THE HISTORY OF TOSENKYO
-A Beautiful and Elegant Game-
Tosenkyo is a beautiful indoor game that was created nearly 250 years ago, in the middle of the Edo period, in Kyoto and Osaka, which are located in the Kansai region. Just as the meanings of the Chinese characters used to write the name suggest, the game is “played by throwing a folding fan.”
The origin of tosenkyo is said to be an old Chinese game from the Tang Dynasty period called “pitch-pot,” in which players would face each other and try to toss arrows into a pot.
According to legend, there was a gentleman in Kyoto long ago named Toraku Sanjin who, upon waking from a nap, found a butterfly perched on a nearby pillow. He picked up a folding fan that was next to him, and threw it causing the butterfly to flutter away. The fan landed softly on top of the pillow, and he thought, “Well, that was fun!” It reminded him of the game pitch-pot, and this led him to designing a uniquely Japanese version of the game.
Tosenkyo was originally an elegant game enjoyed in Kyoto and Osaka in the middle of the Edo period, but the game soon made its way to Edo where it spread among the common people as well, and in the An’ei period (1772-81), it developed into a very popular form of public entertainment.
The fun of tosenkyo is that the results of the game are not immediately known. Throws are scored based on how the fan and the target (butterfly) land or touch. There are 24 different ways to score, and these patterns have been given names such as “Fuji,” “Kumokakure,” etc. which come from a collection of ancient Japanese poems called “Hyakunin Isshu” (100 poems from 100 poets). Each scoring pattern is connected to a poem from a famous poet, which is then read aloud.