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Marble Cheshire Cat Kendama Review by Jodi Galland

Sweets Kendamas
9743 Humboldt Ave S
Bloomington, MN 55431

A kendama is a Japanese toy which resembles a ball and cup game. The body, which is made up of the ken and sarado, consists of a handle, a spike, and three cups. One cup is situated on either side of the spike, and one in the base of the ken. A ball is attached to the body by a string.

Kendama is also a game played with the toy. A great deal of coordination is necessary and involves the upper and lower body. While the first part of the game involves catching the ball in the cups, Kendama is really much more involved than that. The ball, or tama, can be juggled from one cup to another as well as to be captured on the tapered spike. In Japan, the game is played under very strict rules and a ranking system is used. In the West, creativity is encouraged and play here can be much different.

Sweets Kendamas is a company staffed entirely of talented kendama players. They obviously love what they do and what they do is create a variety of award winning and beautiful kendamas made in the USA. Their website offers many videos for beginner, intermediate, advanced, and legendary skill levels, making the game accessible to a novice like myself. Live near the retail store in Minnesota?  You can join the Sweets Ken Club.

Their kendamas are absolute works of art. I received the Marble Cheshire Cat. This is an F3 Marble kendama, which means it is the third version of their Focus line. The ken and sarado are natural wood and the tama is marbled. It is hand painted in blue, purple, and pink, though each tama is unique. It is finished in Cushion Clear which is a grippy, matte finish and the kendama plays like it has already been broken in. Cushion Clear will last for the life of the kendama.

The kendama is a fun tool to work on motor coordination and focus. The entire body is employed in the maneuvering of the parts and can be quite challenging. Only a couple of us, here at home, have been able to successfully play the kendama. I've advanced from missing the ball completely to getting a somewhat satisfying “tap” as the two pieces collide but don't quite land correctly.  I've enjoyed learning about the kendama and playing with such an unique product.

Kendama parts can be purchased from Sweets Kendamas separately. A replacement string and bead are actually included with a Sweets Kendamas kendama. Brief instructions are in the box as well, but the videos on the website are much more helpful. I also received four funky stickers that I think would appeal to most tween/teen boys and girls.

Sweets Kendamas are recommended for ages 9+. They do have string and a bead which could be considered choking hazards for small children. A complete, full-size kendama ranges in price from about $15 to $80, making it accessible to anyone who wants to learn to play the kendama and also of a high quality for those looking for a specialty kendama for tournaments. The Marble Cheshire Cat is regularly priced at $31.99. 

—Product review by Jodi Galland, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2016