97-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency
Day 97 – May 27: A Special Invitation to Tour Butterfly
Coincident with the World Championships being held in Tokyo, Butterfly saw the opportunity to issue a special invitation to tour their factory.
Two buses were loaded and off we went. We stopped to have a traditional Japanese lunch on the way. When we arrived at the factory, Butterfly President Shunsaku Yamada greeted all of us individually. We were escorted into a theatre-style room where we watched a video in English that detailed the company’s history, which was created especially for our group. Fittingly, the late Hikosuke Tamasu’s smiling face on the screen warmly welcomed us.
Once the tour began, we were given a bag containing indoor slippers. We changed into and out of them depending on which room we were in along the production process. A massive quantity of wood could not be overlooked. There were pallets upon pallets of it. For the first time I began to ponder the unique relationship our sport has with lumber. A massive vacuuming system slurped up the copious shavings.
Of course, my enquiring mind wondered, “From what countries do you get your wood?”
“That’s a trade secret,” was the polite response.
I also noticed the high level of quality control and attention to detail. Each piece along the fabrication process was individually inspected. As the publication we received from Butterfly noted, “We make the products using human hands because the racket will be used by human hands.”
We enjoyed taking photos in the company break room, also known as the staff’s table tennis practice hall (not to be confused with Butterfly’s world famous Dohjo, located elsewhere).
Toward the end of the tour, we were taken to the company’s inner sanctum. Noriko Teramoto, who conducted the tour, showed us how her employee card, which she swiped for the electronic entry system, could not gain us access to the room. As she stepped aside, Butterfly President Yamada reached for his card, and after a flourish was made in good humor, in we went. To protect trade secrets, we were ushered only steps into the research and development center that is actively designing the next generation of Butterfly products.
As we concluded the tour, each of us was given a keepsake photo and a souvenir racket inscribed with a greeting to commemorate the day. Shigeo Ito, the 1969 Men’s World Champion, looked poised and stately as he posed with the murmuring visitors.
Bowie Martin Jr., President of Butterfly North America, summed up the day with gratitude. “The tour to Butterfly’s offices in Tokorozawa was a great experience. It brought together old and new friends from all over the world with a common love for table tennis. The Butterfly staff showed their passion by pulling out all the stops. They provided a terrific lunch, a custom video presentation, a fascinating tour, and parting gifts. Butterfly’s leading company dignitaries welcomed and joined the enthused visitors during the tour. The hospitality was greatly appreciated.”