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“Otedama,” Friend, Jan. 1985, 26–27



Otedama is a game Japanese children play. It is similar to jacks, but tiny beanbags are used instead of a ball and jacks. To make your own beanbags, you will need: five pieces of fabric or felt 2 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ (6.4 cm x 3.8 cm); needle and thread; and rice, popcorn kernels, or dried beans or peas.

  1. Fold each piece of fabric in half with right side of cloth on inside.

  2. Using very small stitches, sew up two of three open sides.

  3. Turn bag right side out and fill it almost to top with rice, peas, popcorn kernels, or beans.

  4. Turn edges in and sew up last side.

  5. For extra strength, overcast all seams. (An overcast stitch goes over both edges of cloth.)

How to Play Otedama

Jacks Version

Scatter five bags on floor. Choose one and toss it into air. With same hand, pick up another bag and catch falling one. Repeat until all bags are picked up. Start again, but pick up two bags at each toss, then three bags, then four bags.

Finally, toss five bags into air and catch as many as you can on back of same hand. Flip bags you caught into air again and catch as many as you can in palm of same hand.

Juggling Version

Hold two bags in one hand. Toss one bag up, and just before it starts to come down, toss other bag up. Catch first bag with same hand and toss it up again before catching second bag.

When you can do this several times without dropping either bag, try doing it with your other hand. Then try juggling with both hands at once. If you get really good at it, try juggling three bags instead of just two!

Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh