Report by Taylor Winter
The 29th of May saw the 59thAll Japan Prefectural Championships hosted in Osaka. Granting there was only a short notice, I made it to the grand Chuotaikūkan with haste upon hearing that my prefecture of Osaka had already smashed through the first round with their taishō (Kanzaki Sensei of Osaka Taikuu Daigakku) destroying his opponents men.
The taikai worked with a team of seven from each prefecture and a particularly renowned sensei heading each team. Most senpō were around 17-20 years of age and2-dan to 3-dan, the jihō onwards were normally 5-dan or 6-dan, and the taishō was at least a 7-dan.The taikai had six shiai-jō running, which made it tough to follow overall progress; however, it was clear to see early on which teams would see it until the end. By the semi-finals, things were really starting to heat up with the two favourites,Osaka and Fukuoka coming in strong to scrap it out with Oita and Yamaguchi, respectively.
By far, the Osaka vs. Oita match was the most intently viewed with every spectator in the complex crossing their fingers to see their home team take victory. Osaka started off on the back with Oitaís sempō seizing a men and degote. From thereon out, Osaka was battling to take the lead, alas, with every competitor passing, the fate of the Osaka team looked ever more bleak. It was very clear to see that Oita was playing strategically, as they had no need to take risks to gain ippon, and nor did they. Osaka was becoming ever more frantic and by the fourth member, it was do or die. After a strong and even matched battle, Oita claimed another degote for their team as the spectators let out sighs of disbelieve and sadness. The Osaka supporters had been refusing to give up hope until the point where victory was impossible. The semi-finals coincidently finished 7-3 to both Oita and Fukuoka.
The final match commenced with the Oita sempō taking the floor, only to leave again within 60 seconds with two men ippon for Oita. Obviously a bad start for Fukuoka, their jihō had to take the floor and seize whatever he could for his team. After successfully stepping out of range from his opponentís men strike however, he let his guard slip and had his opponent land a perfect tsuki, to my knowledge; this was the only tsuki ippon of the day. With the morale of Fukuoka now completely obliterated, Oita seized a swift and safe victory to take out the championships.
The defining point of the Oita team was the sempō, Hinokuma (日隈) a 17 year old 3-dan who came to the table with high energy and utter conviction in each of his strikes, which in my opinion was a major factor in their success. His victories not only boosted the morale of his team,but abolished the morale of his opposing team. It made a clear point on the importance of a teamís line-up as well as the importance of each memberís role in the team. Needless to say, the taikai not only offered a demonstration of superior kendo technique, but also a large spoonful of food for thought.