Have you jumped aboard the #JapanWatch bandwagon yet? It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement surrounding this relatively new team’s astonishing rise to the top — and when its constituent parts have such compelling back stories too, you can be forgiven for quietly rooting for the home team to take top honours at next year’s Tokyo Olympics. (In fact, if they manage it — and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility, when you consider that their considerable resources have been dedicated to just that for several years now — they’ll be the first Japanese equestrians to win medals at the Olympics since Colonel Baron Takeichi Nishi took individual gold in 1932’s showjumping competition, riding Uranus.)
Nishi, who fell into a glittering social circle led by Charlie Chaplin during that fateful Olympic pilgrimage, was a universally admired rider who became something of a celebrity when he made his way to America. Eighty-eight years later, Team Japan’s shining stars look set to follow in his footsteps.
Kazuma Tomoto — or King Kazu, as you might hear him affectionately nicknamed around the lorry park — has certainly made definitive strides into the spotlight. Although he’s only been eventing for three seasons — he was a showjumper previously — he’s made those years count, basing himself with William Fox-Pitt and filling up his international record with some enviable results.
A year after his international eventing career began, he finished second by a tenth of a penalty in Blenheim’s CCI4*-S for eight- and nine-year-olds. The following year, after a succession of top-ten placings at four-star, he finished 23rd individually and helped Team Japan to fourth place at the World Equestrian Games. After that, he headed to Boekelo, where he finished fifth in the CCIO4*-L. This year, he’s won CCI4*-S sections at Chatsworth and Ballindenisk, finished second at Tattersalls, jumped clear around his first Badminton, and led the dressage at Luhmühlen. On top of all that? He’s one of the most genuinely happy, sunny people we’ve ever met.
Ready to join the fan club? Meet King Kazu: