Kendama hasn't always been popular. Of course, it only arrived in the West a couple of hundred years ago, but it stayed fairly dormant. In the past ten years or so, it has become increasingly popular. The game is picking up steam in communities of young adults, teenagers, and occasionally kids. After picking up and trying it, it is easy to see why it is experiencing so much growth. It is both easy to understand and not too difficult for a beginner to learn some tricks. In addition, if you remain interested, you will find yourself pulled into the deep end when getting involved with the deeper aspects that kendama offers.
Kendama does an exceptional job of creating a community. On its own, kendama is interesting and fun, but when paired with friends, it becomes an exciting social experience. At one time, it acted as a sort of adult's drinking game, where missing a trick meant you had to drink more. While not the main reason communities exist today, it is a testament to the fun you can have by playing kendama with others.
Others realized this and began to host events, which fostered communities and competition, the crossroads in which kendama fostered friendships and good times. There is nothing greater than making a new friend through nothing but a shared love for the toy, despite all other differences. It unites people!
Competitions can be very exciting and very intense. In between events, kendama players practice to hone in on many types of tricks, not knowing which will be required of them at their next event. When another event rolls around, they are ready to test their skills, especially against their friends. If the tricks aren't hard enough, added difficulty comes from athletes competing on stage in front of tons of people. The pressure can often get to your head and hands.
For those that overcome and take away victories, there are often prizes. Prizes can range from some new strings, to a free kendama, to even a free Spikeball set, which we gave away at the past two Battle at the Border competitions. Minnesota Kendama Open has even awarded a free flight to the Kendama World Cup in Japan.
At the end of the day, kendama is just fun. Great satisfaction can be found when landing a trick you've never learned before. It is very rewarding to progress in the craft. It's a great reason to hang out with people. It helps teach you to be focused. All of these come together to culminate into a very good time.
If you've never played kendama or tried kendama, you need to try it at some point! If you know someone who plays with one, ask to borrow or hang out! You might develop a new hobby or maybe even enjoy yourself!