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Plate depicting bilboquet
Picture from ebay.

The History of Kendama

The kendama is a traditional Japanese game which itself is based upon the French game 'Bilboquet' meaning 'cup and ball'. Bilboquet was one of the first real toy crazes in the early 1700s (the word bilboquet itself dates back to around the 11th century). Originally a cup and ball, bilboquet soon evolved into a ball with a hole in it and a spike to catch it on.

Bilboquet was introduced to Japan during the Edo period (early 17th century) and was a popular after dinner amusement at banquets. It was in 1918 during the Taisho period, however, that extra cups were added onto the design to give what is today known as the kendama ("sword ball"), but was then called Nichi Getsu Ball ("sun moon ball").

Until recently it was rare to see a kendama in the UK but with the recent launch of TeamKD and the support of the British Kendama Association the scene is set for kendama to take the UK by storm!

king and bilbo
©©Nicolas Guilmain

Bilboquet designs

From the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford:
native american game