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The Japanese Old School

Capcom recently announced their official ST tournament as part of the 30th Anniversary series taking place at the CEO event on June 29 (Florida). The tournament price will be $7K which is the highest price for an ST tournament ever.

One thing that caught by surprise to many people is the presence of Japanese players like FOOsuke and Nakano Sagat in the attendees list. Both of them are known Street Fighter champions from the 90s but nobody knows why they chose to this tournament to show up now.

Foosuke winning Gamest Cup 1994

Now it’s the perfect time to review who they are as there is some confusion in the community. There are interviews and magazines about the old school in Japan but since we don’t have any dedicated translator in the scene we have to guess most of the facts with the clunky google translations. There is an official 30th anniversary book and few videos talking about the 90s scene but they only talk about the American old school scene which doesn’t help.

It’s sad to see this lack of communication between the American scene and the Japanese scene but we’ll try our best to fix that.

Arcade vs SNES National Champions

Back in the day Capcom organized 3 big SF2 tournaments in Japan with more than 7000 attendees. The tournaments were taking place in the famous Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo which is used for sumo events. The matches were played on SNES and each event featured the versions of Street Fighter that were released for the console that year. The champions were:

  • 1992: SF2 (World Warrior). Matsuzaki Dhalsim (aka Kapitan) 松崎規夫/松崎
  • 1993: SF2 Turbo (HF). Nakano Sagat なかのサガット
  • 1994: Super SF2 (New Challengers).  Kizuka Jun Ryu 木塚純
Picture from the 1994 tournament: Matsuzaki (left) and Nakano Sagat (right) as 92 and 93 SNES champions

There are videos of both 1993 event (Nakano Sagat final at minute 39:50) and the 1994 one.

But we all know the long tradition of arcades in Japan so, before the SNES tournaments, the Gamest Magazine, the most popular game magazine at that time, organized the first Street Fighter II national event using cabinets with the help of Capcom and called it Gamest Cup (ゲーメスト杯). Over the years, there were two more Street Fighter II Gamest Cups, as far as we know, each of them featuring a different revision of the game. These events weren’t taking place at Kokugikan stadium but other big venues. The champions were:

  • 1991: SF2 (World Warrior). Kiyofuji Guile (aka Seidou) 清藤
  • 1992: SF2′ (Champion Edition). Tachikawa Claw 太刀川
  • 1994: Super SF2 Turbo (ST/2X). FOOsuke DJ (aka Kato) Foo助/加藤

Footage from these tournaments is more difficult to find. Kiyofuji Guile can be considered the first SF2 champion but the only footage we found of that first tournament is actually from a very recent video, the promotional video of Ultra Street Fighter II, which features moments from many old tournaments. Kiyofuji can be seen very briefly at second 58 playing in one of those rare Capcom cabinets (he is wearing Ryu’s red headband and a Simpsons t-shirt, more on that later).

In a very recent interview with Saruwatari Masashi 猿渡雅史~, the Gamest Cup founder, he explains how back then they still didn’t have the video output connected from the cabinets in order to record them and that the head to head setup wasn’t still a thing so they had to play side by side.

In 2014, FOOsuke gave an extensive interview to Kiyofuji Guile and posted it in his blog. Kiyofuji gives many more details of his tournament victory and the scene at that time but, again, we are not good enough to translate the facts here without any mistakes.

FOOsuke, the first ST Champion

So we can technically say that FOOsuke was the first ST Champion winning a major, at least in Japan. Here is a description of the player from Nohoho‘s blog:

Foosuke is referred to as “Danna” by the ST community. It’s a term of respect that, roughly speaking, means “Master.” He won the first national championship, and he continues to play a mean DeeJay here and there. For many years, Foosuke has been the go-to guy for MC’ing SuperTurbo events. Also, he wrote the copy for the Yoga Book Hyper that comes with The Starting Over (X-Mania Gaiden) DVD.

In addition to his Gamest cup win, Foosuke was well known in the early days as the head of an organization called The Yoga Strike Backers. Composed of various Street Fighter and Vampire champs, YSB produced a pamphlet and video called “The 48 Killing Arts of Yoga” (i.e., the original Yoga Book.) They did some work for Micom BASIC, too, including writing the 2p vs. strategy for the “All About Street Fighter Zero” mook.

