Shogi Piece with Reverse ‘Horse’ Character
Shogi is a Japanese board game similar to chess, made up of many wooden pieces (koma). Kazari Goma (lit. decorative pieces) are larger-scale, decorative versions of shogi pieces, which are typically hung in front of restaurants and homes to bring good fortune. These decorative objects were developed in Tendo in Yamagata Prefecture, which is a famous producer of shogi pieces. The number of craftsmen making them has diminished in recent years, with Tendo the primary production area for all of Japan. On the kazari goma displayed on the kumade at Japan House, the character depicted is of hidari uma, literally, ‘left-facing horse’. This symbol is a mirrored image of the Japanese character for horse, uma. Read backwards using the Japanese syllabary, it becomes mau, meaning ‘to dance’ – such wordplay is common in Japan. With dancing common to celebrations and festivities in Japan, the word takes on associations of positivity and good luck.