New Year’s Temari
Temari (Hand Ball) is an ancient Japanese folk art, first made as a toy for children. By the Ninth century, country women in Japan gathered natural materials like rice hulls, wrapped them in bits of cloth, inserted a small handmade box holding a few pebbles for a noise-maker, and wound the whole thing in many yards of thread, often unraveled from discarded clothing. They wound the thread, shaping the mass into a ball and gave it to their children.
In time temari makers began embroidering colored designs on the ball by interweaving geometric shapes that occur from divisions of the sphere – shapes like diamonds, pentagons, squares, hexagons, and triangles. These became the traditional patterns. Eventually a practice began of adding a secret written wish inside each ball.
Within the last 150 years, ladies of the court used to play catch in the palace gardens with temari balls.
The contemporary balls shown above are made in the traditional way by my wife Helen, who puts tiny shells from Maui beaches into the center box.
In Japan (as elsewhere) a mother still might give each of her daughters and friends a temari ball as a New Year’s present.