What makes a Kendama, "good"?

With yoyos, popular tools of measuring how good a certain yoyo is things like spin time, stability, quickness, and other things like that. Using those measurements, It’s easy to tell that a Draupnir is a much better yoyo than a Protostar.

What makes a Kendama good though? What Kendama is considered the “Draupnir” of the Kendama world, or is there even a measuring stick that makes them better than others, and makes a certain one stand out?

The reason I’m asking is because I’d like to possibly get into Kendamas, and I want to know if a Kendama from Walgreens wouldn’t be as good as one i could get here, in the same way a yoyo from Walgreens wouldn’t be as good as one i could get here.


If you had to put a label on it then I guess Mugen Musou would probably be considered the Draupnirs of the kendama world.

Some other really popular kendamas would be the hand made ones like Sweets Homegrown or Terra Kendamas - they just have an amazing feel and play play style that mass produced kendamas can’t match.

Other than that, any JKA kendamas (Ozora, TK16, etc) would be considered the standard because they are certified for competition.

In the end it’s all personal preference though, just like yo-yos. Some people like different shaped kens, different wood types, different finishes, different weights, even different string thickness. Just try out a couple different kendamas and see which suits you best.

You probably won’t find a decent kendama at Walgreens (at least not any i’ve seen) but I think that we have a great selection here, and if theres something you can’t find here then check out kendamaUSA or Sweets.

My question is though, what makes a decent kendama? What’s wrong, or lesser about the walgreens kendama than a mugen musou?

There’s a lot that goes into making a decent kendama, cheap bulk kendamas can have any number of things wrong with them… Poor shape, weird weight, off balance, bad paint/finish, lesser durability - Just because one kendama looks like another doesn’t mean it will play the same.

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Hmm, that’s a really tough nut to crack, since it is a very subjective issue.
You could probably split them into several categories:

Tama paint quality: What painting methods does the company use? Is the tama tacky? Does it look exceptionally well painted?

Wood used: This area really is a misnomer for people deciding on kendamas. Really does not matter what wood is used or where it comes from, what really matters is how the manufacturers handle the wood.

Manufacturer’s experience: How long has this company been making kendamas? In the Musou case, he has been crafting kendamas, and hand painting them for years now.
His paint mixes are some of the best, and the tackiness level is high, making balance tricks like lighthouse easier.

Kendama balance: Grain Theory makes matched (gram for gram) kens and tamas, so tricks like lunar are a lot easier to handle.

In a nutshell: Just keep using different kendamas till you feel that you’ve reached “The One”. Ask your friends if they could lend their kendamas for you to try out.

HG’s are not handmade.

It’s a tricky question, once you have played the cheapo non brand ones and the good ones you’ll be able to “feel” the difference. I used to have the same question, after owning a few JKAs, I can tell right away if a kendama is good or just poorly made to make quick money.
It’s something probably not noticeable by a complete beginner who is currently learning basic cup tricks, but once you get to a certain point you’ll be able to tell right away.

If you are starting out, get a JKA, either Ozora, TK16, or Shin Fuji, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

My bad, “locally made by expert craftsmen with closer attention to detail” then.

Either way, they’re good.

What’s crucial for me is the weighting. Especially for juggles, you want a very evenly weigted kendama. Also, Walgreens kendamas will likely have poor cup shapes in addition to weight issues.

I have a kendama USA tribute and don’t know much. Is it considered high quality?

Tributes are good kendamas, but wouldn’t be considered high quality in my opinion. The Tribute uses a non traditional ken design with the two pieces fixed together. They are a great intro kendama because the design makes it easier to change the string, but after a lot of use the two fixed pieces of the ken will begin to wiggle a little in play.

Good points. Now, realize that my Kendama experience is REALLY limited so I only have a small amount I can add here. But if you hold the Tama (ball) in your hand and try to balance the ken on the tama by placing the big cup on the tama then you’ll quickly see if there are weighting and balance issues. Some Kens have to be angled quite a bit to get it to balance, some can balance almost horizontally.

