Japanese Toys: Kendama


The kendama けん玉 is a traditional Japanese skill toy. The ken is the base part. It consists of three cups and a spike that fits into the hole portion of the ball.

The kendama is similar to cup and ball games found in other countries.

Modern kendama players not only use traditional tricks, but also mix in yo-yo and dance techniques.

Still popular with young children, you can at times see kindergarten and elementary school students using them at school.


Kendamas can be purchased at any toy shop in Japan as well as tourist gift shops and 100 yen stores.

A proper kendama approved by the Japan Kendama Association normally starts at about 1,500 yen. Kendamas with the official JKA sticker at the base are guaranteed to have proper weight and balance.

An official JKA wooden kendama. 
A more model plastic kendama. These are often very colorful and come with adjustable cups. They are much easier to play and popular with children. 


The Just Japan Podcast featured the kendama on a previous episode. The episode will be posted below this article.


Check out this video. These are two of Japan’s best-known kendama players in action.



Just Japan Podcast 88: Kendama (with Ryan Cabal)




The writer:

Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.

Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev

Email: justjapanpodcast@gmail.com

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