Part 1 – Greetings from beautiful downtown Narashino. From where I sit, I’m only a quick bus ride and a short train trip from Tokyo. This is my third trip to Japan. On my previous trips I’ve been able to work in a few table tennis sessions. It doesn’t look like I’ll be playing on this trip. I’m one of six family members here, and the only one with any interest in table tennis. So, I’ll be taking a two week vacation from playing. That doesn’t mean I won’t have any table tennis related activities. My son has assured me that he will assist me in getting to one of the several equipment stores in the area.
Even with several known locations, finding table tennis in Tokyo is not easy. Tokyo is huge, busy, and confusing, particularly if you don’t read or speak Japanese. There is table tennis here, but you have to work to find it. Pictures from one of the best shops in Tokyo show an assortment of equipment that you will never find in the United States. Online shopping is great, but I’m really looking forward to an actual store, just for table tennis.
Part 2 – Well, I finally found the equipment store that was easiest to get to, aptly named Oasis Table Tennis. This was not one of the big shops, but it was a great one. Located on the second floor of the Hashimoto building, it was tucked away a few blocks away from one of the main shopping areas in Chiba. They stocked a good selection of the Japanese brands, and I ended up with some quality products from Nittaku and TSP. Keep in mind that I would think any equipment store was great, but this one had some particularly nice features. I got the full attention of the only employee. When a few teenagers came in I suggested that he just let me browse. When I made my selections, I found he was assisting the teens with a rubber change on one of their rackets. The store was too small for a table, but they had a miniature table where you could get the feel for any of the many test rackets that were available.
For a very small store, the Oasis shop made the most of their space with great customer service, even for customers who speak no Japanese. I should mention that while searching for Oasis I briefly got lost and had to ask directions in a sporting goods store entirely devoted to baseball. A similar baseball store in the U.S. might survive; a table tennis store wouldn’t. Maybe some day……