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5 Facts About Kendama, the New Toy Fad

Ask any kid at my children’s school and they’ll tell you THE TOY to have is a Kendama. A what? That’s what I might have said a few months ago, but I’ve had a crash course in the toy that every California school kid must have. Now I’m here to share my knowledge with you, so you can decide whether a Kendama is the best thing since Minecraft or will it be like the Rainbow Loom or Beyblades—just another trendy plaything that will soon be cluttering your house.

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1. A Kendama is a traditional wooden Japanese toy

Basically it’s a souped-up version of an old-fashioned ball and cup. Instead of just a wooden ball attached to a handle by a string, the kendama’s handle has two wooden cups and a spike at one end, plus another cup at the base. The handle can be plain or colored wood. Really fancy (read: expensive) versions can sport fancy paint jobs.

2. The game is played K-E-N, like Horse is played H-O-R-S-E

Players challenge each other to do tricks by catching the ball in a certain pattern (like big cup, small cup, spike, base cup). If the other person can’t copy the pattern, then the first player gets a letter, until someone reaches Ken. According to my reliable sources, some of the popular tricks are “acrobat,” “tornado” or “bird.”

3. The strings can break

Buyer beware! Not all Kendamas are created equal. Some have thin strings, which may snap after a few uses. Believe me, this is not fun, unless you enjoy being around weepy children. Replacement strings can cost $1 each, so it may be smart to buy a quality Kendama from the get-go.

4. Some schools have banned Kendamas

Really? With all the problems facing today’s kids, it seems the clacking of a wooden ball on a stick would be the least of our problems. You can’t download M-rated video games or text a selfie with a Kendama. Seems like it’s the ideal toy we can hope for our kids to play with! But I guess it's back to fist-fights in back of the cafeteria...

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5. Kendamas have managed to go viral on their own

There's no advertising agency, hashtag or celebrity endorsement. Kendamas aren’t sold at many big box stores and most of their fans have to ask their parents to order one online, which will set you back $10-20. Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley could learn a thing or two.

Have more questions about Kendamas? Ask a third grader!

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