Japan and Pickleball go Hand in Hand

Japan was introduced to pickleball in 2014, and it truly seems like a perfect fit. Most play in Japan is indoors because almost every gym is already lined for badminton courts. Badminton lines share the same court diameter, yet the kitchen line is 6 inches closer to the net. Who cares, game on!

My pickleball adventure to Japan was awesome! We spent time in the mountains and the cities, played pickleball with locals, ate amazing food, and visited a variety of Japan’s cultural treasures. Did I mention the bullet train goes 170 mph? I joined Daniel Moore, (yes, the Daniel Moore who is one of the top Pro Players and has lived in Japan most of his life) on one of his tours to help teach and spread pickleball awareness, skills and of course FUN. On the tour, we had a wonderful group of 16 active and fun-loving friends from all over the US. During the week, we trekked (pickleball included) over 60 miles on the tour (hello Nita’s Fitbit) – no sitting around for us!

My quick homework prior to arriving in Japan was a quick scan online and some travel videos. I learned that I needed to: be cautious about hugging people I just met (my casual southern California upbringing made that a challenge); avoid giving and receiving things with one hand; avoid blowing my nose in public; avoid eating on the go (I got busted twice); stay quiet on the train; refrain from leaving a tip; not serve myself a drink; and, use the slippers!

Shibu Onsen walking tour, what a special place!

Here’s a glimpse of the locations and our adventures

Narita– We arrived a few days before the tour began and explored Narita City and the temple. Yes, this was my first introduction to the complex electronic toilets. Wow there are lots of options as to what can happen when you are on the toilet!

Yamanouchi / Nagano – Here we walked amongst the world-famous snow monkeys. We were there in the summer (May) so no snow, but so cool to be among the monkeys in their natural habitat. They even have their own hot spring pools where they soak. With spring comes the babies and they were in abundance.

Shibu Onsen – I love this country village that is over 1,300 years old. Stayed in a charming traditional Japanese Inn with its own hot springs, rooms with tatami mat floor, futon bed, picturesque views, and meals of incredible variety and presentation.

Saku – Kitaaiki Village – We made history here at this wonderful small (population 750) country village. This was the most Americans to ever visit this village at one time. Previously, 15 total visitors at once was the record, but there was 17 of us! We were welcomed by a mesmerizing Taiko drum performance followed by an opening ceremony with several speakers including the mayor of the village.

Tokyo – Via a bus through the countryside (view of Mt. Fuji) and train rides (working our JR Pass) we made it to the outskirts of town where we joined the Hachioji Pickleball Club and players from the Taiwan Pickleball Association.

Osaka – Explored the famous Dotonbori shopping area. Enjoyed a lively dinner hosted by Daikichi Coverall (personal corporate friends of the Moores) where the karaoke talents of both locals and American tourists kept everyone entertained. So damn funny! We toured the Osaka Castle (where the Shogun/Samurai headquartered) and enjoyed more pickleball with the local Osaka club.

Kyoto – We navigated the subway and trains to make it to the beautiful City of Kyoto. There we walked the Philosophers Path, shopped, and explored temples, shires and gardens.

I had so many fun adventures and met the most wonderful Japanese and Taiwanese players and YES Japan and pickleball go hand in hand.

Pickleball Festival in Saku – Kitaaiki Village.

Big group dinner in Hachioji – CHEERS! Two wild women holding the kitchen line in their Japanese attire – borrowed from the hotel :-0

International event at Hachiojl, Tokyo.



Last night all together – a wonderful group of new friends – so much fun!

17 comments on “Japan and Pickleball go Hand in Hand”

  1. Play pickleball 3 to 4x per week. Heading to Yokosuka for 15 days in May (2024) to visit family/friends and would like to squeeze in a few matches if possible. Both, my wife & I play (3.0/3.5 level). Any suggestions??
    Thank you!!

  2. 10 of us going to Osaka in April can anyone help arrange for us to play with locals. Osaka courts seemed to be booked thru 2025. we just played in Tokyo. We live in Hawaii.

  3. Hello, I am planning to go to Osaka/Kyoto in November in 2022. Can anyone recommend me any place/group I would be able to play pickleball with?


    1. Hi Zach,

      There’s a group that plays in Tokyo, but I’m not sure exactly where. There’s a group on Facebook called “Pickleball Tokyo – Tokyo Picklers” so I would contact them and ask. Says they enjoy pickleball in several places in Tokyo. Also, a man named Nagao Hosono, also on FB, is one of the leaders of the pickleball scene in Tokyo, so I would also reach out to him as well.

      My nephew, Jonah Medina, currently lives in Tokyo and is a big pickleball player. He’s also on FB so you can message him there as well. He may know what is close to your base.

      Hope this helps! BTW, I lived in Ogikubo (near the Chuo sen) for a year in 1985 as an English and Bible teacher. One of the best years of my life, living in Tokyo! Kareitai!!!

      Ernie Medina, Jr.
      USA Pickleball Ambassador – Loma Linda, CA
      IFP Ambassador-at-Large

  4. Oh man, I would’ve loved to have joined you and Daniel on this tour–I LOVE Japan!!! Lived there for a year back in ’85 teaching conversational English. Loved my time there–the people, the food, the culture. “Played” tennis on top of Mt. Fuji, and hope to do the same with pball someday.

    My brother and his family live there now, and hope to visit them as well someday.

    When is your next tour there??? 😉


    Glad you had a great time….Ernie

    ps. You didn’t wear the slippers meant for just the bathroom all over the house, like my mom did once. LOL!

  5. We went on the trip in September 2016 and had a fabulous time as well! Thanks for sharing your memories and excellent recap of a great trip.
    Sandy and Mike Crabtree

  6. Yes, your trip looks amazing….fun Pickleball, great tours & food and new friends. Loved your email presentation too
    Well done!

  7. Would have loved to be on that tour but way too expensive travelling from Ontario, Canada and in Cdn to US$.

    Thank for the update.

    Roy Wilson

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