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Did this: YoDama!

The first big yoyo and Kendama festival went down at Pearlridge this weekend

Posted January 13, 2014 by Melissa Chang
Hundreds of kids gather around Kendama pros for a jam session at Pearlridge.

Hundreds of kids gather around Kendama pros for a jam session at Pearlridge.

How did this happen? A little wooden toy — the one you did NOT want to get as a Christmas gift — is suddenly the hottest thing since POGs to hit the market. You see them everywhere in Hawaii, mostly in kids’ hands, as players try to spike a ball tethered to a T-shaped stick. Then it advances with tricks that defy the laws of gravity while exemplifying the laws of physics. Love them or hate them, Kendamas are the biggest obsession for almost every demographic right now.

According to Kendama USA Pro Jake Wien, Kendamas got big when freestyle inline skaters brought it back from Japan, and people from the skating, snowboarding, and skiing communities caught on to it as a “freestyle alternative” sport. That made it hip, the growing list of tricks made it hipper, and it just took off from there.

I asked one boy how many Kendamas most people have, on average. He said four: One junky Kendama for goofing around, one regular, one special and one novelty, the more expensive kind that you bring out for special occasions. How many did he have? Eight.

Pearlridge Center, with its tenant Razor Sports (one of the larger Kendama retailers in town) held a festival this past Saturday to celebrate Kendama and yoyo players and have a tournament. They brought in four pros from Kendama USA, one from Sweets Kendama, and one from Kendama Co. They expected a few hundred people. The pros had gone to large mainland events with a few hundred people. But this is Hawaii…and thousands showed up, some lining up from 7 a.m. to register for the Kendama contest. More than 1,800 people stood in line before they had to cut it off. For those of you who didn’t get to enter, I’d recommend you get there earlier next time. And believe me, there will be a next time.

(My apologies for this very rough video, as I did it on my iPhone.)

YoDama! (2 of 19)


Uptown, the line of 1800 people entering the Kendama contest snaked from center court all the way down to TJ Maxx. While they registered, fans could get autographs from Kendama USA pros TJ Kolesnik and Jake Wiens.

Disclosure: Pearlridge is my social media client but they did not ask me to do this blog entry.


About Melissa Chang

Melissa has been blogging regularly since 2007 and has more than 25 years’ experience in marketing and public relations. She is currently an independent marketing consultant, specializing in social media. 

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