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Who Will Be The Japanese Champion?

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The letter U!nfortunately for Japanese Magic players, last week’s Pro Tour Amsterdam was yet another chapter in what has become a constant- Japanese players coming in second at the Pro Tour. Yet, just a year ago, a Japanese player on the Sunday stage was the exception, not the rule. Now that Japanese players have proven that they’re on par with the rest of the world by consistently making Top 8’s since Pro Tour Venice, the only accomplishment left is for a Japanese player to bring a Pro Tour Championship trophy home. It’s certainly inevitable, it’s just a question of who and when. I decided to get a head start, and asked some of the top pros who they think will be the first Japanese player to win a Pro Tour.

Translation by Ron Foster

Satoshi Nakamura - “Winning a Pro Tour or even making the Top 8 comes down to skill and luck. Obviously, recent months have shown that many, many Japanese players have the skill, they have the talent. Now, it’s just a matter of ‘Whose turn is it going to be? Who does lady luck smile upon at that event?’ So, that makes it a difficult choice, but I’d guess Akira Asahara. He’s been playing a lot and posting very good results in Japanese events, and he’s played on the Pro Tour. He’s got the skill, he just needs the luck.”

Kazaya Hirabayashi - “Right now there’s a problem with motivation among many of the top Japanese players. Their teammates or friends they usually play with are getting jobs, or not really concentrating on the Pro Tour. This year, lots of players are taking college entrance exams, and most of the people Jin Okamoto usually plays with are getting ready to graduate from college, and they’re occupied with job hunting. So, it’s difficult for them to practice, to get together with people and think about strategy or the metagame. So, I think it’ll be Masahiko Morita or Tsuyoshi Fujita, because they’re still in an environment with people who still think about Magic and play the game a lot. They have the motivation to go to the Pro Tour and keep trying to win.”

Masashiro Kuroda - “Tsuyoshi Fujita. Given his current environment, and the people he’s working with, you couldn’t ask for a better position. He’s working with lots of people who play Magic seriously, and who are networking with people outside of Japan- American Pros and European Pros like Bob Maher and Tomi Walamies. They’re going beyond Japan to get ideas and communicate about the metagame.”

Katsuhiro Mori - “Itaru Ishida, because he’s the one who has posted the most consistent results over a long period of time.”

Jin Okamoto - “The only good Japanese player who hasn’t made a Top 8 yet is Itaru Ishida, so it’s his turn next. To win. He’s got the skill and the talent, so the rest is all timing. All the other big Japanese players, myself included have had our shot, so it’s about time for Itaru to get his chance.”

Osamu Fujita - “Thinking about the people currently on the Pro Tour and the people I’d like to see win, I’d have to say Itaru Ishida. It’s only a matter of time because Ishida has been on the Pro Tour since it began. He was in the first or second one, and he’s been on the Tour ever since and continuously posts good results. He usually makes day two, and there was his streak with the Masters. He has the skill, it’s just a matter of time.”

Itaru Ihsida - “I don’t think it’ll be me. I’m used to making Top 32, and I’m happy with that. I’m not even worried about trying to win anymore. I don’t think it’ll be someone people know. It’ll be some guy who just bursts out on the scene and goes all the way. It could be Kobe, it could be San Diego, it could be next year, or it could be ten years from now.”

Masashi Oiso - (all his friends shout, “You! You!”) “Ahh no, not me! (laughs) It’s a hard question to answer, because there are so many people I can think of. I’ll say myself, because it comes down to practice and environment. I practice a lot and I’m surrounded by a lot of people who play Magic, so I’m able to test decks and exchange ideas about the metagame. That’s an advantage I have over other players.”

Tsuyoshi Fujita - “I will be the first Japanese player to win a Pro Tour, because I want to.”

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