Spinning Into the New Year.

New Years in Japan is without a doubt one of the biggest, if not the biggest holiday, celebrated for multiple days. Numerous activities and events are spread everywhere throughout the big cities and small towns. And as a foreigner, with limited time on the island, it’s extremely difficult to decide which festivities to take part in!

Last year we traveled to Tokyo to ring in the New Year by visiting both famous and local shrines and temples. (A ritual followed by all Japanese on New Year’s Day in all cities, not just Tokyo). This year however, we stayed in the city of Sasebo and focused more on the events that happened following New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Off of Route 11, in the heart of Sasebo City, is a small family owned Top Factory. It is here that a local couple makes and paints handmade spinning tops. On January 2nd of each year they hold a tops spinning competition. It is open to the public, free of charge, for all ages. So this year we decided to spin into the New Year and see what all the fun was about.

Sasebo Top Factory.

Like most everything else done or celebrated in Japan, spinning, as a New Year’s activity, is considered good luck. Until the end of World War II, spinning the tops used to be a popular kid’s activity on New Year’s Day. Some other popular activities included kite flying and Japanese playing cards too. From what I gathered the rules of top spinning are quite simple: spin within the designated circle area, knocking out other tops, last top spinning wins. The competition began with children and then worked up to adults and the elderly.

Drawings about the event.


2        3



Checking in.
Checking in.
Getting ready.
Getting ready.


Children's group competing.
Children’s group competing.
Women's group competing.
Women’s group competing.
Last one spinning wins!
Last one spinning wins!


Lindsay View All →

Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!

4 Comments Leave a comment

  1. hi guys. first off, let me say thanks for the amazing blog. i love digging through your blog and reading about your explorations of such a beautiful country. My wife and I are going to be visiting Japan in November, and I wanted to locate areas where spinning tops are still crafted. I’ve noticed a couple of entries on your blog where you’ve visited the shop in Sasebo. Could you possibly provide any assistance in locating shops that still craft spinning tops? I’m an avid collector and this would truly make my trip even more amazing.

    Thanks in advance for any help and insight you can provide.

  2. Hello!
    Thank you so much for the kind words! Japan is amazingly beautiful and every area has something unique to offer, we love it here! Unfortunately, so far throughout our travels in Japan, we have not encountered any other areas that specialize in crafting tops (or many that actually sell them for that matter). I have tried researching and locating other places, but have had no luck yet.
    Sasebo City is known for their tops, so it is here that you will find designs and shapes specific to this area. Many shops here sell the tops, but this factory is the only one that I know of that actually handcrafts them. I also asked a local tour/travel company that they have here on the Naval base (just to check) and they confirmed that this is the only shop that crafts the tops in this region. This factory also lets you paint your own tops (via appointment), and they can personalize tops for different holidays (their shop switches them out every season), zodiac signs, or Japanese festivals (Boy’s/Girl’s Day, etc).
    We wish you all the luck in your search for spinning tops and hope that you and wife enjoy your time here in wonderful Japan! Please let us know if we can be of any further help!

  3. Thank you soooo much Lindsay for the information. I would love to visit the factory. I’m having a hard time finding information online on this factory. Do you think you could assist with locating this factory?

    • You’re very welcome! Anything we can do to help. I’m not sure what would be best for you but I have google coordinates for the factory: 33.168475, 129.720529. Input in that order in Google maps and it will take you right there! On the off chance you wouldn’t be able to use your phone in Japan, I also asked a Japanese friend for the address but they said that it would be better to show on a map. Maybe the address is too difficult? (addresses can be a little tricky when searching for places in Japan…) So I have a map of that area of Sasebo City if you would like me to send it to you. There are some surrounding landmarks that may help to look at. I’m not sure how you are planning to explore Japan (car, train, etc.) but I can tell you that it is less than a mile away from Sasebo train station, right off of M-11. It’s a straight shot, you’ll see it from that main road (between the Sasebo Naval Base and the Sasebo train station). If you would like me to send a photo copy of the Sasebo map please send your email to: lrmsdj2012@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to send it your way. Sorry I couldn’t find any more specific addresses! Hope this helps in some way!

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