Crazy Over Japanese Temari Balls

Temari balls, also known as gotenmari balls, was introduced to Japan by the Chinese around 600 years ago. “Temari” literally means “hand ball” in Japanese. They were initially used as a beanbag toy for otedama (juggling).

Assorted temari balls. | Just Leon.

Craftsmen also discovered a way to make the balls bounce with the introduction of rubber to Japan, thus making them a sort of hand ball.Some of the temari balls have bells inside and are also a popular decoration used in many homes today.

Temari was initially made of material from old kimonos. Scraps of silk fabric would be wound up tightly to form a ball. The wad would then be wrapped with more strips of fabric. Over time, the making of traditional temari became an art form with the addition of detailed and decorative stitching and embroidery to make the balls look more colorful and intricate.

Temari is a folk art form once practiced by the Japanese aristocracy: many highborn Japanese women would vie to create the most beautiful temari balls. Children traditionally received temari balls from their parents on New Year’s Day. Inside the ball’s layers would be a piece of paper with a wish for the child.

Temari ball. | starhandarts

Temari balls were also treasured gifts that symbolized loyalty and friendship. The colorful designs represent a blessed and happy life for the receiver. It takes a specific kind of training to become a temari maker. A temari maker is tested for skill and technique in the craft before being acknowledged as such.

Temari making is a great way to keep a Japanese tradition alive. Strictly traditional artists still make use of fabric strips, while the more modern craftspeople make use of a pre-formed ball base (mari), usually a styrofoam ball or a wooden bead. They then wrap this with a layer of yarn and sewing thread. Common designs are geometric and symmetrical, like kaleidoscope patterns.

Temari balls make wonderful decorative ornaments for your home as well as beautiful presents for family and friends. Below is an instructional video to help you create your own temari balls. Have fun, as you learn how to make a temari ball!

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