Like any good city section, Minato Ward in Tokyo has its own Sports Center. I’ve written about the municipal gym before, but not the sports center, which is not for all of Tokyo, but special for residents of the Minato Ward of Tokyo (A ward is similar to a borough of New York). I believe other people can get in, but if you show your resident card, you get a big discount. The place is humongous, with a big pool on the top floor (complete with glass ceiling) and several gyms, one of which has a running track above it. There are studios for martial arts, and then there’s one, huge, long room dedicated to ping pong. Most Asians call it table tennis, and it is taken very seriously here in Tokyo. It’s a sport people can play at any age pretty much, and on any given day, hordes of middle-aged to older Japanese fill the room. With expert precision they push the ball back and forth over the net with a steady clip-clip and observers can see the precise side-t0-side movement of the players’ knees that the game requires. The level of competition exceeds any expectation of a friendly game and the regular players can beat any taker any time. I had a young friend who offered to play one of the women in the room once and received a good trouncing for his efforts. These women spend a LOT of time at the table tennis table. They are remarkably agile for the age I presume them to be. But why not? They’re together, they’re out and about, and they have a great hobby.
The Japanese people value sports and health, dedicating days at schools to sport as well as an entire national holiday. And nothing says health and fitness like table tennis.