Every once in awhile, just when we think the digital revolution is complete, along comes an analog surprise. Sure, there has always been intellectual standbys like chess. Not to mention the simpler pleasures of legos, slinkies and hula hoops. But recently I learned of a completely new sensation. One that has lured a lot of young people, and a fair amount of adults, away from the spell of video games and the Internet. What is this new attraction? Kendama.
Yeah, I never heard of it either. Until a police Lieutenant I work with educated me. "Hey Chief, take a look at this," he said. He held up his smart phone and showed me a photo. "What the heck is that?" I asked. "This is what the kids are into lately," he answered. "It's called Kendama." I looked at the picture. It seemed so simplistic. How could such a basic, uncomplicated, non-digital toy possibly hold the interest of young people today?
According to Wikipedia, "Kendema is a traditional Japanese toy. The ken has three cups and a spike which fits into the hole in the ball. Basic kendama tricks consist of catching the ball in the cups and on the spike. Kendama bears similarities to the classic cup-and-ball game, and the Hispanic world toy known as boliche or balero. The principle of these toys are the same: catching one object with another, where both are joined by a string. However the modern kendama style takes influences from a diverse range of skills including yo-yo, diabolo, juggling and dance." All I know is that Kendama has become all the rage with young people.
I came late to the digital age. I still write with fountain pens and favor the feel and experience of books over reading with my Kindle. I ink my ideas and doodles via fountain pens in bound journals. I love writing personal notes with quality stationery. A part of me will always be grounded in the simple tools of the past. But I recognize that digital is the future. I read my daily paper on line now. No more erratic, early morning newspaper deliveries. I navigate various blogs and consume digital data with the best of them. But there's something about a rudimentary stick, string, ball and cups that captures my nostalgic sentimentality.
Kendama doesn't require wi-fi or an app upgrade. You just pick up the toy and have a whirl. There's something so retro about its simplicity. Capturing the attention and imagination of kids all over the place. Heck, they even have Kendama competitions in other countries. It just goes to show that sometimes simple pleasures can still thrill in this age of computers and advancing modernity. There is still a place for analog entertainment. Simple distractions and entertainment that appeal to our sense of sensory joy. Thank God there are still some old school diversions to take us back to a simpler, less complex time.
Thanks to Toby Walpole for his expertise and technical pointers on this article.