Meet the team: Japan’s recurve women

The Japanese women’s recurve team finished second in Antalya, the second stage of the 2017 Hyundai Archery World Cup, two years removed from a sensational win over Korea in the final of the very same stage.

A tricky 2016 saw them drop down the world rankings, but with the return of talismanic anchor Ren Hayakawa, who had an injury, the form Japan needs to challenge the world’s best is starting to re-emerge. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics now on the (far) horizon, the Japanese squad is gearing up to face increasing scrutiny over the coming seasons.

We spoke to the whole squad: Ren Hayakawa, Kaori Kawanaka, Tomomi Sugimoto, and outdoor debutante Miki Nakamura.

What do you like about Antalya?

Ren: “I always love Turkey. The wind is good, the sea is beautiful, there are many good looking guys and beautiful women. I can just enjoy watching people.” 

Tomomi: “People in Antalya are kind to Japanese and it looks like this place is very comfortable to live.” 

Miki: “The people are kind, and it’s very relaxing.” 

You returned to action in Shanghai, but the team had a bad match in the second round. What have you been working on since then?

Miki: “Since it was my first World Cup, I was very nervous in Shanghai, but after I came back to Japan, I talked with our coach and practiced being calmer.”

Ren: “It was the first international competition with this team, so I talked with the coach after Shanghai about what would work better and discussed how things will improve.” 

Kaori: “After Shanghai, I readjusted my shooting form which was not so good out there, and I’m trying to have the image of competition when I’m in practice.”

What order do you shoot in and why? 

Coach Yoon Hyesun: “Tomomi, Miki, Ren. We tried several patterns of shooting two arrows or one arrow each in Shanghai and in our practice sessions, and from those experiences I talked with the archers and we thought shooting one arrow each was good, so we came up with this pattern.”

Tell us where you train. Who is furthest from home? 

Coach Yoon: “We train in Toyko, but Ren is the furthest archer away, who lives in Sasebo, Kaori and Tomomi in Osaka, and Miki in Kanagawa.” 

What’s a full training regime like? How many arrows are you shooting per week? 

Tomomi: “1800 per week.”

Miki: “Maximum 1400 per week”.

Kaori: “1800 per week”.

Ren: “I don’t have a script, I do as many as I feel is good”. [much laughter]

Who’s the team leader? Why? What do you have to do? 

Coach Yoon: “We don’t have an official leader but since Ren is the eldest in the team, she is kind of the leader.” [Ren gives quizzical look]

What does the Japanese team do differently? 

Ren: “Aim to be polite, and never give up’”

Tomomi: “Never give up and fight with spirit.”

Miki: “Always smile and… Japaneseness.” 

Kaori: “Never give up until the last moment!” 

What keeps you awake at night?

[After some discussion] Coach Yoon: “We’re always sleeping well, with no worries.” [much laughter]

What’s your biggest weakness? 

Ren: “I act rashly and I’m short-tempered.” 

Tomomi: “I’m easily swayed.” 

Miki: “This might be hard to see, but I’m always nervous.” 

Kaori: “I’m weak in many things.” 

What's the worst shot you’ve ever made? 

Tomomi: “I always forget things that aren’t good, so I don’t know.” 

Miki: “Too many. I’m always regretting them.” 

Kaori: “I also forget things that aren’t good, so I guess I’ve forgotten.” 

Ren: “I’m always lucky in the shoot-offs, so I can’t think of any.” 

What advice would you give to your 14 year-old self?

Kaori: “Study English!”

Tomomi: “Study harder!”

Miki: “Try to enjoy archery – its very important.” 

Ren: “Try to spend your time being full of joy.” 

What’s the best thing about Japan? 

Kaori: “The nature is very beautiful.” 

Miki: “The spirit of hospitality.” 

Ren: “The cities are beautiful, and the people are kind.” 

Tell us something about your teammates: 

Kaori: “They are full of energy, with good cheer.” [much laughter]

Miki: “They’re all brilliant people.” 

Tomomi: “They’re always reliable and fun to be with.” 

Ren: “They saved my life, they always help me and support me.”

Translation courtesy Yuko Okura.

The second stage of the 2017 Hyundai Archery World Cup runs 6 to 11 June in Antalya, Turkey.