Nagai, a small town in the Japanese prefecture of Yamagata, is considered the center of the game of kendama. To revitalize the rural area, the city administration has sought the support of a well-known figure – a former Kendama world champion from the United States.
“Kendama” is a skill game about catching or juggling a ball on different parts of a wooden handle. The forerunners of modern kendama arrived in Japan via the Silk Road in the 17th century, where the toy became popular and took its modern form about 100 years ago.
Kendama is the symbol of Nagai Nagar
Kendama has long been a Japanese phenomenon, and only in the last twenty years has the sport reached Europe and America. Meanwhile, millions of people around the world are interested in kendama, and there are various kendama companies operating internationally, Tournaments and World Championships. In this, participants show their mastery of kendama with complex tricks.
In Japan, kendama games began to be organized in the 1970s. The Japan Kendama Association was founded in 1975. They now produced kendama to competitive standards – in the northern Japanese city of Nagai.
Nagai was formerly known as a center for the production of wooden toys such as spinning tops and the “Daruma Otoshi” game. Even today, 70 percent of the kendama produced in Japan comes from Nagai. The international popularity of the game of kendama is to be used to promote and economically revitalize Nagayil city.
As a first step, in 2020 Nagai City Government made Kendama the official game of the city. A “Local Revitalization Partner” has now been appointed to represent the city through Kendama. The chief was honored Kendama World Champion Nick Gallagher provided.
From World Champion to Ambassador of the Game of Kendama
Gallagher, 22, has been playing kendama since he was 11 years old. He turned pro in 2017 when American kendama manufacturer Sweets Kendama signed him to their team, and a year later he won the world title at the Kendama World Cup.
He spent a year as an exchange student in Japan before graduating in the US in mid-2022. Through social media, Gallagher learned of Nagai’s initiative to revitalize this area of the city and applied for it.
After being accepted as a partner in the program, Gallekar moved to Nagai and received his nomination letter from Nagai Mayor Shigeharu Uchiya last week. During the ceremony, of course, a demonstration of his kendama skills was missing.
To accomplish his mission, Gallagher will now serve as one of several managers Kendama Center “Kendama Hiroba Spike” I am acting in Nagai. Nagai and kendama players from around the world can meet here, practice together and buy locally produced kendama.
Gallagher will now plan and execute kendama events and participate himself with his kendama skills, especially to inspire young people for kendama. Through social media and other channels he needs to make Nagai known in other countries. Nagai’s bid to host the next Kendama World Championship is also on the agenda.
If you’re interested in kendama events in Germany, it’s worth a look Kendama is powered by Europe. The company attends many events in Germany and offers the opportunity to try Kendama for yourself. The next chance will be at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in February 2023.
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