The History of Kendama

A Kendama is a highly skilled traditional Japanese ball and cup game, used for hand, eye coordination.
It’s made of wood, and looks similar to a hammer, with a ball on top that is connected by a string. There are different sized cups to catch the ball on.  Two on the crosspiece of the hammer shape (big cup, small cup) and one smaller cup on the bottom of the handle (base cup).  There is a hole in the ball which can be caught on the spike which is on the top end of the handle.

Our friend Ken has a long history.  Look a likes were spotted as far back as the 16th century in the Arctic, France and Peru.
His shape was different back then, he was called a biboquet, and was missing the two side cups on the crosspiece. Ken didn’t make his way to Japan until around 1717, via the Silk Road.  It was in the 20th century that the Japanese added the two side cups.
The basic form of the Kendama was registered in 1919 by Hamaji Egusa of Hiroshima.  The size and proportions of Ken were later changed.
The competition design used today is descended from Issei Fujiwara’s model from the 1970s.  Not much has changed from his basic design, besides the Ken (stick) becoming more rounded to reduce wood chipping.

The Japan Kendama Association was first established by our man Issei Fujiwara (remember, he made the basic design of the Kendama) in 1975.  It’s these guys that make all the rules, regulations and grading systems.

The EKA, European Kendama Association, follow the rules and spirit of Kendama as played in Japan and apply these as a guide and inspiration to support Kendama play in Europe.  The EKA is also more liberal in allowing coloured Kendama’s to be allowed in competition.

On JKA and EKA approved Kendamas, the Ken (stick) is a single piece that goes through the crosspiece they are also equal in competition weight and size.  Some cheap imitation Kendamas are made from a separate handle piece and spike piece that are then glued into the crosspiece.