All Japan Championships – Ken-ichi, ni, san, roku

Kenichi Tago’s sixth straight men’s singles title at the All Japan Championships was actually the first of three for Kenichis on Sunday as Kenichi Hayakawa topped the podium in mixed […]

Kenichi Tago’s sixth straight men’s singles title at the All Japan Championships was actually the first of three for Kenichis on Sunday as Kenichi Hayakawa topped the podium in mixed and men’s doubles

Story and photos by Miyuki Komiya (live in Tokyo)

The 67th All Japan Championships, which were held in Tokyo’s Yoyogi 2nd Gymnasium from Dec 3-8, had the island nation’s players all a bit nervous as this is the annual selection tournament for 2014 team members.

New men’s singles record for Tago

Japan’s rising star Kento Momota , China Open semi-finalist this year and World Junior Champion in 2012, won a close quarter-final against Kazumasa Sakai 17-21, 24-22, 21-15; however, world #4 Kenichi Tago (pictured) was still able to beat Momota easily 21-18, 21-12 to reach the final.

On the other side of the draw, another new young player posted his own good result.  Current national high school champion Kanta Tsuneyama reached the quarter-final after beating current national team member Akira Koga.  But Takuma Ueda beat Tsuneyama in quarter-final 21-18, 21-10 before getting past former world #6 Sho Sasaki in the semi-final for his first appearance in the final.

In the final, Ueda played aggressively from the start, but sent a few of his smashes out at the sides.  Tago played his usual quality game and got the first easily.

The second game was also at Tago’s pace but after the break, Ueda had become accustomed to the shuttles and tried to catch up to Tago with 5 consecutive points, but it was too late as Tago won a record 6th consecutive title, extending a streak that began in 2008.

“My company NTT had to win in this tournament.  I beat my team-mate Momota yesterday so I thought I had to win in the final as an NTT member.  My aim is always to title in international tournaments, including the Superseries Finals next week.  My supporters expect me to get it, and I too am counting on it,” Tago said with a grin after the match.

Ueda told Badzine, “Tago was very strong.  Moreover I didn’t play as usual until the middle of the second game because I was in nervous in my first final in this tournament.  I realized I have to control my emotions in any situation.”

Same men’s doubles final card for 3 years straight

The men’s doubles final has featured the same teams since 2011.  Noriyasu Hirata / Hirokatsu Hashimoto had won 3 consecutive titles, beginning in 2009.  Current world #4 Kenichi Hayakawa / Hiroyuki Endo (pictured) beat them for the title last year.

In the semi-finals, both favourites beat young hopefuls, one of which was 2012 World Junior Championship runners-up Inoue/Kaneko.  The final was close from start to finish but Hayakawa and Endo got the win in straight games.

“This hall is difficult to fit due to strong draft and it sometimes changes direction.  It makes me a bit nervous because sometimes a shuttle was coming back from out to in,” said Hashimoto after the match.

“We lost today, but we still managed to play our best,” added Hirata.

Endo said after the match, “I really appreciate the people who have supported us for a long time.  I want to participate in international tournaments with confidence.”

“We’ll play internationally as Japan’s top pair.  We don’t lose easily,” added Hayakawa.

Both pairs are already focussed on their next tournament, this week’s Superseries finals, where both they and Korea have two pairs qualified.

Mitani wins first title

Rising star Akane Yamaguchi , current World Junior Champion and the youngest Superseries title holder, beat Sayaka Takahashi in the quarter-final but experienced veteran Eriko Hirose beat Yamaguchi and reached the final, hoping to get her 6th title and duplicate Tago’s feat.

Meanwhile, Minatsu Mitani beat the defending champion Kaori Imabeppu in the semi-final and earned her own 3rd final appearance.  In the final showdown, Hirose controlled the shuttles and Mitani received patiently and kept moving fast to take the match.

Mitani said after the match, “This time is my 3rd final in this tournament.  Finally I was able to get this title.  I can participate in international tournament with confidence.”

3rd straight for Misaki and Ayaka

The women’s doubles competition saw the return of Mizuki Fujii, who was back on court after the knee injury last year in this tournament.

After training hard for the All Japan, she entered with Satoko Suetsuna, the other player who contributed her former partner to Japan’s new #2 pair.  This scratch pair lost Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi, but got one game from the world #4.

Matsutomo and Takahashi beat national team pair Miki/Yonemoto in the semi-final while Megumi Taruno / Misato Aratama beat world #12 Miyuki Maeda / Reika Kakiiwa with strong smashes as 21-17, 18-21, 22-20 and reach their first final, only to lose to the defending champions.

Misaki Matsutomo and Kenichi Hayakawa each added a second to their collection by beating Takeshi Kamura / Koharu Yonemoto in the mixed doubles final.

Final results
MS: Kenichi Tago beat Takuma Ueda 21-7, 21-17
MD: Kenichi Hayakawa / Hiroyuki Endo beat Noriyasu Hirata / Hirokatsu Hashimoto 24-22, 21-15
WS: Minatsu Mitani beat Eriko Hirose 21-12, 21-17
WD: Ayaka Takahashi / Misaki Matsutomo beat Megumi Taruno / Misato Aratama 21-19, 21-18
XD: Kenichi Hayakawa / Misaki Matsutomo beat Takeshi Kamura / Koharu Yonemoto 21-19, 21-23, 21-13

Click here for detailed results

Miyuki Komiya

About Miyuki Komiya

Miyuki Komiya is Badzine's correspondent in Japan. She joined the Badzine team in 2008 to provide coverage of the Japanese badminton scene. She has played badminton for more than 30 years and has been a witness to the modern history of Japanese badminton, both watching players become stronger on court and hearing the players comment on their increasing success over the years. Contact her at: miyuki @