Top spinning 曲独楽

曲独楽 Kyokukoma

Tops were thought to have arrived in Japan during the Nara period (AD 710 to AD 784) from the Korean peninsular, but could also have developed in Japan independently, as the oldest excavated top dates from the 7th century, found in the old capital of Fujiwara.

Ceramic spinning tops made of terra cotta were found at Troy (Turkey) dating from 3,000 B.C. A top still survives found in Egypt dating from 2,000 B.C. And there have been tops found in China and Greece dating back over 3000 years’ ago.

Fortune tellers were said to have spun tops at the Japanese court. Yashi also spun tops as part of their street performance.

Each region had its own style of spinning top – Hakata koma from Fukuoka prefecture and Edo koma, which traditionally came in five colours.

The woodblock print above is of top spinner, Takezawa Toji 竹沢藤次 published in 1843.

Dr HS Lynn (Washington Simmons) brought top spinning back with him in the 1860s to Britain after his stay in Japan in 1863-4.

In 1867 Matsui Gensui and then in

Troupes with top spinning

Matsui Gensui

Risley’s Imperial Troupe (Sumidagawa Koman, Matsui Kikujirō, Matsui Tsune)

Tannaker’s Royal Tycoon Troupe (Tanaka Hikonosuke)

Royal Tycoon’s Private Troupe ( Matsui Yoshigorō – stage name probably Oh Ra To)

Akimoto’s Royal Yedo Japanese Troupe 1896-1908

Royal Tokio 1904-1916

Okayama Troupe 1918-1923

Royal Togo 1905-1939

Mizuhara Gintarō 1889-1948

Top spinning videos

Togo top spins at the end of this film