Japan Wrestling

Veteran Japanese Wrestling Writer Eyes Covering 2nd Tokyo Olympics, 56 Years Later

By Ikuo Higuchi

(The following is an abridged version of a story that recently appeared on the Japan Wrestling Federation website. Translation for UWW by Ken Marantz.)

Getting to cover more than one Olympics during a career can be considered an honor, but is not necessarily such a rarity for the world's top sports journalists. But to report on two Olympics held in the same city---and more than a half-century apart---that puts a writer into a class all their own.

Veteran Japanese wrestling writer Masayuki Miyazawa could pull off this astounding feat when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics open less than a year from now.

In the decades since covering the first Tokyo Olympics in 1964 for the Nikkan Sports daily, Miyazawa established himself as a leading fixture on the wrestling scene in Japan, not only as a peerless reporter, but as a magazine editor, Japan federation official, impromptu coach, and maverick of sorts.

"I don't want to go watch, I want to be on the scene reporting," says Miyazawa, who has long retired from Nikkan Sports and, his health willing, wants to be involved in some writing capacity at Tokyo 2020, when he will be 90.

Miyazawa still holds a position as an advisor in the Japan Wrestling Federation, but never forgets his roots. Although he has a seat on the dais reserved for federation officials at the All-Japan Championships, he always heads for the press section to sit among his "peers." "I'm a journalist for life," he says.

Miyazawa was not aware of the possibility of doing the Tokyo double and earning a place in journalistic history until a fellow press member mentioned to him, "You can get into the Guinness Book." That sparked Miyazawa's interest, the same inquisitiveness that led him to some of Japan sports' biggest scoops.

Miyazawa is praised for his long years of contribution to wrestling by JWF President Tomiaki Fukuda at an event heralding the first Olympic gold medal won by a wrestler (Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu) from Takushoku University, Miyazawa's alma mater, in 2012. (photo by Ikuo Higuchi)

It was during his days at Nikkan Sports that Miyazawa broke the story of the retirement of one of sumo wrestling's legendary champions, yokozuna Wakanohana I (the wrestler's wife phoned him to tell him). And at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, Miyazawa made use of the Indonesian he had studied at Takushoku University to land an exclusive interview with President Sukarno, who was engulfed in a political crisis at the time.

Miyazawa serves as a referee, one of his many functions, at the GANEFO (Games of the New Emerging Forces) held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1963. He was also a judge in judo, a coach in both sports, and a journalist covering the event. (photo courtesy of Masayuki Miyazawa). 

While he has mostly left his mark in wrestling, he covered many sports in his career, including judo, gymnastics, karate, modern pentathlon and the Paralympics. His prolific writing could fill volumes.

Finding the missing medalist
Miyazawa's greatest achievement was when he tracked down a Japanese Olympic medalist who had disappeared without a trace. It was Miyazawa who not only found Katsutoshi Naito alive and well in Brazil, but made it his life work to recount an amazing tale that very few Japanese even knew about.

The history of Japanese wrestling can pretty much trace its roots back to Naito, a judo competitor who took the rare and bold step in the 1920s of venturing overseas, in his case to enroll at Penn State University, currently a U.S. collegiate powerhouse. He joined the wrestling team and, in the days before the establishment of the NCAA, won the Eastern Intercollegiate title in 1924.

At that time, there was strong anti-immigrant sentiment in the United States, and Japan was not exempt. Against that background, Naito kept a low profile but still managed to find success. A Japanese politician, hoping to improve relations between the two countries, arranged for Naito to compete at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Katsutoshi Naito, left, a star wrestler at Penn State who won Japan's first ever Olympics medal in wrestling, a bronze at the 1924 Paris Games. (JWF archives)

Naito followed up on his success at Penn State by winning the bronze medal in the freestyle 61kg class. It was Japan's first-ever medal in wrestling and only the third overall, following a pair of silvers won in tennis at the 1920 Antwerp Games.

Naito returned to Japan after the Olympics and tried to introduce wrestling into the country, but it could not compete with the home-grown sport of judo. Naito, who studied horticulture at Penn State, then left for Brazil, where a large Japanese immigrant population had developed. In addition to starting a horticulture business, Naito introduced judo to his new hosts.

It would not be until 1932 that the Japan Wrestling Federation was established. By then, Naito was all but forgotten, and no one associated with the sport knew his whereabouts.

