区冷泉町)で、毎週水曜日に製作実演が行われています。みやげ処では、博多独楽も販売していますよ。博多生まれのエンターテインメントはこんなところにもあるのです。

「博多町家」ふるさと館…電話092-281-7761