Boy latest in line of spinning top artists

by Hironari Suzuki

Kyodo

A 10-year-old boy has become the successor to a line of performers who keep alive the traditional art of spinning tops called Chikuzen Hakata Koma, which has been designated by Fukuoka Prefecture as an intangible cultural asset.

These performers execute moves such as spinning their top on the tip of a folded fan, then opening the fan slowly as the top spins along its edge.

Kazuma Yoshitomi, a fourth-grader, assumed the name of Chikushi Juraku last fall as a successor of the art.

The performance art is believed to have developed from fighting tops played by kids in the latter half of the 17th century and for a while was in decline.

Kazuma’s great-grandfather revived the skill during the 1950s.

The boy had seen difficult tricks performed by his uncle — the third-generation Chikushi Shuraku — and his parents since early childhood.

At age 3, he asked them, “Why can I not perform on stage?” a member of his family said. At age 7, he to started practicing in earnest.

The uncle, who Kazuma said had usually been “kind” to him, became a strict teacher.

Kazuma developed a lot of blisters on his palm and fingers. Once they were gone, he soon got new ones.

After more than a year of training, Kazuma acquired two kinds of tricks.

The uncle allowed him to perform on stage for the first time at Hakozakigu, a Shinto shrine in Fukuoka, last September.

On the stage where his succession was announced, Kazuma burst into tears once he succeeded in running a spinning top on a long, taut string in front of a large audience.

“I was so happy and cried,” he said.

It may take years to master all 27 standard tricks, but Kazuma said he wants to be a master.

“I also want to perform abroad someday,” he said.