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Why would anyone buy a $75+ Kendama?

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Cheech_Sander, Aug 21, 2018.

By Cheech_Sander on Aug 21, 2018 at 10:37 AM
  1. Cheech_Sander

    Cheech_Sander Administrator Staff Member

    Aug 19, 2016
    Los Angeles, CA
    "Why Would Anyone Buy a $75 Kendama?"
    I have been asked that many times by non-kendama players. I have to admit, it's a fair question.

    Recently, I've had the pleasure of picking up a Terra prefect. I had promised to kind of shelf it for a little bit, but I find myself reaching for it more and more over any other kendama I own. In fact, the kendamas I play the most (right now) are the Prefect, a Mugen x HG collab, and a Rez. It struck me that the combined value of these is somewhere in the $250+ range, which is absurd. And yet, I seem to be getting my use out of them.

    Sweet baby jesus is this thing honed.

    5 reasons why you should splurge:

    1.) You'll land more tricks.
    A more expensive kendama does NOT make you a better player. In fact, one could even argue it acts like a crutch. It's almost like growing up surfing a perfect wave... the second you have to surf a shitty one, you're out of your element. But then again, having a completely honed setup will almost certainly increase your consistency. It may even unlock some new tricks.
    Case in point: I'm terrible at stilts. Usually I need a 2 year old Tama with a chewed up hole. However, stilt on a prefect? ...First try out of the box.
    Beginners luck? Maybe. But nah.

    The consistency provided by a perfectly balanced and well-crafted kendama will serve you in your efforts to tweak, hone, and learn. Many people have locked in lunars on something like a slaydawg only to learn that they are powerless over a TK-16 (which I also love).

    2.) It's a more delightful experience
    This might sound ridiculous to non-kendama players, but while playing kendama is enjoyable, playing a premium kendama can be delightful. There is a palpable difference in how a premium kendama feels. In the same way that a blue bottle cappuccino performs better on the tastebuds than a Starbucks, there is something to be said for craftsmanship. Whether it's brewing espresso, designing luxury clothing, or turning a wooden toy, there is always a range of quality. Millenials value craftsmanship in almost everything else they consume, so why not kendama?
    Artisans, rejoice!
    Which one of these are you drinking?

    3.) They Last Longer.
    See: craftsmanship.

    4.) You up your street cred
    If you're like me, you're no good at kendama. But that's less important if you're slanging a $100+ jammer around your neck at all times. Stroll up to any jam sesh confident that people will look at your jammer and not your lame tricks.

    Growing up, Colin and I saved up money for a year to attend camp Woodward in Pennsylvania, the biggest skatepark in the world. The camp costs around $1500 for a week. When we got there, we met a kid named... well, I can't remember what his name was, but we called him "Laser Eye Kid Surgery". His dad invented laser eye surgery and used his fortune to send him to the camp all summer long. Laser Eye Kid Surgery never once skated when we were there, but it didn't matter. We all knew he was loaded, and that was almost as cool as being able to skate. I guess my point here is if you spend enough money, maybe nobody will notice that you suck at kendama.

    5.) Buying a Premium Kendama Supports Good People
    The premium kendamas on the market fall into two categories. Category one is individual artisans that are hand turning small batches of premium kendamas. (Think: Kazuma Iwata, Alex Smith & RodDama, REZ, etc.) These people do this as a passion, but the money you spend on it helps keep that passion alive. The second category are larger kendama companies that want to make sure they're doing enough for the die-hard jammer (Think: Kusa Craft Slim, Sweets x HG, etc). Believe it or not, it's a pain in the ass for these companies to switch from mass-produced mode to more aggressive Quality Control, and despite the increased price, the margins aren't necessarily better business. They're doing it for the slayers. Every dollar is a chance to vote, so when people buy great kendamas, people make great kendamas.

    What's the most you have you spent on a kendama?
    Tell us in the comments, and if you feel it was worth it.

