If you ever find yourself at a loose end in Tokyo on a Saturday morning then we can heartily recommend playing some Gateball near Tokyo Tower. We arranged to meet our hosts Takayoshi Uemura (Taka) and Tadashi Takahashi (Tad) at Ukai restaurant by the gateball court. There was a hard court with a fine gravel surface, which was a first for us – we’d only played on grass before. After being introduced to the local club players (around 15 players) we had a warm up and started the first game.
We soon got used to the fast surface and won our first game and narrowly lost the second. After that we were divided amongst the local teams and won and lost in equal measure. Lunch was bought at the local supermarket and we played for most of the day, with different people leaving and arriving at various points. Everyone was very friendly and despite the language barrier we laughed a lot and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The following day Tad and Taka had arranged for us to compete in the “Monthly Games” at the Olympic park. Again we were confronted with gravel courts and 8 teams in 2 blocks of 4. We were introduced to Mr Kazumasa Nakamura (Kaza) who would be playing with us during the day. It was very hot and the courts played faster than the Tokyo Towers court, and we struggled to get our balls on (competition nerves strike again!). The competition was fierce but good humoured and everyone was again friendly and gracious. The closest we came to any kind of result was in the last game against Taka’s team, after a glorious slide from Trish allowed her to take off most of the opposition balls. Unfortunately we missed the Agari that would have tied the game.
We collected our prize (very practical in the circumstances) and went out with Taka, Tad and Kaza for a very enjoyable dinner at a local bar.
We have an open invite to return and I’m sure any Australian players that are visiting Tokyo would receive an equally warm welcome. A big thank you to Taka, Tad and Kaza (as well as Michiko for helping with the arrangements) for everything they did for us, and hopefully we’ll meet again soon! One thing we all felt is that we didn’t want to leave Tokyo!