One of the traditional games played at ‘shinnenkai’ (New Year’s parties) in Japan is fukuwarai, which roughly means ‘lucky laugh’. Although usually played by children, adults do play it too sometimes. The game is pretty similar to ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ which is a children’s game played in America.
The objective of the game is to place paper cutouts of facial features on the outline of a face that doesn’t have any facial features yet. This is done with the player blindfolded throughout. Fukuwarai became a well-known game during the late Edo period (19th century). It was during the Taisho period (early 20th century) that people started playing it as a New Year’s game. Until the 60’s, people (especially kids) played fukuwarai at home.
Traditionally the game was played using a funny-looking woman with a round face, but over the years, many different facial styles have evolved. Nowadays it also includes famous celebrities, comic-book heroes, etc.
This is the typical way how fukuwarai is played. You can use an actual game set, but you can just as well make one yourself using strong paper (which is part of the fun!). You can print images from the web and cut out different facial features, and prepare the outline of a face with no facial features.
Firstly, the outline of the face is placed on the floor. Next, a player is blindfolded using a piece of cloth, handkerchief, or a sleep mask. Make sure there are no gaps so that the player can’t peek through and cheat! Then, the blindfolded player would attempt to place the cutouts of the facial features such as eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth while being guided by other players through the instructions they give. When the player is done placing all the facial features, the blindfold will be removed so the player’s handiwork can be revealed to him or her. Usually, the face would turn out ridiculous which will, of course, make all the players laugh at the great piece of art!
This game can be a great source of amusement for both kids and adults. If you can’t wait to play, you can find online versions of fukuwarai. If you click here you will find a great one based on the face of Hillary Clinton. Do try this at home!