Judo returned home for the first time since last year’s Olympic Games for the prestigious Tokyo Grand Slam.
A sold out local crowd came to cheer on their judo heroes and Japan dominated the day’s competition.
The under 57kg category featured an all-Japanese final, featuring world silver medalist Haruka Funakubo, against former world champion Tsukasa Yoshida.
A brilliantly executed turnover saw Funakubo hold back Yoshida to reclaim his claim as the new number one in Japan.
Her Imperial Highness Princess Tomohito of Mikasa awarded the medals
The under 73kg category saw another all-Japanese final with another former world champion, Soichi Hashimoto, defeating up-and-coming Hayato Koga after an epic contest that went to the gold mark.
Soichi said he could feel the support from the audience. “Yes, I was able to do my tai-otoshi, and I thought it was perfect timing and technique. I could feel the crowd here and the spectators at home cheering me on,” said Soichi.
The Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office of Hungary, His Excellency Dr. Gergely Gulyás, awarded the medals
The under 63kg category featured yet another Japan vs. Japan final, where four-time world medalist Miku Takaichi defeated young Seiko Watanabe in a tactical battle.
He received his medal from Mr. Marius Vizer, IJF President.
The home team’s dominance continued as Japan’s fourth final was held in the under 81kg class, with current Olympic champion Takanori Nagase looking to cement his place as number one against compatriot Kenya Kohara, but Kohara had other ideas.
A skillful sacrifice technique saw the underdog defeat the Olympic champion. Kohara was elated.
Mr. Ernö Schaller-Baross, Member of the European Parliament, awarded the medals.
In the under 70kg class, the international judoka broke through the Japanese rankings for the first time at this Grand Slam, with Australian Aoife Coughlan having the day of her life.
In the final, she met Japan’s world medalist Niizoe Saki who ended Coughlan’s winning streak with a fantastic shot. The 5th gold for Japan.
Saki said the strength of the crowd helped her. “I felt the crowd cheering me on and cheering me on, I could feel the support from everyone not only from the venue but from people watching at home – and that really helped me make my judo.”
EC IJF member and AJJF president, Yasuhiro Yamashita, was on hand to award the gold medal
Another in-form international judoka was Olympic silver medalist Eduard Trippel who earned himself a spot to fight Japan’s Kosuke Mashiyama for the under 90kg title.
However, by completing the full set on day one, Mashiyama ensured that Japan took all six golds, an incredible feat.
Mr. Haruki Uemura, member of the IJF European Commission and president of the Kodokan, presented the medals.
Young judokas from Tokyo had the opportunity during the event to perform a traditional Kata, known as Nage-no-kata, in front of the enthusiastic crowd, a fantastic opportunity for these judo enthusiasts!
The next generation of judoka gains invaluable experience on the big stage, proving that judo is alive and well in the birthplace of judo.