by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The initiative was the brainchild of Haruo Mitida, the aim to organise an event for the descendants of Japanese immigrants who had started to arrive in Brazil in 1908, basically to work on coffee plantations; much has changed since those time.
Furthermore the inauguration of the tournament was created with the aim of promoting greater understanding between the Brazilian Japanese community and the United States following the conclusion in 1945 of hostilities between Japan and the United States; World War Two coming to an end.
Haruo Mitida became most prominent in the promotion of table tennis in the South American country; he promoted the pen-hold grip style of play. Thus the likes of Ubiraci Rodrigues da Costa, always known as Biriba, became a pen-holder and duly beat Ochiro Ogimura and Toshiaki Tanaka when in 1958 the two World champions visited Brazil. He was 13 years old at the time; more than a match for the modern day Tomokazu Harimoto!
Later the likes of Claudio Kano, Hugo Hoyama and more recently Cazuo Matsumoto have followed suit.
However, some 25 years ago, the tournament was in danger of collapse owing to a lack of funds; to the rescue came Hikosuke Tamasu, the President of the Tamasu Butterfly Company; now for over two decades the company has sponsored the tournament.
Over 15 teams competed in Suzano City, the host’s ABC Sul being overall the most successful. In addition to São Paulo, players travelled from Parana, Rio de Janeiro, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Brasilia.
Impressively 29 events were staged; additional to the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events there was a vast range of age groups.
There were five age groups for junior players starting at under 9 years of age, for the more senior there were seven age ranges from 30 years to over 90 years; truly table tennis for all!
Nikkei Championships: Roll of Honour (Sunday 21st January)
Nikkei Championships: Roll of Honour (former champions)