The traditional cup-and-ball game "kendama" is back, thanks to a new "cool" image mostly nurtured overseas and imported back to Japan.

"Definitely, people who had never been associated with kendama, especially young people (in their 20s and 30s), have become hooked for a year or two, with fans forming kendama-playing groups across the nation," says Tamotsu Kubota, head of the Global Kendamas Network, or Gloken, which promotes the game.

Kubota says kendama used to be enjoyed mainly by Japanese children and grandparents, while people outside of those age groups considered it "old and uncool."