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Satoshi Fujimoto of VI Judo, Throwing Down | GO Journal ISSUE 03 Behind-the-Scenes Report

GO Journal ISSUE 03 Behind-the-Scenes Report
Satoshi Fujimoto x Mika Ninagawa

ISSUE 03 of “GO Journal”, a graphic magazine that aims to drive parasports into the future, was published on March 13.

The theme of this third issue of the magazine was “Blind.” First up for a photoshoot was cover athlete Satoshi Fujimoto (66kg Class/B2) of VI judo. Fujimoto is a VI judo legend, having been in the sport for 25 years, and having won five medals—including gold medals in three consecutive Paralympics—over the course of his career.

For the photoshoot, Mika Ninagawa, Creative Director of GO Journal, had gotten a judo mat—an actual mat used in official tournaments—as well as shoji (paper sliding doors) that she had suspended from the ceiling. The set, lit with blue light, made you feel as if you were in the deep sea. All that was missing was the man himself, a man who over the course of the years has referred to his image as that of a “samurai.”

“You look so cool!” said Ninagawa, marveling, when Fujimoto appeared in his white judogi. They exchanged greetings, after which Ninagawa herself explained the colors of the lights, the positioning of objects on the set, etc., and the photoshoot began.

Fujimoto stood, spine straight and confident, with his fists held in front of him. He gazed directly at the camera—his eyes sharp, his ears showing years’ worth of rigorous training, his shoulders squared and dignified.

“Is the flash too bright?” asked Ninagawa, amidst the shutter noises of the cameras. With each shot, they seemed to be tracking—one by one—the course of his long-time career in VI judo.

Fujimoto then changed into his blue judogi, showing off his seoinage (one-armed shoulder throw) with all the intensity of an actual match. The studio, unused to such loud noises and impact, shook a little with each throw.

As Ninagawa crouched, camera at the ready, Fujimoto slammed his “opponent” into the ground, the impact of the throw blowing her bangs back. “Oh my god!” she said, backing up quickly from the action. As scared as she was of the incredible noise and power of Fujimoto’s moves, however, she was determined to find a good angle, and she stepped gingerly around the mat, looking for that perfect shot.

Over time, they fell into a kind of rhythm. The fear, for Ninagawa, faded.

“Got it!” yelled Ninagawa.
And just like that, the shoot was over.

She seemed incredibly satisfied, even as she checked the photos for herself. “It looks amazing! Come here guys, check it out,” she said, smiling and motioning to the others.

“I had no idea what it would be like at first, so I was really excited. Then, during the shoot, they told me, ‘you’ve got sex appeal’ and I didn’t really know what to do with myself—it’s a bit embarrassing, really…”

So said the legendary judoka, somewhat bashfully, when asked his honest feelings about the shoot. He continued, expressing his hopes for the feature. “There are some people who are visually impaired who don’t even want to leave the house. I want them to see, first and foremost, that VI judo is this incredibly cool thing. It’d be amazing if this feature were to motivate people to try it for themselves, introduce other people to it, and just act as an opportunity for VI judoka to come together and create more of a network.”

“I want them to see just how cool they are.”

So said Ninagawa, in advance of the issue’s publication. And indeed, ISSUE 03 of GO Journal is an embodiment of this spirit. A showcase of para-athletes and what they’re like outside of the ring—the other facets that make up their character.

See here for the photos from this shoot, as shot by Ninagawa, and Fujimoto’s interview (GO Journal official website).

*See here for the GO Journal ISSUE 03 Behind-the-Scenes Report: Nobuyuki Tsujii x Mika Ninagawa

text by Rihe Chang
photo by Hiro Nagoya

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