by Alex B. Rabin
first thing most people associate with the word “Tennis"
is the game that has been blessed by legends in America
ranging from Don Budge to Andre Agassi Many of these
people would be surprised to know that across the world
there is another kind of tennis that does not include
a wooden table and a paddle. In Japan, they have developed
a sport named Soft Tennis, which is very similar to the
traditional game that we play in the US. Soft Tennis
was derived from physical education classes where the
Japanese took the sport of tennis and transformed it
into something of their own. This sport enjoys tremendous
popularity and has been spreading since the Meji era
in 1878. Many Americans have gone to Japan on foreign
exchange programs and they have become intrigued, which
has led to a new movement to begin playing Soft-Tennis
game of Soft Tennis is not that different from the familiar
game celebrated in the U.S.A. There are many similarities in
the rules and style of play, although there are some crucial
differences. The main change is the type of ball. In this innovative
game, a softer rubber ball is. With the change in the structure
of the ball, an individual has the ability to strike the ball
with force and still have control of the placement of the shot.
The rackets look very similar. However, they are designed to
be lighter and more flexible. Also, the softer ball, lighter
racket and lower compression strings make the ball decelerate
after it hits the court, which allows less athletic individuals
to enjoy the game. In fact, one player from the University
of Yamanashi summed up the potential for the sport when they
noted, “Soft Tennis is for anyone and everyone”.
The game allows for more volleys and play as it is much harder
for an individual to blow away an opponent with a single powerful
wallop. This allows for more cross-gender play because a male
is less able to overwhelm a female, or a younger person someone
older, with force. Overall the game comes down more to adeptness
and who can come out dominant in a rally.
Soft Tennis is more often played in doubles than singles; although you can find
it played in both ways. In doubles, the individuals engage into fevered rallies
and net battles. When watching doubles Soft Tennis you can often find dazzling
cooperative plays created by both teammates. Singles and Doubles are played for
both men and women like in America and can also be mixed between genders. The
game is based on points and the first player to reach four points wins. However,
when the two opponents are tied at three it becomes “deuce”, which
means one of the contenders needs to score two points in a row to win. In singles
the objective is to win the best of seven games and in doubles it is best out
of nine. Tournaments are made up of either singles or team play. Players can
be organized in either a round robin or normal tournament method. The seeds for
the competitions are usually arranged by a draw from the person organizing the
One major example of a tournament is the World Soft Tennis Championship. The
International Soft Tennis Federation holds this event every four years between
countries including Japan, the United States, Brazil, the Philippines, the Dominican
Republic and Zaire. The popularity of Soft Tennis has been increasing in recent
years and is reaching new heights. As the audience has expanded, several leagues
have been formed. When China and other Asian countries were introduced to Soft
Tennis, they created the Asian Soft Tennis Federation. As time progressed, more
countries have joined the organization and it now includes 45 countries. The
Federation’s leadership has lead to other tournaments including the OCA's
Asian Games of Sports and the Hiroshima Games. Many avid players hope that it
reaches the Olympics someday.
Nagase-Kenko, a prominent Japanese sporting goods manufacturer, has been a leading
supplier of Soft Tennis products in Japan for many decades. After receiving an
increasing number of inquiries concerning Soft Tennis products from potential
customers and distributors in the U.S. in recent years -- most of whom had become
familiar with the game through visits to Japan and Hawaii -- it is now making
plans to introduce the product here this fall.
If you’re interested in learning more about this enjoyable game, or would
be interested in information about Soft Tennis products, please inquire at your
latest sporting goods dealer or contact Nagase Kenko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look forward to seeing you on the courts!
Soft Tennis Information and Resources:
Japan Soft Tennis Association English Website
Honolulu Star-Bulletin Article: Soft tennis, anyone?