All Japan Kendo Championship INTERVIEW

Interview with All Japan Champion Hoshiko Keita



Photography: Takamasa Sasai
Translation: Pepijn Boomgaard

In 2018, he was selected to participate in the 17th World Kendo Championships at the young age of 20. He also made his appearance in the final match against Korea. In his second appearance in the All Japan Kendo Championship, he successfully became number one in Japan. He proclaimed that his dream is to win three consecutive All Japan Championships. What kind of Kenshi is Hoshiko Keita?

Hoshiko Keita

Born in 1998 in Aira, Kagoshima prefecture. He started learning Kendo at Shigetomi Kendo Junior Sports Club and Yoshino Kendo Junior Sports Club. After graduating from Kyushu Gakuin High School, he went to the University of Tsukuba. His achievements include 2nd place in the National Dojo Junior Individual Tournament, best 8 in the All Japan Junior High School individual tournament, winning both the individual and team Interhigh title, winning both the individual and team All Japan Student Championship title, and winning the World Kendo Championship team title. After getting 3rd place in his first appearance, he has now finally won the All Japan Kendo Championship. Kendo 4 Dan.

After ten years of hard work, he has finally won the All Japan Championship

As a child, many of you might have dreamed of winning the All Japan Championship or holding the Emperor’s Cup*. Hoshiko also seriously thought about winning the All-Japan Championship when he was a child.

Don’t dismiss this as simply a child’s dream. To Hoshiko, this was a serious goal. “I think I was still in the first or second grade of elementary school*. The All Japan Championship was held, and I heard that Miyazaki Masahiro Sensei had won the tournament six times. Hearing that, I felt like I wanted to do something that no one had ever done before. I decided that I wanted to win the All Japan Championship three times in a row.” 

He aimed to win a tournament at each level, from elementary school to university, and devoted himself to the way of the sword. As a high school student, he won both the individual and team Interhigh titles. He made great progress as a university student and won the World Kendo Championship team title, as well as other major tournaments. However, these competitions were all just stepping stones to Hoshiko.

“I feel very honored when people tell me how impressive it is to win the title at such a young age, but to me, winning the All Japan Championship has been a goal for many years. I believe that my ambition was unrivaled by other competitors.” However, this passion is what made not qualifying when he was 20, and losing to Matsuzaki in the semi finals last year so frustrating. 

That’s why he was willing to wager it all on this year’s tournament. “It’s not that I was not serious before, but I think that my enthusiasm, my way of practicing, and my body were all different from before.” He pushed himself hard enough that on the day of the tournament, he felt ready. “One of the things I regretted from the previous tournament was that I let the matches go on for too long. So this time I tried to show my own Kendo during regulation time. However, during my first match, I ended up defending too much. But after that match, the things I had been working on came to life.”

In the first round, he faced Kato Ryusei (Tottori), a third-year student at Hiroshima University. He won by striking Men just after overtime started. He then went on to defeat Kudamatsu Yuichiro of the Aichi Prefectural Police, Abe Soki (Hyogo), his junior at the University of Tsukuba, Saitama Prefectural Police’s ace Adachi Ryuji, and Murayama Hitoshi of the Kanagawa Prefectural Police, who won his first prize this tournament.

His opponent in the final was Hayashida Kyohei (Fukui), who was his senior at the University of Tsukuba. Like Hoshiko, Hayashida placed 3rd at the previous tournament, and judging by the sharpness of his movement, he must have also been aiming to win this year. “As a high school student, I got to train with Hayashida at an All Japan Kendo Federation seminar. At the World Championship, he and Takenouchi were closest to me in age, so I owe a lot to him. Because of this, I wanted to challenge him respectfully.” Hayashida is a very experienced competitor, and when they faced off, Hoshiko felt like he would not be able to strike Kote. “I felt like Kote would not work, so I tried a different method. My first Ippon (Men) came out instantaneously.”

As Hoshiko was trying to cut the distance, Hayashida was pressuring him. Both players made up their minds and jumped to strike Men at almost the same moment. Three flags went up. Without hesitation, they struck at once. Afterwards, Kouda Kunihide Sensei (professor at the University of Tsukuba) told Hoshiko that he scored because Hayashida faced him head-on. 

“We both faced each other head-on without running away. I think it was almost a coincidence that I ended up winning. If I would have hesitated even only a little bit, I would have lost.” The second Men was scored two minutes later. Both competitors were pressuring each other from Chudan No Kamae, when Hoshiko decided to attack Kote.

“After scoring that first Men, I felt confident that I could win by just fighting defensively. But then the phrase ‘number one in Japan’ kept entering my thoughts. I thought, ‘that’s not good enough, I need to keep moving forward.’ However, I didn’t want to be careless, so I was looking for the right opportunity. Then, when I went for Kote, Hayashida moved differently from usual. He lowered his Kensen and leaned backward. I believed this to be my chance and I jumped in with all my strength.”

The result could not have been better. He won the match with two points. How did he feel at the moment his longtime goal of winning the championship became a reality?

“I was happy to finally be the number one in Japan. As I left the Shiaijo and started taking off my Men, I happened to see Komeda Toshiro Sensei (Hoshiko’s teacher during his time at Kyushu Gakuin High School). He nodded his head, and at that moment I realized that it was finally over.”

It was the victory he had been aiming for all this time. The result could not have been better. However, it seems like the story doesn’t end here. “I’m happy, but at the same time, I have already set my sights on the next step. I felt like I had to stay level-headed. The happiness was momentary.” In the end, he just considers this a single step towards achieving his true dream of winning three consecutive championships.

I don’t want to wait until I lose in order to change. I always want to win.

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