That was the situation until Miyazawa decided it was time to find this "legendary hero." Driven by the spirit of a wrestling journalist, Miyazawa plunged wholeheartedly into finding this ancestor of Japanese wrestling. His efforts paid off and, through an exchange of letters, he confirmed that Naito was living in Brazil. Miyazawa then played an influential role in getting Naito and his wife to attend wrestling matches at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when the two met for the first time.

How proud Naito must have felt to see how wrestling had planted such firm roots in Japan, and how far it had come---enough to win a startling five gold medals.

Later, to properly chronicle Naito's tale, Miyazawa started his journalistic endeavors in earnest, and the story was first published in a leading Japanese magazine in October 1987. "I went to Brazil three times, and Penn State three times," he recalls. At Penn State, he was hosted by Hachiro Oishi, a long-time coach of the Nittany Lions.

In 1985, Miyazawa accompanied Tomiaki Fukuda, the current JWF president, and Kazuko Oshima, Japan's first female wrestler, to report on Oshima appearing in the first-ever international women's tournament in Clermond-Ferrand, France. Miyazawa stayed behind after the other two returned to Japan to visit sites of the 1924 Paris Olympics and get a sense of the path taken by Naito. Looking back, the 89-year-old Miyazawa recently revealed how well-versed he became in Naito's life, as he can still recall from memory, "July 14, that was the day that Naito won his bronze medal."

Miyazawa, center, poses in Brazil in February 1990 with Katsuhiro Naito, left, the oldest son of Katsutoshi Naito, and Tatsuo Oishi, older brother of former Penn State coach Hachiro Oishi and who was living in Sao Paulo. On the wall is the diploma Katsutoshi Naito received for winning the bronze medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics. (photo courtesy of Masayuki Miyazawa)

For the sake of posterity
Over a nearly quarter-century span, from after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to March 1990, Miyazawa served as editor of a monthly magazine published by the Japan federation, originally called Japan Amateur Wrestling, then later renamed Monthly Wrestling and now Olympic Wrestling. At that time, wrestling was a completely amateur sport relying on government funding, and money was in short supply. As such, it was an unpaid position for Miyazawa, and one he carried out in his spare time away from his fulltime job.

One JWF president used to plead with the press for coverage, even if it was negative news. But in reality, most members of the federation regarded media relations as frivolous. "Expending energy on public relations doesn't result in any gold medals," was a common refrain.

"I don't recall ever getting compensation for writing, editing, transportation or any other expenses," says Miyazawa, who also somehow found time to serve for a decade as manager of the wrestling team at his alma mater Takushoku University, after it had fallen to the third division of the regional league. In 2012, Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu (freestyle 66kg) became the first-ever Takushoku wrestler to win an Olympic gold.

In the early days of the magazine, there was no fax machine or email, and Miyazawa had to meet the printer at Shinjuku train station in Tokyo to hand over the texts. They would meet again to get him a copy of the galley proof, then yet again so he could convey corrections. All of this in the precious time between newspaper assignments. The fact that results of tournaments often were published three or four months later hardly detracts from his impressive dedication.

Why did he do it? For Miyazawa, it was about fulfilling the journalist's mission of preserving an accurate history for future generations, in a sport he loved.

One day, a federation official said to Miyazawa, "If someone wants to look up results, they can just come to the federation office. Shouldn't you include more stories?" But Miyazawa was having none of that. For him, it was more important to have a depository for results to be left for posterity. He had his supporters, including one high-ranking official who noted that it would be easy for people living in Tokyo to visit the office, but all but impossible for many others. "Many people have an interest in seeing the results," the official said. "For the wrestlers, to see their name in print, even if it’s only on one line, would serve as motivation."

Others would later praise Miyazawa's efforts, saying the details and results included in the magazine were invaluable in determining qualifications for awards or putting together histories.

Miyazawa also revolutionized how wrestling terms were used in Japan. Back then, "period" was referred to as "round", and instead of the weight class in kilograms, terms like "flyweight" were used. It is suspected that the use of such boxing terms had been decided by journalists covering contact sports. Miyazawa became determined to unify Japan with the rest of the world after attending an international tournament. "When I mentioned the 'flyweight class,' a European wrestler had no idea what I was talking about," he recalls.

As wrestling in Japan was imported from the United States, Miyazawa wondered if it also used the boxing terms. But asking former Kokushikan University coach and longtime JWF website contributor William May, who wrestled collegiately in Minnesota, the American said had never heard of such a thing. Without consulting anyone, Miyazawa immediately started using "period" and "xx kg" in the magazine, and nobody complained.

