Darts, Ken-dama, and a Geek

Yesterday I visited this dart bar in Kawasaki with a friend of mine. Our initial purpose was to throw darts and have some fun ourselves. The bar is called Figaro Kawasaki, unexpectedly small and packed with regular customers. After several drinks as we were gazing in awe at how skillful people were, we soon found ourselves on our feet and practice. The owner was friendly, giving us darts and encouraging us to enjoy ourselves. He was one hell of an expert thrower as well.

The owner introduced us to the bar’s instructor (a top-notch!) who then lent us his 2 sets of darts. He taught us some techniques and spared us sufficient space and time. I really appreciated that because I would feel extremely uncomfortable being under observation all time time. We did have a good time; I even luckily won over my friend when I hit that triple 17 and instantly reduced my score to 0 first; the owner, cheerfully spectating us at that time, poured me a Tequila shot as a prize – best tasteful tequila I ever tried. Before we left, the instructor showed us some of his moves with Ken-dama, a Japanese toy as in the photo below.

Kendama

<Kendama photo taken from Wikipedia>

At first, I thought it was pretty lame playing cool on such a tool. The instructor quickly erased that thought completely. He explained its structure, its techniques, its mechanism, its everything with so much passion I actually found it stunning. He tossed the ball and adeptly caught it on all “sara” (dish/tray). Continuously tossing and catching in certain order came with names. For example, if you can play it on ko-zara (small) – oo-zara (large) – chyu-zara (medium, at the end of the handle) and finally thrust the “sword” (the tip of the tool) through the hole on the ball, you make a round-the-world (sekai-isshyuu). Others may come as around-Japan (nihon-isshyuu), around-a-prefecture (ken-isshyuu), etc. Depending on what technique one masters, one would be ranked from 10 to 1. I was taken aback by how systematic and exciting this seemingly tedious play turned out to be.

Once again, after all these years living in Japan, I was amazed at Japanese ability to turn hobbies into art, to upgrade mundane stuffs to “professional” levels. “I like darts and ken-dama, so I focus solely on them; I can’t help it”, so said the instructor. Yes, whatever one’s dream/hobby is, with constant effort, one will receive worthwhile acknowledgement. The geeks kill the smirks.

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