nitahara gallery

A letter from Portugal E No. 34
A short story of the people around table-tennis

@In October, we visited a museum in Lausanne, Switzerland which belongs to ITTF (International Table-Tennis Federation). As a cousin of mine (Hisae Uehara, 89 years old, who owned a house for table-tennis for many years at Kichijyoji) had a schedule to visit that museum, we decided to join her in Switzerland. We spent a whole week in Lausanne with Hisae and her friends.

By the way, have you heard of the name Mr.OGIMURA ? Do you remember him ? During the years of 1953`1965, he represented table-tennis of Japan as a player and also as a superviser of Japan Table-Tennis Delegation. After the career as a player, he devoted himself to coach and to train the young players of Japan. During 1987`1994, he was a President of ITTF and made great efforts for the further development of the table-tennis of the world. Ping-pong diplomacy between Japan and China in 1971 and the united team of both South and North Korea in 1991 at the World Championship were the examples which were realized through his efforts.

Coming back to the topic of Mrs.Uehara, Ogimura appeared at the newly opened Musashino Table-Tennis House(MTTH) when he was a senior high school boy and grew up to a star player based on this small ping-pong house.

@Ogimura was first elected as one of the players of All Japan national team in 1954. At that time, however, every player had to pay for his own travel expense which amounted up to 800,000 yen. It was 9 years after the defeat of World War and Japan was still a poor and miserable country. Annual income of an average white-color worker was less than 100,000 yen and it was utterly impossible for Ogimura to raise this amount personally. Mrs. Uehara, together with the fellow member of the house, took the initiative to raise this money. They did on-the-street fund-raising. They played exhibition games. They did everything they could to collect the amount. Ultimately the participation of Ogimura to All Japan national team was realized and he won the world championship which led him later to further career in this field.

Mrs. Ueharafs table-tennis house(MTTH) also played an important role for the young people of that area more than 50 years. The house was closed already but the alumni of this house make a gathering which has a name of CHI-KYU-KAI named after Mr. Ogimura and Mrs. Uehara. About a hundred once-upon-a-time young table-tennis players still get together every year.

Mrs. Uehara has no children. Her husband and her brother have passed away. She could be expressed gall aloneh but the member and their families of this CHIKYUKAI support her of her everyday life and of the events such as this travel, just like her family do. They supported her at these events such as ; to close the table tennis house, to sell the house in which she also lived, to help her when she is ill in bed, to sell the furniture and her properties and to move to an old-age home. Each of these events needs lots of works and they divided themselves to some groups and shared the works. And finally they have accomplished all the works.

For example, they proceeded like the followings. When Hisae was in bad health condition, some of them got together and talked on the matter. Their conclusion was that the problem was the diet deficiency. It is true that those who live alone very often have diet deficiency. In the case of Hisae at that time, she tumbled over and had some difficulty of the movement. And so she could not prepare her meals by herself. One of the group member happened to come to know that a home for the aged would be open near her house. They checked the condition and it was good. Favorable. When it is fair, you can enjoy the view of Mt. Fuji from that building. They made an application for the best room at the top floor. Some of the group member live near this house and can help her when the assistance is necessary. To this idea, however, Mrs. Ueharafs reaction was negative. g I donft wish to move into an old-aged house.h

On one side, they tried to persuade her to agree and on the other side, they raised the money and made a formal application to that house. At this moment, the house in which Hisae lived had not been sold and it was necessary to raise money to make a formal application. The amount of over 10 million yen was paid by the group for her. Fortunately the house was sold, the money paid for her was compensated, Mrs. Uehara was fairly satisfied to live in this old-aged home, her diet deficiency was improved and Hisaefs health had been much improved. And this travel to visit Table-Tennis Museum in Lausanne which was her long time wish, was realized.

But it was not possible for the aged of 89 years old, to make a trip to Europe alone. On the other hand, those who support her have their own occupation and are under many constraints of their own life. They can not afford time to travel to Europe. And so this time, two different persons supported her each one way, to go and to come back. A lady of this support group works at ITTF in Switzerland and she organized mainly the trip this time. One time when she stayed in Japan and was to return to Switzerland, she took Hisae with her and took her care all through the trip. On the way back to Japan, another one of the group came to Lausanne and came back to Japan with her. Some of the other member of the group in younger generation, who were primary school students when they joined Hisaefs table-tennis house, gave a present of a coat to her to keep her warm while she stayed in Switzerland.

A poem which Mr. Ogimura wrote for the 40-year-memorial-magazine of Hisaefs table-tennis house (MTTH), begins with the following phrases.

When you try to locate the warmest area of this blue planet,

You may find MTTHEEEEC

He so much devoted to the table tennis when he was young and met with a lady who supported him that he made these phrases, I imagine. Not only Mr. Ogimura but also many of CHIKYUKAI members are attached to gAunt Hisaeh. In this background, we find Hisaefs consistent love and devotion to these youngsters and these youngsters also responded to her devotion.

One of the member said to me, gIf I have not met Aunt Hisae and Mr.Ogimura, I must have been a mere punk, I believe.h On the other hand, Hisae says, gI am losing my zest of living because all the young fellows at the table tennis house have grown up and there is no youngster for me to take care of.h

In this trip, we enjoyed the colored leaves of the wine trees and the vast scenery of Alps covered with the first snowfall. We also enjoyed dinner with those who live in Lausanne. The highlight of the trip, however, was the visit to the museum of ITTF. Hisae, recollecting her own long life with many remembrances, could not stop her tears overflowing.

November 2008 y@Seiji@z