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Ayatori – String Figure

An overview of the Ayatori

The Ayatori is a string game played by young Japanese children involving the manipulation of a string, oftentimes made of yarn, to form different figures. When playing this, a player must be able to successfully transfer the string into his or her hands through a number of moves and tricks.

Đang xem: Ayatori

History of the Ayatori

Despite being known as a game for young Japanese children, there are many historical pieces that depict this as a form of amusement for all ages. There are paintings showing women and even young couples playing the Ayatori. For many historians, the Ayatori is not just a game of strings but rather a form of intricate art that requires skill and talent.


By Heinrich Klutschak (1848-1890) , via Wikimedia Commons

This string game is considered as one of the oldest means of entertainment in the world and is known to be a part of not only the Japanese culture but many other cultures in the world. In fact, there is a group known as the International String Figure Association or ISFA which was formed in 1978 in hopes of not only gathering but preserving string figure knowledge from different cultures around the globe as well. This is in hopes of providing knowledge for future generations and allow the historical game to live long into the future. The main project of this association is to create an idea bank of both historical and modern string game rules, patterns, shapes, and techniques.

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It is actually not that easy to play, and the games can get quite competitive. Despite its role in history, the game is still popular until today and is known to have different kinds of modifications or ‘mods’. There are new string figures and techniques that can be learned.

Importance of Ayatori in Religion and Culture

Many of the traditional games, not only in Japan, play an important role in shaping the culture. These are activities which are passed on from one generation to another and give modern people a sense of the kind of amusement people had in the past. On top of that, many of these traditional games are bases of more modern games as well.

Based on historical records, the Ayatori was generally known as a girl’s game but has long since changed its image to become a gender-neutral activity. For those wondering why, because the Ayatori is very diverse and flexible. It is a great game to play during the cold months of Autumn and Winter (September, October, November, December, January, February, and March). It is a game which could be played at any time of the day, it requires no large space for playing yet could involve as many competitors as possible – with no limits.

The Ayatori may be a simple game but requires great knowledge and skill. It is quite calculated where each movement or step shall not make the string tangled. It is one of the most intelligent traditional games in Japan. What is interesting about the Ayatori is the fact that it was not only a game of strings. There was a time in Japan’s history when it was used in divination and magic.

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The Complex Rules of Playing Ayatori: How to Play


The Ayatori can be played alone or with friends. When playing along, it is more like exploring different ways to form a variety of shapes and figures. However, when playing with other players, the important rule to remember is that another person must be able to successfully create figures and shapes while the string is on another player’s hand.

The shapes start with simple and small shapes and progressing to more complicated figures. What is interesting is that the player who tangles the string or makes a mistake in forming a figure or shape will lose. Then, the game shall start again.

The game can get quite competitive because it is a show of how much shapes and figures a person can form. Usually, they also need to know how to transform one shape into another – one of the most difficult aspects of the game. Despite its competitive nature, the game is fun overall and can be enjoyed by people of any age, gender, or race.


The most important, and most essential knowledge about the Ayatori is learning how to do the ‘Opening A’ step. When a person learns how to move the Opening A from another player’s hand into theirs, that is the time that they can start learning more complicated tricks.

Here is how the ‘Opening A’ can be done:

Put the string on both hands where the pinky and the thumb are inside the loop while the other fingers are outside of the loop.Create a criss-cross by looping the strings with the index fingers.The Opening A shall have three loops where the small loops are between the thumbs and between the pinky. The larger loop is formed by the two index fingers.

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Another important move to remember is the Navajo Opening. Here is how the ‘Navajo opening’ can be done:

Put the string on both hands by looping it in the index finger.Loop the left side of the string, while creating a crisscrossing loop, with the thumb.Pull this loop using the right thumb.Two loops shall be produced connecting the thumbs, and the index fingers. A large ‘X’ shape shall be seen in between the thumb and the index finger.

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Tools: The Ayatori Yarn

The string can be made out of different kinds of material. There was a time in Japan when silk, although expensive, was used as a string for the Ayatori. People can also use yarn or a string of wool. What is important is that a piece of string about a meter long is cut from the ball of yarn. Both ends shall be tied together by a small but sturdy knot to make a small loop. The knot should have a tight grip despite its small size. This loop of the string must be long enough to be as wide as the player’s shoulder.

Different Kinds of Ayatori Tricks

Here are a few of the most popular Ayatori tricks in Japan:

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