Also, I hear people talking about how sticky the paint on the tama is. I haven’t played with enough different kendamas to notice a difference so maybe others can help out there. Although I’ve found that the more I play the more dings my tama gets and that actually helps it stick a bit better.

Just like with yoyo, a “good” yoyo can be felt instantly after throwing the first time. There is just something or somethings that is special about it making it outstanding in comparison to the wal-mart specials that are most likely the basis of comparison.

I didnt know that it was the same for kendama. I have a couple others, first a yomega “pro” and its “o-k” then I bought a super stick tribute from KendamaUSA and played with it alot, but with every chip the paint got worse and worse and i hated seeing it get busted up like that. After blunting the tip down to plateau, and shelving it in favor for yoyo, I recently picked it back up and decided to spend part of my unexpected Christmas bonus on a new “nicer” kendama. I had 3 stipulations for my new one.
1- NOT painted, 2- Stripe for hole tracking assistance, and 3- i wanted it to cost more than $25

I ended up picking a Sweets Homegrown (and I splurged with the gorgeous) purple heart stripe.

That first spike sent a chill down my spine and a smile shooting across my face at the speed of sound. The balance, the feel, the hole bevel, everything. I cant say exactly “what” it is, but play the yomega and then do the same things with the HG and youll know exactly what im talking about.

Upgrade was Worth-it.

My wife got me a Duncan Groove for Christmas this year. It was my first real introduction to Kendama. I thought it was a decent kendama but after about a week the tip was completely blunted, the string had broken 3 times and the loose cups are pushed down really far. Even though it was a meh kendama and terrible yoyo, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it got me hooked. She had given me a gift card also and I wanted something better though so I got some Sweets Homegrowns (Ash, Maple/Purple Heart, and Birch Sourmash) and they really are so much better. I also picked up an aTack and the while it is a very fun kendama, it is clearly not on the same level as are the HGs. The cups of the HG kens have very defined edges that grip the tama in comparison to the aTack or Groove. The purple heart homegrown however is kinda weird to play with because the tama is 13 grams heavier than the ken. I’m now going to probably avoid those striped wood combo tamas in the future.

Glad you like the Homegrowns, my favorite too! But don’t get down on the stripes so easily. I have a Purpleheart stripe that’s only like 1-2 grams off, I think it’s just luck of the draw. Try mixing and matching with other kendamas to get a closer weight if you can, thats what I usually do.

Glacial (the company that produces HG’s) is well-known for putting out ridiculous variances in weight with some tamas being more than 20g heavier than the ken.

Yeah, you’re right. The answer is definitely more kendamas in my possession!

Wow, and here I thought I had an extreme.

I put my HG Purple heart on a scale. Surprized to find -
Ken - 67.7g
Tama - 82.7g
150.4g total
15g difference

I have ordered a hickory HG ken and requested an “80g or just under” as I think I want my tama just a little heavier than my ken, but i think 15g may be too much?
Ill report back when I get my hickory one. Im not disappointed at all, by the way. I know how much wood can vary in density and finished weight. Ill get my setup dialed down eventually, but i will say that I love my purpleheart tama!
I bought a walnut stripe one for a friend and his tama is 72g and ken was 67g and I think that setup was a little too light! haha

The thing is, yes, wood weight varies quite a bit BUT this is very easy to fix. All they have to do is weigh the full billets and you use the heavier billets for spikes and sarados and use the lighter billets for tamas. Problem solved.

If you’re looking for a quality, American-made kendama, check out RWB.

It’s a very subjective matter, I prefer heavier kendamas because I just like the feel, tacky tamas because it is very easy for learning Tricks like lighthouse. The wood really doesnt matter to me, as long as its fairly dense. Someone else might like something completely different, I for one am by no means, a good kendama player but that is what I look for. Craftsmanship is a big factor too, which is why mugen’s are quite saught after. Hope that helps!