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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Japan Raises Record to 6-2 in the Volleyball Nations League

In Fukuoka, the Japan men's volleyball squad earned three wins in a five-day span, beating Iran, Germany and Slovenia but falling to world No 1 Poland.

Japan continued its strong play in the 2024 FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League on Saturday, June 8 with a 3-1 victory over Slovenia in Fukuoka.

Head coach Philippe Blain's squad, ranked fourth in the world, improved to 6-2 in the tournament with a poised performance in its 25-23, 19-25, 26-24, 25-21 decision over world No 6 Slovenia.

Rising star Yuji Nishida paced Japan with 26 points, including 20 kills at the West Japan General Exhibition Center. Dynamic outside hitter Ran Takahashi chipped in with 20 points, including 15 on the attack, and captain Yuki Ishikawa added 12 points. Nishida and Taishi Onodera shared the team lead in blocks (two).

Reflecting on Saturday's match, Ishikawa said there were positive and negative aspects to think about.

"I expected it to be a difficult match, but today my own play was poor and my teammates helped me out," Ishikawa was quoted as saying by Sports Nippon. "[As the captain], I still have a lot to improve on. So I want to improve myself further in the Philippines round, the final and the Olympics."

Japan's Masato Kai serves in the first set against Slovenia in the teams' FIVB Men's Volleyball Nations League match. (©SANKEI)

Japan's Success in the Men's Volleyball Nations League

In Kyushu, it's been a successful week for Japan against top-tier volleyball teams.

Against 17th-ranked Iran, Japan beat its Asian rival 25-23, 25-22, 25-17 on Tuesday, June 4.

A day later, Japan faced 10th-ranked Germany and showed determination and grit in a 25-22, 22-25, 25-27, 25-23, 15-8 victory. In the 2-hour, 26-minute, see-saw clash, Ishikawa and Nishida were Japan's top scorers with 21 points apiece. Not to be overlooked, Takahashi and Onodera had 16 and 15 points, respectively.

On Friday, June 7, world No 1 Poland outplayed Japan, winning 25-17, 25-15, 25-20.

After Japan's bounce-back victory over Slovenia on Saturday, Takahashi thanked the fans for their enthusiastic support throughout the week.

"Everyone's energy was amazing, and I'm really grateful that we were able to win again today," Takahashi said, according to Sports Nippon.

"It's given me confidence for the Olympics," he added, referring to Japan's final tourney match at home before the Paris Olympics.

He then said, "It feels great to finish with a win in front of you all, and I'm really grateful."

Japan libero Tomohiro Yamamoto (center) in action against Slovenia in the second set on June 8. (©SANKEI)

Volleyball Competition: A Look Ahead

In its quest to reach the Men's Volleyball Nations League finals, Japan heads to Manila to play in the final round of the preliminary phase from June 18-23. Upcoming opponents for Blain's squad include world No 12 Canada, 13th-ranked Netherlands, world No 7 France and third-ranked United States.

Depending on the results in the Philippines, Japan's pre-Olympic preparations could also extend to this tournament's finals in Lodz, Poland (June 27-30).

At the Paris Olympics, the 12-team men's volleyball tournament is scheduled for July 27-August 11 at South Paris Arena.

In 2023, Japan captured the bronze medal in the Men's Volleyball Nations League.

It's just a shoe!


Tokito Oda holds the French Open men's wheelchair singles trophy after beating Gustavo Fernandez in the final on June 8 in Paris. (Gonzalo Fuentes/REUTERS)


Oda Captures Second Consecutive French Open Title

Tokito Oda defeated Argentine opponent Gustavo Fernandez 7-5, 6-3 in the French Open men's wheelchair singles final on Saturday, June 8.

What's more, the world No 2 won the Grand Slam tournament for the second straight year.

Oda was thrilled with the outcome.

"It's really amazing, because this tournament is so special for me," Oda said after the match. "To come back for special moments, it’s a special place."

Oda, 18, has already won four Grand Slam singles titles. He was the Wimbledon champion in 2023 and claimed his first Australian Open title in January 2024.

On Saturday, among the keys to victory for Oda was the following: He converted 7 of 12 break points. Moreover, he won 55% of his receiving points to Fernandez's 44%.

The speed on his fastest serve was clocked at 166 kph. Fernandez reached 139 kph.


