Japanese toy kendama becoming a hit among Singapore youth

SINGAPORE - There seems to be a new craze among youths here, and no, it does not involve a gadget.

The kendama is a Japanese children's toy made of wood with which players can perform tricks. It features a ball connected to a string on a stick, and is a toy similar to the yo-yo.

Mr Muhammad Khairul Jailani, who started Facebook page Kendama Singapore in 2010, said that in the past two years, the popularity of the toy has increased so much so that he is now invited to schools to hold workshops and performances on the kendama.

"About four to five schools have contacted me to hold a presentation on the kendama, sometimes perform and sell it during their assembly period," said the 30-year-old who also runs a Japanese restaurant.

His customers are mainly primary and secondary school children, and he said he sells two to three of the toys every day.

The toy can also be found in other popular children's stores like Toys 'R' Us.

He started the Facebook page with a friend after his interest got piqued watching YouTube videos of his idols playing with the kendama. As an air steward then, he went to Japan and bought one for himself, and 10 others for his friends.

While he was interested, not many others were five years ago.

The Facebook page was first started just as a platform for people who liked the toy, and wanted to find out more about it.

He would initially post YouTube videos in the hopes of attracting more people to the page and to build a bigger community. The page currently has about 1,500 likes.

YouTube videos of people performing tricks with the kendama have been the biggest reason for its rise in popularity, he said.

He added that there are kendama "jams" held in Singapore every once in a while - a fun-filled event with competitors, games and sale of the kendama.

The kendama ranges in price from about $30 to more than $100, based on the type of wood it is made of, and the intricacy of its design.

The kendama can be made of beech wood, walnut wood and even mahogany. Some are even handmade. Mr Khairul imports his supply from the United States, where the craze started earlier.

He added that the toy's popularity in Singapore comes after it became popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg