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Top aficionado plans contest to test the best spinners

Chunichi Shimbun

Yoshihito Fujita, the man managing the Japan Spinning Top Museum from his own home in Nagoya, has standardized the names of different spinning styles, which vary depending on region, and has also established a ranking system.

To further spread these names and rankings, a national top spinning competition will be held next month at a park near the museum.

“This will be the culmination of all the work I’ve done so far, so I want to make it a success,” said Fujita, 70, who is known as “koma no ochan” (spinning uncle).

Fujita has been touring the country to promote the activity.

“Spinning tops exist all over the world, but the only type that allows the user to display various tricks is the flat Japanese type,” he said.

On display in the museum are 30,000 tops and 20,000 old toys, as well as a small traditional Japanese-style candy store.

As Fujita was being interviewed, he started playing with a tin top.

He pulled the strings swiftly while the spinning top was in the air and it landed on his palm.

It is a simple trick that is also known as “ride on palm” or “boomerang,” but Fujita decided to call it “turning swallow cut,” based on the sword technique used by Sasaki Kojiro, a prominent swordsman from the early Edo Period.

Another trick involves stretching the string tight and winding it around the center of the top before twisting it so it goes on top. This is typically known as “elevator,” but has been given a Japanese-sounding name with the proverb “koi climbing waterfall.”

Fujita is an avid collector of tops from various parts of Japan. He opened the museum in the 1980s when he was still working as a company employee and has since learned more than 100 spinning methods.

Offers poured in inviting him to organize top-spinning events and he now attends more than 200 events every year. He is undoubtedly the most well-known player in the Japanese top-spinning world.

The reason why there are no standard names for the many different ways of spinning the tops is because there is no corporate organization promoting it such as with yo-yos and “kendama” cup-and-ball.

Feeling the need to create “a place for spinning,” Fujita started the Japan Spinning Top Promotion Association in 2002.

Membership has grown to about 300 over the last decade. As the association is now well established, Fujita decided it was time to organize the first national competition.

Of the 100 spinning methods that have now been standardized, 30 are divided into six ranks according to their difficulty level and participants will be assigned ranks during the competition as they fight to become the champion.

“The competition will hopefully contribute to our efforts to promote the game, and even take the leading role in the future,” said Fujita.

The competition will be held from 10 a.m. on Dec. 23 and the fee for participating is ¥500 for members of the Japan Spinning Top Promotion Association and ¥1,500 for nonmembers.

Those who wish to join in the event are asked to contact the museum at 052-661-3671.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Oct. 25.