Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Kendama – Playing with a Sword and a Ball

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/18 Traditional Culture , , , ,

Like any other culture, the Japanese have also traditional toys which children used to play and is now slowly being forgotten due to the rise of modern and high-tech toys and gadgets. One of these toys is the kendama.

The Kendama

Kendama (けん玉, can also be written as 剣玉 or 拳玉) is a Japanese traditional toy consisting of a ken (けん, literally means a sword) and a tama (玉, means ball). They are connected to each other by a string. The ken has three cups and of different sizes and a spike (剣先, kensaki) which fits to a hole in a ball. Some of the basic tricks of kendama includes throwing and catching with the cup or fit it into the spike.

kendama

The kendama is made up of a ken (sword) and a tama (ball) which is connected to each other by a string that is 38 – 40 cm long. (Photo by Rhona-Mae Arca on Flickr)

The three cups of the kendama differ in sizes and they are named accordingly. The large cup is called the ōzara (大皿, literally means big cup) and the smaller cup is called the kozara (小皿, small cup). The other cup which is at the bottom of the ken is called the chūzara (中皿, literally means center cup). Each cup has a rim that is only enough to balance the ball on. The string that connects the ball to the ken usually measures 38 to 40 cm.

History of Kendama

The history of the kendama is not fully well known but it is known that it did not originate in Japan. There are different theories regarding its origin. In France, there is a “cup-and-ball” game known as the bilboquet. It is believed to have come to Japan then via the so-called Silk Road during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868) into the only Japanese city open to foreign trade at the time, Nagasaki. Before it evolved into a children’s game, it is played by adults during drinking sessions and the one who makes a mistake is forced to drink more.

kendama bilboquet

Kendama (left) is compared to a bilboquet (right). While the kendama has three cups and a spike, the bilboquet has only a cup at the top of the sword. (Photo by Damien Clauzel on Flickr)

Playing the Kendama

The basic rules of playing the kendama is to hold the toy, pull the ball upward and catch it with a cup or with the spike. Advanced tricks include more complicated moves like juggles and balances. The Japanese Kendama Association has made a criteria on how to categorize kendama players. It has three established skill categories namely the kyu (basic), jun-shodan (middle-level) and dan (high) skill levels. The basic skill starts from the lowest 10th kyu level to the 1st kyu level. To move to the next category, you must able to perform 11 basic tricks.

On our next post, we will talk more about kendama tricks and how it is now played nowadays.

References:

1. Kendama. Web-Japan.

2. Japanese Kendama Association

The following two tabs change content below.

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

real life tanuki

Are you okay, Tanuki? – The Japanese Raccoon Dog in Legends and Popular Culture

Last time, we talked about the sly kitsune or the Japanese fox. In this post, we will feature another animal that is popular in Japanese legends and myths and just like the kitsune, is sometimes depicted as a trickster, the tanuki or the Japanese raccoon dog. Tanuki, Not Your Ordinary Raccoon Though they look like […]

Read Article

go_19x19

Let’s Play “Go”! – Terms and Strategies

In our previous posts about Go, we learned that Go is a game which originated in China (Go History) and we also learned its basic rules (Go Rules). In this post, we will learn about strategies and other terms in Go. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see […]

Read Article

sumo heya

Sumo: More Than Just a Martial Art – Professional Sumo

As noted in our previous posts about sumo, it is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport. It originated in ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto deities. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June […]

Read Article

3122501695_48f068dc27_b

47 Ronin

Have you seen the movie titled 47 Ronin?  Would you believe me if I tell you that they were real?  Who are they and why are they so famous among Japanese people? What is a Ronin? A ronin refers to a lordless or masterless samurai.  A samurai becomes a ronin when they loss in battle […]

Read Article

Shinai

Kendo, The Way of The Sword – Kendo Rules

As the concept of kendo states that kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principle of the katana, there are kendo rules and regulations followed in a match (or in Japanese 試合, shiai). Kendo Match Rules A kendo match is herein defined as a contest between two contestants for a […]

Read Article

kamishibai

Kamishibai – Storytelling Through Paper Theater

Kamishibai (紙芝居, literal meaning: “paper drama”) is a form of storytelling that originated in Japanese Buddhist temples in the 12th century, where monks used emakimono (picture scrolls) to convey stories with moral lessons to a mostly illiterate audience. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing […]

Read Article

furisode

Seijin no Hi or Coming of Age Day

Coming of Age Day Today is Seijin no Hi (成人の日) or Coming of Age Day in Japan. It is a national holiday held every second Monday of January. It is held in order to congratulate all those who have newly entered adulthood or those who turned 20 years old in the past year and encourage […]

Read Article

Kotatsu

New Year Holidays in Japan : Kotatsu

In Japan, except northern cold areas like Hokkaido, houses are usually built to suit Japanese hot humid summer. This means many Japanese houses are drafty, and in other words, it can be freezing even indoor in winter. Most of those houses are without a central heating system, so people keep warm with individual heating devices […]

Read Article

shogi

Shogi, The General’s Board Game – Board and Gameplay

In our previous posts about shogi, we learned its history and the pieces that make the game. In this post, we will learn more about the moves of each piece. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 […]

Read Article

Osafune Sword 3

Osafune in Okayama: Sword learning centre – Part 1 –

Bizen Osafune Nihon-tou Denshuu-jyo (Bizen Osafune Japanese sword learning centre) 1 Here, you can see swordsmithing on Saturdays, Sundays and National holidays for free. Note that they don’t demonstrate in summer because it is too hot for swordsmiths to forge. General information Open from 9:00 to 16:00, closed during lunchtime (12:00 – 13:00). On Sundays […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