The Kendama


Kendama is a Japanese game of skill. It is similar to the French bilboquet, Spanish balero, or what's known as ball-in-a-up.Despite the many variations, the principle of these games is the same: catching an object with a stick or a cup. What's special about Kendama is there are many more ways to play Kendama, an almost infinite number of trick-combinations.






The parts that make up a Kendama


The Kendama (Jap.:けん玉, 剣玉; Engl.:sword & balll) consists of a sword-like handle (Jap.: けん, 剣 ken; Engl.:sword), to which a ball (Jap.: 玉, tama, dama; Engl.: ball) is attached by a string. The ball has a hole in it so it can be spiked with the "sword".  The two extending sides of the Kendama are concave cups of different size. The bigger one is called Ôsara (Jap.: 大皿; Engl.: large dish ) and the smaller one is called Kosara (Jap.:小皿; Engl.: small dish). There is a third cup called Chûsara (Jap.: 中皿; Engl.: middle dish) at the bottom of the handle. This cup is smaller than the other two cups.  The 3-cup kendama design dates back to a design patent obtained in the early 20th century, but the current form of Japanese kendamas was set in the mid 1970s when the nonprofit organization JKA was established to preserve and promote the toy. ( also see )


How a Kendama's parts are put together


This describes how to put together the single parts of an official JKA-competition Kendama:


Put the string through the ball and thread the string through the little plastic piece and make a knot.

Next put the string through one of the little holes in the drum-like part which has the Kosara and Osara-cups at its sides. Now thread the srting through the hole in the sword and make a knot.

Last thrust the drum-like part onto the sword and attach it permanetnly by using wood glue or a little screw.

According to the JKA's rules a string-length of more than 38cm (more than 35cm for elementary school children) for official competitions.  A measure for the correct length is if two fingers fit in between the middle cup/Chusara and the string when the ball is put on the spike.