Foosuke commentating X-Mania Gaiden Tournament in 2005

Fortunately, 1994 Gamest Cup was the first one we found on a 6 part video (maybe the first tournament recorded directly from a cabinet ever?). The matches are all decided in one single game except for the finals which is a FT5. Unlike the typical Japanese style we are used in ST, most players use several characters for counter picking in this tournament. FOOsuke doesn’t even use DJ in the final confrontation. In the list of players there is no one that sounds familiar except Onuki, however, Nohoho insists that he is not the Ohnuki player that we all know.

Player list of the final stage: Sakai 坂井, Fujimatsu 藤松, Matsuo 松尾, Endo 遠藤, Tsuchida 土田, Taguchi 田口, Fune-dai 船大, Kimura 木村, Onuki 大貫, Yamauchi 山内, FOOsuke (Kato) 加藤, Ikuradon 奥西.

Tachikawa, the Japanese Tomo Ohira

As it happened with Tomo Ohira in the USA, Tachikawa achieved a legendary status in the 90s. We don’t know many details about it. Apparently, Tachikawa was able to master any of the characters of the game. According to Nohoho‘s blog:

Tachikawa is often referred to as the greatest SF2 player ever. His trademarks included a mind-blowing combo ability as well as a ruthless corner trap.

Daigo repeatedly praised him and he even gave Tachikawa a 2 hour interview (4 parts) on his Youtube channel in 2016. Unfortunately, we haven’t found any translation of it.

Tachikawa and Daigo on BeasTV

As a fun fact, both Daigo and Nuki started their legendary paths in the Gamest Cup 1997 with Vampire Savior. They faced each other in the finals and Daigo took it. Gamest Cup was featuring a different game each year (whatever was hottest at the moment) up until 1998 when Gamest Cup was discontinued. Capcom kept organizing national events after that though.

The 3 legends never quit… kind of

The year 2000 was a turning point for ST since many majors were born that year like X-Mania, the Master Secret Cup or the Neyagawa ABC Championships. Between 1994 and 2000 tournaments weren’t as organized or as big and very few of them have been rescued from the VHS tapes.

FOOsuke himself edited a video with some rounds from one of those tournaments of the mid 90s and in 2010 Nohoho uploaded it to youtube. The 3 Gamest Cup legends are in there, FOOsuke, Tachikawa and Kiyofuji (playing as Seidou) but this time many of the players in the tournament sound familiar to us: Shogatsu Honda, Mori Boxer, Muteki Guile, Jenety Chunli. We recommend to see the video on youtube since we just added annotations with timestamps as a comment.

It’s fun to see how both Shogatsu and Jenety use the new version of their characters instead of the old ones that they play nowadays. However, Jenety still shows his unique style of not using any fireballs with ChunLi.

In 2015, FOOsuke gave an extensive interview to Shogatsu (part 1, part 2, part 3) where he talks a lot about ST in the 90s but we don’t have any translations of that interview either.

Up until recently, there was a video on youtube of a 1996 tournament in Osaka where we could already see the grandmasters from that area. Otochun, Aniken, Tsuji, ShootingD, Mayakon, Shigaken, Kusumondo and Yuuvega (he used to live there before moving to Tokyo). The video is already gone but we were able to rescue a couple of images.

Yes, that’s young Otochun
They started using h2h setups by removing one of the controllers instead of using single controller panels

The return of the legends

Since the end of the 90s the 3 Gamest Cup winners have been pretty much inactive. One of the main highlights of X-Mania 16, in 2015, was that the 3 of them were returning to a major and on the same team as “Dream team 20 years ago”. Unfortunately, ASTEKA Blanka OCVed them in style on their first match (minute 2:40:07 of this video)

Dream team: FOOsuke as DST Kato, Ao Tachikawa and Kiyofuji as Simpsons Kiyofuji

The reason why Kiyofuji mentions the Simpsons in his name is because during the 90s he decided to always wear a Simpsons t-shirt so people could recognize him easily.

In 2016, Daigo organized a special “FIGHTING GAMERS Cup: Tournament of Super Turbo Legends!” where he invited Tachikawa to play as well as other players like Nuki, Yaya, Cameraya and Kurahashi.

Now in 2018, you will be able to see FOOsuke (1994 Gamest Cup) and Nakano Sagat (1993 SNES nationals) at CEO, almost 25 years after their prime.

Final note

There might be some facts we got wrong or mistranslated. We still don’t know the reason behind FOOsuke or Nakano Sagat attending CEO. We don’t have any translations of the many interviews we linked in this article which would probably bring more accurate facts and stories. So, for any help, suggestions or corrections please let me know on twitter.

Sources: Nohoho blog, Saikyou wiki, Shogatsu’s tournament results

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