The World Cup..
International travel was new for me, the farthest I had traveled previously was Hawaii back in 2014. Needless to say I had a lot of anxiety leading up to leaving. This would have been the longest I had been away from both of my children and wife in a long time, and it was taking a toll on everyone.
Day 1 || 6/18 || Travel…
Fischer landed a couple days prior to flying out with me so the four of us could be on the same flight to Japan. Fisch and I had an 11 hour layover in Vancouver that was overnight and pretty grueling, they were doing construction and we got pushed to the before security area. I didn’t even break out my camera cause we both were just tired and wanted to find a good bench to lay down on… Needless to say sleep sucked.
Day 2 || 6/19 || More travel...
Once we finally were able to get the checked bags in and we got through security we met up with a great handful of dama homies. Started off with Stodd, Bray, Eli Corey and slowly it grew and grew. I had the opportunity to meet Logan Tosta and his amazingly supportive mother and father, and it was great to see parents being so supportive. Logan’s so skilled, and has SO much style its insane, and still a goon kid!
And now we fly, for a very long time…
Day 3 || 6/20 || Japan
We landed around 3pm local time, and not being one who can sleep on planes I just did my best to push through to night. After checking into the hotel we met up with Bonz and Rolf Ganer, Rolf is one of the most hilarious giants I’ve ever met. He’s SOFT AF, and if you ever meet him, make sure to tell him that!!
Dude never ceases to put a smile on everyones faces, and is a great dama player to boot. We went about the town for a while looking at all the random restaurants, shops, it was truly surreal to be in Japan for the first time. It was a great way to end the first day there.
Day 4 || 6/21 || Tour starts!!
We woke up and caught the train to the Shin-Osaka station to meet with everyone coming in for the tour. It’s always great seeing old faces and meet so many new people I’ve only had the opportunity to see on FKC.
There was a HUGE group of people this year, so much they had to rent a THIRD bus for the tour! We got assigned in, and headed out on a 5 hour drive to Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima.
The drive was amazing, taking us through rolling hills, beautiful small towns along the way with so much character I kept wondering if it was all a dream. We stopped three times at some pretty cool rest stops with food and little markets, it was nice to get out, stretch, and get in a game of Ken or two.
Once we got to the Dama Village we checked in, dropped off our stuff and headed to Dama street. It was awesome to see the famous Dama Shop & Salon, and pick myself up a dank coin bag cause those Yen get heavy! Had the opportunity to meet the famous Kazuma Iwata and end the night watching Nobuyoshi Norioka slay EVERYONE in games of ken.
Day 5 || 6/22 || Miyajima Island
Woke up early, got ready and rode the train to the ferry terminal where we all headed towards the beautiful Miyajima Island. It was so unbearably hot that day it was intense, and worst part was you have to be in pants and a collared shirt! Heat, humidity, and carrying my heavy backpack the afternoon was a beautiful blur haha.
They didn’t allow us to take photos during the ceremony we attended, nor were we allowed to play Kendama anywhere on the docs, so it was a pretty in and out experience. Never the less it was a beautiful spot I’ll never forget. This year apposed to others we had the opportunity to have a free day on the island, so we spent hours wandering through shops, stopping at a restaurant to get some grub, and found a couple spots to film.
All in all we took the day pretty light leading up to pre-lims tomorrow, as people were pretty serious this year.
Day 6 || 6/23 || Kendama World Cup Pre-Lims
Everyone woke up early and met in the Dama Village lobby to head out to the venue together. Most of us kinda assumed there’d be a bus, but because it was actually pretty close the entire Dama Village sent it in a huge mob to the stadium. In Japans heat and humidity the couple mile walk felt like walking through the gobi desert. Thank the universe for the abundance of vending machines on the walk there, I think they’re there for public safety for concern of dehydration haha. Finally the journey was over and we were there, and boy did Gloken and WoodOne make this year INSANE! They got a new stage with a megatron, the G-Shock watch, and free Red Bulls for all the players all day long.
It was pretty stressful watching all the players start to isolate themselves with headphones and get in their hone zone. Pre-lims are almost as stressful if not more stressful than being on stage. Its not a race against how many things you can do, it’s a race against yourself, and your patience, and your nerves. You have 10 tricks total that you chose, 5 tricks per round, 3 minutes per round. Seems easy right? Only 5 tricks in 3 minutes? It’s absolutely not. Players who spent hours, weeks, months grinding these tricks were seen to crack and fall short. One trick missed can be the deciding factor for if you’ll make it to the top 24 or not. Even the best can fall short under the pressure against themselves. Pre-lims happened, and it was crazy to see all the talent that had risen to the top this year. Some of the youngest, most talented kids have become the most skilled players in the world with nerves of steel. Among the top 32 players in the world, 10 were from the US, and one made it from the Co, Jake Fischer. Day 1 of the World Cup ended, and all anybody wanted to do was relax, and prep for finals tomorrow!
