Let’s talk Japanese games today !
Japan has a large variety of traditional games and toys. Among them, one is coming back into fashion : the kendama.
The kendama (けん玉 / 剣玉 / 拳玉) is a traditional toy which consists of three wooden cups of different sizes placed on the center of a wooden spike (ken), with a smaller cup at the spike’s base and a ball (tama) connected by a string to the center piece. The idea is catching the wooden and make it land into one of the three cups.The game origins are vague. Although Japan’s indigenous people, the Ainu, had invented their own kendama-type game, it is considered most likely that the modern Japanese toy was derived from a European import. According to this assumption, the kendama arrived in Japan via the Silk Road in around 1777, at which point Nagasaki was the only port open to foreign trade. Reportedly, kendama was initially a sort of adult’s drinking game — a player who made a mistake was forced to drink more… In the first years of the 20th century, thekendama toy had a slightly different shape, with only two “cups” on each side of the spike and was called Jitsugetsu Ball (日月ボール) or “Ball of the Sun and the Moon”. With the ball as an image of the Sun and the “cups” as images of crescent moon. In 1920, kendama‘s modern and still current shape was definitively fixed by Hamaji Egusa.
Nowadays, kendama game has become popular in many other countries than Japan and of course remains largely appreciated in the Land of the Rising Sun. National tournaments are even organized every year.During the past few years, kendama benefits from a fresh boost of popularity amongst young generations. The 21st century brought a new trend and new features to the old “japanese bilboquets” which now are colorful, made of contemporary materials (silicon etc…) and with original. Some Harajuku hip youngsters swear only by it! “Battles” opposing the best players are held. Their agility and techniques are mind-blowing! The trend is now passing across Japan’s border and is spreading around the world, especially USA and Europe!
Wanna give it a try? I would! Mata ne!