What is Tosenkyo? Basic play and throwing tips

Tosenkyo, a traditional Japanese game, has a great appeal because of the beauty of throwing a fan. Although you may have an image of it as a maiko's tatami room game, in fact, there are many schools and groups, and it is so popular that tossing fan contests are held. Recently, events are being held for those who are new to the art of Tousenkyo, where they can experience it for themselves. Since many of the matches are played in kimonos, it would be even more fun to play in kimono. This article explains how to play Tousenkyo.

Meaning and History of Tousenkyo

Tosenkyo" is a traditional Japanese game played with a fan. What kind of game is it? Here, we explain the characteristics and history of Tousenkyo.

What is Tousenkyo?

Tousenkyo is a traditional Japanese game characterized by its use of a fan. A target called a "butterfly" is placed on a base called a "pillow," and a fan is thrown toward the butterfly. Points are awarded according to the shape of the butterfly, the pillow, and the fan when the fan falls. Usoenkyo is a competitive game and is played one-on-one (two players). The rules for scoring points vary from school to school. The most well-known styles are the Tale of Genji style and Hyakunin Isshu style, in which each inscription is named after a piece of classical Japanese literature. For example, an inscription named after the Tale of Genji is given one point for "Hanasazari" and eight points for "Yugiri".

History of Tousenkyo

Today, the term "Utsugi-kyo" may conjure up strong images of the Japanese entertainment of Kyoto's maiko (apprentice geisha). However, it was actually a game that spread among the general public during the Edo period (1603-1868). It is said that at that time, Tousenkyo was widely enjoyed by both children and adults. It is said that Tousenkyo originated from a Chinese game called Touko. However, the rules and manners of the game were difficult to understand. Tousenkyo was born to make it easier for everyone to play. The game became so popular that it eventually came to be used for gambling, and was even banned by the shogunate. Even so, as Western culture spread during the Meiji period (1868-1912), the number of people playing the game declined. However, the game has been passed down to the present day by a number of groups, and is once again gaining recognition.

Tools necessary for Tousenkyo and how to play

This section describes the tools necessary for playing Tousenkyo and how to play the game. Recently, it has become easy to obtain a set of tools online, so why not try playing traditional Tousenkyo?

Tools used for Tousenkyo

Three tools are used in Tousenkyo: a butterfly (target), a pillow (base), and a fan (for Tousenkyo).


A butterfly is a target shaped like a ginkgo leaf. It is often upholstered with cloth and has a bell hanging from both sides by a thread or other means. The bottom of the shaft is usually weighted with several 5 yen coins stacked on top of each other. Note that the size and weight may vary among commercially available butterflies. Since this also affects the ease of knocking down the butterfly, it is advisable to check beforehand what is suitable for practice when participating in a Utsusenkyo group or a tournament.


A pillow is the base on which the butterfly is placed, and is generally made of paulownia wood. The size varies according to the school, but the standard height is 17.5 cm and the top board is 9 cm x 9 cm. Many are decorated with designs on the sides. Some pillows on the market are found slightly higher than the standard. As with choosing a butterfly, we recommend that you check the appropriate size for your practice.

folding fan

Unlike ordinary fans for cooling off, the fans used for tsogenshiki have a special standard. The reason for this is to make it easier for the fan to fly when it is thrown. The number of bones in a folding fan used exclusively for Utsusenkyo is reduced and made thinner to make it lighter. Another major difference is that a dedicated folding fan is considered a consumable item, since it is easily torn or damaged by repeated throwing. We recommend that you prepare a special folding fan if you are going to prepare the equipment for Utsusenkyo.

How to Play Tousenkyo

When playing Tousenkyo, two opponents first set up a pillow in the center and place a butterfly as a target on it. The player with the highest total score wins.

There are not only forms of inscriptions that score points, but also forms that score no points or, conversely, points are deducted from the total. For example, a "kotsuri", in which the fan hits the pillow, is deducted one point.

The number of times the fan is thrown and how the points are counted vary from school to school. The types of inscriptions and the number of points can be found in the inscription charts published by each school, or you can find inscription charts attached to commercial Utsugenkyo sets.

How to hold and throw a fan for Uganko

To make the fan fly and hit the target in Tousenkyo, you need to know how to hold and throw the fan. Since it is handled differently from a regular fan, keep the following points in mind when playing.

How to hold a folding fan for Tosenkyo

Use your right hand to hold the fan for throwing fan. Support the fan from the bottom with your thumb, and hold it from the top with your remaining four fingers. When throwing a fan, hold the fan so that the thumb side is down and the fan surface is horizontal.

How to Throw a Fan in Tousenkyo

When throwing a folding fan, sit on your seat, hold the fan horizontally, and push it forward. At this point, pull the fan lightly toward you to give it more momentum and make it fly farther. There are some rules for how to throw a folding fan in Tosenkyo, so please keep them in mind. For example, when throwing a fan, do not raise your hips from a sitting position. The key is to keep your back straight and to keep your upper body close to the target.

Let's play with the fan throwing game!

Tosenkyo is a traditional Japanese game using a fan. There is a unique atmosphere when a fan is thrown and it flies softly, knocking down a target with a bell on it. Although it may have a strong image as a tatami room game, recently Tosenkyo has been attracting attention again, especially among those who are interested in traditional culture. The rules are simple and easy to understand, so why not try your hand at Tousenkyo? Ibasen, a long-established folding fan shop in Nihonbashi, offers a wide variety of fans for different purposes and occasions.

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Throwing Fan Show Set (Butterfly, Pillow, Fan Throwing, Method of play, Score table)

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