The Historical Marble Games of Japan


(Courtesy of Kaoruko Tanaka)

Marble playing in Japan began about 1898 with the invention of Cod-Neck Bottles called Ramune (pronounced “rah-moo-nay”). Ramune are soda bottles that have marble stoppers in the neck of the bottle. Children began to remove and play with the treasured toy found inside the neck of the bottles (Chronological Table Of Children’s Play-Environmental Agency Of Japan). Marble games became very popular with Japanese children by the 1920’s. The Japanese Marble Association continues to promote marble playing among children in Japan today.

Marbles are called “Bee-dama” in Japan. There are many other local or regional names for marbles in Japan, like “Ramune-dama” in Kansai and “Kacchin-dama” or “Mekachin”.

The following are several of the marble games that are played in Japan:


A marble game similar to “Bounce-eye” only that there is no ring required. The player puts his heels together, with toes apart and drops his shooter from his eye height.


A marble game called “Measuring Worm” which is rather a very primitive game. The players place the target marbles at random on the ground. They determine who goes first by playing rock-paper-scissors. The winner begins by tossing his shooter into the target marbles. If, it is within span of his thumb to middle finger to his opponent’s marbles, then he wins all of them. The player continues until he fails to span a shot and then it is the next player’s turn.


A marble game called “Out From Star” which is similar to “Poison Ring”. First, the players draw a star on the ground with a pitch line in front of the star, and a wavy lag line (also the taw line) 4 or 5 meters on the other side of the star. Each player places 5 or 6 marbles into the star. They determine who goes first by pitching their shooter toward the lag line. The player closest to the lag line goes first. The players shoot according to the turn won. They shoot from the taw line trying to hit the marbles out of the star. The player knocking out the most marbles is the winner and keeps all of the remaining marbles left in the star.


A marble game similar to “Hoshidashi” but played in a circle like “Ring Taw”.


A marble game called “Heaven or Hell” which is the most popular marble game in Japan and is similar to “Five-Holes”.

1. You make five shallow holes in the ground 1 – 3 meters apart.

Heaven o




o Hell

2. The players determine turns by playing rock-paper-scissors. In order of turn the players position themselves on the “Hell” hole and roll towards the “Heaven” hole. If, a player “makes” the “Heaven” hole or is the closest goes first, next turn.

3. Once a player has made the “Heaven” hole he shoots for #2, then #1, #2, #3, #2 and finally “Hell”. It must be in that order and the player “making” all the holes first wins. Players may also shoot at their opponent’s marbles and collect the shooters they hit.


A marble game called “Scatter” in which you draw two lines about 4 meters apart. The player backs up about arm lengths away and throws a certain amount of marbles across both lines. If, the player succeeds then, your opponent will choose one of the marbles as the target marble. The player shoots at the chosen target marble. If he succeeds, then he gets to keep all of the marbles.

THE MARBLE MUSEUM wishes to thank Ms. Kaoruko Tanaka for providing and translating this information on marble playing in Japan. We would also like to thank Peter Caparelli from the Land Of Marbles for his efforts.

References are “Asobo” (Let’s Play) by Mr. Michihiko Sugawara (1986, Isseisha) and The Environmental Agency of Japan.
Edited by Chris Cooper.

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