Japan swinging into 2017 with Trumped-up good luck charm

Japanese traditional doll maker Kyugetsu employee Megumi Kondo displays wooden battledores with images of US President-elect Donald Trump (right) and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (left) at the company's showroom in Tokyo on Dec 7, 2016.
Japanese traditional doll maker Kyugetsu employee Megumi Kondo displays wooden battledores with images of US President-elect Donald Trump (right) and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike (left) at the company's showroom in Tokyo on Dec 7, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Donald Trump only wants to make America great again, but one Japanese firm hopes that painting his face on a traditional good luck charm will make the whole planet a better place in 2017.

The billionaire property magnate is among a string of celebrity faces adorning the special collection of hagoita racquets, which are designed to - metaphorically - smash away bad luck and evil spirits before the new year.

The rectangular wooden paddles, once used in a badminton-like game called hanetsuki, are usually painted with the faces of famous actors in Japan's Kabuki opera.

They're found in many households as a good luck charm.

Kyugetsu, which also specialises in making traditional dolls, decided to include US president-elect Trump on the skateboard-sized paddles this year.

Among the other 18 luminaries are British leader Theresa May, some Japanese athletes who won gold medals at the Rio Olympics, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike and this year's Nobel Medicine Prize winner Yoshinori Ohsumi.

"Mr Trump is very popular ahead of his inauguration next year," said the firm's executive manager Hisatoshi Yokoyama.

"We want him to hit back the bad luck and make the world great." Trump's paddle features a plentiful mound of blonde hair.

"I was really careful to make sure the faces resembled each person, and I tried especially hard to make the complexion and shape of their faces realistic," designer Yukari Suga said.

Another Japanese firm, Ogawa Studios, the country's top rubber mask maker, has seen surging demand for its version of Trump since his shock Nov 8 win.