Last year (2020), the dream stage for high school students, the All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship, was canceled due to COVID-19. This year (2021), the tournament was held under thorough infection prevention measures, and it had been a while since the title for the best high school in Japan was awarded. With the new COVID-19 requiring various changes in Kendo, how did powerhouse schools respond and improve their team strength? We will look at the current efforts of the top two schools in the boy’s and girl’s divisions that have reached the finals of the All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship to learn about their methods for improvement.
Toin Gakuen High School (Kanagawa), Shimabara High School (Nagasaki)
Nakamura Gakuen Girls’ High School (Fukuoka) Chikushidai High School (Fukuoka)
High School Kendo Jidai vol.1
Composition = Teraoka Tomoyuki
Photo = Nishiguchi Kunihiko
Translation = Jouke van der Woude
The All Japan Inter-High School Kendo Championship is a major goal for high school students, and only one boys’ and girls’ high school from each prefecture can qualify for the event. Every year, fierce qualifying rounds are held throughout the country, with the Fukuoka prefectural qualifying round being the toughest of them all. There are many strong schools in both the boys’ and girls’ divisions, and the Shiai are hard fought starting from the block qualifiers. Especially in the girls’ event, Nakamura Gakuen, the current winner of four consecutive Inter-High titles, and Chikushidai, which has also won Inter-High, Gyokuryuki, and Kaiseiki titles, have been engaged in fierce competition every year.
Chikushidai High School, located in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture, was originally a boys’ school called Chikushi Technical High School, which became a mixed school in 1992. It was at this time that the Kendo club received support to be strengthened, and a few years later, the girls’ Kendo club also became a target for strengthening. Chikushidai’s girls’ Kendo club won the Inter-High title for the first time in 2006. In 2010, with Matsumoto Mizuki (two-time All-Japan Women’s Kendo Champion and two-time World Kendo Championship individual champion), they won their second national title. Along with the Inter-High title, they have also won the Gyokuryuki High School Kendo Championship 4 times, which honors Fukuoka. Under the guidance of coach Kanamori Yasuji, who has been coaching the team his university graduation, the team continues to train hard every day with the goal of becoming the best in Japan.
All Japan Inter-High School Kendo Championship title twice, All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship 2nd twice, Gyokuryuki High School Kendo Championship title four times, Kaiseiki All Japan Kendo Championship title twice
Social media, connecting people, and autonomy
The 2020’s All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship, was an important Shiai for Chikushidai and the chance to win its first title. In the Prefectural Freshman Kendo Championship, they defeated their rivals, Nakamura Gakuen. The players at that time had been training hard with a strong feeling that they would surely win the All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship, but their hopes came to an untimely end with the cancellation of the tournament. Coach Kanamori recalls the situation at that time.
“It was a severe blow when it was decided that the All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship would be canceled. As a coach, I tried to get the children to look forward and told them to focus on the All Japan Inter-High School Kendo Championship, but it took a long time for them to shift their focus”.
Due to the effects of COVID-19, schools were closed. Of course, it was not possible to practice anymore. They considered remote Keiko and web meetings, but then coach Kanamori took the decision to develop the autonomy of the club members.
“I decided to have all the members make a plan for the day and share it on social media. Each one of them would do some Suburi, physical training, and think about what they could do on their own. In addition to that, I instructed them to send videos and photos of themselves smiling as proof that they had worked hard all day. At first, they seemed depressed about the cancellation of the tournament, but after this experiment, I think the whole club regained its usual energy and morale was boosted”.
Unfortunately, both the Gyokuryuki High School Kendo Championship and the All Japan Inter-High School Kendo Championship were canceled, but the third-year students started to prepare for a replacement tournament in Okinawa. On the day of the tournament at the end of the year, coach Kanamori was not at the venue. He was not able to join as the new team was preparing for the national qualifying rounds of the All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship. Nevertheless, the third-year competitors said, “Leave it to us! We will definitely win the championship!” They went to Okinawa with great enthusiasm and successfully fulfilled their promise.However, the prefectural preliminary round of the All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship would not be held due to a series of emergency declarations across the country. The representing schools would be decided based on the results of the Prefectural Freshman Kendo Championship, so Nakamura Gakuen Girls’ and Chikushidai would step onto the stage of the All Japan Invitational High School Kendo Championship for the first time in two years.
Title out of reach
pride in 2nd place
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