Kusano Ryujiro Interview



Photography: Sasai Takamasa
Translation: Pepijn Boomgaard

Kusano Ryujiro

Born in Nagasaki prefecture in 1995. Went to Nagasaki Seiryo High School and the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya. After graduation, he joined the Osaka Prefectural Police Department. His achievements include participating in the All Japan Championship twice and making it to the final 16, winning the team division at the All Japan Police Tournament and placing 2nd three times, winning the All Japan Interprefecture Tournament, and winning the National Sports Festival (Kokutai). Kendo 5th Dan.

A fateful phone call
The pressure of being a member of the Japanese team

On April 3, 2024, the Japanese team for the World Kendo Championships was announced at a press conference held at the Japan Sports Association Press Conference Room. Out of the ten male members, five will be participating for the first time. One of them is Kusano Ryujiro, the team’s only Jodan player.

“Before the press conference, I received a phone call from the coach. He told me that I had been selected for the team, and that we should represent the flag of Japan together with resolution. I was happy to hear these words.”

The All Japan Kendo Federation Training Camp starts with more than 30 athletes, who are then carefully sifted through and reduced to 10. They were selected through a rigorous internal selection process that included a round-robin league competition. “It was my goal to become a member of the national team, so I felt relieved. However, at the same time I felt the weight of representing Japan. This will be my first time fighting for my country. I am looking forward to it.”

The first time he was invited to the training camp was when he was still a student at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya. “I participated in a practice match with the candidates, and they must have thought that I was a good player. I was invited to join the next training camp. The first time I went there, I was surrounded by players I admired and was very impressed. Since I was invited, I wanted to do my best, but I think that my resolve as a member of the national team was still weak.”

Although he was not selected for the 2018 World Championships, he was able to gain experience and increase his determination as a member of the Osaka Prefectural Police and winning the All Japan Police Tournament. “I’m the only Jodan player selected for this tournament. My main goal is to win the title, but I also feel like it’s a good chance to show Japanese Jodan to the world. I hope they will be impressed. Of course I’m looking forward to the matches, but I’m also excited about sharing the Shiajo with people from all over the world.” Jordan is said to be the Kamae of fire. It places the emphasis on attack while exposing the Do and Tsuki to the opponent. It is necessary to overcome the risk of being struck and to have the resolution to commit to a strike.

“I don’t know if I can put the teaching of the Kamae of fire into practice, but I am someone who is able to boldly fight when the match is on the line. I think that is one of my strengths.”

Kusano sees himself as someone who is strong in real matches. “Attitude is important. I’m not that strong in practice matches, but when it comes to the real things, I get fired up. Maybe it’s because I feel that it’s no use worrying, I just have to do it.”

Breakthrough at the Osaka Prefectural Police

Kusano says that his experience at the Osaka Prefectural Police was a major factor in securing a place in the national team. “I think training in Osaka was very influential. There are many teachers and seniors who are successful at both the national and international level, and there is an atmosphere at the Tokuren in which we are able to seriously practice with each other every day.”

The Osaka Prefectural Police Department has many top-level players, and is strong enough to compete to be number one in Japan. This high level is supported by a high quality and quantity of training. Kusano recalls how in the early days of his career, he struggled to keep up with the training. His days consisted of training, going home, and sleeping.

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