You know, I just can't walk past a mirror without taking a self portrait.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Last Days of Yonekura Gym, Tokyo Japan

     The last fighters have completed their training, the final bout to be fought. At the end of this month Kenji Yonekura (former Olympian and OPBF Bantamweight champion), due to to failing health, unable to find someone to take over the reigns, will be forced to close his gym. The Yonekura Boxing Gym, which opened in 1963, will become part of Tokyo’s boxing history. The gym has produced 50 champions including 5 world champions.
     Several of my friends who trained at the gym, asked me if I would like to shoot some images of the last remaining days. I agreed. I took the train from Shinjuku to Mejiro Station, walked a few blocks along the train tracks, and arrived at the gym. The building looked very non-descript, the only tip off was the boxing caricatures.

Entering the Gym you immediately feel the sense of history. Not only the age and character of the physical structure but also the history displayed on the walls. A prefect movie location.

Only a few fighters who had not left for other gyms were there training and still living at their quarters upstairs. Some fighters and trainers went to Misako Gym in Itabashi, others went to Teiken Gym in Kagurazaka. One of those remaining, Tsuyoshi Tameda, has a fight coming up the end of this month, the others were staying until the lights were turned off and the doors closed for the last time.

Kimihiro Nakagawa on the speed bag.

Tsuyoshi Tameda with his trainer Takehiro Shimada, watching training videos in preparation for his August 22 fight. This fight will be the last where a fighter represents Yonekura Gym. I am sure it will be filled with emotion. I would like to be ringside for that one, but regrettably I'm 5500 miles away.

I managed to talk trainer Chikara Machida into showing off on the speed bag.

Peering into the window, I thought what a shame, all this history will be lost.

Leaving the building, off to catch a train, to another boxing gym. I walk away having made a few more new friends, and having captured some of Tokyo and Japan's boxing legacy. A 53 year legacy for Yonekura Boxing Gym.

All images Leica M typ240 & Leica M-P typ240, w/ Leica 35mm & 50mm lenses

As always all images are Copyright Peter Politanoff / RedStarImage, and may not be reproduced without explicit consent. You are more than welcome however to link to this site.