Young Utahn among world’s most skilled with centuries-old Japanese toy

Posted at 10:13 PM, Aug 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-16 00:13:21-04

WEBER COUNTY, Utah -- Forget about Xbox and Playstation: A young man from Weber County has gained fans from around the world for playing with a simple Japanese toy called a Kendama.

But not only is Mikey Schelling making a name for himself, he's also making money selling the toy.

"A couple buddies from my school had one, and I decided to pick it up,” Schelling said of the Kendama.

Fate played a role in his exposure to the toy.

"One of my buddies from North Ogden had one, he found it on the side of the road, and that was the first one we ever saw, and the first one we ever touched,” he said.

After an online search, Schelling learned the game has been around for centuries in Japan.

The game teaches hand-eye coordination and balance. He also learned it is not like another toy called "ball in a cup."

"No, not even close: It's almost like ball in a cup on steroids,” he said.

It wasn't long until Schelling got really good.

“The goal of it is to basically be creative and catch it in the cups and catch it how the set moves are, but overall the basic idea is to end it with a spike,” he said.

Schelling decided to take part in the Kendama World Cup in Japan, which attracts the world's best players.

“There's people from Italy, Denmark, Russia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, America, Japan of course,” he said.

The competition in Japan was a point ranking system, and the harder the trick—the more points earned.

"So you've got big cup, small cup, base cup, spike,” he said.

The player who accumulates the most points in three minutes wins.

Schelling finished fourth in the Worlds, and, in fact, Americans swept the top five spots.

After buying a few cheap ones on the Internet and finding they fell apart after about an hour, Mikey and his father, Craig, decided to buy good ones and sell them online.

"We got the first order in and the first weekend it just, it went nuts,” said Craig Schelling, co-owner of Lion Head Kendama. “He took some to school, and everybody was buying them, they were coming over the house buying them, you know, wanted some for Christmas, so it just kind of blew up."

The father and son opened a kiosk at Newgate Mall, and they now have kiosks in Utah, Idaho and Oregon.