    Some premium kendama pr0n:

    Aug 21, 2018


    1. Jasper B.
      Jasper B.
      I really love this post. I am a huge fan of playing premium kendamas. I have at least 8 grain theories of which five are USA made. I have 6 crafts right now, but my count keeps going up as KUSA keeps releasing new ones. I have a kayaki mugen, and also two Terras. I own a Rez. The list of these premium kendamas keep going on. Honestly, I try not to think about how much I have spent on kendama, but yes, it is one crazy huge number. I realy find playing a premium kendama "delightful" as you say it and I feel way more honed playing a kendama I love. Even if the kendama isn't actually better that one of my others, I land tricks that would take me hours after only a couple tries based on the confidence associated with the possesion of a premium kendama. For me one of my favorite experiences in kendama is playing premium kendamas. I highly recommend that other players who do not own any premium kendamas to buy one. It is such an amazing feeling lacing your tricks on a fresh premium.
    2. ttocsic
      I still don't have a premium kendama, but man I've always dreamed about next gen homegrowns:rolleyes:
      The most I've ever spent on a dama is $27.
      Stuart Barron likes this.
    3. Jasper B.
      Jasper B.
      Get a premium... so worth it! The new craft slims just released for 69.99, so technically not a premium of over $75, but I would put them in the premium category. Also they are one honed shape. Another one I recommend are the Terra kendama prefects, but that may require a larger budget. :rolleyes:
      ttocsic likes this.
    4. Emil Apostol
      Emil Apostol
      Love this post! One thing that Cheech highlighted is value for money, and I think that should be a huge consideration for kendama purchases. Save up for that Homegrown/Prefect/Craft/etc., and at the very least, you get to give premium kendamas a try.

      Most money I ever dropped on a Kendama was a Nihon Ash Dawg, and even if it's not in the higher echelons of "premium" damas, I felt the difference in quality of craftsmanship and an awesome time was had.

      Still, it can't be ignored that "good kendamas are getting cheaper and cheap kendamas are getting better" (to quote Lyon's Andrei Cudia). You don't always have to aim for the most expensive kendamas to get a premium experience, in my opinion.
      Cheech_Sander likes this.
    5. Stuart Barron
      Stuart Barron
      If you can afford to buy premium kendama then go for it. If you cant, don't worry there are plenty of cheap kendama that will get you landing those tricks.

      The thing that generally puts me off buying Premium kendamas is that they break just as easily as non premium kendama. Also the fact that I have a wife, two kids and a mortgage that come first :rolleyes:
      LA111, cbwalsh24, AN_TY and 2 others like this.
    6. htimSxelA
      "Every dollar is a chance to vote, so when people buy great kendamas, people make great kendamas."

      Well said. I think a big perk of buying premium is that you won't end up with an 'acceptable lemon'. If you spend $25 on a dama, you might end up with one that is way off-weight, as a common example. If you're a serious player, this might be annoying, but from a manufacturer's standpoint, there isn't much you can do about it in most cases, while still keeping the prices low. So while not perfect, an off-weight ken is acceptable to sell.
      With a premium dama, you'll probably get some guarantees about weighting, etc, from the manufacturer.

      One correction: Kazuma Iwatta does not hand-turn mugens, they are machine made. His quality control is pretty epic though, you wont find a Bgrade mugen anywhere. They probably have some nice bonfires at the Iwatta co factory :D
    7. James Hoang
      James Hoang
      The most expensive damas that I've bought and played are OG HGs (don't have any NG HGs) and some old GT-1s from a few homies. All of them have held up very well and helped me unlock some new tricks, so yea I would have to agree with this.
    8. AN_TY
      I was just thinking about this topic the other day. Thanks Cheech for the write up. I personally own way too many damas in the eyes of a person who does not play. And the reason is, I am always looking for that "magic" feel that comes from a dama that was well made. As of late, that feeling has only been felt from the "premium" damas I've purchased. I love my Kaizens, Primes, GT-E1's, and POP's but they just dont give me that "magic" feel like my Crafts, HG's, and GT-1.5's do.

      I dont own a Mugen yet, but I will soon. And eventually hope to own a REZ as well. But I can imagine that the feel that these top shelf damas have, is amazing! And it all goes back to craftsmanship and quality control.

      @Cheech_Sander how would you feel about adding a third classification for Premium damas. Not so much in the sense of it being high quality but more for collectors who dont mind dropping a 150$ premium on a 1 of 1 dama like an Artist series dama. Like the Vicsomeday releases, Luzumaki drops etc..
      Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
      James Hoang and Cheech_Sander like this.
    9. beglerijapan
      +1 to the OP.

      the GF and I just got started, and there is no doubt in my mind that a 15 bucks JKA kendama designed for a 9 yo is not something I could enjoy learning on.

      My GF is a visual artist, so craftman-made things stand out like candles in the night to her too.

      I come from the begleri, where two beads and one string is literally the only condition required to lace any trick, there is no denying that beads made by Aroundsquare and a very small handful of other brands bring artful beauty and functionality to the table.
      After all, it takes an active practitioner to craft a functional tool, and why make something barely not-ugly when you can make something dope-looking?

