The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Building Friendship at Waseda and Abroad through Fencing

Mr. Shunsuke Saka

With distinct features and a very tall and slim body, Mr. Saka looks somewhat untypical of the Japanese. One might wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that he spends just one third of the year in Japan, the rest of the time participating in various fencing tournament tours overseas. "I've probably visited 25 countries by now. Always traveling with my fencing bag makes me feel like I'm going somewhere without any luggage at all once in a while," he smiles, making fun of the experience of the journeys that took him around the world.

Mr. Saka studied abroad, in France, the mecca of fencing, for a year during his third year in Waseda. Despite the limited French he had, he tried hard to find strangers on the street and talk with them. It was not surprising that he mastered French through daily conversation in a mere three-month period. That experience helped him to mingle in with the multiethnic society of Europe and understand what things are like there. "Sometimes I met people from countries with political unrest at the airport and had a chance to speak with them. What they told me was very dissimilar to the image of the countries reflected in the news. It occurred to me how limited my views of the world had been until then," he confessed. Mr. Saka's roommate now is a Swedish friend he met in Paris. "Languages can be learnt without going abroad. Studying abroad and participating in away games brought me in touch with many different people, and enabled me to have friends around the world. I think that is the greatest thing!" he beamed.

Friendship through fencing is also spreading around him here at Waseda. Many underclassmen from his high school and fellow fencers he met at fencing competitions followed him and became members of the Waseda Fencing Team. "Waseda students take tradition seriously but do not let themselves be confined by it. They constantly seek improvement, which has been the source of vibrant energy for our team," Mr. Saka said of his team members. In this way, the Waseda Fencing Team won a national championship as a team in the Japan Fencing Competition.

Actually, Mr. Saka has just returned from the preliminary tournament for this year's Olympic Games. He was edged away from the chance to compete in Beijing by his rival Shougo Nishida. "Honestly, I felt really devastated. The only thing that consoles me is that my teammates will be there in the Olympic Games," he said with a chagrined smile on his face. Mr. Saka surely feels deeply for his fellow teammates who will be competing in Beijing.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Mr. Shunsuke Saka

Born in Kagawa Prefecture in 1985. Graduated from Kagawa Prefectural Takamatsu High School. 5th-year student at the School of Arts and Letters. Pair Fencing Delegate for Japan. Member of the Waseda Fencing Team until this spring. Silver Medalist at Australia World Cup 2007. First place as a team in male pair matches and second place as individual fencer at the National Fencing Championship 2007. He recently rose to 37th in the World Fencers Ranking (March 2008).