A simple encounter at Roskilde can be life changing. Take it from Philip, a Dane whose Roskilde experience led him to become a world champion.

Six years ago, while roaming the fields of Roskilde Festival with a friend, Philip Eldridge encountered a curious wooden toy that would end up changing the course of his life. Six years later, Eldridge is once again on the fields of Roskilde, only this time he’s the one showcasing his world-champion skill at kendama, a traditional Japanese coordination toy that has gained international popularity.

A kendama is comprised of a ball attached to a string, three cups (one small, one big, one bottom), and one spike. The goal is to land various different tricks in succession without dropping the ball. It may seem simple, but the toy requires immense hand-eye coordination and patience to land even the simplest of tricks.

I met him outside of Street City, where he was hosting a five-year birthday event for the founding of KROM Kendama company, which is now one of the most well-known suppliers of kendamas in Europe.

Photo by: Kasper Hjorth
Photo by: Kasper Hjorth

It all started at Roskilde Festival

“I found kendama completely randomly while wandering around Roskilde six years ago,” Philip says. “I saw some guy jamming with it, so I stopped and asked him what it was and if I could try it. A week later all my friends and I were playing it non-stop.” This attitude of openness, where people are most willing to try new and exciting things, is what Philip enjoys most about Roskilde Festival.

After his Roskilde experience, Philip pursued his love for kendama, but found that the toys were increasingly hard to come by in Europe. He went on to travel to India, Nepal, and then Japan, where he was given a tour of a shop that crafted specialty kendamas. There, he made a bet with his friends to open a kendama business if the domain Kendama.dk wasn’t already taken.

Sure enough, in 2010, Philip and his friend Thorkild May founded KROM Kendama, and now they’ve competed professionally and showcased their kendamas in over 18 countries across the world, including Japan, the United States, and Singapore. Currently, their kendamas are being sold in over 30 different countries. Their shop on Westend 20 in Copenhagen is the biggest kendama shop in Europe, and their innovative designs are in increasingly high demand.

Despite his incredible success and status, Philip always looks forward to coming back to Roskilde and giving people the chance to try something new. This is his 8th festival, and he’s hoping to make it to ten. The festival environment is perfect for a sport like kendama, especially with its drinking game-based origins.

“In Roskilde everyone gets this communal feeling, and it’s important to keep that positive state of mind and give back to the people around you,” he says while tossing a beer to a Swede who landed a particularly difficult trick that involved bouncing the ball off his knee and onto the cup. “You never know where it’s going to take you, but if you keep that positivity, you’re always going to have a good time.”

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