I might not be able to play, but at least I’m able to pose.

Tamatsukuri Onsen, home to the original fountain of youth of Japan, is hosting its second World Slipper Takkyu Competition in the Tamayu Gymnasium. It will be on Saturday, February 21, 2015. Sign-up is open through January 31, see the Japanese page for details.

This is table tennis as you know it, only played with slippers as opposed to rackets. It hearkens classic images of hanging out in your slippers after a dip in the baths and a fancy dinner at a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), and spending your free time surprising your travelmates with how competitive you are when it comes to snapping plastic balls across the table (or in my case, across the room should I manage to even hit them). And, you know, you have the slippers on or in your hands instead of on your feet.

Reusing some of XiaoMan’s photos from last year–thanks, XiaoMan!

You know what I found nice about using slippers? They help when it comes to catching runaway ping pong balls. I should know, as I had to catch my fair share.

Like last year, the competition is in three categories: men’s pairs, women’s pairs, and male-female pairs, open to anyone of any age, nationality, and level of ability (or non-ability). It costs 3,000 yen per pair, or participate is free if you’re staying in the Tamatsukuri Onsen area for the trip. What’s more, if you win first place in your category, you’ll get cash back on your stay up to 30,000 yen.

All participants receive some local agricultural and seafood products, but special ones are given away by raffle. Seafood miso soup is also serves to all of the participants while they take a break between matches. Finalists can expect to be there through the afternoon (and probably change into yukata for the final matches), but for those who get some fun out of losing in the morning, there is still plenty of time to wander the scenic streets along the Tamayu river and take a dip in a daytime onsen. It makes for a light taste of a ryokan stay for those who can’t afford the full pampering treatment.

Ashiyu!

If you are really on the cheap, you could use one of the three ashiyu (free foot baths) in the area. You could do so while enjoying my beloved Ice Corotto, but seeing as it will be chilly out, I suggest the veggie soup sold at the neighboring stand. It’s light and refreshing, and there is nothing like being out in cold weather sipping a cup of nutritious and tasty soup while warming your feet at the riverside. Or boiling them, depending on which spot you chose–but that one should be obvious from all the steam.

Seeing as this is a world competition, international guests are highly encouraged to attend, whether residents or tourists passing through enjoying the Tamatsukuri area and the discounts for foreign passport holders and/or zairyu card holders that are found at tourism facilities throughout the San’in region (nudge-nudge, wink-wink, hint-hint). Personally, I highly encourage lots of people from the Western Hemisphere to attend so that I do not fail again in representing half the world.

My straight record of loses should not be surprising.

Last year was fun, but I’m sure there are Americans who could do much better!

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