Winter Vacation: Table Tennis in Aomori Yamada


Jeff HuangWhen I first arrived in Japan, I stayed three days in Tokyo. I started to practice with some high school students, then I played games with players who each had a different style of play.

After playing and sightseeing in Tokyo, Mr. Shioda, the owner of JUIC, took me to the airport to catch our flight to Aomori Yamada, the place where I would be training. Once we arrived we took a taxi to the table tennis center where I met Mr. Yoshida, the head coach.

The next day I started my training. I would wake up at 6:00 a.m. every morning and lay in my bed daydreaming. At about 6:30 a.m. I would leave my guest dorm and head for the training center. In Aomori Yamada, time is very significant to the coaches and the players. If a player arrived late then he/she would be punished right after the session was over. The first impression I had was that Mr. Yoshida is very strict. However, he is very kind.

We would start morning exercise about 7:00 a.m. and end about 7:30 a.m. Then we ate breakfast. After breakfast, I went back to my room and rested for about a half hour. Our first session went from 8:45 a.m.-12 p.m. and focused on placement and footwork. Right after this, we played a one set game, the winner goes up a table and the loser goes down. After the games, we stopped and went to lunch. Right after lunch, I took about a 1/2 – 1-hour nap. The afternoon session began at 2:30 p.m. and ended around 6:00 p.m. It focused on footwork. We had a 10-15 minute rest, and then we played matches, just as we did in the morning session. Immediately after we played our matches, we practiced our service for about a half an hour to an hour. This type of training continued for about six days.

The last day before I returned to Tokyo, I played in a big round robin tournament. There I paid 500 yen. I played in division D, that may sound very bad, however, it was composed of players from a Chinese province team, Japanese Cadet Boys Champion and World Cadet Girl champion. The outcome was, I tied for first place with the player from the Chinese province team. However, because I beat him in the first match, I came out on top and won first place. I was awarded 2000 yen for my win. That night was a very dramatic moment because I had to leave many of my friends and coaches.

I flew back to Tokyo, where Mr. Shioda met me and took me to my hotel.

Even though this whole trip was very short, I learned a lot in Japan. Mostly I improved my mental game and learned to play with better strategies. However, I know I could improve more on my footwork if I stay in Aomori Yamada longer. Nevertheless, the winter break is over and school is starting again.

I would like to thank my sponsors, Paddle Palace and JUIC for making this unforgettable experience possible. I will continue to work hard and try my best to represent them well.