No Tokai


Does anyone in this day and age know this term? Just yesterday I used it on my 22-year-old male assistant, but he had no clue what I was talking about. I couldn’t believe it at first, but I have since come to terms with the fact that many boys who grew up fifteen years ago or a little more have possibly never played marble games. The phrases that I thought would immediately strike a chord no longer hit home. It saddens me. Not as a reminder of the passing of the times. But because of the fact that the virtual is so completely replacing the real world and the majority of children will never know the joy of a good game of marbles.


All my siblings and I played marbles in the sixties. I held the championship for a number of days until big brother bought an extra-large aqua coloured marble and shot my daguli to pieces. There’s another term that no one uses anymore today. A daguli was a lucky marble. If the owner played with it, very little chances that the other players would win. A daguli was believed to be imbued with many strengths and included the power to knock out other players’ marbles and maneuver its way into the hole in the ground, which was equivalent to a goal post, in marble lingo. In addition, it contained sterling good luck and it was considered very unlucky to enter a match without one’s daguli. Many losses have been blamed on the fact that the loser had not played with his lucky marble. I should also mention that it didn’t matter if a daguli had a crack. One of my lucky marbles had one-fourth of it missing but still won many matches, to the dismay of my opponents with intact lucky marbles. But such was the power of the daguli and any serious marble player knew better than to challenge a player who had a lucky marble that was tried and tested.


Marble games were so popular in our day that grocery shops kept a big jar on the counter filled with marbles. Spending your pocket money on marbles was seen as a wise investment, when the choice was between sweets and marbles.


The playing grounds were outside spaces with a hole dug out with great precision. Deep holes were not encouraged as it made the game too easy and the chances of shooting marbles inside a deep hole were quite high. A too-shallow hole, on the other hand, made it quite difficult to score as the marble could land in the hole, but slide out the other side because of the shallowness.


I don’t remember all the rules of the game, but a chancy player could call out ‘Hop’ and stand up to shoot his marble from the knee. The rest of us shot our marbles with a technique of using our index finger to propel the marble forward with great force. Patience, much practice and getting the right angle ensured perfect hits. The hop was a big risk in reality.


Another exciting element about the game was that a player could shout out ‘Tokai!’ at some point and take an advantage of two hand lengths to get closer to the goal. If other players objected, they would unanimously shout, ‘No Tokai!’ In that case, the first player could not go through with the Tokai. According to a former player now in his sixties, another term was the word, ‘Straight’ which the players shouted to shoot straight through to the goal in spite of hindrances in their way, such as other players’ marbles.


In later days, the words, ‘daguli’ and ‘no tokai’ have been used (in circles where people understand marbles) as a kind of slang. For example, older boys would refer to a crush as their daguli. Additionally, if someone was trying to get a project done, but did not succeed, he could reply No Tokai to enquiries about his project. Marble players would understand the implied meanings of these words even when used in another context.


It’s a pity there are hardly any players left today. Nothing like a good game of marbles to work up healthy competition and develop shooting skills which might come in handy sometime in the future!