Each and every time the Olympics take place I often find myself watching a fair amount of table tennis. It’s not because I’m particularly interested in it but it’s just that the Japanese TV broadcasters seem to show it a lot. That’s probably not too surprising as there are a lot of very good players with Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani being the ones I remember the most from both the singles and the mixed doubles.
In my attempt to see a few sports I’ve never seen before I noticed the T.League Play Off Finals were taking place in Tokyo so booked a couple of tickets last month when it was only known that Kinoshita Abyell Kanagawa would be in the final with their opponents not being known until a few days before following a semi-final match.
Osaka based team Nissay Red Elf beat the wonderfully-named Top Otome Pingpongs Nagoya to make the final and this was a real bonus for me as little did I know it but Mima Ito played for them.
The Nojima T.League is the premier table tennis league of Japan which began in 2018 and I do remember seeing a fair bit of promo for it on billboards and so on. It actually took me a while to realise what the T. League was as there really is no end to these single letter named leagues in Japan. To my knowledge there’s a J. League, an F. League, a B. League, a V. League, an X.League and the WE League could probably just about be included in that list.
Yoyogi National Gymnasium played host to the game and was where I saw Oasis in late 2005 and a basketball play-off final in 2017. It was also used as a filming location for 1967 movies; ‘Walk Don’t Run‘ and ‘You Only Live Twice’. Technically, the table tennis was in a different building but it’s all part of the same complex isn’t it?
For this occasion I met up with my friend Yohei who I watched the Chelsea vs. Kawasaki Frontale friendly in Yokohama with in July 2019. He did have experience of attending a table tennis match before so that was a great help for me with some of the rules.
After all the pre-match razzmatazz, the ten players (five from each team) entered through a cloud of smoke and did a silly pose or wave whilst high-tempo music blasted out over the PA system but thankfully it (and the atmosphere throughout) was nowhere near as deafening as the V. League match I went to in January!
A doubles match (best of three sets) kicked things off which was a close affair with the biggest surprise being that the deciding set started at 6-6 (with the first to 11 the winner) but it seems that is what happens in any deciding set. Still, that’s probably better than what happened at the aforementioned volleyball game when the final set was shorter than the others meaning I never realised it was such a crucial part of the match!!
Abyell won the doubles 2-1 and that was followed by the first of three singles matches (best of five sets) which saw the most one-sided match of the day as Red Elf’s Hina Hayata beat Miu Hirano in straight sets (3-0).
Beforehand I thought binoculars would be essential given how small the table but maybe I was just imagining a football-sized stadium with a table in the centre circle! Thankfully that wasn’t the case and it was good to take a few close-up looks at the players and get to see the facial expressions you see on TV.
The third round was the big match-up of the day for me as Miwa Harimoto (sister of a famous Japanese mens player) took on Mima Ito. Some of the shots played in the early exchanges were quite amazing and this match swung back and forth before Ito finally won it 3-2.
A fair few spectators actually left after that match which surprised me a bit. Some had kids with them so maybe it was getting a bit late with school the following morning. The main final match was another close thriller that went the full distance with Abyell’s Miyuu Kihara beating Sakura Mori (notable to me for two reasons; her name is literally Cherry Blossom Forest and she also wore the number 0!) to take the T. League title right down to the wire.
This decider is known as a Victory Match (starting at 6-6 again) and it saw one player chosen from each team. Kihara stayed on for Abyell and Ito returned for Red Elf. It was a tense and dramatic conclusion to things with both players showing top form and it was neck and neck but eventually Kihara won it for Abyell.
Nissay Red Elf (Osaka) had won all four of the previous titles so I guess it’s good for the game that a different team became champions.
Once the ticker tape and smoke had been fired off the lights went out and the triumpant Abyell players returned for the trophy ceremony which took place down in front of us not that we could see much though all the smoke!
Final Score: Kinoshita Abyell Kanagawa 3-2 Nissay Red Elf
I was a little tired at times during the five matches but ultimately we both left very satisfied and really enjoyed the experience. It really was such an enthralling and epic match that brought the curtain down on the 2022-23 season, and I will no doubt watch table tennis at the Olympics in Paris next year with more interest than usual.
Click here to read ‘Watching Volleyball In Japan Has To Be One Of The Country’s Noisiest Experience’
Click here to read ‘My First Time To Watch Futsal In Japan But Will It Be My Last?’
Click here to read ‘Live Basketball Play Off Final In Tokyo’
Click here to read ‘Live Ice Hockey In Tokyo!’
Pingback: Watching The Non-League Football Team Inspired By A Japanese Cartoon Hero! | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)
Thank you for interesting info however i liked a post from this website. https://pingpongpeak.com/how-much-space-for-ping-pong-table
Pingback: I Had A Golden Time At This Athletics Event In Yokohama | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)