Kendama (けん玉) is a traditional Japanese toy that consists of a ball, tied to a string which is in turn tied to a handle that has two "cups" and a spike which fits into a hole in the ball.
The principle of the toy is to catch the ball in either one of the "cups" or impaling it upon the spike. While simple in concept, much like the Yo-yo, the game involves achieving the toy's principle through different trick variations. Different stances and grips are also involved.
The toy arrived in Japan in around 1777 through Nagasaki; the only port open to foreign trade at the time. Gaining popularity during the Edo Period (1600-1868), kendama initially served as a type of adult's drinking game — where a player who made a mistake in attempting to swing the ball into a "cup" or the spike was forced to drink more.
Since 1979, the Japan Kendama Association was formed, which established the rules for play, a grading system now in use, and organised competition.
- The Kendama bears similarities to the classic cup-and-ball game, and the Hispanic world toy known as boliche or balero.
- In the early 20th century, the toy had two side cups and was called a jitsugetsu ball (日月ボール). This translates to 'sun and moon ball', named so because of the ball's representation of the sun and the cups' likeness to the crescent moon.
- While kendama is popular in many parts of the world, it is particularly well loved in Japan, where national tournaments are held and Japanese employers recognise applicants who have attained the higher dan rankings as "persistent, patient and determined potential employees"