Introducing the University of Tokyo's elite sports clubs and outstanding athletes
There are many students at the University of Tokyo who epitomize the image of a "lean Socrates," excelling in both their studies and sporting activities. Although it may not be widely known, the University boasts strong teams that are capable of aiming to be the best in Japan, current students who participate in world championships representing their country, and alumni who have gone on to global greatness as professional athletes...
In this section we introduce the clubs, current students and alumni of the University of Tokyo that deserve greater attention and their time in the spotlight beyond the walls of the University.
Alumni Athletes in the Spotlight
Professional Football Player
Shingo Kukita, 2011 Graduate of the Faculty of Engineering,
© 2004 F.O.S.C
A professional football player realizes his dream inspired by an entrance ceremony greeting.
Shingo Kukita is the first graduate of the University of Tokyo to enter the Japan Professional Football League. He decided to pursue a career as a professional player after hearing the welcome address at the university entrance ceremony.
"I did not have a clearly set goal to become a professional player when choosing a university. Rather, I decided to pursue higher education at the University of Tokyo because it is an academic institution that offers a range of paths for development. Cramming for the entrance examinations was extremely hard, but it only strengthened my desire to play football. Then, at the entrance ceremony I heard the words of Professor Satoshi Fukushima of the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology: 'The true value of the challenge is to try something that no one else has done before.' That is when I made up my mind."
In his days in the University of Tokyo Association Football Club, Kukita was a "stoic" type who "quietly did what he had to do." In his fourth year, after becoming captain of the football team, Kukita became more aware of the necessity to voice his opinions more actively. In addition to his work on the football field, together with his teammates he engaged in outside activities that would benefit the team as an organization, reinforcing the solidarity of the football club. Asked about his characteristics as a player, Kukita does not hesitate: "Scoring. And a daredevil attitude when chasing after the goal." So how does the striker perceive the world, in which he has realized his dream? "It is an inspiring and gratifying place, with many people who support me. On the other hand, however, it is a world where results are everything. The weight of the pressure to perform is like nothing I have experienced before. Anyone can keep going when things are fun and going well.The real challenge is to keep going when things get tough."
What is next on his list of "things no one has ever tried before"? To contribute to the team by scoring as many goals as possible, and help Fagiano Okayama make it to J1, the top division of the Japan Professional Football League.
Professional Racing Cyclist
Ryota Nishizono, 2011 Graduate of the Faculty of Engineering
Champion System Pro Cycling Team
Education Helps a Bike Pro Take over the World
After conquering the pinnacle of student road cycling, today Ryota Nishizono competes all over the world as a professional racing cyclist. Looking back at his student days, he says he spent them searching for challenges he could accomplish in the environment provided by the University of Tokyo. "The center of the city with its heavy traffic is not suited for bicycle practice. In order to keep up with racers from other universities that exceeded us in terms of practice time or traffic conditions, I engaged in full-fledged indoor training and used every spare minute between classes to work out at the Gotenshita Gymnasium. I did my best."
According to Nishizono, the strength of the University of Tokyo Bicycle Racing Team comes from the ability to gain insight into the essence of the sport and engage in diligent and consistent training to master it by the shortest possible route. On the other hand, however, he also offers the following analysis. "The independent spirit of the individual team members was so strong that we often clashed and could not come together as a team until the last minute. Still, we believed that the ideas born through such an experience would produce the best results in the end."
One thing he realized after embarking on the path of a professional racing cyclist was that muscle strength was not the only important factor. Nishizono had to face a variety of challenges to his all-round abilities: dealing with time differences and changes in climate, responding adequately to the cultural specifics of each country where he competed, negotiating in foreign languages, etc. Nishizono feels that he makes a greater use of his university education today than he did in his student days. "There is no change in my approach of considering the essence of things in a flexible manner and taking care to avoid misunderstanding. I feel that I still have room for growth and improvement, so my greatest objective is to realize my full potential as an athlete. In the future, I aim to compete on an even larger stage, for an even greater team." According to Nishizono, he intends to avoid complacency, continuing to develop and improve constantly until the cyclists' supposed peak potential at 30 years of age. We will watch closely where this development will take him.
Sho Matsumoto, 2008 Graduate of the Faculty of Law
Nichizei Business Service
"Citizen Runner" Trains Successors for Hakone Ekiden
As a high-school student, Sho Matsumoto used to compete in long-distance relays. After enrolling in the University of Tokyo, he made the team of the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto for the 81st Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race (Hakone Ekiden), and garnered much attention as the first University of Tokyo student to compete in the event in 21 years.
