Hello, it’s Tomocchi☆
This time I’ll be introducing Japanese spinning tops (koma)!
When it comes to spinning tops, I bet many people in Japan most associate them with the New Year’s Festival.
Did you play with tops when you were a child?
I heard that there was a toy which defies convention that has existed a long time in Sasebo called a Sasebo Spinning Top (Sasebogoma). I visited a store in Sasebo that has been in operation for three generations called the “Sasebo Spinning Top Shop” (Sasebogomahonpo).
These days, it’s the Yamamoto family that makes the tops there.
When I visited, I talked with the mother and daughter of the family and they taught me how to spin their tops.
Sasebo Spinning tops are “Fighting Tops.”
With a special shout you fling the top to the ground and it’s meant to bash your opponent’s top away or maybe even break it!
But wait, isn’t she holding the top the wrong way around?
Yes, she is. Sasebo Spinning Tops are wound and thrown in the exact opposite way to usual!
Point the tip upwards and from this upside-down position you fiercely sling the top to the ground. You can search the world over and this is the only place you’ll find spinning tops like this☆
Driven into the tip of the spinning top there’s a sharp piece of metal called a ken.
Not only do Sasebo Spinning Tops spin for a long time but since they are meant to “fight” with other tops they are made to be very strong and sturdy.
Another one of their peculiar characteristics is that they are shaped like Chinese scallions (rakkyou).
The vibrant colors of the tops are said to be influenced by the five elements in Chinese cosmology (Inyougogyousetu) which uses the 5 colors: green, red, yellow, white, and black.
These five colors are supposedly meant to represent “the world” or “the universe” ☆
At the Sasebo Spinning Top Shop you can even paint your own original top (1,900 yen, including materials, before tax).
When I visited the shop, these unique and multi-colored tops made by guests were lined up on display!
Painting your own top is very popular with tourists as well as members of the military stationed in Sasebo who remark that it’s “a very Japanese experience.”
Lately many Americans living in Sasebo bring their Japanese friends to the shop. What a funny spin on what you might expect (lol).
In the display corner, aside from just orthodox spinning tops there are also Christmas ornaments, dolls for display, and other seasonal items that are great as gifts.
By the way, custom-made spinning tops start at 4,000 yen.
This shop also handles a great variety of spinning tops with prices from 886 yen all the way up to 50,000 yen.
Wouldn’t you like to recapture that feeling of childhood and play with a Sasebo Spinning Top?
Also, check out the actual building of the Sasebo Spinning Top Shop☆
The uniquely designed exterior looks like a Sasebo Spinning Top!
Even from far away you can immediately tell what it is☆
It’s located in the center of Sasebo near “Yonka-cho Arcade.”
Sasebo Spinning Top Shop (Sasebogomahonpo)
Address: 9-13 Shimanji-cho, Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture.