Monday, July 21, 2014

Otona no Taimu Toraiaru - Time Trials for Grown Ups

by Brett Larner


Japan is unique in having one of the most highly-developed elite running systems in the world, an enormous and growing population of amateur runners, and mass popularity among the general public in elite racing as a spectator sport.  But like anywhere else there is separation between those elite and amateur worlds, the university and corporate teams, out of sight except for their televised races and rarely interacting with the public.

A university-aged pacer in a blue and white Otona no Time Trial singlet leads amateur runners in an early heat.

One feature of the elite circuit is the time trial meet.  Time trial meets are day- or weekend-long series of long-distance track races finely graded by target time.  The largest of the them, Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series, had 45 heats of 5000 m in 14 hours in one edition last year, each heat with 30-40 runners ranging from serious amateurs in the early heats to Olympians and national champions in the latest, fastest heats.  The atmosphere at the most elite meets like the Golden Games in Nobeoka and Hokuren Distance Challenge is electric, different from a regular distance carnival or track meet with supporters and fans crowding the track from the fifth lane outward, music playing over loudspeakers and an MC calling out encouragement to the runners and working the crowds.

Another pacer calls out encouragement with one lap to go as Ekiden News staff work the finish area.

For three years the members of the Ekiden News website have been working tirelessly to bring time trial meets further into the public eye.  Dedicated fans trying to spread their love of all things Hakone, the Tokyo-based EN crew goes to every Nittai and other major time trials meets in the Tokyo area and travel the country going to GGN, and HDC and all the other big events, filming and documenting every heat with equal enthusiasm and respect, posting all the videos on Youtube and promoting them on Twitter and Facebook.  Last year they made the logical leap and started their own time trial meet, the Otona no Time Trial ("Time Trials for Grown Ups") at Oda Field in the heart of Tokyo's Shibuya fashion hub.  On July 20 the meet was held for the second time.

Yoshiki Kawauchi paces one runner while meet organizer Takeshi Nishimoto runs alongside giving encouragement.

The Otona no Time Trial meet is the brainchild of Ekiden News founder Takeshi Nishimoto, an effort to bring the excitement of Golden Games in Nobeoka and this elite racing experience to the average runner.  All the ingredients were there: fourteen heats of 5000 m graded by time plus 1500 m heats and a kids' 1000 m, professional timing and photography, lap counting, a sound system pumping tunes, spectators encouraged to stand on the track in lane five and cheer.

Naoko Takahashi, in pink, paces a group while giving them advice over the sound system.

And there were unique touches: individualized bibs with each entrant's first name from the 30 min+ runners in heat A to those trying to break 15 in heat N, pacing and personal encouragement in each heat from the likes of Olympic marathon gold medalist and former world record holder Naoko Takahashi, Yuki Kawauchi's middle brother Yoshiki Kawauchi, and university and corporate-league athletes brought in for the job wearing custom-made Otono no Time Trial singlets with "Follow Me" on the back, and small-scale sponsorship from New Balance, Asics, Descente, Zoff sunglasses and Red Bull to make it all possible.

Nishimoto interviewing on the run.

While the rest of the Ekiden News crew worked as photographers and in the finish area, throughout it all Nishimoto worked as MC, walking the track and infield as he called out encouragement to each runner by name and urging them on to beat time goals, told the crowd who was on PB pace and jumped in with his mic to conduct micro-interviews on the run with pacers and racers, all with the same energy and enthusiasm as if it were a "real" race.  The energy rubbed off, people from the early heats staying to watch the faster ones and the numbers on and around the track growing as curious onlookers from a nearby Brazil festival came in to watch.  Despite a sudden thunderstorm that delayed the final four heats the crowd was thick by the time of the final, fastest heat, and even though it was only won in 15:08 people were as excited and raucous as if they were watching a National Championships, energy they shared as much with the last-place finisher in the last heat as with its winner.

A pacer in an early heat guides one runner in to the finish as a race staff member directs those finishing and those with one lap to go to separate chutes.

Having experienced for themselves the excitement of what it's like to be an elite, there's no doubt that even the 6- and 7-minute kilometer hobby runners came away from the Otona no Time Trial with both increased interest in elite racing and renewed dedication to their own running.  In a place where almost all races are organized by government bodies and other cautious, slow-moving and slow-thinking committees, this was something truly innovative, an event put on with complete professionalism by fans outside the system to share the magic of the thing they love with others, a race by the people for the people but, critically, with an atmosphere of achievement regardless of ability one step beyond a simple "everyone's a winner."  Within that nuance lies the core of what Nishimoto and Ekiden News sought to communicate about elite running to participants, and in that respect the Otona no Time Trial was indeed a win for everyone.

text and photos (c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Imai Wins Second-Straight Shibetsu Half

by Brett Larner

Continuing a solid 2014 that saw him break 2:10 for the first time at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, course record holder Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) returned to successfully defend his title at Sunday's Shibetsu Half Marathon.  Running in sunny and humid conditions with temperatures around 30 degrees, Imai had no trouble dropping main competition Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) late in the race to take the win in 1:04:07, 43 seconds off his record last year but still the 4th-fastest winning time in Shibetsu's 28-year history.  Ogura, only 14th in 1:05:56 last year, held off Matsumiya for 2nd in 1:04:21, the veteran Matsumiya ten seconds back.  Japan-based since April, 2014 Incheon Asian Games marathon medal contender Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) was 6th in 1:04:57.

The women's field was split between the half marathon and 10 km divisions.  A regular in the 10 km in Shibetsu, Misato Horie (Team Noritz) moved up to the event's half this year with a win in 1:14:37.  13 seconds back, Yui Okada (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) outkicked Horie's teammate Kikuyo Tsuzaki by 1 second for 2nd in 1:14:50.  Team Daihatsu runners dominated the 10 km with three of the top five places, Mizuki Matsuda getting the win in 33:50.

More important than the relatively slow times was the focus on running in heat and humidity.  As part of its mission, the new marathon National Team program, of which Imai is part, records detailed physiological data on athletes' performances in heat in an attempt to identify those most likely to perform well in the conditions they will face in summer international championships marathons leading up to the big one, Tokyo 2020.   Summertime Tokyo can have extreme humidity and temps in the 30s, and if last year's Moscow World Championships, where the mid-afternoon start times brought the worst conditions for the competitors, prime-time broadcasts in Japan for major IAAF sponsor TBS, a medal in the women's marathon and nearly another in the men's, are any indication there will be no mercy for the rest of the world weather-wise at the Tokyo Olympics.  Don't act surprised if it's another sauna.  Until then Japan's best will be trained and studied to maximize every advantage to bring a medal on home soil.  Everyone else has six years to figure out how to cope.

28th Shibetsu Half Marathon and 10 km
Shibetsu, Hokkaido, 7/20/14

Men's Half Marathon
1. Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 1:04:07
2. Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:21
3. Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - 1:04:31
4. Takuji Morimoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:04:55
5. Yuma Morii (Team SGH Group Sagawa) - 1:04:56
6. Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) - 1:04:57
7. Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team Honda) - 1:05:22
8. Kohei Ogino (Team Fujitsu) - 1:05:26
9. Yu Chiba (Team Honda) - 1:05:37
10. Shoya Kurokawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:05:41

Women's Half Marathon
1. Misato Horie (Team Noritz) - 1:14:37
2. Yui Okada (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 1:14:50
3. Kikuyo Tsuzaki (Team Noritz) - 1:14:51
4. Ai Migita (Team Wacoal) - 1:14:58
5. Yuka Hakoyama (Team Wacoal) - 1:16:26

Women's 10 km
1. Mizuki Matsuda (Team Daihatsu) - 33:50
2. Ayumi Sakaida (Team Daihatsu) - 34:04
3. Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) - 34:14
4. Ayaka Inoue (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 34:28
5. Sayaka Murakami (Team Daihatsu) - 34:31

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, July 18, 2014

Yoshihide Kiryu Named Captain of Japanese Men's World Juniors Team

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/18/kiji/K20140718008583590.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A 9-second time would give Japan a jolt of momentum.  100 m sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu (18, Toyo Univ.) left Narita Airport for the World Junior Track and Field Championships starting July 22nd in Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A.  Based on his experience at last summer's World Track and Field Championships and other accomplishments, Kiryu was named captain of the Japanese men's team at World Juniors.  His first time playing such a big role, Kiryu was hopeful for the team's chances, saying, "I've never been captain before so I don't know how reliable I'll be, but I want everyone to have a great time racing." 

Kiryu has fully recovered from the pain in his right foot that was bothering him before last month's National Track and Field Championships and has set his sights on both Japan's first sub-10 clocking and the 100 m gold medal.  With the men's 100 m getting underway on the first day of competition Kiryu will be butting heads with 9.97 American Travyon Bromell right from go.  "I just want to enjoy competing," he said.  "I'd love to drop the time but either way I'm aiming for the top.  I want to bring the results and get into a good flow I can ride all the way."  Along with the 100 m, Kiryu is scheduled to run second on the 4x100 m relay team.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Omuta H.S. Second-Year Shota Onizuka Heads to World Juniors: "I Want to Test My Strength"

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nnp/f_chikugo/article/101635

translated by Brett Larner
photo by rikujolove

Omuta H.S. second-year Shota Onizuka, 16, is bound for Eugene, Oregon in the U.S.A. where he will compete in the July 22-27 World Junior Championships.  The meet features outstanding under-20 competitors from around the world including 43 from Japan selected from among the country's best high school and university athletes.

Onizuka is the first-ever Omuta H.S. student to be picked for the national team.  Last year he was Omuta's anchor in its runner-up finish at the National High School Ekiden Championships.  On the track he was also 2nd in a tight race at the National High School Championships, but the disappointment of losing by a margin of only one second served as motivation for his training and at a time trial meet this May he ran 13:58.43, the fastest time so far this year by a Japanese high schooler [above photo].

Onizuka leaves Japan on July 17 and will run the 5000 m at World Juniors along with Tokai University's Kazuto Kawabata.  "I want to bring the kind of running that will let me break my PB," Onizuka said of his goals for the Championships.  "I want to test my strength against foreign competition."  Omuta H.S. ekiden team head coach Ken Akaike gave Onizuka his encouragement, commenting, "He's part of the generation that is targeting the Tokyo Olympics.  I hope that he comes back with a feeling for the responsibility of wearing the Rising Sun and for the level of competition in the rest of the world and that it serves as a stimulus for his continued growth."

photo (c) 2014 M. Kawaguchi
all rights reserved

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Kaori and Shiori Morita, Twin Sisters Dreaming of 2020

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/local/kanagawa/news/20140714-OYTNT50555.html

translated by Brett Larner

Yokohama natives and graduates of the city's Eda H.S. where they made a major impact on the distance events at last year's National High School Track and Field Championships, 18-year-old identical twin sisters Kaori and Shiori Morita joined the Yokohama-residing Panasonic women's corporate team this spring with the shared dream of making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  While working office jobs in the same division at Panasonic, the pair are pouring their sweat and tears into their training, preparing themselves with a solid base.

The sisters began to run seriously their first year of junior high school and, both showing exceptional coordination and ability, together qualified for the 800 m and 1500 m at Nationals just a year later.  At home they studied running form by trying to copy what they saw in videos, devoting themselves more and more to the world of competition.

At Eda H.S. they were also part of the school track and field team.  Kaori suffered from lower back pain and often had to take leaves of absence from the team, but by quietly training in the pool she continued to develop and strengthen her cardiovascular system.  As a senior, she ran a Kanagawa prefecture high school 1500 m record 4:17.59 at last summer's National High School Championships.

Shiori has a reputation for mental toughness.  "She has her off days, but when it comes to races nobody can match her focus," says Kaori of her sister.  Alongside Kaori, Shiori ran last summer's National High School Championships as a senior, finishing 15th in the 3000 m final.

At last January's National Women's Ekiden, the twins were selected to run the Sixth and Seventh Stages.  Kaori was 2nd on her stage and Shiori 3rd on hers, both making major contributions to the Kanagawa prefecture team's overall 5th-place podium finish.  "Recently they've started to realize that when they do well together their happiness is multiplied many times over," said their mother Chiharu Morita, 49, taking pleasure in her daughters' growth.

Post-graduation the sisters chose to follow their fellow Eda H.S. graduate Mika Yoshikawa, a London Olympian at 5000 m and 10000 m, to the Panasonic women's corporate team.  Every day from the morning until 3:30 p.m. they work desk jobs, heading to a track in Kawasaki after work for practice.  "At first they were indistinguishable," smiled head coach Toshiaki Kurabayashi, 49, but, he said, "they're both honest people, and with good futures as local stars they're enjoying themselves."

In May the twins made their corporate league debuts at the East Japan Corporate Track and Field Championships.  In the 3000 m Kaori was 4th and Shiori 11th, while in the 1500 m Kaori took 5th and Shiori 7th.  Six years remain until their Olympic goal.  They haven't decided yet which event they will target, but, both said, "We want to develop into athletes people can cheer for."  "Having a familiar rival nearby will be a big driving force," Kaori continued.  "I want us to train and race together all the way there," added Shiori.  With each giving the other a steady push in the back, the twins hope to chase their dream together.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kawauchi's Asian Games Sendoff Party Cancelled After Death of Alma Mater Staff Member

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/14/kiji/K20140714008562000.html

translated by Brett Larner

Saitama's Kasukabe Higashi High School, alma mater of 2014 Incheon Asian Games marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't), planned to hold an Asian Games sendoff party for its most famous alumnus on July 14, but following the death of a school staff member on July 13 the party has been cancelled.  According to a school spokesperson, the decision to cancel the event was made in consideration of students' feelings.  The school administration has not yet decided whether the sendoff party will be rescheduled.

Kawauchi was a notable member of Kasukabe Higashi High School's track team before his graduation in 2005.  He currently works in Saitama as an administrative staff member at Kuki Part-Time High School, a special school for students seeking to finish their degrees while working.  Kawauchi is training for the Asian Games while working full-time at the school.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Weekend Track Roundup

by Brett Larner

Following up last week's Cork City Sports meet in Ireland that saw a sizeable group of mostly collegiate Japanese women in the 3000 m, Japanese men got started on their annual European track junket at meets in the Netherlands and Belgium.  2014 Waseda University graduate Suguru Osako (Team Nissin Shokuhin) was due to run the two mile at the Diamond League Glasgow meet, but with the cancellation of that distance he instead headed to the Netherlands' Runnersworld Track Meeting, where he ran 8:02.11 for 2nd in the 3000 m as a tuneup for next weekend's KBC Nacht meet in Belgium, where he and rival Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) will run 5000 m.

Also tuning up for the KBC Nacht was a large group of young corporate league runners and 2014 Asian Games track team member Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) in the 1500 m at Belgium's Guldensporenmeeting.  Led by former Japanese university 10000 m record holder Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), 2nd overall in 3:42.21, altogether six Japanese men broke 3:44, all in PBs, adding up to one of the best Japanese 1500 m races in recent memory.  The Japanese man with the fastest PB heading into the race, Ikuto Yufu (Team Fujitsu), made a good progress on his return from the injury that has bothered him since January's Hakone Ekiden, running 3:46.34 for 9th just ahead of on-the-men American star Chris Solinsky.  Women's two-time 1500 m national champion Ayako Jinnouchi (Team Kyudenko) was 9th in the women's 1500 m in 4:15.19, well off her best.

Back home in Japan, Yoroizaka's younger former teammates at Meiji University did well in their annual dual against Hosei University, sweeping the top four spots in the 1500 m.  Senior Kei Fumimoto won in a meet record and PB 3:47.01 well ahead of junior Shin Kimura, who likewise set a PB of 3:49.00.

63rd Cork City Sports
Cork, Ireland, 7/8/14
click here for complete results

Women's 3000 m
1. Marielle Hall (U.S.A.) - 8:54.48
2. Melissa Duncan (Australia) - 8:58.14
3. Fionnuala Britton (Ireland) - 9:01.01
4. Lauren Penney (U.S.A.) - 9:01.33
5. Helen Clitheroe (England) - 9:03.95
6. Yuika Mori (Team Yamada Denki) - 9:05.57
7. Maria McCambridge (Ireland) - 9:05.66
8. Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 9:09.54
9. Dominika Nowakowska (Poland) - 9:10.79
10. Sara Treacy (Ireland) - 9:12.35
-----
13. Mai Shoji (Chukyo Univ.) - 9:18.96
16. Sakurako Fukuuchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 9:24.55
17. Shiho Takechi (Team Yamada Denki) - 9:34.45
18. Mai Tsuda (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 9:41.26

Runnersworld Track Meeting
Utrecht, Netherlands, 7/11/14
click here for complete results

Men's 3000 m
1. Jesper van der Wielen (Netherlands) - 7:58.56
2. Suguru Osako (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 8:02.11
3. Mohamed Ali Mohamed (Netherlands) - 8:19.85
4. Jorit van Malsen (Netherlands) - 8:34.17
5. Wouter Dilling (Netherlands) - 8:43.69

17th Guldensporenmeeting
Kortrijk, Belgium, 7/12/14
click here for complete results

Men's 1500 m Heat 1
1. Mark Nouws (Netherlands) -3:42.01
2. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei) - 3:42.21
3. Kazuya Deguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 3:42.98
4. Daiki Hirose (Team Osaka Gas) - 3:43.23
5. Masato Kikuchi (Team Konica Minolta) - 3:43.52
6. Roy Van Eekelen (Netherlands) - 3:43.69
7. Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) - 3:43.85
8. Hans Kristian Floystad (Norway) - 3:44.54
9. Ikuto Yufu (Team Fujitsu) - 3:46.34
10. Chris Solinsky (U.S.A.) - 3:46.55
-----
12. Ryo Kiname (Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 3:47.33
13. Hideyuki Tanaka (Team Toyota) - 3:47.84
16. Aritaka Kajiwara (Team Press Kogyo) - 3:49.00
17. Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) - 3:49.28
19. Keita Shitara (Team Konica Minolta) - 3:54.69

Men's 1500 m Heat 2
1. Carsten Schlangen (Germany) - 3:38.85
2. Joe Stilin (U.S.A.) - 3:39.47
3. Conselius Kipruto (Kenya) - 3:40.07
4. Andy Bayer (U.S.A.) - 3:40.10
5. Peter Callahan (U.S.A.) - 340.58
-----
12. Toshihiro Kenmotsu (Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 3:43.23

Women's 1500 m
1. Gabe Grunewald (U.S.A.) - 4:07.70
2. Kokebe Tesfaye (Ethiopia) - 4:08.61
3. Basu Sado (Ethiopia) - 4:08.85
4. Kim Conley (U.S.A.) - 4:09.48
5. Katie Wright (New Zealand) - 4:13.47
-----
9. Ayako Jinnouchi (Team Kyudenko) - 4:15.19

64th Meiji University - Hosei University Dual Meet
Tokyo, 7/13/14
complete results coming shortly

Men's 1500 m
1. Kei Fumimoto (Meiji Univ.) - 3:47.01 - MR
2. Shin Kimura (Meiji Univ.) - 3:49.00
3. Kentaro Egashira (Meiji Univ.) - 3:52.73
4. Takumi Hosaka (Meiji Univ.) - 3:52.95

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"My Goal is to Make the National Team in the Marathon" - Kansai Region University Distance Star Kentaro Hirai

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/201407/0007125999.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

The biggest attraction in Kansai university athletics long distance these days is without a doubt Kyoto University junior Kentaro Hirai.  A graduate of Hotoku Gakuen H.S., Hirai won this spring's Kansai University Track and Field Championships 10000 m and finished 2nd in both the 5000 m and half marathon.  Running as Kyoto's best runner at last month's National University Ekiden Championships Kansai Region Qualifier, he finished 1st overall to lead Kyoto University to qualify for Nationals for the first time in 41 years, showing the strong and inspiring impact he is having on his teammates.  Hirai envisions a place for himself on a Japanese national team in the marathon.  We talked to this 21-year-old about his current situation and about his vision for the future.

