Ping Pong is a Serious Game

So I’m sitting back in Yokohama having dinner with the in-laws, and the second time in three days they change the channel to ‘Japan Table 2014’. I’m not sure if it’s a world table tennis event or what, but there are many countries involved. Well, last night it was Japan versus Australia. Let me tell you – it did not go well for my home country. Well and truly trounced by the host nation, table tennis, or ‘ping pong’ as it’s sometimes known when you’re trying to deride it as a serious sport, is not a sport that western nations tend to excel in. It’s firmly the sport of Asia.


To be honest, by and large in Australia it’s the sort of sport you play for fun when you’re visiting your aunt and uncle over Christmas. Although I always took it far too seriously and chucked tantrums when I lost! Which I almost always did… Which is why I was really feeling for my compatriots last night as the three girls lost 3-0 to the Japanese girls. One girl got to 9 points (aiming for 11) in one game. It was just as one-sided two nights back when they played Portugal I think it was, this was the mens. And the women played Brazil. I guess Australia must have made it past the first round, that’s an achievement right?

yeah, didnt go so great for the Aussies. :(

yeah, didnt go so great for the Aussies. 😦

The Japanese girls did NOT crack a smile. They fist pumped every point. And here in Japan it appears ping pong is a spectator sport. There was a crowd in with inflatable clappers and even a chant or two! One Japanese girl, the most serious of all, look deeply at the ball in the palm of her hand before serving, as if she was drawing the power of the great players now no longer on this Earth for inspiration. The Aussie girls had a bit of a smile, except for the last girl who wasn’t taking losing very well.

The coach is even more serious than the players!

The coach is even more serious than the players!

But come on – it’s like inviting the Japanese to Australia for a five-test cricket series. The best moments were when the Aussie girls won a point, and there were two lone clappers, but mostly silence, like at a football game in Western Australia when the Victorian team scores and you’d think nothing was happening out on the ground.

The Japanese player looks sternly at the ball, bending it to her will!

The Japanese player looks sternly at the ball, bending it to her will!

Table Tennis is a deeply serious sport in Japan it seems. There’s so much social emphasis on shame and avoiding it, I can only imagine the reaction if even one of the girls lost a match! I was surprised to find that presumably the top players in the world still sometimes serve straight into the net! Ahh well.

The crowd were right into it!

The crowd were right into it!

An impromptu post, sometimes you see something and want to comment. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out the podcast posted earlier today!

One comment

  • I never watch ping pong on TV but I do like playing it, especially that in Barcelona there are loads of public free tables around the city, so when the sun is shining (which is almost every day 🙂 it’s great to go for a little game in the park. And I do understand the game is taken seriously in Japan, I hate losing a match too! 😉

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