Ancient game of kemari played at Kyoto’s Shimogamo Shrine

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Players wearing traditional costumes show off their footwork during the year’s first game of kemari in front of a large crowd at Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto on Wednesday. Kemari, an ancient sport resembling hacky sack, is said to have been introduced from China during the Asuka period (592-710), and became popular as a leisure activity among aristocrats during the Heian period (794 to late 12th century). During the annual event, members of a kemari preservation group formed a circle within a roughly 10-square-meter space and kicked the ball, shouting “ari” or “ou.”