Photography: Sasai Takamatsu
Translation: Pepijn Boomgaard
Born in 1967 in Kimobetsu, Hokkaido. Went to Tokai University Sapporo Senior High School and Tokai University, after which he joined the Hokkaido Prefectural Police. His achievements include winning the All Japan Kendo Championship, winning the World Kendo Championship team title 3 times and the individual title once, winning the All Japan Interprefecture Kendo Championship, winning the All Japan Invitational 7th Dan Tournament twice, and winning the Nakakura Cup. He won the Nagoya 8th Dan Tournament for the first time in 2019. In his second appearance last year, he placed third. This year, he won the tournament for the second time. Currently, he is the chief instructor at the Hokkaido Prefectural Police Headquarters and head instructor of the Hokkaido University Kendo Club.
Showing the Kendo of an 8th Dan
Living up to the expectations of the people around him
The 2023 All Japan 8th Dan Championship ended with Eiga Naoki winning the title for the second time in four years. This was after Eiga was restricted in Keiko in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
This was probably the longest that Eiga ever went without putting on his Men. How did he feel about entering the 8th Dan Tournament after such a period? “I was injured last year, so I approached the tournament as if it was my first time participating in it. There were two things I kept in mind while preparing for the tournament. First, I wanted to show the Kendo of an 8th Dan. Second, I wanted to live up to the expectations of the people around me. With these two things in mind, I had been doing whatever the situation allowed for.”
Only selected players are allowed to participate in the 8th Dan Tournament. Being invited is a great honor. Eiga wanted to fight Shiai worthy of his 8th Dan rank, while at the same time living up to the expectations placed on him as the winner of many major tournaments, such as the All Japan Kendo Champions and the World Kendo Championship.
“The last time I won the tournament, it was my first time participating. After that, I wasn’t able to have Keiko for a while. However, I tried to get the most out of the situation while being restricted in time for Keiko. I didn’t think too much about whether I was in good shape or not. Rather, I was focussed on not getting injured and being able to perform as I normally would, no matter the circumstances. I think these two things are important.”
After facing top-notch police Hanshi such as Eto Yoshihisa, Sato Makoto, Horie Norio and Terachi Kenjiro, Eiga met Aiko Kazuhiko, a first time competitor, in the final. “It was the final Shiai, so I wanted to make it a head-on fight. Aiko Sensei accepted that challenge. I had some regrets about the tournament, but I thought that if I could just somehow pass this point and win the tournament, I would be satisfied.” Eiga was able to beat the mental pressure from Aiko Kazuhiko with two Ippon to win the tournament. “During the Shiai, there were some times where my opponent’s Seme caught me by surprise or made me tense. Looking back, there were many moments where I wish I hadn’t been so patient or had made different choices. For all my Shiai, not just the 8th Dan Tournament, I often feel like I have to win with correct Kendo and that I can’t lose. This prevents me from doing what I normally do. I don’t think that it is bad to have these feelings. It is only in Shiai that we can learn to what extent we can control ourselves and avoid over-advancing. At the 8th Dan Tournament, I had the opportunity to face many wonderful Sensei, and once again, I realized what a wonderful tournament it is.”
Eiga Naoki’s pride and the support of the people around him
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