Hiroshima Carp right-hander Daichi Ohsera fires a pitch on June 7 to a Chiba Lotte Marines batter at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. (©SANKEI)


Carp Veteran Ohsera Tosses No-Hitter Against Marines

In the 260th pitching appearance of his NPB career, Hiroshima Carp right-hander Daichi Ohsera threw a no-hitter on Friday, June 7 in an interleague game against the Chiba Lotte Marines.

The Carp won 4-0 at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium as Ohsera tossed the 102nd no-no in Nippon Professional Baseball history.

Ohsera issued five walks and struck out two batters in a 129-pitch outing. He improved to 84-64 in an NPB career that began in 2014 with Hiroshima.

Carp manager Takahiro Arai shared his thoughts on Ohsera's performance in a post-game interview with reporters.

“He threw a lot of pitches, but I was watching him from the bench, telling him to keep up the good work," Arai was quoted as saying by Nippon News Network.

The manager added, "I was nervous from about the seventh inning on, but he did a great job of showing us something we don't see very often."

On May 24, Yomiuri Giants right-hander Shosei Togo threw the first no-hitter of the 2024 season in a win against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.

Hiroshima Carp starter Daichi Ohsera poses for a photo after tossing a no-hitter against the Chiba Lotte Marines on June 7 at Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium. (©SANKEI)

Ohsera Reflects on Tossing a No-Hitter

Reacting to his performance on Friday night, Ohsera described it as an "unreal" feeling, according to Kyodo News.

Ohsera received the game ball as a keepsake after the game. He decided to present it to his son, Nikkan Sports reported.

"When I came home, he was asleep, so I gave it to him in the morning and he played with it," Ohsera was quoted as saying by Nikkan Sports.

Ohsera became the fifth Carp starter to toss a no-hitter. It was a feat last achieved in 2012 by now-injured Detroit Tigers pitcher Kenta Maeda before Friday night's game.

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi delivers a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Rogers Centre on June 6. (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Blue Jays' Kikuchi Ends Long Winless Drought

Toronto Blue Jays southpaw starter Yusei Kikuchi earned his first victory since April 22 with a solid six-inning performance against the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, June 6.

Kikuchi (3-5) scattered four hits and allowed one run. He struck out six, walked one and picked up his first win after a seven-start winless streak.

"That's probably the best I've seen him against us," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said of Kikuchi, according to The Associated Press. "He's been good, but that was 97, 98 mph (156, 158 kph) bullets with a really good breaking ball and a changeup."

In 13 starts in the 2024 MLB season, Kikuchi has 71 strikeouts and he's issued 15 base on balls.

After facing the Orioles on Thursday, Kikuchi said he pitched effectively.

Kikuchi told reporters at Rogers Centre, "I had my fastball working and was locating it well, which helped me get ahead in the count," according to Kyodo News. "I was able to use my changeup pretty effectively. [And] I came in determined to win today."


Naoya Inoue holds the Sugar Ray Robinson Award on June 7 at an awards banquet in New York. (KYODO)


'Monster' Inoue Receives Sugar Ray Robinson Award

Superstar Naoya Inoue was honored at the Boxing Writers Association of America's 2024 awards ceremony in New York on Thursday, June 6.

Inoue (27-0, 24 knockouts) received the Sugar Ray Robinson Award, presented annually to the BWAA's Fighter of the Year, in recognition of his becoming the undisputed super bantamweight world champion in 2023. He accomplished this with victories over Stephen Fulton and Marlon Tapales.

"I'm honored to be here to accept this award tonight," Inoue told attendees at the awards gala, Kyodo News reported. "The year 2023 was one with the biggest challenges for me. Neither bout was easy but I managed to get the win in the end.

"I'm really happy those results have been rated highly by everyone, I hope you'll keep looking forward to my future [fights]."

In his most recent bout, Inoue conquered Mexico's Luis Nery via a sixth-round technical knockout on May 6 at Tokyo Dome.


Japan's Ritsu Doan scores a first-half goal against Myanmar in a 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian second-round qualifier on June 6 in Yangon. (KYODO)


Japan Routs Myanmar in World Cup Qualifier

The Japan men's national team built a 2-0 lead by halftime against Myanmar and tacked on three more goals in the second half in a 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian Group B second-round qualifier on Thursday, June 6.