"I ran the 8th stage of the race, a distance of 21.5km. Usually, I set a rhythm listening to the sound of my own feet, but in Hakone the cheer of the supporters along the race course was so loud that I could not hear a thing. It was a light and liberating feeling, almost as if I was flying." The race proceeded smoothly for Matsumoto, but after the 15-kilometer mark, at the slope of Yugyo-ji Temple, his speed dropped drastically. Eventually, dragging his leg, he managed to pass the tasuki (relay ribbon) to the next runner. The reason was pain in the inner calf muscles of his left leg. Matsumoto had trained harder than usual to prepare for the race, and, as a result, he suffered a leg injury. The injury lingered, and he graduated unable to resume his sporting activities. After graduation, Matsumoto joined a corporate sports team but left it three years later. Today he runs with a local team while working as a regular company employee. The path he chose, however, revived his running career.
"As I practiced less, I suffered fewer injuries, and my performance improved. At the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon held in February in my native Miyazaki, I received more support and encouragement than any other of the competing runners and recorded a new personal best of 2:13:38. Thanks to my performance there, I started receiving invitations to compete in events overseas."
Today, Matsumoto has become a star runner, following in the steps of Yuki Kawauchi, the prominent Japanese marathon runner, with whom Matsumoto often keeps in touch. He has yet another face - that of a long-distance running coach of the University of Tokyo Track & Field Club. Training with a top-class runner boosts the running ability of students. According to Coach Matsumoto, "there are some very promising young athletes in the club, so we are hopeful they will make the team of the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto." Will any of them become the second University of Tokyo runner after Sho Matsumoto to compete in the Hakone Ekiden?
The University of Tokyo President's Award
The University of Tokyo President's Award for Students was established in 2002 and is presented to individuals or student organizations with outstanding academic or extracurricular achievements. One of the award's characteristics is that it rewards not only research activities, but also sports achievements. This article puts the spotlight on President's Award winners from the sports world, who exemplify the principle for pursuit of excellence both in academics and in sports, and who have continued their activities in a broad range of fields even after graduation.
Athletic Foundation of the University of Tokyo : Winner of the 51st Seven Universities Athletic Meet.
Iwao Ando : Successfully completed a 20,000km trip by bicycle across the Eurasian continent.
Ryota Nishizono : Won the Japan Students Cycling Championship and the Inter-College Cycling Championship.
"One of the winners at the awarding ceremony had crossed the Eurasian continent by bicycle, and I remember the President commenting that not everyone who rode a bike could receive the award. His words caused laughter among the audience. After meeting the other winner, I realized with relief that I was not the only student who passionately pursued activities quite distant from the ordinary campus life. Pedaling to exhaustion between classes and riding a bike for more than 100km on the weekend are solitary activities removed from the typical student's life. The sense of solidarity I experienced after meeting Iwao Ando has inspired and encouraged me in my activities ever since."
Ryota Nishizono, Professional Racing Cyclist
2011 Graduate of the Faculty of Engineering
Champion System Pro Cycling Team
Faculty of Medicine Tetsumon Alpine Club : Maintained a summer clinic for 50 years at Karasawa, Mt. Hotaka in the northern Japan Alps.
Sayaka Fujiwara and Ryuji Hiramatsu : Contributed to the activities of Japanese athletes at the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games in Beijing as members of the Team Japan Committee.
Rowing Club : Won the title for the University of Tokyo in coxed pairs for men in the Japan Rowing Championships for the first time in 11 years.
Takahiko Moteki :Competed in the Junior World Orienteering Championships.
Undokai Bodybuilding and Weight Lifting Club : Team championship winner in the Kanto Student Championships, individual championship winners in the All Japan Intercollegiate Championships, etc.
Petr Matous : Captain of the Sumo Club, competed in the Sumo World Championships as a representative of his home country.
Men's Lacrosse Club (Blue Bullets) : Won the 2005 Kanto Student Lacrosse Championships and the All Japan Intercollegiate Championships.
Yacht Racing Team : Competed in the 2005 J/24 World Championship.
Sho Matsumoto : The first University of Tokyo athlete in 21 years to compete in the Hakone Ekiden. "Back then, I thought it was sheer arrogance to receive this award with such a result. I was still a first-year student and intended to aim higher and higher in the future. Today, however, I am glad that I did not decline the award. (Smiles) The ginkgo leaf carving is one of my most treasured possessions."
Sho Matsumoto, Long-Distance Runner
2008 Graduate of the Faculty of Law
Nichizei Business Service
Rowing Club : Vice-champions in the 2004 Japan Rowing Championships among other outstanding achievements.
U-ki Arai : Backcountry skier who successfully skied for the first time on slip-off slopes outside ski area boundaries (the north wall of Mt. Kashimayari, the east wall of Mt. Nipesotsu in Hokkaido).
Shorinji Kempo Club : Won the 2003 Kanto Student Championships among other outstanding achievements.
Hideki Tanzawa : Finished second as a pilot in the Open European Cycling Championships for People with Disabilities and earned the right to participate in the 2004 Summer Paralympics held in Athens.
Ouen-bu (Supporters' Club) : Engaged in earnest and relentless activities to support the University of Tokyo athletes competing in various sports.
Atsushi Yamada : Became the youngest person in the world to conquer the seven highest peaks.