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Interviews & Reports

Spinning Tops, A Lifelong Love (2)

Author: Hai@Luisiana

(Previous story: Spinning Tops, A Lifelong Love (1))

How do I find my tops?

The journey of collecting tops has been an interesting one. I have found many of my tops at various shops on the internet. Some of my tops have been gifted to me as friends come across them during their travels. My friend from India purchased these for me when he returned for a visit home:

Indian Tops

I have also purchased a great number of tops through my travels. I purchased these during my trip to Mexico:

Mexican Tops

The best time I’ve had traveling and buying tops has been my trip to Japan during November 2015. My wife and I took a 3 week trip to Japan, and I made plans to visit a Nagoya and Sasebo with the purpose of seeing and purchasing tops. During the trip, we visited Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Sasebo. Visiting Japan was a profound and life changing experience in and of itself. The country, the people, and the culture were all so beautiful and amazing.

In Nagoya, I visited the Spinning Top Museum. The museum has an extensive collection of spinning tops from all over the world. At times they have performances, mainly for school children. There’s a small section of tops for purchase. There I met the proprietors. They spoke very little English, and I spoke very very little Japanese. We got along very well and had a great time. They showed me different techniques on throwing various styles of tops. They even showed me how to battle beigoma. This experience will stick in my mind for the rest of my life. There are so many tops that I did not know how to properly throw, but I learned how to throw all of them that afternoon. The experience speaks even more to me because of the big language barrier. Even if we didn’t speak the same language, we were still able to connect through spinning tops.

In Sasebo, I traveled to the Sasebo Top shop where I met the most warm and welcoming woman. Again, she spoke no English, and I spoke little Japanese. We instantly hit it off. She taught my wife and I how to properly throw the Sasebo top, as well as how to battle. We stood in front of her shop and battled for a while. Even a stranger from the street asked to join in on the battle as he was nostalgic of his childhood. At the end, after I made my purchases, she even helped me find lunch. She recommended a Sasebo Burger. Of course, it was delicious!

Facade of a Sasebo Top shop

Variety of Sasebo tops

Click for a larger image

Sasebo burger lunch

A Plea to the Artisans of Japan

If you are an artisan that still makes spinning tops, PLEASE DO NOT STOP! My greatest fear is that this art form is dying. It is an amazing part of any culture that I feel should be kept alive. People like Noriko Osaka and the folks at JTCO are doing a great job of getting information out there. My suggestion to you is to work with people like Noriko to bring your crafts into the modern age and make it more accessible to the rest of the world. My biggest hope is that more traditional Japanese art forms like this are made more accessible to the rest of the world like me. It’s partially selfish as I would like to enjoy your culture from a distance :)

A Special Thank You…

I would like to thank Noriko Osaka at JTCO. She has helped me access a world of traditional Japanese culture and spinning tops that I would not have been able to find on my own. Collecting spinning tops is a deep passion of mine, and it brings me great joy. Noriko has helped me further extend that joy. She is amazing. Thank you Noriko.

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