Miyazawa, left, poses with Japan's first female wrestler Kazuko Oshima, 3rd from right, and others following an exhibition match for women held in conjunction with the Super Champions Cup in Tokyo in 1985. (photo courtesy of Masayuki Miyazawa)​

Still in the running
While Miyazawa hopes to attend the Tokyo Olympics in some writing capacity, he has also applied to be a runner in the nationwide torch relay. If he is selected, he knows that his unique link to both Tokyo Games will lead to him being the subject of interviews, instead of the other way around.

Of more serious concern, though, is his current health. In the fall of last year, he had gallstone surgery, at which time he was found to have prostate cancer. As the cancer was not malignant, the doctor said that hormone injections could guarantee another of five to 10 years of life. As that would take him through the Tokyo Olympics, Miyazawa agreed to the treatment.

Recently, Miyazawa's condition has stabilized. In the olden days, the lifestyle of a reporter could be considered anything but healthy. Irregular working hours and late nights were the norm, as well as drinking until morning with colleagues. Smoking while typing out a story on deadline was a common site. While Miyazawa himself was not a smoker, his work left him with little time to exercise and he rarely thought about his diet.

At 62, five years after he had reached retirement age and was working for Nikkan Sports on a contract basis, he paid his own way to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was there that, seeing a photo of himself, he was shocked at how plump he had become. Thinking the problem might be more internal than a matter of diet, he underwent a physical exam upon returning to Japan, and was diagnosed with diabetes.

The doctor immediately recommended that Miyazawa see a specialist. Fortunately, his condition was not life-threatening, nor was he at a stage where amputation of a limb would be necessary. With medicine, a change to a healthy diet and the start of an exercise regimen, his condition vastly improved. Every day before going to work, he would go through a workout of walking in a pool. He managed to drop from 74kg to his current weight of 57kg, about the same as during his days as a wrestler at Takushoku.

Prior to his surgery last year, Miyazawa participated in an event hosted by the Daiichi Seimei Life Insurance women's athletics team, in which he ran two laps on a 400-meter track. He finished well behind the others. But as each leg of the Olympic torch relay will be 200 meters, it has given him confidence of being able to successfully complete the task.

One other obstacle could be getting credentials. When he covered the 1964 Olympics, criteria for getting a pass was very loose and he was very free to report on what he wanted. Nowadays with the IOC handling the process, it has become much more select.

Recently, an acquaintance took Miyazawa's quest a step further. "After covering the Tokyo Olympics for a second time, how about the [2024] Paris Olympics, which will mark 100 years after Naito won his bronze medal?"

"When the prostate cancer was discovered [last year], I was told the hormone treatment would give me another five or 10 years," Miyazawa replied. "I'd like to be around for that."

Japan Wrestling

Dosho Earns Shot at Olympic Repeat With Win in Japan Team Playoff

By Ken Marantz

TOKYO (March 8)—Having stuck it out through trying times since her triumph in Rio four years ago, Sara DOSHO (JPN) finally assured that she will be able to defend her Olympic crown at this summer's Tokyo Games.

Dosho edged world junior champion Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) 3-1 in a special playoff to fill the Olympic spot at 68kg that she herself secured for Japan by placing fifth at last year's World Championships in Nur-Sultan. Morikawa had forced the playoff by winning the All-Japan title last December, where she defeated Dosho 9-2 in the semifinals.

"I had a lot of injuries, but I was able to come back and be here today," Dosho said. "I want to be completely healthy for the Tokyo Olympics and wrestling at a high level. From the time I won in Rio, my aim was to win again in Tokyo. That has not changed. I'll do what I can to make that happen."

Meanwhile, Keisuke OTOGURO (JPN) will join younger brother Takuto on Japan's team at Tokyo 2020 after he chalked up a 5-2 victory over Mao OKUI (JPN) at freestyle 74kg in the other playoff held behind closed doors at the National Training Center in Tokyo. Okui had earned Japan's spot by finishing fifth at Nur-Sultan.

Dosho had been through a lot in recent years, most notably missing almost the entire 2018 season after suffering a shoulder injury at the Women's World Cup that required surgery and kept her from defending the world title she won in 2017.

While less dominant than before, Dosho managed to win the national tournaments that earned her a ticket to Nur-Sultan, but she lost in the quarterfinals to Tamyra MENSAH (USA) and the bronze-medal match to Anna SCHELL (GER).

