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[JAPAN SPORTS NOTEBOOK] Tokito Oda Triumphs at Japan Open to Continue Impressive Run in 2023

Top-ranked star Tokito Oda, who is 17, has won seven singles titles on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour this year, including two Grand Slam tournaments.

World No 1 Tokito Oda collected his seventh wheelchair tennis singles title of 2023 on Friday, October 20.

The 17-year-old Oda defeated 38-year-old Japanese compatriot Takashi Sanada, who is ranked eighth in the world, 6-3, 6-3 in the Japan Open final at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.

Also this year, Oda won a pair of overseas hard-court titles (Dunlop Kobe Open, Cajun Classic), the Swiss Open and French Open on clay and Wimbledon on grass. 

With a pair of Grand Slam titles this year among the other tournament conquests, Oda has demonstrated that he's a force to be reckoned with on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour.

Oda overcame a slow start in the semifinals to prevail against Kohei Suzuki, winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

After beating Sanada, a jubilant Oda raised his arms in the air to celebrate.

Tokito Oda (KYODO)

"I am very happy to have won this year," said Oda, according to The Sankei Shimbun. He was the runner-up to retired legend Shingo Kunieda in the 2022 Japan Open men's final. 

"I was really satisfied with the match," Oda added.

Tokito Oda (third from right) holds the winner's trophy for the Japan Open men's wheelchair singles final. Retired legend Shingo Kunieda is on the far left. (KYODO)

Oda will next compete at the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, China. The men's wheelchair singles final is on Friday, October 27, and the tournament serves as a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Paralympics.

"I would be happy if I could win a gold medal to confirm my place in Paris," Oda told reporters.

Mochizuki Reaches Japan Open Semifinals

In other tennis news, Shintaro Mochizuki completed a titanic upset on Thursday, October 19, knocking off 10th-ranked American Taylor Fitz in the Japan Open men's singles third round, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

Mochizuki is ranked 215th.

In Friday's semifinals, Russian world No 50 Aslan Karatsev ended Mochizuki's title aspirations, winning 6-3, 6-4 at Ariake Colosseum.

With the win, Karatsev advanced to play 19th-ranked Ben Shelton, an American, in Sunday's title match.

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The Orix Buffaloes celebrate their Pacific League Climax Series Final Stage-clinching victory over the Chiba Lotte Marines on October 21 at Kyocera Dome. (©SANKEI)
It's just a shoe!

Baseball

Buffaloes, Tigers Advance to the Japan Series

Thrilling Kansai-area baseball fans, the reigning champion Orix Buffaloes and the Hanshin Tigers have advanced to the Japan Series after winning the Pacific League and Central League Climax Series Final Stage, respectively.

The Tigers clinched their first Japan Series berth since 2014 with a 4-2 Game 3 win over the Carp on Friday, October 20 at Koshien Stadium. Hanshin recorded a series sweep and began the series with an automatic one-win advantage for winning the CL regular-season title.

The Hanshin Tigers celebrate their Central League Climax Series Final Stage-clinching victory over the Hiroshima Carp on October 20 at Koshien Stadium. (©SANKEI)

Catcher Seishiro Sakamoto sparked the Tigers with two go-ahead singles, the second of which gave Hanshin the lead for good in the sixth inning. The Tigers added an insurance run in the seventh.

In Games 1 and 2, Hanshin triumphed 4-1 and 2-1.

On Saturday, the Buffaloes put the finishing touches on their PL Climax Series Final Stage triumph over the Marines, winning 3-2 in Game 4.

Orix, which opened the series with the one-win advantage by virtue of capturing the PL pennant (regular-season title), defeated Lotte 8-5 in Game 1. The Marines rebounded with a 6-5 win in Game 2, followed by the Buffaloes' 2-0 triumph in Friday's Game 3.

In Game 4 on Saturday, Orix jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a Tomoya Mori two-run blast to right in the first inning. Manager Satoshi Nakajima's club led 3-0 entering the seventh.

Lotte rallied for a run in the eighth and another in the ninth. But the Orix bullpen slammed the door on the Marines' comeback hopes. Veteran closer Yoshihisa Hirano recorded the save.

Game 1 of the Japan Series is set for Saturday, October 28 at Kyocera Dome in Osaka.

Naoki Koyama wins the Marathon Grand Championship on October 15 in Tokyo. (KYODO)

Track and Field

Koyama, Suzuki Triumph in Marathon Grand Championship

Naoki Koyama secured a spot on Japan's Olympic men's marathon squad for the 2024 Paris Games by winning the Marathon Grand Championship on Sunday, October 15 in Tokyo.

Running through the streets of the nation's capital, Koyama was determined to lock up one of two automatic qualifying spots for the upcoming Olympics. Over the final four kilometers, Koyama, 27, increased his speed, which proved pivotal in clinching the win.

He completed his quest in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 57 seconds when he reached the finish line at National Stadium. Runner-up Akira Akasaki also locked up an Olympic berth in 2:09:06.

