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The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Becoming winners at the same time in Men's and Women's Championships for the first time
Great achievements with a spirit of doing the best and entrusting the next teammate

Ms. Airi Iida
Mr. Yuta Watanabe

The Waseda men's and women's kendo teams became winners of both the 58th All Japan Students Kendo Championship for the first time in 45 years and the 29th All Japan Women's Students Kendo Championship for the first time, respectively. This fall, Mr. Watanabe, captain of the men's team and Ms. Iida, captain of the women's team played a critical role in these greatest achievements since the foundation of the teams.

"When I was five, my elder brother went to a kendo school, so I got interested in and started to play kendo," says Mr. Watanabe. "But I hated practice." Every time she was beaten in a match, the teacher and parents would scold her, so she thought about giving up again and again. "I regretted that I had lost the match, so I thought I would fight one more time in the match," says Mr. Watanabe, showing that he hates to admit defeat. "I continued the sport, thanks to this feeling." On the other hand, the training at the school Ms. Iida attended was hard, and even when she was an elementary school pupil, she had to do "a thousand kirikaeshi* " and other tough training. "I wanted to quit kendo, but I couldn't say it because the teacher was so frightening," reflects Ms. Iida. "But thanks to these basic practices, I was able to bear the hard training in junior and senior high school and at university and on until now."

Mr. Yuta Watanabe

In third grade of high school, Mr. Watanabe became interested in Waseda as he had a chance to receive a recommendation prior to the entrance examination. "I was part of a team under a strict coach, but at university, I am forced to do nothing. That's why I voluntarily practice. I have learned the importance of being independent," says Mr. Watanabe, looking back at his four years at Waseda.

Ms. Iida first thought about entering Waseda in second year of high school. "A senior who was then the captain of the Waseda kendo team visited the school for a practice. He became my idol." Before she entered the university, the Waseda Women's Team was not so strong, but Ms. Iida determined to make it a strong team by doing her best.

"The team is not as strong as previous teams. Last year's team had a lineup of really strong seniors but couldn't win the championship," says Mr. Watanabe. "So in our team, we keep it in mind to 'do the best and entrust the next teammate.' Each player tries to win even by one point or draw so the team can play the last match. If we can do this, there will be a chance of victory against strongest teams." On the day of the championship, regardless of team members and supporters, all the people fought with their hearts as one. The result was becoming number one in Japan.

Ms. Airi Iida

The Women's Championship was held two week after the Men. "The Men's victory in the inter college championship gave me great pressure," says Ms. Iida. This year, the Women's Team has many strong players but couldn't win, which made her very sad. "The members of the Men's Team understood my regret and helped in training and gave us advice." All the people helped and cooperated with each other and faced the championship. "When we won, I was rather relieved than pleased. It was finally over," laughs Ms. Iida. "Now I am really glad that we can share the joy of becoming number one with the Men's Team."

The two captains say that the victories couldn't have been achieved on their own. "Former students, coaches, families, friends and many other people enabled us to fully exploit what we had done." They want to express their gratitude to the people around them. "The master of the school I went to was a graduate of Waseda's kendo team and was the winner of the individual category 46 years ago," says Mr. Watanabe. "He was very pleased with the victories."

Ms. Iida plans to visit her kendo teacher in Kyushu at the end of the year. "The coach of my high school is like a second father to me, so I want to report the victory to him."

Finally, the two captains said, smiling, "Kendo at Waseda has built strong bonds with the hearts of many people."

*"Kirikaeshi" is a kendo exercise combining strikes to the center of the head with a series of alternating strikes to the left and right sides of the head. The purpose of this practice is to teach proper distance, timing and other important principles.

The first championship victory of the Women's Kendo Team. The brave female kendo players are cute girls without their headgear. (Ms. Iida is the third from right in the front row)

Mr. Watanabe, Captain, in a match at the 58th the All Japan Students Kendo Championship

Victory won by all! Excited and making a piece sign

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Ms. Airi Iida

Born in Tokyo in 1988. Graduated from Yashiro Shirayuri Gakuen High School. 4th year student at School of Social Science. Fourth dan in kendo. Captain of the Women's Kendo Team. In the 29th All Japan Women's Students Kendo Championship, won the first victory as a team. In the individual category, she was ranked number three when she was a sophomore and reached the quarterfinals when she was a senior. Loves fried chicken, a special menu at Kokoro soba noodle restaurant at which she works part time. "I recommend Pirikara Menma Tsukemen (spicy cold noodles to dip in sauce, served with pickled bamboo shoots,) so please visit us and try."

Mr. Yuta Watanabe

Born in Fukuoka in 1988. Graduated from Ohori Junior and Senior High School. 4th year student at School of Sports Sciences. Third dan in kendo. Captain of the Kendo Team. Participated in the 58th All Japan Students Kendo Championship and won the championship for the first time in 45 years as a team. Loves sweets and hot food, especially Hakata ramen noodles and mentaiko (salted cod roe spiced with red pepper.) "I love the Liar Game comic. Recently, I have felt attracted to Erika Toda, Maki Horikita and Yui Aragaki (actresses) of the same generation."