Wouldn't you like to compete and to show off your skill with colorful and coolly decorated kendama in time to music? For those who don't know, kendama is a handheld game with a cross-shaped handle (ken) with three cups and a pointed tip that's used to catch a ball with a hole (tama).
The sporty and cool kendama that are now really popular among Japanese kids were originally a traditional children's toy sold by mom-and-pop candy stores.
Traditional toy kendama.
Kendama Now a Cool Sport Too
Kendama are popular with kids because they're an easy-to-play-with toy.
Around 1975, kendama - which had long been just a familiar kid's toy - became a competitive sport with rules. A few years back kendama burst into popularity as a neat street sport in Japan. There are kendama competitions and events throughout Japan, and there are many videos with music showing kendama skills on the internet.
Colorful kendama designed by famous artists. Those manufactured by kendama studio Yamagata Koubou are highly appreciated worldwide. © ASOBEAMS
Now that clothing stores in Harajuku (a teen hotspot in Tokyo) sell kendama as trendy accessories, its image has changed from toy to cool game. Also, because it also looks cute as a room decoration, there are people who collect different types, and the kendama boom has spread to adults. There are even accessories for kendama such as holsters and display boards, and stylish ways to carry kendama and decorate with them.
Customizing Kendama to Fit Your Style!
The trigger for the kendama boom among elementary school kids nowadays was the KENDAMAXROSS.（Courtesy of BANDAI CO.,LTD） ©BANDAI 2014
The "KENDAMAXROSS" sparked the kendama boom among elementary school kids in Japan. The popularity increased due to kids having fun customizing traditional-style kendama with different parts, assembling them to suit themselves, and boasting about their skill with friends. In addition, kendama were featured in manga (comics) and magazines popular with elementary school kids.
"KENDAMAXROSS" are made of many different materials, and part of their appeal is that boys can choose the cool handles and girls the cute colors that they like. Though they come with the same basic shape, unlike the traditional wood kendama, they are made of clear plastic. "KENDAMAXROSS" come with changeable parts, and swapping the small cup that holds the ball for a bigger one makes it easier to learn the different tricks. Until "KENDAMAXROSS" came along you couldn't select the cup size. Because this new kendama lets you change to a larger cup, even beginners can try difficult tricks and maybe do them.
Even beginners can enjoy this full-function kendama that lights up and has sound effects. (Photo courtesy of Gentosha Inc.）©avex music kendama geragerapo
There are new breeds of kendama that play synchronized sound effects and melodies, and have brightly flashing LED lights. Just watching kendama with light and sound is exciting.
This is why more and more kids are using latest kinds of kendama that fit their style to learn really difficult tricks, play against friends, and enter competitions and events.
The Kendama World Cup
It's said there are more than 30,000 kendama skills from easy to very difficult. Recently the trend is away from freestyle with no rules, toward new ways to enjoy kendama with unique skills.
Many players from around the world attend the Kendama World Cup. (Photo courtesy of Global Kenadamas Network）
Kendama is also becoming popular worldwide. Hatsukaichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture, the birthplace of the kendama, now holds the yearly Kendama World Cup. It's a place for kendama lovers to get together, and for top players from countries worldwide to compete against each other. Japanese kids watching the event are in awe of popular competitors' dynamic kendama play.