When did padel first start in Japan? What was the first club like?
The padel began in Japan in October 2013. The first club was made in Tokorozawa (an hour’s drive north of Tokyo), just the first court did a Japanese company “Seiritsu Co. Ltd.” This was the first company that bet on the padel.
How did the local population find padel at the start? How much has the sport grown in the last couple of years?
It was a hard start, since it was a new unknown sport. Apart from that the location of the first Tokorozawa club was not very accessible. So at the beginning I proposed to make BBQ event in the club, so that they come to taste a delicious BBQ and enjoy the padel. We take out the social activities of BBQ with padel. And little by little people began to arrive. It was not easy because it took more than 2 years, to have a group of padel fans. Also, we have the honor of having the creator of “Captain Tsubasa”, the famous Japanese Soccer Manga, Mr. Yoichi Takahashi is our Honorary President of the Japan Padel Association.
Where are you now? How many courts in the country and how many players?
Today, there are thousands of sports of all tastes. For a conservative country such as Japan it is important that people bet on the sport.And after 3 years, in 2016, we decided to establish the Japan Padel Association. With the mission of moderating the rules of the game, organizing tournaments and participating in international tournaments. Since 2017, we started organizing the Japan Padel Tour, a national tournament that has a Master, Open and Challenger category. The first year was 140 registered competition players, 2018 was 220 players, 2019 was 420 players and for this year we estimate 600 players (Men 70%, Women 30%)Today, there are 24 courts (13 clubs) in Japan and with lots of new court projects.We think that in 2030 we will reach 1 million players and more than 200 courts throughout Japan.
How have international competitions played their part?
Apart from the competition players we estimate that there are 15,000 padel fans. Those who enjoy once a month or a week throughout Japan. We also participated in the 2018 World Cup in Paraguay, and last year in the Junior World Cup in Castellon. This presence helped so that they know that the padel exists in Japan plus what we promote in social networks. Another important point is the development in Asia Pacific, for this we are united between the federations. For example, Asian Cup is a tournament that unites us, and gives us the opportunity to compete and make new friends.
About Koji Nakatsuka
I am Japanese, born in Paraguay. I lived all my youth there. I met the padel, in 1993, when I was a student in Paraguay. It was a coincidence, since a padel boom arrived. And a padel club was built near home. From the first day I played, I fell in love with the sport and until today I still enjoy. I came to Japan to study the master and then I stayed to work and now I am running a video game translation company, and the activity of the Japan Padel Association is completely voluntary.