You had a very strong first half of this season.

The Kansai Regionals meet lists people who score 20 or more points as individuals.  I scored 27.  At the National University Ekiden Qualifier we got a place and I personally opened a gap of 30 or 40 seconds to achieve my goal of the individual win.  At the National University Individual Track and Field Championships I met my target of a podium finish.  Everything I envisioned last winter came true.

You always run out front in Kansai Region races.

That's a natural result of having the mindset of aiming to win at the national level [against the power of Kanto Region university athletes].  People have this self-imposed restraint that "the level in Kansai is low" that makes their times slower and I want to change that.  We have to raise our game in Kansai.  I think the guys at [top Kansai universities] Ritsumeikan and Kyoto Sangyo are starting to think, "We're losing out to Kyoto University" and to respond to that.  If we can keep the wind blowing that way then we'll be able to get rid of this idea that Kansai is Kansai and Kanto is Kanto.

It's tough to frontrun, but doing that makes it feel easier and takes off the pressure when you follow people at the national level.  But if you follow someone, especially in Kansai these days, the pace slows down.  It becomes the kind of race where you just pick up [the pace] at the end.  It's more comfortable, so maybe it's inevitable.

What did you learn at Hotoku Gakuin H.S.?
 
My mother is the head of our family, and what I learned from Mr. [Seiji] Hirayama [at Hotoku] fit well with the way my mother brought me up and influenced how I live my life.  What springs to mind immediately is the importance of putting your mind into the task in front of you, how to conduct yourself so that the situation at hand can lead you to achieve your goals, whether at home or at school.

People tell me that I'm doing a good job of doubling as a scholar-athlete, but I've come not to think of it that way at all.  Ultimately, when it's time to study I study, and when it's time to run I run, that's it.  Another thing is that life mostly does not go the way you thought it was going to.  In high school I had a lot of injuries and failures, but Mr. Hirayama's words gave me encouragement.  The fact that things have being going well this spring is irregular whichever way you look at it, and I want to be as humble about it as I can.

With no head coach at Kyoto University, what does your practice schedule look like?

I'm the type of guy who will do 70 minutes when he's supposed to jog 60.  Because of that I was always injured [in high school], so now I try not to be too stubborn and set in my ways.  I'm just doing this by myself, so in a good way I can't overdo it, and part of me is just lazy and good at avoiding things I have to do.  I don't care too much about distance or pace but put more importance on things like how much perceived effort it took.  I constantly make little changes to my training schedule and get advice from coaches at other universities.  The people around me give me strength too.

What are your goals for the future?

My immediate goals are to win the First Stage at the National University Ekiden two years in a row and to be the top Japanese man in next year's National University Track and Field Championships 10000 m.  After I graduate my goal is to make the Japanese national team in the marathon.  I'm pretty sure I can be competitive in summertime championship races.  The winning times are usually fairly slow, and even the Kenyans and Ethiopians suffer in the heat and don't run that fast.  There's a time frame for it.  In terms of the Olympics, I think 2024 will be my best chance, but of course I'll be aiming for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics too.

Kentaro Hirai - born May 1, 1993 in Takarazuka, Hyogo.  Played on the soccer team while at Hobai J.H.S.  As a junior at Hotoku Gakuen H.S. he won the Hyogo Youth Championships 5000 m, and finished 4th on the First Stage at the Hyogo Prefecture High School Ekiden and 5th on the First Stage at the Kinki Region High School Ekiden.  As a senior he won the Third Stage at the same ekidens.  Currently studying in Kyoto University's Faculty of Agriculture, he finished 2nd in the 5000 m at this spring's National Individual Track and Field Championships, bringing him to the forefront at the national level.  He holds PBs of 14:00.92 for 5000 m and 28:57.20 for 10000 m.  170 cm, 55 kg.