Day 7 || 6/24 || Game Day.
If you thought the stress yesterday was high, the faces of the top 32 were all but happy. Today was the day that the past year has lead to, and people were starting to crack. Throughout the day more and more people started to hone in, and finally Bryson Lee was up. Man this kid had been on FIRE all day during his practice runs, the only thing that could mess him up is the stress of the stage. One after the other, Bryson continues to lace trick after trick, the crowd getting louder and louder, until finally the G-Shock timer ended his run. At that moment, everyone knew he’d taken the gold, but only time would tell his score. After we anxiously watch the freestyle runs ending in Nick Gallagher taking the deserved win, the top 32 scores were released. Our own Jake Fischer taking 17th at 500pts, slowing ticking up to our newly aquired pro’s Soma Kanemoto taking 11th with 609 points, and Tomoki Ninomiya coming in 6th with 676 points. Finally ending with of course, Lucas Funk keeping some of the most consistent skill in the game at 2nd place with 883 points, and Bryson Lee at 976 points.
It was an awesome experience seeing the pinnacle of our sport and witness the stress it puts on everyone. With Glokens Help, we’re bringing this toy to a full fledged sport!
After signatures, photos, packing and everyone making their way outside, it was time to head to the Sake Ceremony. Within walking distance we started our trek to the venue where the top 3 KWC contestants get the honor of smashing in the sake barrel.
It’s quite an honor that I wish one day I could share, but let’s not get off on a fantasy here!
The night wound down and they shut the lights off on us to get us out, and we all kinda scattered on our on ways back. I fortunately had the opportunity to walk back with Itay Toren from KendamaISR, Alex Smith & Kristin Olinyk from Terra, and Nathan St-Arnaud. Somehow we ended up super close to the venue from last year, which just so happen to be near the “Kendama Park”! Needless to say even in the complete dark I had to take the opportunity to see the the park and take some photos.
On the way there we saw the “infamous” Kendama Statue everyone takes photos by and so I naturally had to get mine taken. Funny enough, Itay asked me to shoot his photo, so of course I did and it was super dark and you could barely see him. Meanwhile off camera Alex Smith was taking a cell phone camera photo on Itay with his flash and my second shot caught it EXACTLY in time and it lit Itay up perfectly!
After having long talks with everyone about our lives outside of the events, our pasts, childhoods, and even country history it was great to get to know some of your idols, and new friends on a more personal level. Not something you experience on the internet, or through edits. These my friends, are the reasons for coming to events, and why I hold Kendama so close to my heart. It brings everyone, from all walks of life, young, old, rich, poor, skilled or not. We’re here because we enjoy together playing this wooden toy, and teaching and learning daily from our friends and peers. Without these events, Kendama wouldn’t continue to grow.
The night grew old and we knew the trains were going to stop soon so we headed back to the dama village. Tomorrow was our free day to film.
Day 8 || 6/25 || Off Day Slay Day
Last free day on the tour and we can go anywhere we’d like. So we chose to round up Soma & Tomoki and head to Miyajima Island again to get some more footy and get a team picture. Soma was our most recent addition to the Origin Team, and we couldn’t be happier to have him in the Co Family. Watching Tomoki grow and his skill evolve in the past year it was a no brainer to everyone on the team that we wanted him to join the family. We took the group photo and invited Tomoki to join the Zen team, and boy was he stoked!
Soma & Tomoki rejoiced and spent rest of the afternoon grouped closely constantly high-fiving each other stoked on everything they do… This guys is what dama’s about. Being stoked on progression with your friends, and seeing where this amazing toy can take you.
After catching a bus ride to a local rec spot we met up with some of the KUSA crew and ended up finding a pond to try and film. Filming in japan is a grind…Even for me as a filmer, you’re in the sun sweaty AF. There’s no getting away from it. Period. After about an hour of everyone giving some solid attempts Fisch laces and a few minutes later it started to rain…And oh it did not want to let up! We just barely found out in time that we had 20 minutes to catch a cab because all cabs on the island stopped at 7pm! Luckily he let all 6 of us pile in and he MOBBED back to the ferry terminal. After a train ride home, we parted ways to get food and I headed to the Dama Village to grub on some stuff I picked up at the market.
As I sat there the rest of the night importing photos, looking back on the days I always regret not shooting more. I have a really hard time enjoying the moment, and interrupting it with a camera in everyones faces…
Day 9 || 6/26 || Departure...
Always the worst of all the days of course, is saying goodbye to all your friends, and the new people you meet. We woke up early, and started our 5 hour bus ride back to Shin-Osaka. after arriving there, the crew plus a few decided to check into our hotel, grab some food, and hit up the roof for a end of the tour photo.
Needless to say, the trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel across the world, meet new people, and experience a land I'd only seen online. I can't thank Kendama Co for giving me the opportunity, and thanks to everyone who made everything happen along the way.
Checkout below the entire gallery from the trip.