"When I was a young judoka, I had several dreams: competing in the German Bundesliga, be a member of the German national team and to go to Japan, the motherland of Judo. I could fulfill all of these three dreams and was very happy. Regina, my wife, who was also part of this incredible journey, was more lucky because she had in Italy, with Tadashi Koike, a Japanese judo teacher and was with him in Japan several times.
Regina and I wanted to offer the chance to fulfil a judoka's dream, "doing judo in Japan," to other judoka from our judo club, the Polizeisportverein Königsbrunn. Over several trips, we have visited Kuji, Kanoya, Kashima, Urayasu and Tokyo. The idea is to give our judo people the possibility for a deeper and better understanding of Japan and the Japanese culture, while seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing and practising judo in Japan.
I believe that travelling is a huge part of education. I always remember what a famous German journalist, writer and poet, Kurt Tucholsky (1890 – 1935), said, "Will you recognise the narrow of your home, you have to travel.“
Our goal is really to show our group how Japanese people live and to open their mindset despite the cultural, educational, religious and life-style differences. It is a motivation for our students to keep learning judo and to become lifelong judoka. There are countless people in many judo clubs all over the world and sometimes they quit after a short time. Our idea behind saying that judo is more than a sport, is to give motivation and the chance for a wider understanding of what judo really is.
For this trip, which took place during the German Easter holiday, Regina and I were the heads of delegation, one composed of young judoka from green to brown belt. We had chosen to go to Kashima-Shi in Ibaraki-Ken because we are very close friends with Shigeru Kariya, president of Kashima Judo Club. He is the father of Chikara Kariya from the Kodokan. Regina met Kariya Sensei 16 years ago when she was in Japan with a German delegation on behalf of the German Ministry of Family, School and Education. We are in regular contact with Kariya Sensei and he came several times in Germany.
We also decided to go to Ryotokuji University in Urayasu, Chiba. We are good friends with Toshihiko Yamada. I met him in 2005 during an IJF self-defence seminar in the Dominican Republic. He is so friendly and organised a training session and international exchange with his judo group.
Last but not least, we also visited the Kodokan in Tokyo. Chikara Kariya advised us and we participated in the judo classes there. We added a bit of Japanese culture with visits to Ueno Park, Asakusa and some other nice spots. A special highlight for Regina and me was the personal invitation from Haruki Uemara, the Kodokan President and IJF EC member. He was interested in our common engagement as a 'judo couple' for development, peace and gender equality.
In Kashima were were accommodated by Japanese families. We had some official meetings with the Mayor of Kashima and the Vice Governor of Ibaraki-Ken, with the theme of ‘Judo is a key for international friendship and peace.’ We paid a visit to the police headquarters in Kashima and visited the famous Kashima shrine.
During our stay we had a really exciting visit to the Nozomi kindergarten as well. It was a very emotional moment. After the terrible tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, Regina and established a donation platform for our Japanese sister cities, Kuji (Iwate Ken) and Kashima (Ibaraki-Ken). We managed to collect quite some money with the support of our police sports club Königsbrunn, the police academy Königsbrunn and the city of Königsbrunn. We transferred some money to Shigeru Kariya and he gave our donation to Kashima Kindergarten Nozomi. This was why Nozomi Kindergarten gave us a touching welcome with German flags and an orchestra.
Our time in Urayasu with Yamada Sensei and his team was also a great experience. We had nice judo training together and one unforgettable judo family training day with children, young people, adults and special guests Ai Shishime, double world champion (2017 and 2021) and Yusuke Kanamaru, world silver medallist in 2001. The barbecue with all the judoka gave us the chance to talk and eat together while enjoying the moment.
In Tokyo, the training session at the Kodokan gathered together 250 judoka. The atmosphere was amazing.
International friendship is crucial for mutual understanding and peace. The programme helps to open our minds and gives us the chance to interact personally and not via online exchanges. It brings deep emotions and become a long lasting experience. To work it out through judo is amazing, necessary and successful.
We received only positive feedback from all the participants. Both parties, our judo students as well as our Japanese friends, families and officials were happy about this intensive and direct encounter. Despite the language barrier, the judoka communicated with hands and feet and some times they used language translation apps. It worked and we were happy to witness that. All our students said that they were surprised and they enjoyed the great hospitality and the friendliness of the Japanese people.
Regina and I are very grateful to all of our Japanese friends and supporters, who helped to realise this unique experience. We are convinced that our judo club members have learned a lot and we are sure that this unique experience will give them huge motivation for continuing in judo. Many thanks to the DSJ (Deutsche Sportjugend) inside the DOSB (German Olympic Sports Confederation) and the German Ministry for Family affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) for supporting this international youth exchange."