Last weekend, the first regional in the Japan League circuit was held in Osaka - West Japan! This was a pretty solid opening to the year, along with VA States happening in the US as well (recap coming later this week), so let's get into some of the best freestyles.
Ryota Ogi took the W in the 1A division with an elegant showing of his staple classics and some new ideas of his. Although his routine was not very clean, it was still enjoyable and I am really anticipating what he has in store for JN. Also, it's interesting that Sia is becoming popular for freestyle music..
Runner up in the 1A division was Daiki Tanaka. Daiki is one of the top players in Japan right now with his unique style that focuses heavily on performance, space use, and high energy. Similar to Ryota, his freestyle was not very clean (he actually had a switch that cost him 1st place), but him having the potential to win a regional with a messy routine makes his campaign for Japan Nationals in May pretty strong.
Another freestyle worth mentioning is Tsukasa Namba's routine, which had my favorite tricks of the whole event. Tsukasa's freestyle construction is lacking, but his trick rareness is extremely high, and that in itself is enough to have enjoyment value for me.
2A winner was the machine, Takuma Yamamoto. Many players underrate him in comparison to other greats such as Shu Takada and Shinji Saito, but all of Takuma's routines are packed with insanely dense wraps and loops done at perhaps one of the highest speeds ever. Takuma destroyed the competition here, earning a perfect 60 in tech (all judges scoring him in first), compared to the next lowest score of 40, belonging to none other than..
Arata Imai! Arata has placed 3rd at Japan Nationals in 2016 and 2017 and is known for his extremely rare style in 2A (and 1A, which we will see from him at Central Japan this coming weekend). It's sad to me that both Arata and Takuma competed at the same regional, as they're 2 of the greatest players in Japan and only one can win.
3A was won by one of the greatest players in the division of all time, Taiichiro Higashi. Taiichiro's freestyle showed a lot of interesting 3A ideas, and I am looking forward to see how he will stack up against other favorites in the division at Japan Nationals.
The winner of 4A was none other than the human highlight reel, Takumi Hakamata. Takumi showcased a lot of tricks from 2017 with an increase of cleanliness, as well as some new ideas that he's made since his last time competing at JOYC in November. Takumi is a favorite to win Japan Nationals this year for many, and if he's cleaner than this, I would say that he has a really good chance at doing so.
The winner of 5A was Ryotaro Morimoto with a pretty solid routine. 5A in Japan is starting to become smaller and smaller, and Ryotaro is starting to move up the ranks in the division.
So, that's all for West Japan! Solid showing in all 5 divisions, which is rare for yo-yo contests these days. Next up is Central Japan coming this weekend, with some favorites in the 1A division including 5th in Japan Yuiga Suzuki, 5th in the World Yuuki Nishisako, and innovator Arata Imai. Who will win??