The Game of Kemari
Kemari first appeared in Japan around 1,400 years ago. It was a game usually played by noblemen in a special area surrounded by trees. The object was to keep a small deerskin ball in the air for as long as possible without it touching the ground. As can be seen in the picture above, participants traditionally wore brightly coloured costumes and even specially designed kemari shoes.
Kemari: A unique sport
It is somewhat unique among sports, as it does not have winners, losers, or competition between players. In kemari the ball is called the mari and the one who kicks the ball the mariashi. It is an extremely athletic activity and requires great flexibility and balance if more complicated moves are to be performed. All parts of the body may be used to keep the mari in the air except for the arms and hands.
In the modern age
Despite other similar sports in the Far East vanishing over time, kemari has survived to the present day and is still played regularly in ceremonial events in Japan. The modern variant of all these ancient games is better known in the west as footbag or hacky sack and is now a popular sport played worldwide.