Sakura Ozora – Pretty in pink
5. 11. 2012
Having recently watched Kill Bill again, my first thought upon seeing this particular kendama was “If O-Ren Ishii was into kendama, this would be hers,” for it is lethally pretty. I did have second and third thoughts, though.
My Sakura of choice was the black ball with pink blossoms, and it looks exactly as exquisite in the pictures as it does when held in your hand. You might say that it suffers from “Dragon Ozora” syndrome, in that you initially feel that playing with it is somehow sacrilegious, inherently wrong. You’ll get over it.
Sakura Ozora sisters
While the paint job is among the finest money can buy, it’s surprisingly slick. It will certainly test your reflexes when it comes to trying to stabilise a lighthouse or lunar trick. In this respect, it was rather reminiscent of the recent batch of TK-16s that the JKA deemed too difficult for official use. It does settle and become easier, but it takes a while. The one good thing about settling it is that the paint doesn’t really suffer from use; it’s pretty but tough.
As for the ken: well, it feels weird. It doesn’t have the classic Ozora feel, but then no Ozora seems to these days. It feels…how can I put it…cheap. Yes, cheap. It kind of feels like someone stole it while it was being shipped, stole the original ken and hastily assembled a replacement from a piece of scrap wood found in a building site. I almost felt like it would start to splinter while I played. Don’t worry, it didn’t. I guess you get used to it.
Now, I don’t know if it was because I was used to performing suicide tricks with a TK-16 or SunRise, but when I attempted any such tricks with the Sakura it felt totally off balance. The ken just seemed too light for the ball, creating strange and disorienting ellipses instead of graceful circles. You can adjust to this, but should you really have to?
There is one thing that really lets the Sakura down, and that is the string. It has a kind of waxy sheen to it that makes hand-roll tricks nigh on impossible, or certainly excessively awkward. Whenever I tried the comparatively easy hand-roll swing in, the string simply slipped around my hand and the kendama fell to the floor. Initially I thought I must be doing it wrong, so I switched to my old TK-16 and tried again. The string wrapped around my hand, allowing the ken to swing around and stop against my knuckles, just as it should. I went back to the Sakura to repeat the exercise. Once again, it instantly slipped off and fell away. Fortunately, kendama strings can be changed. Do that.
The Sakura Ozora has its problems, but they are not insurmountable. Wear the tama in and change the string. You’ll just have to accept that the ken simply doesn’t feel like the ones Grandpa used to play with. It’ll never be top of the pile, but I’m not casting mine out; it’s just too damn nice to look at.
In conclusion: she’s pretty, but she’s also high-maintenance. A bit like O-Ren Ishii, strangely enough.