"I wanted to concentrate on my own race and not react to anyone else unnecessarily," Koyama was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "My team was telling me to go as fast as I could [at that late stage]."


Marathon Grand Championship women's winner Yuka Suzuki (ⒸSANKEI)

Women's winner Yuka Suzuki (2:24:09) and second-place finisher Mao Ichiyama, who was 34 seconds adrift also booked spots on Japan's women's marathon squad for Paris.

Japan's Kyogo Furuhashi scores a first-half goal against Tunisia in an international friendly on October 17 in Kobe. (KYODO)

Soccer

Japan Dominates in Shutout of Tunisia

When the match concluded, the scoreboard displayed the following: Japan 2, Tunisia 0.

The teams' international friendly on Tuesday, October 17 in Kobe provided a thorough showcase for the Japan men's national team's talent. 

Kyogo Furuhashi gave the hosts the early lead in the 43rd minute, blasting a shot past Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen at Noevir Stadium.

Japan's Takehiro Tomiyasu controls the ball in the first half as Tunisia's Issam Jebali looks on. (ⒸSANKEI)

The Samurai Blue kept the pressure on in the second half, doubling their lead on Junya Ito's goal in the 69th minute.

Japan outshot Tunisia 17-1.

"I'm happy to have scored a goal that contributed to the team's win," Furuhashi was quoted as saying by Kyodo News.

The Celtic FC star added, "I have much to improve and will work hard at my club."

Up next: Japan faces Syria in a 2026 World Cup second-round qualifier on November 21 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Chiba Jets star Yuki Togashi in a May 2023 file photo. (B.LEAGUE)

Basketball

Jets, Golden Kings Earn Victories in EASL

The visiting Chiba Jets rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit and defeated the Taipei Fubon Braves 85-82 in overtime in an East Asia Super League Group A clash on Wednesday, October 18.

On the same night, the Ryukyu Golden Kings, one of the Jets' chief rivals in the B.League, topped the Seoul SK Knights 80-79 in a Group B match at Okinawa Arena.

In Taipei, Jets star Yuki Togashi was held to six first-half points. The Braves took a 42-29 lead into the locker room at halftime.

After the break, Togashi ignited the Chiba offense, scoring 10 third-quarter points and pouring in 16 in the fourth. 

The Jets rallied and the teams were deadlocked at 74-74 at the end of the fourth.

In overtime, Togashi sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to decide the outcome. He finished with 38 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Togashi made 9 of 18 3-pointers. Justyn Mutts added 21 points and 12 rebounds, while DJ Stephens scored 13 points.

Taipei's Michael Singletary had 29 points and 18 rebounds and Sedrick Barefield finished with 19 points.

The Jets, appearing in their sixth game in 11 days, including B.League matches, gutted out a win while also continuing to provide playing time for several young players.

"We're missing a lot of players and it's a great opportunity for young players to get some playing time," Chiba coach John Patrick said of the EASL matches. "We have some players who have never played at this level, so we have to be patient."

Ryukyu Golden Kings guard Keita Imamura drives to the basket in an East Asia Super League game on October 18 in Okinawa City. (EASL)

Ryukyu Holds Off Seoul

In Ryukyu's one-point win, five Golden Kings players scored in double figures, with Keita Imamura leading the way with 18 points. Vic Law had 14 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, while Alex Kirk also notched a double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds). Yoshiyuki Matsuwaki and Hayato Maki scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.

With 24 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Law converted a game-tying layup. He then sank a free throw to put the Golden Kings ahead 80-79. The Knights missed a pair of shots on their final possession of the game.

Seoul's Jameel Warney, an NBA forward for the Dallas Mavericks in the 2017-18 season, had a game-high 39 points.

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Saburo Kawabuchi
Saburo Kawabuchi gives a speech at the J.League's 30th anniversary event on May 15 in Tokyo. (©SANKEI)

Briefly…

J.League founder and honorary chairman Saburo Kawabuchi, who later worked as the Japan Football Association's president (2002-08), is one of seven individuals chosen to receive the Order of Culture. It is the nation's top cultural award.

The announcement was widely reported by Japanese media outlets on Friday, October 20.

On Culture Day, a national holiday on November 3, the Order of Culture winners will be honored at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Kawabuchi, 86, also played a pivotal role in integrating Japan men's pro basketball into a single, unified entity, the B.League. The corporate-backed National Basketball League, previously known as the JBL, and the bj-league led rival factions, and FIBA, basketball's world governing body, suspended the Japan Basketball Association in November 2014 for failing to follow its bylaws, including having one top-tier league.

Kawabuchi served as JBA president from May 2015 to June 2016. The B.League staged its first game in September 2016.

Quote of the Week

"We as a league are positive about the season change, [and] we would like to accelerate discussions to clarify and resolve issues."

Shinji Kubota, the J.League's corporate executive officer, on the pro soccer circuit's plan to shift the season to a summer start from the current February to December schedule, The Asahi Shimbun reported. The proposed change would align the Japanese soccer season with Europe's.


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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