A Kendama is a wooden toy, in which a cross-shaped “Ken (handle)” and “Tama (ball)” with a hole are connected with a string. The user plays with it by catching the ball with the handle tip or “Sara (dishes)” attached to the handle. Although it looks like a simple toy, there are actually many techniques, which are said to amount to several tens of thousands. Though similar toys have existed in other countries since olden times, the modern Kendama was produced with the name of “nichigetsu ball”. Since then, it has gained popularity as a children’s toy and spread throughout Japan.
About 10 years ago, some people in Western countries started using Kendama in performances. The trigger for the Kendama boom was when a young guy from the U.S. took a Japanese Kendama back home and posted a video of his performance on the Internet. His performance of one technique after another in time with music attracted attention from all over the world, including young people in Japan. Now, there is a new Kendama boom as performances or as a sport, with young people in street fashion performing acrobatic techniques in parks or on wide streets.
In July 2014, the “Kendama World Cup” was held in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima, which is known as the birthplace of Kendama where mass-production of Kendama began in about 1921,and players gathered from ten countries. The venue was filled with great excitement, with the top players competing with each other in performances with splendid techniques and a Kendama class being held, in which general visitors could participate.
Kendama are available in a specialized shop in Hatsukaichi City, as well as department stores and toy shops throughout Japan. Their prices start from about 1,500 yen. If you visit Japan, why don’t you purchase an authentic Kendama and practice playing with it while watching videos, so that you can perform advanced techniques?
- Kendama show by a Japanese performer group “ZOOMADANKE”
Photo by: GLOKEN