An interview was taken on June 9, 2018, during a seminar with the Shihan at Chisinau, Moldova. Hiroyuki Sakurai held 6 Dan at the time. During the 2020 Kagamibiraki ceremony, Sensei received 7th Dan from the Aikikai.
When and where you were born?
I was born in Fukui Prefecture, Japan. 24 of August 1971.
What exactly made you interested in Aikido?
I love the Budo overall. I’ve been doing some Karate and Kendo before but it was not as serious as I do Aikido now.
What were the main difficulties for you to join?
Aikido is not easy. One goes through a constant search in order to find correct directions and ways. This takes all life and makes Aikido difficult but at the same time, it makes Aikido so interesting. Hard ways are the most interesting ones for me.
Was it Hombu right from the start?
It was a University Aikido Club. Ichihashi Norihiko Sensei was my first teacher. He led the classes for a year and for the next 3 years it was about the Kuribayashi Takanori Sensei.
What are your brightest memories from that time?
I had a lot of pleasure in attending the classes. The atmosphere was really good all around.
Who were those Aikidokas that you walked your way through with?
Fujimaki Sensei, Irie Sensei, Mori Sensei, Katsurada Sensei were uchi-deshi’s at the same time with me. We shared a lot of hours together.
What is your role in Hombu?
As you know, I belong to the Hombu Dojo instructor department, and teaching of Aikido is my main task. Besides that, I am involved in editing the magazine “Aikido Tankyu” issued by Aikikai and in the operation of several events, such as setting up the venue for the All-Japan Aikido Embu-Taikai.
You’re a 6th Dan Shihan now. What’s your lesson schedule in the Hombu now?
I do a regular class at Hombu, a special Women class and made a class for the beginners but the last one doesn’t exist anymore. I also give lessons and seminars at some Universities and have groups around Tokyo, Yokohama, and other places. I had some groups in the companies in the past too. Overall, I have lessons to give for almost every day.
How does the Hombu change since you joined?
Times are diffirent now. I think Hombu is pretty much the same and changes are mostly about the people that are attending. They are having all those devices like phones and tablets and do not like to do the exercises as it was before. Intellectual jobs are kind of over the physical activity now.
What are the Aikido goals you have these days?
It is not possible to set the goal clearly. I would like to pursue Aikido as deeply as possible.
You’re coming to Moldova for the third time now, what’s your favorite here?
I like the spirit of the land, the humor of the people. Still, during the classes, people are doing the best possible and are very accurate, precise. I like the Aikido in Moldova and feel very well as an instructor here.
Any other countries you give Aikido seminars at?
Sure. Bulgaria, Argentina, Poland, Serbia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and many more.
Thank you for your answers, Sensei and Bon Appetit!
An interview was taken with permission from Vitalie Oncea, the main organizer of the event. Rado Marinov Sensei helped with the translation from the Japanese. Summer 2020 event link.