Sara DOSHO (JPN) defeated Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) 3-1 and will represent Japan at the Olympic Games at 68kg. (Photo: ©JWF/Sachiko HOTAKA)

According to Japan federation criteria, any Japanese winning a medal in an Olympic weight in Nur-Sultan automatically filled the berth for Tokyo 2020. Fifth-place finishers could secure the spot by winning the ensuing All-Japan Championships, also referred to as the Emperor's Cup. A loss there set up a playoff with the Emperor's Cup champion for the Tokyo 2020 ticket.

Of the three fifth-place finishers, only Takuto Otoguro followed up with a victory at the Emperor's Cup. Dosho and Okui both went down to defeat, setting up the playoffs. 

The wrestle-offs were originally scheduled for Feb. 1, but were postponed when both Keisuke Otoguro and Dosho suffered injuries. 

Dosho, 25, said she injured her knee in January and did not restart full-fledged practice until mid-February, and she seemed to need every ounce of energy to hold off the 20-year-old Morikawa. 

There was little action in the first period, with Dosho scoring the lone point from the activity clock. Dosho padded her lead early in the second, countering a single-leg attempt by Morikawa and working around behind for 2. 

Sara DOSHO (JPN) gets coached by fellow Rio Olympic champions Eri TOSAKA (JPN) and Risako KAWAI (JPN) (Photo: ©JWF/Sachiko HOTAKA)

"My main weapon is my tackle, but in my head, I was hesitant to launch attacks," Dosho said. "The way the match went, it turned out to be a good thing.  I can't say it went as a I planned because I didn't get any tackles, but I worked in practice on putting pressure on the opponent and using counters, and that went well."

Morikawa, who is coached at Nippon Sports Science University by four-time Olympic champion Kaori ICHO and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Kenichi YUMOTO, kept up the attack, and it nearly paid off. She launched a driving double-leg tackle that forced Dosho backward, but was only able to gain a 1-point stepout for the effort.

"If I moved in the first period like I did in the second, it might have changed the flow of the match," Morikawa said. "At first, I thought I could get her to use up her energy, but she ties up well and she's strong. I kept attacking, but my opponent's defense was stiff, and I couldn't finish it off. It's good to keep attacking, but if you don't get points, you won't do well overseas or in Japan."

Before her surprisingly one-sided loss at the Emperor's Cup, Dosho had faced Morikawa three times—all while Morikawa was still a high schooler—and won all three by technical falls. It was certainly a much-improved and matured version with whom she now had to contend.

"Up until recently, I would beat her by technical falls," Dosho said. "But she really got strong and made it a tough match."

As precautionary measures against the new coronavirus, only Japan federation officials and accompanying team personnel were allowed into the NTC wrestling room where the playoffs were held. Even family members were barred. The media had to watch a livestream of the matches via Twitter or Instagram in the pressroom of the nearby soccer stadium. The wrestlers were later brought in one by one for interviews.

Given the limitations, it was interesting to note that all four women's Olympic champions from Rio were involved in the playoff. In Dosho's corner were 48kg gold medalist Eri TOSAKA (JPN) and 63kg winner Risako KAWAI (JPN), who has qualified for Tokyo 2020 at 57kg by winning the world title. On the opposite side of the mat, Icho, the Rio gold medalist at 58kg, was supporting Morikawa. 

Dosho, Tosaka and Kawai all have a connection as products of powerhouse Shigakkan University. Dosho said Tosaka's advice before the match was simple: "Have confidence, and don't let your opponent dictate the pace of the match."

Of the four Rio champions, only Kawai and Dosho will be able to attempt a golden repeat. Tosaka failed to make it to the qualifiers at 50kg, while Icho lost out to Kawai, who set up a clash of Olympic champions by moving down to 57kg.

"I feel I can finally relax," Dosho said. "I lost at the World Championships, then I lost at the Emperor's Cup. This would have been the end. I staked everything on this and came into today looking at it as a challenge."

Keisuke OTOGURO (JPN) celebrates after beating Mao OKUI (JPN), 5-2, in a special 74kg Olympic wrestle-off. (Photo: ©JWF/Sachiko HOTAKA)

Otoguro Makes Tokyo 2020 a Family Affair
Although the older of the two, Keisuke Otoguro has had to yield the spotlight to brother Takuto, who in 2018 became at 19 Japan's youngest-ever world freestyle champion by winning the 65kg title. Keisuke was also at those World Championships in Budapest, but was ousted in the first round at 70kg. 

