A Bilboquet Game from Japan
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This Bilboquet is both a cup and ball game and a ring and pin game. In this version there are three "cups" in which to catch the ball, and also a "pin" on which to catch the ball. In this latter case, a hole in the ball substitutes for a "ring". One way to play the game is to hold the handle in one hand, and with the other hand throw the tethered ball into the air and catch the ball on the pin as the ball falls. Then while the ball is on the pin, toss the ball into the air, and catch the ball in the large concave bowl. A third toss - and the ball is to be caught in the reverse side of the bowl which is a concave smaller bowl. A fourth toss - and a player attempts to catch the ball on the base of the concave handle (which is the third "cup" and even smaller bowl). Unlike some other Bilboquet games, this one requires considerable wrist movement along with eye-hand coordination.

Simple and Old Fashioned - and Still Popular
Written by Tokunaga Kyoko

This is a kendama, a toy used in an interesting game. Almost everyone in Japan has played with a set like this at least once in their lives.

Actually, the kendama's roots are in Europe. Around 1615, a game called cup and ball became popular there. Needless to say, the object of the game was to throw a ball in the air and get it to land in a cup. The ball, which was made of thread or strands of wool, was tied to a receptacle like a cup or champagne glass. In time, the game changed somewhat - a hole was made in the ball, and the player held a deer horn. As you can guess, the player had to get the ball onto the end of the horn.

This European game came to Japan via China in the 18th century. It soon became a hit among adults who found it fun, along with a few drinks. But the kendama continued to evolve. In 1921, a toy maker added a part that looks like a Japanese tsuzumi drum (which is shaped like an hourglass). The new toy, called the jitsugetsu ball, became a hit with children. It was the prototype for today's kendama.
The deer horn was replaced by a pointed wooden stick, with a small bowl being added on either side of it. These are the three places where you have to capture the ball. One of the advantages of the game is that you can play it indoors and outside. It is fun and easy to play, so it quickly caught on among children and adults alike.

The game can be made more difficult. For example, try to get the ball on each of the places in turn, keeping to the rhythm of a song. Or try to spear the ball with a considerable amount of flair. Or hold the ball instead of the handle, then throw the handle in the air and try to get the wooden point into the hole in the ball. In fact, enthusiasts have listed more than 300 different maneuvers. Experts compete against each other in tournaments, and are awarded ranks according to skill, just like judo players are.

Since the 1960s, some people have thought of the kendama as a toy for adults who are nostalgic for the past. Perhaps this is because it is made of wood, or because of its simple shape. But things continue to change. Someone has recently invented a digital version made of semi-transparent plastic and equipped with something akin to a computer chip. This new toy is called "dejiken" (from 'digital kendama'). Lights flash when you get the ball in the right place, and you can practice your skills while listening to the rap music coming from inside. Adults find dejiken hard to relate to, but kids have no prejudices in this regard.