Kendama, Sungka, Sipa and other Asian game makers


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As members of the New York Times Games team, who are also Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we have created an entire page of activities in the farewell At Home section of the newspaper. May 30 which incorporates influences from our respective cultures. This project was born in part from a desire to honor our collective heritage (May was Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month) and seemed particularly timely in light of the rise of anti-Asian attacks in the country. .

When planning the activities, we were inspired by the games we played as children. Since Asian Americans are such a diverse group, it was interesting to hear team members share their personal experiences, and we discovered common references, such as the connection between the Korean game go stop and the Japanese hanafuda card game, or the fact that many cultures have their own variations of mahjong.

Finally, we developed a puzzle with a cryptogram, a set of paper crafts and a game to play outside. All of these could be made from the physical journal, and all of them are imbued with influences from our origins. Working on these sparked additional memories and reflections on the role that games have played in our upbringing, multicultural identities and communities. Here are some of our thoughts.

My father is from Japan and my mother is from the Philippines. I was born in Hawaii and grew up in Japan. The games that inspired me the most were the traditional Japanese games that had a physical element; they required some hand / eye coordination. There is a game called kendama, which is a wooden ball attached to a wooden stick with a string. The object is to swing the ball off the stick and try to balance it. Another is called otedama, which are small cloth bags filled with beans. They were used as juggling balls, but you had to make them yourself by sewing together beautiful Japanese fabrics. I think I was drawn to these games because I was constantly browsing multiple languages ​​and cultures. The games required concentration and practice, but also had a crafty element (silk, embroidery, wood), and perhaps the introverted nature of the games helped me cope with my multiracial and multicultural background. – Amber Taniuchi

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. My parents immigrated from South Korea. My dad worked a lot when I was a kid, but I remember he introduced us to classic games. I remember learning to play chess on a nice wooden board with my dad describing the movements of each piece. He once surprised us by getting a big, heavy chess board for Chinese go and chess, which he also taught us to play. The hwatu card game, which is used in the Korean go stop game, remains a special object for me that connects me to my family and home. It’s one of those things I discovered as a child while rummaging curiously in my mother’s cupboards. Cards are probably the first pieces of graphic design that I ever loved as a child. I never mastered the game but have always kept a deck in my office since I left my parents’ house. -Caroline Oh

I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, New Jersey. My parents immigrated from South Korea, and when I was born my grandmother also immigrated to help me raise myself. I can still see the image of her playing a version of the hwatu solitaire on her own in my aunt’s living room, where she was trying to line up the 48 cards in their suits. My grandmother used a small napkin on the coffee table to make it easier to pick up and turn over the cards. I watched without understanding the rules but loved reacting to his color commentary. As I get older, I still think about how difficult it must have been for my grandmother to assimilate to a new country at a late age. I think lonely hwatu was his way of passing the time and reconnecting with his homeland in a little way. – Dan Lim

I was born and raised in California, where my parents immigrated from the Philippines. I also feel connected to Japan, where my husband’s family lives, because I spent a few years there during my childhood. Growing up I played a type of game known as mancala, involving counting and catching, but I liked sungka, the Filipino version. It is a two player game using a long wooden board with two rows of seven small pits called bahay, which means “houses”. Each player has their own shell store at each end, and players take turns emptying and depositing their pits to reach their store. When I first visited my cousins ​​in the Philippines, playing sungka was a way for us to get to know each other. When I asked my parents about their experiences with the sungka, which is played indoors, they were more excited to tell me about the traditional Filipino games they had played outdoors, such as tumbang preso (trying to hit a can with a flat stone or slippers) and patintero (in which players draw lines on the ground and try to keep the other team from passing them). Even though I never played these games, just talking about them was a way to bond with my parents. – Lizelle Serrano

My parents and my mother’s family moved to Bayside, Queens, from Manila in the late 80’s. I have lived in New York City all my life. In college I was weirdly obsessed with the hacky sack and played it with my friends after school. One day my mom taught me the childhood game she played called sipa, which I didn’t know but was surprisingly similar. She added that it was the “national sport of the Philippines”. She told me that she and her friends used to play growing up and make sipas from found objects and reused materials, and she showed me how to make one from it. ‘a washer and a candy wrapper. I remember being fascinated by how an object made of simple pieces could be so cleverly designed: like a badminton birdie, it was able to automatically straighten itself in the air, always landing with the puck side down. to give your foot a flat surface for kicking. I was so in love at the time with this little link between my culture growing up and that of my family. – Robert Vinluan


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