Men dressed in traditional ancient Japanese attire celebrated the New Year at a shrine here by demonstrating “kemari,” a ball-kicking game that was popular with nobility during the Heian Period (794-1185).
The annual exhibition was held Jan. 4 at Shimogamojinja shrine in Kyoto's Sakyo Ward.
Eight colorfully costumed players kept aloft a white deerskin ball with their right foot and passed it among themselves without touching it with their hands or arms. They played on a 15-meter square court while calling out, "Ari," "Ya" and "Oh."
The objective is to keep the ball from touching the ground. Kemari, a noncompetitive sport, is a demonstration of the players' passing and footwork skills.
Kemari is said to have originated in continental Asia and came to Japan during the Asuka Period (538-710).
It is practiced today by members of Shukiku Hozonkai, an association founded during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) to preserve and pass down ancient traditions and techniques.