All Japan Kendo Championship INTERVIEW

Kenshi of the New Generation (Takenouchi Yuya)



Translation: Pepijn Boomgaard
Photography: Sasai Takamasa

Three young Kenshi made the Japanese Kendo scene their own in 2023. In this series, we try to find out what brought them to the top of the lineup.

Takenouchi Yuya (Kendo 6th Dan)

Born in Miyazaki in 1993. Started Kendo at Takaoka Renshikan, after which he moved on to Fukuoka Ohori High School and the University of Tsukuba. After graduation, he joined the Metropolitan Police Department. His achievements include winning the World Championship team title twice and getting a silver and bronze medal in the individual tournament, winning the All Japan Championship once and placing 3rd once, winning the All Japan Police Tournament team title twice, winning the individual title, and winning the Kokutai.

The police tournament was all about the team

For Takenouchi Yuya, 2023 might have been a memorable year. He took on the role of Taisho in the All Japan Police Tournament and was indispensable in their come-from-behind victory. He also made it to the top four at the All Japan Championship for the first time since winning the tournament as a third-year university student.

“It was a very fulfilling year. I don’t particularly feel like I have become stronger, but I have been given the responsibility to be Taisho in competitions more often, so I think that I have developed a sense of responsibility. My mind has become stronger through these experiences.”

Takenouchi was appointed Taisho at the All Japan Police Tournament, which was held on October 24. “Since the team has been renewed, I started taking on the role of Taisho during practice matches. Taisho of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police team is a big role, and there is no one fighting after me, so I felt like I had to win.”

The first six positions on the team are filled by Takenouchi’s juniors. Just seeing how much effort they put in during practice made him want to bring the team to victory. It has given him the strength of mind to not lose under any circumstances. “In individual matches, it’s up to you whether you win or lose. However, in team competitions, everyone will be happy when you win, and it will be your responsibility if you lose. I really wanted to win together with captain Osonoi Naoki Sensei and the other Tokuren members.”

In the final match of the All Japan Police Tournament, the Metropolitan Police Department faced their biggest rival, the Osaka Prefectural Police. “That match might have been mentally easier for me as I was the one chasing. We would have lost if I let the match end like that. Considering that I had 8 minutes to get a point, being behind might have been more mentally advantageous for me.” The Osaka Prefectural Police were leading 3-2 when the Taisho match started. For opponent Tsuchitani Yuki, a draw meant that his team would win. He might have felt as if he had to defend. Takenouchi scored Men, and the two Taisho had to face each other again in the Daihyosen.    

“I was lucky to make it to the Daihyosen. When you’re facing someone of the same level, mentality can have a big impact.”

The match was decided with a Kote. They went into overtime for the third time as everyone was quietly watching them. “My Men felt good that day, so at first I was thinking of going for Men. In the end, my body moved on its own. We went into overtime, but it didn’t feel very long to me.” 

After the match, Takenouchi saw coach Harada Satoru and his other teammates cry tears of joy. He felt happy.

“My main goal was to win the All Japan Police Tournament. I was also able to participate in individual competitions such as the All Japan Championship, but for me it was important to win a team competition. I was determined to win again.”

Ten days after achieving his goal, it was time for the All Japan Championship. “I wanted to enjoy the matches. My movement had momentum and I had a lot of fun. Even though I ended up losing, I enjoyed everything, from the first round to the semi-finals.”

He reflects on the fact that he was able to compete all throughout 2023. This could have been what allowed him to feel so relaxed at the All Japan Championships. “After winning the tournament for the first time as a student, there was a period in which I was not able to participate in the All Japan Championship or get any good results at the tournament. I somehow got caught up in the feeling that I had to win. I realized that the strongest players at the All Japan Championship are those who enjoy themselves. That’s what made me change my mindset going into the tournament. I feel that this time I was able to focus on winning while still having fun.”

Takenouchi has won the All Japan Championship and many other tournaments. He became the subject of study while he continued to aim for the All Japan title. Through all this, he has created a style that focuses on winning while having fun.

“I was also thinking about how to liven up the venue. It was fun. I’m 30 years old. I don’t know how many more years I can be a Tokuren member. That’s why I think it’s best to just have fun.”

As captain of the Metropolitan Police, I want to make the best team in Japan

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