Keito Nakamura and Koki Ogawa both scored two goals in the Samurai Blue's 5-0 win at Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon.

Nakamura gave Japan a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute. Ritsu Doan doubled the advantage in the 34th.

In the second half, Ogawa's header in the 75th minute made it 3-0. He found his target again eight minutes later.

Nakamura completed the scoring in second-half injury time.

Japan improved to 5-0 in the second round of Asian qualifiers.

Manager Hajime Moriyasu's squad will play its final second-round match on Tuesday, June 11 against Syria in Hiroshima. Kickoff is 7:10 PM.

Japan Women Trounce New Zealand

In other Japan national soccer news, Nadeshiko Japan hammered New Zealand 4-1 on Monday, June 3 in an international friendly in Murcia, Spain.

Maika Hamano, who entered the match as a second-half substitute, ignited Japan's offense with a pair of goals.

Japan trailed 1-0 at the break.


Nick Fazekas played for the Toshiba/Kawasaki Brave Thunders from 2012-24. (KYODO)


Retired B.League Star Fazekas Leaves Lasting Impression on Japanese Basketball

Former NBA center Nick Fazekas suited up for the Toshiba/Kawasaki Brave Thunders from 2012-24 during the JBL, NBL and B.League eras in a noteworthy career. For more than a decade, Fazekas was one of the top all-around players in Japan.

The University of Nevada alum, who became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2018, retired from the Brave Thunders at the end of the 2023-24 B.League season.

Starting in 2016, when the B.League was launched, Fazekas, who turns 39 on June 17, averaged 15.9 points or more in every season, including a league-best 27.1 in 2016-17 for the Kawasaki Brave Thunders.

Longtime University of Nevada sportscaster Bryan Samudio paid tribute to Fazekas following the star's retirement in early May.

"I don't post a lot now, but I had to say congratulations to @NickFazekas on an incredible career and a much-deserved retirement," Samudio wrote on X (formerly Twitter). "Greatest of all time to put on the @NevadaHoops uniform and a 1st class human being. You deserve it Zeke! The King of Lawlor [Events Center] has left the building!"

Former NBA player Yuta Watanabe high-fives retired Kawasaki Brave Thunders star Nick Fazekas after a special retirement game for Fazekas on May 30 at Todoroki Arena in Kawasaki. (©SANKEI)

Fazekas Helped Japan Reach the 2019 Basketball World Cup

In June 2018, Fazekas suited up for Japan and played a pivotal role in helping the national squad qualify for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. This included a 25-point, 12-rebound effort against Australia in Japan's 79-78 upset victory in Chiba. He averaged 30.7 points in six Asia qualifiers for the Basketball World Cup.

Yuta Watanabe, who competed alongside Fazekas at the Basketball World Cup in China, commended his former teammate for making a measurable impact on the national team.

"Congrats on an amazing career, Nick," Watanabe, a former NBA player who's planning to play in the B.League in the 2024-25 season, wrote on X. "And thank you for making Japanese basketball better. You'll be missed."

As the ultimate tribute to Fazekas, the Brave Thunders retired his No 22 jersey during a special retirement game for him on May 30 at Todoroki Arena in Kawasaki.


Contrails wins the Japan Cup in November 2021 at Tokyo Racecourse. (©SANKEI)

Horse Racing

Contrail, King Kamehameha to be Inducted into Racing Hall of Game

Winner of Japanese horse racing's Triple Crown in 2020, Contrail emerged as a fan favorite during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he will be one of two 2024 inductees into Japan's Racing Hall of Fame. The Japan Racing Association announced the news on Tuesday, June 4.

King Kamehameha, winner of the NHK Mile Cup and Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) in 2004, was also chosen for induction.

Contrail was first nominated for the Hall of Fame in 2023 but finished just shy (74.9%) of the required 75% of the votes. This time, he secured 86.4% approval.

In November 2021, Contrail had a storybook final chapter to his racing career, riding to victory with Yuichi Fukunaga in the 41st Japan Cup. He finished with eight wins in 11 career starts.

"I am honored and moved," Contrail owner Shinji Maeda said in a statement. "Contrail spent most of his career racing without spectators or with limited attendance, but I hope he will be remembered and celebrated by many racing fans as a Hall of Fame inductee."

Starting in 2003, King Kamehameha had seven victories in eight races in Japan. He passed away in 2019.

Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.



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