The TK16 Junior is an odd kendama. It has a smaller ball, and the sarado is shorter to accommodate the smaller radius of the ball. And the ken handle is shorter. But the cups are the same size as a regulation JKA competition kendama. Beyond that the design and build quality is identical to a TK16 Master. It even has a JKA seal, although it’s a “recommended product” seal, not an “official competition kendama” and you can buy it from this kendama shop.
The upshot is:
Ball catch tricks are easier to do because you have the same sized cups catching a smaller ball
Ball balance tricks like the lighthouse and the lunar lander are harder to do, since you’re balancing the kendama on a more sharply curved surface
Spike tricks like the “furi-ken” are a bit harder because the lighter mass ball doesn’t spin as deliberately as the larger regulation ball
You don’t have room for all three fingers above the slip-stop in the standard grip, so you have to modify the grip a bit
But the JK Junior is definitely a “real” kendama, not a junky toy, and it can be fun to play with. It’s slightly more portable I suppose, but not enough to really make a difference. So its place in the market is not really clear.
Which brings me to the point of this post. The guys behind the KC Winner kendama, which I’ve written about before, have discontinued that model and are readying its successor, the KC Winner II, reportedly to be manufactured at a different factory, and with “tweaked” quality control.
Interesting news, but the really interesting news is that the first output of this new series of kendamas is not the full-size KC Winner II, but a new kendama called the KC Basic II. Was there ever a KC Basic I? Apparently not. The “II” is just an indicator of the new factory and quality level. The “Basic” is a brand new model for the KC guys, and guess what? It’s a TK Junior clone.
The TK Junior hasn’t exactly been a hit kendama, at least as far as I can tell, outside of Japan. Why clone it? And why clone it in five (yes, five) colors? Unfortunately, gold isn’t one of the colors. The TK Junior only comes in red.
The KC Basic II has the KC brand on the sarado just like its big brother (I don’t really like branding), and the seal is replaced by another brand reading “Basic II.” Although the KC seals don’t impress me, the brand may be even uglier. As for the play and build quality of the KC Basic II, I cannot comment yet from personal experience.
By the way, the guys at the Best Kendama put a black KC Winner through its paces, and they were not completely satisfied, especially in regard to the tendency of the paint to chip. Is this because they don’t use lead paint, as some Japanese kendama makers have? The Chinese toy makers were really raked over the coals a couple of Christmas seasons back for using various toxic substances, so maybe they learned their lesson. The TK16 Masters were not among the recalled kendamas, and they are reportedly made in China, but then again, they don’t chip. Since the Japanese don’t really export that many toys to the U.S., maybe they didn’t feel the same pressure the Chinese did. Hopefully the KC Winner II and the KC Basic II will use lead-free paint that is formulated to be chip-resistant.