A fierce determination to fight for Japan



Report: Teraoka Tomoyuki
Photography: Nishiguchi Kunihiko
Translation: Jouke van der Woude

From July 4th to July 7th in 2024, the 19th World Kendo Championships (WKC) will be held in Milan, Italy. As the tournament approaches, the selection process for the Japanese representative team has entered its final stage. We spoke with the delegation leader, head coach, coaches, and competitors about their aspirations for the upcoming WKC.

One year to Italy

The WKC in Paris, which was scheduled for 2021, was canceled due to COVID-19 and the WKC will now be held in Milan in 2024 after a six-year hiatus. With one year remaining until the event, intensive training camps are being conducted for Japan’s representatives’ selection process. Fierce competition is taking place within the training camp as athletes vie for the limited slots of 10 male and 10 female participants.

During the training camp, rankings are determined through in-house Shiai but equally important is the ability to demonstrate Japan’s traditional culture of Kendo on the world stage. Beyond strength, the common understanding among the leadership is that the competitors who can perform beautiful and correct Kendo which Japan values, are the ones most deserving of fighting for Japan.

The male leadership includes men’s coach Higashi Yoshimi (Hanshi 8th Dan), supported by assistant coaches Teramoto Shoji (Kyoshi 8th Dan) and Uchimura Ryoichi (Kyoshi 7th Dan). Both assistant coaches have experienced victories and setbacks at the Taiwan and Brazil WKC’s as part of the Japanese representative team, providing valuable guidance to the candidates.

Looking at the current candidates, it goes without saying that the active top competitors have made their names known. Ando Sho (Kokushikan University Teacher) who served as Japan’s captain in the previous WKC is currently leading the training camp. Although he has yet to achieve victory in the All Japan Kendo Championship (AJKC), he has dominated at various national competitions and took the Individual WKC title. It is expected that he will continue to play a central role for Japan in the upcoming WKC.

Among the participants from the previous tournament, competitors like Takenouchi Yuya (Metropolitan Police) and Hoshiko Keita (Metropolitan Police) will likely be listed as representatives. Their experiences of achieving victory amidst intense pressure at the WKC in Incheon will undoubtedly be of great help in the upcoming event.

Additionally, the presence of current Japanese champions such as Murakami Tetsuhiko (Ehime Prefectural Police), Kunitomo Rentaro (Fukuoka Prefectural Police), and Matsuzaki Kenshiro (University of Tsukuba Graduate School) is significant. All three competitors are highly acclaimed for their outstanding Kendo and are expected to be exemplary figures for competitors from various countries around the world.

Among the younger generation, competitors like Iwabu Hikari (Staff at Kokushikan University) who graduated this spring and Ikeda Toranosuke (4th year student at the University of Tsukuba) who achieved third place in the previous AJKC are also adding excitement to the training camp as potential candidates.

Who will fight for Japan and wield their swords in Italy? It’s something we will continue to watch closely in the future.

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