Table tennis is a popular game in Japan, not only as a professional sport but also as a pastime. Thanks to "child prodigy" Ai Fukuhara in the 1990s (who later went on to become an Olympic medalist in 2012 and 2016), table tennis experienced somewhat of a boom, spawning table tennis-themed manga like the gag-heavy Ping Pong Club (Ike! Inachu Takkyubu) (1993-1996) and Ping Pong (1996-1997), which was later made into a live-action film in 2002 and an anime in 2015. In addition, Japan's excellent performance in table tennis at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 probably reignited domestic interest in the sport.

However, unless you're watching someone like Takkyu Geinin who pulls off amazing tricks and uses unconventional objects on the ping pong table to entertain his viewers, the appearance of a game of table tennis has not changed significantly since it was first invented more than a century ago.

Now, through the magic of mixed reality technology, Japanese entertainment company Akatsuki, Inc. wants to offer you a radically new way of experiencing table tennis.

Introducing "Pong!Pong!":

Used with permission: (C) Akatsuki, Inc.

At first, it may look like a normal game of table tennis. The opponents face off...

Used with permission: (C) Akatsuki, Inc.

But it soon becomes apparent that a new element of game play has been added. Now, there's a grid on the table.

Used with permission: (C) Akatsuki, Inc.

When the ball lands on one of the squares in the grid, it disappears in a burst of animated stars.

Used with permission: (C) Akatsuki, Inc.

The object of the game is to clear all the squares on your opponent's side of the table by hitting either normal blue blocks or yellow "bomb blocks" which have the advantage of also taking out blocks in the surrounding area.

The promotional video for Pong!Pong! shows you how it all works:

Used with permission: (C) Akatsuki, Inc.

As the first project in Akatsuki, Inc.'s newly established Asobi Labo division, Pong!Pong! is the first application of their TQ mixed reality system created with technology developed by Qoncept, Inc. and Ath-Tech Lab. Using a combination of real-time tracking and digital projection, Pong!Pong! creates a completely new game experience. And unlike conventional table tennis, players can choose between different "ball characters" that destroy blocks in different ways, as well as different stages in levels of varying difficulty.

Used with permission: (C) Akatsuki, Inc.

Find out more about Pong!Pong! on the special website here.

Where can I try it?

Pong!Pong! can be experienced at T4 Tokyo, a new multipurpose facility dedicated to table tennis which includes a school, shop, and a restaurant/bar. It's conveniently located at just a six minute walk from Shibuya Station.

For two and a half hours, you will have access to the private party room in restaurant and bar "The Rally Table" where, in addition to the Pong!Pong! game, you'll be able to enjoy tasty food and all-you-can-drink beverages while sitting on comfy sofas overlooking the Pong!Pong! table. The dinner menu includes cold appetizers featuring three types of deli meats accompanied by semi-dry tomatoes and olive pintxos, a garden greens salad with seasonal vegetables, hot appetizers featuring anchovies and potato with homemade anchovy butter as well as garlic-herb fried chicken with rosemary, oregano and other fresh herbs, and for the main dish, the pasta of the day and tender caramelised Mochibuta pork.

The complete plan costs 6,480 yen/person, is available for a group of a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 30 people (all ages welcome), and can be reserved at either 5:50pm or 8:20pm. To make your reservation, please visit the website here (Japanese language only).

As an innovative and leading entertainment company, Akatsuki Inc. is actively involved in creating and collaborating in some of the most exciting entertainment experiences in Japan today. Some of their recent projects include the Fuerza Bruta: "Panasonic Presents WA! Wonder Japan Experience," and Night Wonder Aquarium, to name a few.

To find out more about their events in Japan, please check the website for their live experience service Wowful!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.