Taking on the world! Great expectations placed on Waseda swimmer

Mr. Junya Koga


Commenting on the new film, Mr. Minamide spoke like a true child of Hokkaido, saying, "When people come to Sapporo, I would like them to make sure they fill up on Teshikaga's soy sauce ramen, Cancun's soup curry, and the Ram's "Genghis Khan" barbecue before they go back home."

"I'll call you tomorrow" is a line from the last scene of director Luc Besson's movie "Subway" that the main character says to his lover as he teeters on the brink of death. As an elementary student, Mr. Minamide got a big kick out of this line. He remembers thinking, "What a cool guy!" Looking back on those times, he said, "'Subway' was a formative experience for me." Influenced by his film-loving father, Mr. Minamide spent his younger days enjoying a life of film appreciation. It was during his second year as a middle school student that he came to an important decision: "I decided I wanted to walk the path of film."

Mr. Minamide became infatuated by film. "It was to the point where I'd rather watch movies than hang out with friends. Maybe that's why my teachers always wrote 'doesn't work well with others' on the back of my report card," he said, sporting a wry smile as he recalled his childhood. His first experience behind the camera took place during his freshman year of high school. "Our class' submission to the school's culture festival was a film. I think the theme was something like 'thinking of water as a natural resource.'" Because of this experience, Mr. Minamide's perspective on film began to change. "So long as you turn the camera on, you can put anything onto film. Shooting something that you actually want to shoot, however, is no simple task. I came to believe that without a firm grounding in a variety of things like music, literature, and the arts, it was impossible to express whatever it was that you wanted to let out." That's actually the reason that Mr. Minamide decided to enroll in Waseda University: he wanted a school that would allow him to pursue his conviction that film was in essence a composite art form.

The Big 6 intercollegiate championship 50-meter backstroke. Mr. Koga steadily increases his speed and reaches the goal. His appearance as he exits the pool and strides lithely along the poolside is impressive.

Mr. Koga began swimming when he was five years old, and swimming is currently an integral part of his livelihood. Actually, he claims that ever since junior high school he has never experienced a day when he just did not want to swim. "I had a lot of friends who swam. When I would see their determined figures, swimming with all their might, I knew I didn't want to lose to them," he said. The distance he swims on a daily basis varies from 6,000 meters to 7,000 meters. There are days when his time doesn't improve, but he said, "On those days, I am careful to listen to the advice I am given."
He keeps swimming until he is able to fully digest each and every thing he has been told. "When I swim in a race, my mind is empty. After I start, I glide through the water, and I reach the goal. That's the best way to get results." The great accomplishment of setting a new Japanese record involves an enormous amount of tireless effort.

When asked whether he had any tips on swimming, he didn't touch on anything technical, but instead stated that the most important thing is to "get along with the water," just as you would get along with a friend. In other words, don't swim in such a way that you resist the water. "After all, the human body is primarily made out of the exact same water we swim in," he said with a peaceful smile.

During the interview for this article, people were constantly shouting out words of encouragement at Mr. Koga. Such comments as "You were great the other day!" and "Lookin' good out there!" were said by men and women alike, as well as swimmers from other schools. He would always reply with a smile. One might say that the secret to his strength lies within this well maintained sense of distance and balance.

In contrast, Mr. Koga also said, "I love sweet things." With a sparkle in those big eyes of his, he continued, "There are even times when I buy chocolates by the box." He also stated that there were a number of occasions when he would buy sweets from a local supermarket while on an overseas expedition. He isn't only fond of Western-style sweets, however; he also enjoys Japanese treats filled with anko (sweetened red bean paste). "I often eat yokan (jellied bean paste), too!" he said, his cool demeanor changing all at once.

This season Mr. Koga has more tournaments to compete in than usual. He has also received advice about post-retirement, but he said that "Right now I don't have any concrete plans." He went on to stress that he just wants to concentrate on the race that's in front of him at any given moment, and make sure to give each one of them his all. When asked for a final comment, Mr. Koga hesitated for an instant and then said "I guess you could say that actions speak louder than words." What a weighty last comment!

Mr. Junya Koga
Mr. Junya Koga



■ Mr. Junya Koga
Mr. Koga was born in Saitama Prefecture in 1987. He attended Kasuka Bekyo High School, and is currently a fourth year student at the School of Sport Sciences. He is 181 centimeters tall and weighs 73 kilograms. In the May 2009 Japan National Championships, he set a new national record for both the 50 meter and 100 meter backstroke competitions. Because of this win, he will be competing in the World Championships to be held this July in Rome.


From 2009 June 11th Issue