No one knows when kendama was invented, but experts believe the game originated in France during the 16th century from the game “bilboquet.” The game entered Japan in the late 1770s through Nagasaki, the only port open to foreigners during the Edo period.
Kendama is a game of skill and dexterity that consists of a wooden ball that has a hole drilled through its center and is attached by a string to a wooden mallet; the mallet has large and small cups at opposing ends and a spike at the tip. The object of the game is to swing the ball and catch it in one of the cups or with the spike.
Initially an adult drinking game, kendama gained popularity among children after 1945. In 1975, author Fujiwara Issei formed the Japan Kendama Association, which standardized the rules and established kendama as a competitive sport.