Japanese Skill Toy

Catch and Release

Jeremy Stephenson is bringing a classic toss-and-catch game to a global audience, and kids of all ages are joining the craze.

A Kendama is a traditional Japanese toy that consists of a ball attached by a string to a spiked base, which holds cups of different sizes. The goal is to catch the ball in one of the cups, or spike the ball by landing its hole on the pointed end. Mastering the Kendama takes practice, focus, patience, and creativity. Once you’ve learned the basic moves, you can try dozens of complex
catching, juggling, and balancing tricks.

Jeremy discovered the Kendama in 2006 while touring in Japan, where he saw people playing with the toys while they waited at train stations and walked around the city. Seeing people’s enthusiasm for the game inspired Jeremy and his team to start KendamaUSA, which is dedicated to expanding Kendama’s playing field.

For beginners and seasoned masters, a Kendama strengthens hand-eye coordination, balance, and reflexes. It’s a great way to keep active with a handheld toy that’s NOT electronic.
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Kendama - Wooden Toy

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Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Jeremy

    Konichiwa! We're honored to be featured today on The Grommet. Our company exists because 7 years ago our friends in Tokyo taught us how to play a game called Kendama. This simple game proved to be super addicting, and I haven't been able to put it down since. I showed a bunch of our friends how to play, they showed their friends, and it kept spreading organically from there. Kendama is a challenging way to fine tune your hand-eye coordination, balance, and focus. It's a great social game at school or at a party, and brings out the inner-ninja in us all. No LCD screen required. We're hanging out all day today on The Grommet, and excited to chat with you about Kendama. When was the last time you disconnected from everything electronic and enjoyed a classic wooden skill game?

  • Kimberly
    6/13/2013 12:17 PM

    I am disappointed to see this product, from a company called Kendama USA, made in China. Bummer.

  • Jeremy
    Jeremy – Special Guest
    6/13/2013 1:30 PM


    I can understand where you're coming from. We chose our name based on the fact that we are really excited about Kendama, and we're based in the USA. We did spend over a year trying to source a manufacturing partner in the USA before ever going overseas, but no domestic factories were willing to take on the project. Every factory we spoke to here didn't believe it would be as big as it has now become, and weren't willing to take the same risk that we were. After being shot down repeatedly in the USA, we were bummed too.

    For what it's worth, it's been a pretty fascinating experience working overseas. While there are surely some negative things to say about China's situation, there is a lot to admire about the way they work as well. I spend several months every year there, working direct with the factories, improving the processes, and meeting or having dinner with employees and their families. It's taught me a lot, and honestly, there are some qualities that I'd love to see more American companies adopt. There are great humans there too.

    This batch might not be for you, but hopefully it wont be too long before some USA factories would take us seriously enough to partner up with us. If you have any good leads, give us a shout. Sorry to disappoint.

  • Michael
    6/13/2013 2:00 PM

    @Jeremy I went on an educator trip to China a few years ago, and I found the people to be unbelievably easy to talk to and I felt their willingness to better themselves. They truly understand how much better we have it in America in so many ways. I found them to be totally delightful. It is disturbing to me that many people in America are disgusted with the "Made In China" label. Well, it is certainly true that many Americans are "tunnel visioned" in this area. They should open their eyes and understand that there are many people, like you, who find the support they need in China when it is not available here in our country. I applaud you in your venture, no matter where you had to go to reach your dream. Congratulations!

  • Jeremy
    Jeremy – Special Guest
    6/13/2013 2:41 PM


    Thanks Michael. For me to say it's all complex would be a huge understatement. It's a tricky thing to balance, for both customers and manufacturers, especially as the world keeps getting smaller and smaller. I'm thankful for the experience of seeing both sides of the coin. After getting both perspectives, I would certainly still prefer to be working in our own backyard, and think that day will still come. For now, we'll keep running with the hand we've been dealt. Thanks for the kind words and support!

  • Angela
    6/13/2013 5:43 PM

    @Jeremy What about making them in their homeland Japan being that USA manufacturing was not available?

  • Jeremy
    Jeremy – Special Guest
    6/13/2013 7:59 PM


    We actually do import a lot of Kendamas from Japanese brands as well. Even some official Japanese brands have outsourced to China as well, but we have a really good relationship with the longest running Japanese Kendama manufacturer. There are some unique styles we wanted to create as well, which is a big reason we are creating our own now.

  • Jake
    6/13/2013 12:46 PM

    Super excited to see Kendama here! Thank you!

    Check out some videos and see how far you can take this simple game.

  • Cat
    6/13/2013 12:58 PM

    "Lifestyle"--seriously? A fun toy, sure: but a lifestyle?

  • Jeremy
    Jeremy – Special Guest
    6/13/2013 1:54 PM


    Kaizen is a Japanese concept of continuous self improvement. It was written on every package of our first production. Everybody sees Kendama in a different way, but we have seen a lot of players adopt it as a lifestyle, the same way kids develop a lifestyle in sports, music, or other passions. Kendama lends attention toward balance, focus, coordination, and discipline. Addiction to video games can be a lifestyle, but we like to think that Kendama is a bit on the healthier side. To some people, it will always just be a toy. To others, we've seen it make a real impact in their lives. We've received some amazing letters and thank you's from parents, teachers, and players around the country that we never saw coming.

  • Guest
    6/13/2013 1:06 PM

    How come the store sign in the background of the video says Kengama? not Kendama?

  • Jake
    6/13/2013 1:42 PM

    @Guest This is a store I have in San Francisco called the "Kengarden". We started as small organization that threw bbq's and parties around kendama in my small apartment garden. Now we have a small pop up store for a few months in the city. The reaction has been awesome! The name is a play off of "Zengarden" to "kengarden". Thanks for asking. Check out the blog.

  • Roberta
    6/13/2013 1:20 PM

    I absolutly love this toy! I thing that kids these days are to connected to screens just like their parents . Will be getting a couple of these for fun and games this summer!

  • Jeremy
    Jeremy – Special Guest
    6/13/2013 1:56 PM


    Thanks for the support. Be sure that you give it a try too, it's not just for kids! Have a great summer.

  • Annelle
    6/13/2013 3:27 PM

    What is the youngest age you recommend using the Kendama?

  • Jeremy
    Jeremy – Special Guest
    6/13/2013 3:45 PM


    We recommend 9+

The launch day conversation has ended. Please direct further questions about this Grommet to our Community Experience Team.