First of all, you might be wondering, “What’s kendama?” Well, it’s a popular children’s toy that is kind of like a cup-and-ball game on steroids. However, rather than a single cup, this game has three of varying sizes, and they aren’t so much “cups” as they are shallow saucers that are meant to hold the ball. And if that’s not enough, there’s an extra spike that you’re expected to skewer the ball on exactly through a pre-made hole. The purpose of this game being not only to get the ball into a cup but to also juggle it between cups or spike without dropping it.

It’s about as popular in Japan as a yo-yo is in western countries, and like the yo-yo there are tournaments to see who can manipulate this toy the best. And so I’d like to introduce you to this YouTube video of “The 6th Annual All-Japan Kendama Performance Champion Mr. Sakamoto.”

You may want to skip ahead to the one minute mark to get past the introduction and setting up. From here you’ll see Mr. Sakamoto warm up with some simple transfers between cups known as “moshikame” (Hello Turtle) only to break into a full-on juggling act. Next, he wows the audience by replacing his traditional wooden ball with volleyball. His routine ends with a slightly larger kendama that he wields in a style reminiscent of Bruce Lee with a pair of nunchucks.

The video was a hit with Japanese YouTube users and even drew accolades from some overseas kendama enthusiasts. This routine named Sakamoto World was done in 2010, but Mr. Sakamoto also earned his second, back-to-back championship in 2011 at the 7th Annual All-Japan Kendama Performance Competition. I can’t wait to see what tricks he pulled out to win this time around in his performance called Sakamoto’s Seriousness. Hopefully the video will be posted soon.

[ Read in Japanese ]