In the good old days, long before people got occupied and carried away with anime and manga, people had fun activities and spent time together rather than with machines! Other than making mochi together (without the magic machine, it takes one to pour water while another pounds the rice), Japanese people played card games, for example. The following examples used to be popular during Japanese New Year’s.
Hanetsuki is a game similar to badminton though it doesn’t have a web. The wooden paddle is called hagoita and there is also brightly colored shuttlecock.
Fukuwarai “Lucky Laugh” is the Japanese equivalent of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, which is usually played by children. In Fukuwarai, blindfolded players pin different face parts onto a blank face, making funny results.
Iroha-garuta is a card game that requires only the ability to read hiragana. One person reads a proverb, while the others try to find the corresponding card.
Last but not least, the mother of all things Japanese: origami, traditional art of paper folding. I had true masters, the Japanese obaasan instructing me on making boxes from old advertisements and newspapers. Of course we also made the famous crane, 1000 of which are called senbazuru. One who folds 1000 cranes is granted a wish, such as long life and recovery from illness and injury. (I am 995 cranes short!)
The crane is a symbol of long life in Japan, and they are presented as offerings to a shrine or temple.
The thousand origami cranes also symbolises world peace, since a girl radiated in Hiroshima atom bombing believed that creating thousand cranes would cure her leukemia.
I have admit, that my results in origami was only thanks to the great instructor. I doubt I could make them again. Previously I have looked some instructions online and in books, but it is definitely different to have someone guide you through it, even in a foreign language!