Tomokazu Harimoto is Japan’s highest-rated table tennis player, currently ranked 4th in the world rankings. He’s been a wunderkind ever since he was seven years old, and his career seems to be on the way up. His accolades are quite impressive, and he’s a prominent feature in the top ten ITTF rankings, which mostly have Chinese players. Notably, he’s also of Chinese origin, something which seems to have given him the edge over his Japanese countrymen. But is there more to the 19-year-old wunderkind? Find out below.
Date of Birth
|27th June 2003|
Place of Birth
|Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, Japan|
Japan TTC, Japan national team
Born on 27th June 2003 in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, to Chinese Parents Zhang Yu and Zhang Li, Harimoto was originally named Zhang Zhihe. He comes from a ping-pong-playing background, with both his parents having played professionally at some point in their lives. As such, it’s unsurprising that he started dabbling in the sport at only two years old.
Despite being born in Japan, Harimoto was a Chinese citizen and would only acquire Japanese citizenship in 2014 alongside his father and sister. One of the requirements for naturalized Japanese citizenship is that the person must have been a resident for half a decade, according to the Japanese Ministry of Justice, a condition his father had achieved.
2014 was also the year he changed his name to Harimoto. It seems that his parent’s love of table tennis and skill was passed onto him as he started excelling at a very young age. Proof of this came in 2010 when he became the youngest All-Japan Table Tennis Championship at just seven years old.
In 2016 he claimed the under-21 Japan Open title, becoming the youngest-ever winner of the ITTF World tour for the age group at barely 13 years old. He followed up with wins in the World Junior Table Tennis Championships in both the singles and team events.
In the same year, he would relocate to Tokyo and join the JOC Elite Academy, a program to nurture young athletes and improve the country’s performances in international competitions. This move ultimately proved positive, with the athlete growing from strength to strength and eventually breaking into the world’s top ten player rankings in the sport.
In the first week of November 2022, he ranks fourth in the ITTF rankings between 5th place Truls Moregard and 3rd place, Wang Chuqin. At only 19, his career has been nothing if not eventful, and some might even call him a genius in the sport.
Tomokazu Harimoto has had one of the most impressive ping pong careers for a 19-year-old, having been the Youngest to ever win several awards. Examples include the ITTF World tour and World Junior Championships.
As for his senior career, it began in 2017, and although he reached the final of the year’s Indian Open, he lost to Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the last game. In the following year, he would come back stronger, even beating the most decorated ping pong player of all time, Ma Long, in the ITTF World Tour Japan Open.
He followed up with a win in the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. However, in 2020 there was another match-up with Ma Long in which the senior player switched up the game mid-way and ended up beating the enthusiastic youngster. In terms of Olympic success, Tomokazu only has the 2020 Olympic bronze medal to his name.
2021 and 2022 haven’t been the best years for the Japanese National, with him losing several finals and semi-finals. However, he’s only 19, meaning there’s still time for him to rebound. Also worth noting is that despite the dip in form, he retains a position in the top five world rankings putting him ahead of most of his peers.
Tomokazu uses a shakehand grip, and his playing style is quite aggressive, with the player prioritizing speed in the serves. He also tends to stick closer to the table, something that’s become quite common with the younger generation of ping-pong players.
Another weapon he wields fairly well is his counter-attack despite not having the best footwork among his peers. He’s used quick counters on the bounce to overpower opponents on more than one occasion.
Naturally, he also uses equipment that matches his playing style. Whenever he’s playing competitively, his go-to equipment includes the Tomokazu Harimoto Innerforce ALC blade, a well-rounded product with superior spin and control. This particular option is suited to the shakehand grip. However, there is a similar product for people who hold their paddles differently, namely the Butterfly Harimoto Innerforce ALC – Chinese Penhold. If you’ve tried any of these options and still felt something missing, our best ping pong paddles or the best ping pong paddles for the penhold grip lists may help you find alternatives.
Tomokazu also uses the Dignic 05 and Tenergy 05 on the forehand and backhand, respectively, both of which are pretty popular among elite players.
While the specifics of Tomokazu’s net worth are unknown, it’s speculated he’s worth about $1.5 million or more. This is entirely feasible given his constant success in competitive games, some of which pay exorbitant amounts to winners. He’s also had his fair share of sponsorship and endorsement deals, as evident from the Butterfly equipment named after him.
Tomokazu has virtually no social media presence, a common theme with Asian table tennis players.
Other than playing table tennis, there’s not much else to Tomokazu Harimoto’s personal life. However, by his own admission, he enjoys karaoke and belting out a song or two whenever he can.
Is Tomokazu Harimoto Chinese?
While he may have been originally Chinese due to both his parents coming from China since 2014, he became a Japanese citizen and plays for the Japanese national team.
What equipment does Harimoto Tomokazu use?
Tomokazu uses the Tomokazu Harimoto Innerforce ALC blade with a combination of the Dignic 05 rubber for the forehand and the Tenergy 05 for the backhand.
Despite his recent dip in form that has seen Tomokazu Harimoto miss out on a few titles, there’s no denying he’s one of the world’s top players. He’s young and has seen a lot of success on the court, and one can only assume he’s going to get better with age. If he refines his style and manages to win a couple more games, he could easily become the highest-ranked player, a spot that is seemingly reserved for the Chinese, given how they dominate the listings.