鬼ごっこ Onigokko: Let's Pretend We Are Demons

鬼ピキ photo by w00kie
One summer day we were having our normal class in the park when something interesting happened. As we were stretching, we watched a team building exercise that some company was doing in the same park as us. There were a lot of pretty women working for this company, so most of my students were riveted.

They began a game of tag. They used the entire park. Most of them were athletic, so it was a very aggressive and and fast paced game. At one point one guy came to stand next to us. We were all lined up on the periphery of the field watching this game. I realized immediately what he was doing.

Hatsumi Sensei tells us that "a person who understands play has life's greatest treasure." He says that in Kukishin-ryu this idea is taught as 鬼ごっこ onigokko (demon play) which is a children's game of tag. In this game the "oni" chases down the other children. As they are caught, they are "infected" and turn into oni. Until they all become little demons!

In 2011, there was a world record setting onigokko game played in a Toyama stadium. There were 1566 participants. It only took 7 minutes for all of them to be caught and turned into oni!

I said hello to the guy standing next to me. I asked him what company he worked for. He said TOMS shoes. I knew this company because my wife likes them and they are popular in the U.S.. I said, so are you hiding over here with us? He smiled and said he was just resting.

We watched as all the workers  ran around the park and got caught. Turning each into another demon. This guy had a great strategy. No one was even looking for him among our group as we stood there watching.

Finally the demons ran out of victims. As they searched the park their attention turned to us. The guy said to me, "I better run!" He took off and sprinted around the park. He dashed between his pursuers until they finally caught him.

Later when I got home, I looked up TOMS Shoes to see where their offices were, since I knew they must be nearby. It turns out that this guy with the great strategy of hiding out with us was the founder of the company, Blake Mycoskie. That day he definitely showed a good understanding of "play."

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