World champion from China Xi Enting (3rd, R) gives guidance to a Japanese young player in Nagoya, Japan, April 3, 2018. Chinese and Japanese players who witnessed the ping-pong diplomacy decades ago reunited at the Aikodai Meiden High School in Nagoya on Tuesday to play a friendly game and celebrate the lasting ping-pong friendship between the peoples of the two countries. (Xinhua/Ma Caoran)
NAGOYA, Japan, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Chinese and Japanese players who witnessed the ping-pong diplomacy decades ago reunited at the Aikodai Meiden High School in Nagoya on Tuesday to play a friendly game and celebrate the lasting ping-pong friendship between the peoples of the two countries.
Forty-seven years ago, exchanges between ping-pong players at the 31st World Table Tennis Championships in Nagoya, Japan, paved the way for China and the United States to finally normalize bilateral diplomatic relations.
Japanese friendly personnel such as Koji Goto, the late chairman of Japan Table Tennis Association and former president of Table Tennis Federation of Asia, played a key role in helping Chinese players to enter the the 1971 championships.
Yasuyuki Goto, grandson of Koji Goto and head of Nagoya Electrical Educational Foundation, told at the welcoming ceremony the story how his grandfather, together with other Japanese friends, helped pull strings and made contribution to the normalization of ties between China and the United States as well as between China and Japan.
As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between China and Japan, it is hoped that commemoration of the ping-pong diplomacy could deepen friendship between the peoples of the two countries, Goto said.
Toshiko Takeuchi, who represented Japan at the championships 47 years ago, could still remember vividly her then impression of the Chinese athletes.
"We didn't know China was going to participate in the games until in February (1971), and we knew very little about our Chinese contenders. But when we finally met in the games, they struck me as very cheerful and friendly. They smiled at their opponents in games," she said.
Takeuchi said that she felt honored as a witness of the ping-pong diplomacy that began at the championships.
"Today's event reminded me again of the significance of the ping-pong diplomacy. The love for ping-pong is shared by people from all over the world. As a ping-pong player, I feel honored to be part of that history," she said.
Liang Geliang, a world champion from China, said that he could never forget his experience at the championships 47 years ago. Since then, he and his Japanese friends have been keeping in touch and trying their best to make contribution to promoting friendship between the peoples of the two countries.
Xi Enting, also a Chinese world champion, said that ping-pong exchanges between China and Japan had never stopped and it is hoped that the exchanges could help promoting bilateral ties.
After an exhibition game between the veteran players, the Chinese world champions also played with Japanese young players and high school students, giving them some guidance.
"I'm happy to play with Chinese world champions. I will never forget this experience," said Natsumi Nakahata, a young player from Japan.
Later in the day, the Chinese world champions, along with other members of the delegation dispatched by the China Soong Ching Ling Foundation, visited with Japanese friends the stadium where the 1971 championships were held, as well as the Ping-pong Diplomacy Memorial Wall set up in 2015 to commemorate that episode of history.
Yasuko Sugimoto, a Japanese player who also took part in the 1971 championships, brought with her a photo taken 10 years ago of her and Liang Geliang as token of their friendship.
"I hope we can meet again when we are in our nineties," Liang, who is now in his late 60s, said enthusiastically to Sugimoto.