Temari Ball (手まり)
A temari ball is a kind of toy that has been around since long ago. Temari' is a seasonal word for the New Year. In the beginning, the temari ball was made by winding thread around a core; and at the end of the 16th century, cotton was used to create a spherical object with higher elasticity. Then the sphere was wrapped geometrically with beautiful thread. Temari balls are very elastic and bounce well. Girls play games with them on New Year's day (Hard baseballs are made by winding thread around a cork and wrapping it with leather). Most temari balls are slightly larger than a softball and slightly smaller than a handball.
From about the middle of the Meiji period, rubber became inexpensive. As a result, rubber balls became more common as a toy to dribble and throw. From the Edo to Meiji period, temari balls were considered a girls' toy for New Years; but today, children play with them throughout the year.
Temari and Kemari (a game played by aristocrats in the Heian period)
There are two types of 'mari' or balls in Japan. One is the kemari ball, which is made by sewing two pieces of buckskin together. Kemari was a sports enjoyed by male aristocrats and performed as a Shinto ritual. The other is the temari ball, which was generally considered a girls' plaything; however, during the Edo period, boys used to play with them along side the girls. A well known poet and priest, Ryokan of Echigo Province, often played with a temari ball with children.
Gomumari (rubber ball)
Gomumari is a hollow ball made with very elastic rubber. In the 'Sorekara' (And Then), a novel written by Soseki NATSUME and published 1909, the word Gomumari comes up, which suggests that the word became common in the 20th century.
Temari balls, up to this point had a cotton core, that required strength to make it bounce, which meant that small children had to squat down to bounce it even 30 to 40 cm. It is easy to see why rubber balls became so popular, due to the ease in making them bounce 90 cm. From about this time to the end of war, playing with balls was one of the most popular pastimes for girls. Most of the temari ball songs were written at the end of Meiji period.
From toy to art craft
Entering the 1960s, with the growing popularity of television and introduction of many types of toys, children lost interest in temari balls.
In recent years, temari balls have reemerged not as a toy but as a decorative traditional art craft.