All Japan Kendo Championship INTERVIEW

Natsumeda Ryusuke
First time participant and winner of the 71st All Japan KENDO Championship



Translation: Anne Zwart

Natsumeda Ryusuke participated in and won his first ever national championship in November 2023. His remarkable achievement was moving to watch.

What was going through Natsumeda as he climbed his way to the top?

Natsumeda Ryusuke

Born in 2000, Hiroshima Prefecture. Started practicing Kendo at Kameyama Kendo Club. Attended Mito Kiryo High School and went on to Nippon Sport Science University. He joined the Hiroshima police in April. He is currently working for the Kaita police station and in the mobile control force (a mobile unit that controls riots and groups in natural disasters among other duties.) Kendo 4-Dan.

Returning the favor to Hiroshima, where it all started

The All Japan KENDO Championship was held on November 3rd, 2023. Young Natsumeda had all eyes on him this tournament as he beat some of Japan’s strongest Kenshi, and won the very first national championship he participated in. He has been working for the Hiroshima police force for about half a year before this.

Many noticed how confident he seemed in his Kendo, but was he not nervous for his first national championship?

“For Shiai, I try not to get too influenced by my mental or physical state. I wanted to show my usual self in the Shiaijo.”

Natsumeda has fought Shiai in the Nippon Budokan before, but it’s his first time going there for the national championship. Amidst the palpable stress in the venue, Natsumeda only focused on his opponent before him and releasing everything he had in his Kendo.

“I was so focused on taking my opponents down one by one that I didn’t notice I made it to the finals. I figured all I could do is fight with complete determination, and if I end up losing at least I gave it my all. No matter who my opponent was, I wanted to do my own Kendo.”

Natsumeda fought Takenouchi Yuya in the semifinals and Matsuzaki Kenshiro in the finals. Natsumeda didn’t show any fear towards these skilled Kenshi, who have won this championship before. He read Takenouchi’s movements and scored Kaeshi-Men. In the finals, Natsumeda applied Seme above and below the Shinai to confuse Matsuzaki, and scored a clean Kote.

“As a student I would try out for the national championship, but I wasn’t able to make it at the time. As I joined the Hiroshima police in April this year and attended the police academy for a while, I didn’t get to practice Kendo a lot so I would worry sometimes. But my Sensei in Hiroshima have always been very supportive of me, so I wanted to meet their expectations.”

It was Natsumeda’s childhood dream to win the national championship. When he was 10 years old, he even wrote in an essay that it was his dream to represent Hiroshima at the All Japan KENDO Championship and win, as well as become a national team member.

“Although it isn’t related to my childhood dream, I decided that if I were to join the police, I wanted to do so in Hiroshima. I’m very happy I can bring home good news.”

Three Kenshi from Hiroshima have won prizes at the All Japan KENDO Championship before, but no one has placed first so far. Natsumeda’s victory is the best result he could possibly achieve to return his gratitude to Hiroshima.

A detailed training schedule
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