Table-tennis tables produced in Ashoro attracting attention at the Olympics! Inquiries increase by 30%
As table-tennis players won Japan’s first ever gold medals in the sport at the Tokyo Olympic Games, attention is now being focused on the SAN-EI Hokkaido Factory in the town of Ashoro in eastern Hokkaido, where the Games’ official table-tennis tables were produced.
The tables were designed in the image of a ‘T’ for Tokyo and Table Tennis, and are named ‘MOTIF’. A characteristic feature of the table is its vivid color – somewhere between blue and green. Following on from the 1992 Barcelona Games and 2016 Rio Games, this is the third time the company’s tables have been used at the Olympics.
What is prominent is the appraisal the table has received with regard to its technical aspects. The tabletop, where the rallies take place, is the most important part, and must be uniformly level. When wooden products absorb moisture, they tend to warp making surfaces uneven, which changes the way in which the ball bounces. Through an accumulation of skills, the tables are manufactured using a unique layered structure in which numerous sheets of wood are overlapped. The scope of warp in the tabletop is suppressed to within one millimeter – well within the internationally recognized three-millimeter standard – creating an even bounce. The undercarriage that supports the tabletop utilizes plywood technology from the Asahikawa furniture manufacturer ‘Conde House’.
In recent years, core industries such as forestry and related industries are in decline due to depopulation and aging demographics, and the transfer of skills is causing great concern. Despite being a small factory in a forestry region, it was faced with the dilemma of using imported timber or wood from outside of Hokkaido to make the table-tennis tables. This time, the Coronavirus pandemic made the procurement of materials even harder, and ‘wood shock’ caused by the soaring price of timber made the components necessary to make the tables hard to obtain. The delivery of tables for the Olympics was made with little time to spare.
The factory employs approximately 20 people. Factory manager, Mr. Yoshizawa spoke about his dream. “The fact that players won gold medals on tables made in Ashoro gave encouragement to those of us who work on site. Hopefully, public and private unity will contribute to the promotion of forestry and human resource development in the region, and one day we hope to make table-tennis tables from timber produced in Ashoro.”
The factory’s head office, SAN-EI Corporation (Chiba) is a company that deals in sports and park playground equipment. The company’s tables will also be used at the Tokyo Paralympic Games.
SAN-EI Corporation Hokkaido Factory
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