      As someone working in multiple industries, I'd like also to point out that making cheap stuff (however functional enough) doesn't always mean making less, or more money.

      on the one hand, making something mass-produced a la chinese implies that your brand can sell a shit load of products before you can recoup costs. From what I've seen so far, the active ken community is not really a huge population. So as much as big supportive brands enjoy making affordable kens that help spread the culture worldwide,
      unless tons of people buy 20 buck kens everytime there's a new drop, it's just a bitch to stay in business.

      on the other hand, small hand-made brands may charge 5 to 30 times more for their small batches, but it doesn't mean they're making much more than mass-producing brands do.

      I have friends and experience working in both kinds of industries, and very little brands actually make enough money to split profits after costs, investment forward and promotion.

      From what I've seen so far in the begleri and kendama world, I feel (and no offense intended to anyone) that most of the talks regarding prices usually originate in people's income. Which means it's emotional, rather than based on say a clear and suspicious market price increase. Good stuff cost money, money needs to be earned. I don't like it anymore than anyone else, but that ain't gonna change anytime soon.

      I know a few guys who used to be hippies and believe firmly in not taking profit beyond their immediate needs, but most of em watched their wives leave with the kids,
      and the others live in poverty till the breaking point where they can't afford doing what they love anymore.

      As for non-players who don't understand why a kendama can cost 75 bucks,
      I'm sure they spend way more on things they like. And where I live(Tokyo), a DECENT professional, whatever his or her trade, over 30yo, who has a sustainable business going, will ask at least 60 bucks per hour before tax, for anything between bodywork to skill lesson, service, physical work, teaching, you name it.

      I have no idea how long it takes to make one kendama from scratch to packaging and shipping, but if you start with 60 bucks as the artisan's hourly wage and add trials and errors, broken things, logistics and materials, 75 bucks is not even expensive.

      The chinese chiropractor near my house takes 90 bucks for 90min, doesn't need anything, doesn't build anything, and I'm the one walking to him for a sesh.

      I believe it all comes back to how much you make and how badly you want it.
      I see people spending 4000 bucks on a week trip to hawaii, surely 3925 bucks and a kendama would work too . LOL
      htimSxelA likes this.
    10. cbwalsh24
      The temptation has never been stronger to drop coin on kendamas the past few years, but for several reasons I've never been able to bring myself to do it. Companies are putting out some absolutely stunning products, but my approach and use of kendamas is seemingly different to others.

      I seem to stubbornly hold on to the traditionalism of kendama, both in my style of play and choice of kendama. I recently purchased my first two kendamas after two years of zero purchases. KUSA spring cleaning prompted an impulse purchase of two natty tk's, which with a layer of beeswax are still my favorite of all time.

      When I buy a kendama, I know without a doubt, I am either going to break it after so much play or give it away to someone eager enough to learn. There is no such thing as "shelfing". Although, I understand why others do it. I don't think there is any kendama out there that my spirit and instinct would tell me, "no you can't play this one". It's made to be played and I like to play, so I'm gonna play.

      The most I have ever spent on a kendama is 60 dollars. This has happened four times. In order from favorite to least favorite; LBB beech (total gamechanger), JAC beech (stalls on point), REZ (loons for days), and a GT-16 (complete crap). This was all two years ago now and a lot has happened in the production of kendamas, during this time.

      The refined shapes and bigger cups look like a lot of fun! So, sure! I would love to try a new Prefect, JAC Mizuno, Legaxis, Craft, Slaydawg, Fortress, Nativ, Sweets, Squab, GT-E1, Mugen, Cereal, Sol, and etc! How much would I have to spend to try them all? How much for all the shipping to South Africa?

      I wish I was able to justify spending money on all these kendamas I want to play with, but I simply cannot. Especially and sadly, when there's no one to play with. I suppose it's combination of factors along with having just started a family in a foreign country. I'll just have to stick with my zen and tk's for now.

      However, I absolutely love following the community's development. Even being so detached and distant, I still get stoked to see new creative edits and products being released. I dream of making a trip to Japan for the KWC/cultural experience, to compete with myself, and to meet many of you.
    11. beglerijapan
      shipping to south africa, ouch :(
    12. goenKendama
      @cbwalsh24 Man every time you post seems you're in a different country. :D
      cbwalsh24 likes this.
    13. cbwalsh24
      It has been a seriously wild adventure.
      AN_TY and goenKendama like this.
    14. Aaron Gallegos
      Aaron Gallegos
      My family: “Why would anyone by a $5+ kendama?”
      Cheech_Sander likes this.