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A boozy round of beer pong hits the spot

by Angela Erika Kubo

Long associated with college frat parties, beer pong is now mainstream in the United States. Although the game — which requires a long table, a pair of ping pong balls and several plastic cups, each filled with an inch of beer — is difficult to talk a Japanese pub owner into replicating, there are several groups in the city that hold beer pong games for newcomers and those bored with simply drinking beer out of a mug.

The aim of the game is to throw the ball into your opponent’s cups, which they must then drink. The side to finish all their cups of beer first is the loser.

For the liveliest games, venture to Saitama, where you can find a beer pong night on the third Saturday of every month at Unchain Farm (1-7-4 Sumiyoshi, Soka, Saitama; 048-924-7654; www.unchainfarm.com). Entrance is ¥1,000, including one drink, while a round of beer pong is ¥300 per person. Organizer Michael Placido, who co-runs an event information website at www.noplace2go.com, throws these events as a way to meet strangers in his neighborhood.

“When I first came to Japan I didn’t see any drinking games,” says Placido, originally from New York. “I don’t speak much Japanese, so I wanted a way to communicate with Japanese people without words. The easiest way is with a game.”

The venue is small and made even more cramped by the long tables set up to play, but you’ll likely make new friends by the end of the night as you bond over your victories and losses. If your aim is bad, there’s a table set up for flip cup, a team-based game that involves drinking beer out of a line of plastic cups, then attempting to flip the cup onto its mouth.

“I think beer pong is a fun game,” says participant Rumi Fujiwara, who was first introduced to beer pong while studying abroad in Canada. “I hope that beer pong spreads in Japan as a popular American party game.”

For something closer to home, The Ruby Room in Shibuya has long hosted rowdy, fun beer pong nights, and currently these take the form of occasional parties every few months with three hours of play and unlimited drinks for ¥2,000 (ladies) or ¥2,500 (gents). Check www.rubyroomtokyo.com for details.

Also in Tokyo, the Tokyo Beer Pong Club (www.facebook.com/tokyobeerpongclub) holds beer pong games every Wednesday at a different venue each time. Entry is ¥1,500 including one drink.

However, don’t expect a rowdy party. The players here use a professional beer pong table and cups, and for hygiene reasons, instead of playing the game with beer, they use water.

“You don’t have to feel obligated to drink here. We don’t force people to drink. It’s just an event where you simply enjoy the game,” says organizer Kenneth Tso, director of the Beer Pong Federation of Japan.

The Tokyo Beer Pong Club tends to attract a crowd more passionate about the game and eager to hone their skills. Most players are able to throw the ping-pong ball into the cup with a perfect arch on the first try.

“I want people here to have fun, and I also want to spread the game throughout Japan,” says Tso.

Angela Erika Kubo is a freelance writer and bar lover based in Tokyo. Follow her on Twitter @aekubo.