Vintage Japanese Kokeshi Kendama Toy (Nichigetsu Ball) with Yajirou-kei Head by Mamoru, Fumio, Tsuta Family

Sale price$125.00

Dimension: 6-0”h

Offered is a very RARE and Beautifully expressive vintage Kendama toy (“sword [and] ball") and represents a traditional Japanese skill toy. It consists of a handle (ken), a pair of cups (sarado), and a ball (tama) that are all connected by a string. It is said to strengthen hand-eye coordination, balance, and reflex and is known for the “tricks” that can be played in villages and provincial competitions.

What makes this more collectible and higher in price than the typical or contemporary Kendama is its graphic design conceived by the Yajirou Kokeshi family. The creators of this type of Kendama hail from the small farming village of Yajirou-machi near Kamasaki Onsen in Miyagi Prefecture, once a farming village between two, tall mountains. The kiji-shi (woodworkers), divided their time between farming and wood-craft, specifically Kokeshi dolls and Kokeshi toys. 

All the graphics on the body are in black and have a hand-painted collar with horizontal stripes encircling the body, as in the Rokoru moyo style (fine, varying widths of line-work) which also appear encircling the arms/cups for catching the ball. An additional interesting feature is the painted feature of its head with a face that has one lid and a cat or pick-shaped nose.  The piece is made of white dogwood, (mazuki). The piece is signed by Mamoru-san on the lower portion of the base of the figure. This is a true collector's item for those who admire the Kendama toy.

Additional Historical Information— As Japan entered the Meiji era (1868–1912), the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports, and Culture (equivalent to Japan's modern-day Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) introduced kendama in the report on children's education that it put together in 1876, and the game gradually began to catch on among young people. In 1919, during the Taisho era (1912–1926), the Yajirou-kei (family) introduced this forerunner of today's mass-produced kendama. It was called Nichigetsu Ball (sun-and-moon ball), because the ball looked like the sun, while the shape of the shallow cups was like a crescent moon. Beginning of the Showa era (1926–1989), a variety of kendama was promoted throughout Japan. The image from the Japan Kindama Association shows the National Competition is still alive.

See our e-book entitled: A Collector’s Guide: Traditional and Creative Kokeshi and Toys:

Condition: Excellent meaning that the piece retains its original craft/workmanship and functions as intended, showing a wonderful-developed patina for its age. The toy is void of damage, cracks, breakage, or repairs and meets all the standards of the collectible Vintage Traditional Kokeshi Toys.