On Sunday, it was Keisuke's turn to shine, and he did it with help from his family—in this case, his father. While dad was not allowed to watch the match in person, he met with Otoguro before it and offered some advice that would pay off.

As with the women's match to follow, the clash between Otoguro and Okui—who are teammates at the Self-Defense Forces Training School—featured little action in the first period as both remained tentative, and the only scoring was an activity clock point awarded to Otoguro. 

Okui, who was hampered by a severe knee injury suffered a month ago, went on the attack in the second period. But he was halted on a fireman's carry attempt, and Otoguro was able to spin behind for a takedown.

From the ground position, Otoguro recalled his father's words and, while pinning one of Okui's leg behind him, gained an arm and body lock that allowed him to lever him over for an eventual roll and a 5-0 lead. 

"I thought I could turn him," Otoguro said. "Before the match, I met my father, who wasn't allowed into the match, at the entrance. He said to me that I would probably be able to use that move. Even though he just kind of mentioned it off hand, that was in my head as I fought. I got in that position and I was able to turn him. 

"I might have used a different move and it might have changed the outcome of the match. I'm glad we had that chat."

Keisuke OTOGURO (JPN) stops a Mao OKUI (JPN) shot in the 74kg special wrestle-off. (Photo: ©JWF/Sachiko HOTAKA)

Okui closed the gap with a single-leg takedown in the final minute, but Otoguro held off later attempts to clinch the win.

The Otoguros will become the first brothers to compete at the same Olympics for Japan since Yumoto and his twin brother Shinichi made the squad for the 2012 London Olympics. Shinichi joined Kenichi as an Olympic medalist at those Games with a bronze at 55kg. Japan will also have a female sibling combination at Tokyo 2020 with Risako and Yukako Kawai.

"Since we were young, we've had a dream of winning the Olympics together," Otoguro said. "At this New Year's, we were reaffirmed our determination to go to the Olympics together, and next, that we will both win gold medals."

Otoguro, who had won national titles at 61kg in 2015 and 70kg in 2017, purposely moved up to 74kg last year in a bid to make the Olympics. It didn't go so well at first. In the second qualifying tournament for the 2019 World Championships, the All-Japan Invitational Championships (Meiji Cup), he lost in the first round. The unheralded Okui won that tournament and earned the ticket to Nur-Sultan, then pulled a surprise by making it to the semifinals and clinching the Olympic spot.

But Otoguro was not discouraged, and came back the following December to win the Emperor's Cup and set up the playoff with Okui.

"A year ago at this time, I didn't get the qualification at the Meiji Cup," Otoguro said. "I stayed calm, and I set my target to meet the standard at the Emperor's Cup. It worked out, and then I could go for the Tokyo Olympics."

Otoguro said it was awkward preparing for the big match in the same wrestling room as his opponent, even though the two had their own training regimens.

"We practice in the same place and our [dormitory] rooms are next to each other, so it made it difficult," Otoguro said. "But we were able to stay separate and keep our focus, as you need to do when everything is on the line. The coaches allowed us to put together a training schedule that best fits us. We prepared separately for this match in our own way."

Okui suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury that will likely require surgery, but said that was not the cause of his defeat. "I decided that I would wrestle, and I don't want to use that as an excuse," he said. "I thought I had to win however I can, but midway through, I panicked a bit and that led to this result. If I had stayed calmer..."

For his part, he wishes Otoguro well at the Olympics. "I want Keisuke to win the gold medal for us," he said.

Talking about calm, Otoguro said he is not the type to feel pressure and was quite relaxed before the match; Takuto, he said, was "more nervous that me" and was the one who couldn't sleep until 2 a.m. 

"I suppose there was a lot of pressure, but I'm the type that doesn't feel it," Keisuke said. "When I woke up this morning, I felt, 'I have a match today, don't I?' After I arrived here, while I was warming up, I felt, 'Yeah, I have a match.'  I wasn't feeling nervous."

Otoguro, however, said he started feeling nerves about 10 days ago, mostly because of all the attention he was receiving from those around him. He said it darkened the mood.

"Ten days ago, everyone was saying, 'good luck' and 'we're counting on you,'" Otoguro said. "It subconsciously put pressure on me. At one point, I lost my desire. I was like, who cares about wrestling? But I took some time off, and remembered all I had accomplished since I was little. The hunger came back."