Traditional 'polo' game played at Imperial Palace

Traditional 'polo' game played at Imperial Palace

The horsemen of Japan's Imperial Household Agency have played a traditional polo-like game at the Imperial Palace's equestrian ground in central Tokyo.

Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko and Crown Prince Naruhito watched Tuesday's game, which is called "Dakyu."

The game is said to have originated in Central Asia, as did European polo. It was introduced into Japan from China in the 8th to 9th centuries, and became a court event. Its popularity also grew among samurai warriors in the 18th century.

Mounted players divided into 2 teams--red and white--compete to score goals. They use sticks with netting to catch the ball and throw it into a hole high on a wall.

The Emperor and Empress applauded the game-deciding goal.

The Imperial couple reportedly played the game with their children when they were young.

"Dakyu" and other traditional equestrian skills are preserved by agency officials who take care of the household's horses.