20 Feb 2020

Hokkaido, Japan plays a very special role in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games story for it is in the host nation’s northern island where the official Olympic table tennis table is born.

by Simon Daish

The San-Ei Hokkaido Factory, where the Olympic tables are being produced, is an ITTF approved specialist site dedicated to the production of table tennis tables owned by the San-Ei Corporation.

One of the leading manufacturers of high-quality competition table tennis tables, producing around 14,000 per year, the San-Ei Corporation once again takes charge of producing the Olympic tables following its successful foray into the process for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

So how exactly did the new Olympic table come to life?

Production Process

Monarch birch trees are first felled, chopped into logs and then transformed into plywood at the factory. The trees come from the forests of Tohoku in North East Japan which, as Mr. Kesao Yoshizawa, Director of the San-Ei Table Tennis Table Factory explains is for a very worthy reason:

“We started this project with the same idea as our previous Rio 2016 Olympic Table. We wanted to support the recovery of the Tohoku region which was struck by the big tsunami in 2011. To help their economy, we procure all the wooden materials from trees grown in North East Japan. So the whole MOTIF production starts from sourcing high-quality wood from there.

Peeling the bark off, the logs are softened by heating with steam before being passed through a rotary machine which cuts the logs into individual layers. Each sheet is then pressed flat, glued, bound together and cut into pieces to create the wooden plank which will form the top of the table. The structure of the table top is then complete by adding a top sheet of plywood and making sure the table top is all smooth.

For the undercarriage, steel pipes are cut to the correct size and length, then they are bent. The pieces are welded together before being coated in a special paint and being left to dry. Special wooden covers courtesy of a partner company in Hokkaido are carefully attached before both sections are combined.

Table Design

Head designers involved in the project have been focusing on one clear topic: MOTIF. The new table features an updated design, with the table top coated with sleek San-Ei turquoise for a striking finish.

Now, with more creative freedom for the design of the undercarriage, MOTIF features a special pillar designed to look like the letter “T” from both sides of the table. A unique approach which came with its own set of challenges:

“The design concept is based on the “T” from Tokyo and “T” from Table Tennis. We hoped to complete the undercarriage with only the simple “T” shape, without any additional parts. However, as you might expect, the “T” shaped undercarriage is not as stable as a regular table. Finally, we came up with a solution, and step-by-step we managed to achieve our goal.”

Seal of approval

Under the supervision of Paul Schiltz, the Chair of the Equipment Committee of the International Table Tennis Federation, the table undergoes the final quality control checks.

Final inspections carried out by Paul Schiltz (pictured far right)


Following close inspection surrounding specific regulations for dimensions of the table and the undercarriage, the vertical bounce of the ball and the friction, MOTIF passes with flying colours and is now ready for the Olympic stage.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games San-Ei MOTIF