MARIETTA — A wooden skill toy called a kendama is growing in popularity, and the Atlanta-based Kendama USA will present a free Dama Fest for fans at the Cobb Galleria on Saturday.

The kendama originated in Japan. It looks simple, and is simply addicting, said Christian Fraser, 19, an architecture student at Southern Polytechnic State University.

“You see other people do it. You see it on YouTube, and you’re amazed at all the tricks they can do with it,” said Fraser, who grew up in Kennesaw and graduated from Kell High School. “It’s the challenge of trying new things, and it’s satisfying when you master one.”

A kendama has two parts: the ken, which is a wooden handle, and a tama, the ball, which is connected to the ken by a string. There are three cups on the ken in which to catch the ball, and there’s also a spike.

Matt DeCoteau, who is also 19 and lives in Canton, said he’s been playing it for more than a year.

“You juggle the ball between the cups and the spike,” he said. “It’s just fun. Kids at my school were bringing it all the time.”

A kendama costs about $25, though the prices can go up from there. They can be ordered online, though some physical stores, such as Learning Express, also carry them.

Fraser said he sold one of his kendamas for $1,000 this summer. He still has 76 others — and just spent $125 on another one.

“Generally, they’re the same, but they all have their subtleties,” he said. “They’re all definitely different.”

He is sponsored by a company called Sweets Kendamas, which sends him to fan events like Dama Fest to spread the game and promote their custom-painted kendamas.

“Kendama brings people together, and it’s created a strong community,” Fraser said. “It’s popular with kids, and I’m hoping it’s not a fad.”

Kendama USA’s Dama Fest is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Gallery Room in the Cobb Galleria Center. Admission to the main event is free.


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