A strange thing has occured in our little ski town since the holiday season. The local sporting goods store carried and featured
this Japanese wooden toy called Kendama and now…kids everywhere can be seen flicking
their wrists and sending this little red wooden ball into the air, hoping to
have the trajectory meet with the toy’s wooden spike or either of its wooden
cups. As if it’s 1920 and they’re shooting
marbles or playing with a yo-yo, or a top.
So many kids are obsessed with Kendama in our town, the Middle School
banned it as if it were a cell phone or ipad.
It’s positively life-renewing in our tiny-screened button-pushing world
that a wooden toy which likely had its origin in the 18th century,
is so shiny to our 21st century
kids that its ban-worthy.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:
To play with a kendama, one holds
the toy, pulls the ball upward so that it may be caught in one of the cups or
land the hole on the spike. More advanced tricks are sequential balances,
juggles, and catches. There are endless possibilities of tricks with a kendama.
 There are eleven prescribed moves on
the kendama trick list for achieving a kyu ranking and several more for
a dan ranking. A 1-kyu rating, for example, is attained by simply
catching the ball in the largest cup. A book published by the Japan Kendama
Association lists 101 different tricks for the toy and there are supposedly
tens of thousands of trick variations. Different stances and grips are
required to perform different tricks.
While most people play with
kendamas for personal satisfaction, competitions do take place, especially in
Japan. Participation in such competitions entails performing lists of tricks in
sequence or completing particular tricks repeatedly for as long as possible.
Additionally, tricks may be performed head to head with a rival to determine a
winner. The competitor who is first to fail a trick loses.
In the trick moshikame (もしかめ?), the ball is juggled between the big cup
and the smallest cup at the bottom repeatedly. A Japanese children’s song of
the same name is often sung to help with timing.
I don’t know the song, but if I
could write one myself I would say:
Oh happy little sound clip clop
In my living room, please don’t
Yes I’ll watch yes I’ll watch
My sweet pre-teen
Anything to see your face free
from the screen
Kendama I love you
I worship at your altar
May you take on all things button
And make them falter.