Almost everyone in Japan has played kendama at some point in their lives. Most people learn how to play it as a pastime during their childhood, then eventually move on to other activities after they get the hang of it and become bored. A select few, however, go on to hone their skills to perfection and actually compete in organized competitions similar to yo-yo tournaments. Enter 22-year-old Hiroki Iijima, who has not only mastered all the regular tricks in the book but has also combined his love for street dancing to create a new freestyle activity: “kendama street dancing,” if you will.

Skeptical? We’ve got video proof of Hiroki’s awesome skills right here. Prepare to be dazzled!

Some of you unfamiliar with the game may be wondering, “What is kendama?”As our writer Preston explained in an intro to the unusual sport in July last year, it’s an old-fashioned Japanese toy similar to many other ring and pin games around the world. Players try to land a ball attached with string on the middle spike or on one of three cup-like indentations on the toy. Once they have the basic hang of it, they can work on honing their skills and practicing a multitude of specialized tricks.

▼A typical kendama toy


▼This one has a seal certifying that it is eligible to be used in competition.


Most Japanese people are casual kendama players, having learned how to play as children. But some, like Hiroki Iijima, have elevated the game into a whole new art form.

Hiroki entertains with his unique kendama dancing technique as part of the kendama performance duo Zoomadanke, along with other groups such as KROM Kendama and EFK (Exciting Freestyle Kendama). Video-sharing site Vimeo recently caught wind of his talent and posted a new video titled “Iijima Hiroki: Portrait of a Kendama Samurai” about him. The video showcases Hiroki’s incredible skills and passion for the game as he shows off his techniques and explains his experiences in various public places. In particular, “Kendama is a communication tool for me,” he says. He always carries his kendama with him and uses it as an icebreaker to talk to all kinds of people. By incorporating dance moves into his kendama routines, he hopes to change the general image of kendama into one of a more thrilling activity, such as skateboarding or yo-yoing.

Here are a few screenshots from the video:





Finally, here’s the video itself. Enjoy, and let us know if you’ve been inspired to become a kendama master, too!

Source/images: Kotaku Japan, VimeoWikipedia