Some gateball experiences in Japan

By Claus Jehne, McIlwraith Croquet Club

On my recent trip to Japan, I was fortunate to be able to play some games of Gateball in Tokyo.

Firstly, in a small shaded park adjoining a Citizens’ Welfare Centre in Nakano-ku, there were two different groups playing social games on four days each week. The playing field was compacted soil with a few trees in it presenting some additional obstacles. One group of people, consisting of ʻbeginnersʼ and skilled players of my parents generation, aged between 85 and 97 years, played purely social games for fun and exercise. One of the better players played both red and while balls to keep the game moving along. The second group of ladies, on my own age group, invited me to join in as I was using the stick of a former member of their group, a deceased parent of my Japanese friend, at whose house I was staying. Their style of playing was also ‘friendly,’ but more proper with the scores being kept and some strategies applied. After a morning’s play they then went for lunch at the Centre.

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Secondly, through the good offices of Mr Imagawa of the World Gateball Union, I was invited to join the Annual Charity Competition held in the Adachi-ku area. I was welcomed by the members of the Hirano Gateball Club, who are frequent visitors to Queensland participating in the events organised by the Southport Club and elsewhere.

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The charity event was held on the out-field of a baseball sports ground of a rather rough surface covered in 5cm high grass and clover. This surface presented many challenges to the 19 teams of players present. Generally all players found it difficult to pay accurate shots consistently. I was teamed with Mr Murakami (President of the Adachi-ku Gateball Association) and Ms Yanagi (an 87 year old member) and our team played well enough to gain second place overall.

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In the afternoon of the Charity Event I joined the members of the Hirano Club for some games at their club. This was an experience that I can only describe by the word “deadly”. Their playing area was a deadly flat asphalt surface covered in thin layer of racked crushed rock dust, which eventually slowed down the balls and made them stop. The players skills and accuracy was also deadly, they could seemingly touch balls, position themselves at borders and pass gates from anywhere on the field. Their strategy was to play along border two throughout most of the game and only scored points towards the end of the game. The third aspect was that any poor play was also deadly, your ball would certainly be sparked out.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed my Gateball experiences in Japan and thank everyone sincerely.