Happy Holidays from The Judges’ Table! Japanese Nationals is the first rejudging on our new website. After you read, please leave a comment or reach out on Twitter, on Facebook, or by email to let us know what you think. I’m a poor graduate student so formatting options are limited to what’s available on free websites, but I’ll make the changes I can to make the experience of reading The Judges’ Table as enjoyable and easy as possible.
The rejudging of Russian Nationals will be available very soon. In the meantime, meet the six judges who took time out of their holidays to rejudge Japanese Nationals:
Banana W. (@quadsal)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan, if any. I went to GPF 2015 and kind of cried the entire time. Also, a lady from the JSF laughed really, really hard at me once.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Akiko Suzuki’s career??
Bea (@tweenershots) | You Only Lutz Once
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. I co-founded and blog in You Only Lutz Once. I also co-founded Tropical Frost, a fan site dedicated to Michael Christian Martinez (PHI). Outside streaming, I’ve watched Four Continents in Taipei last season. (I was probably on TV too many times because of the many banners we had, especially that “The CHANpion is Back” banner. This season, I got to watch Asian Open Trophy and got to meet and cheer for many of my favorite skaters.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Tatsuki Machida’s 2014 Worlds free skate
Heidi M. (@heihei_0422)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. Casually watched Euros and Worlds as a child, started to follow the sport more actively in late 2011 (why then? no idea) and now I’m at a point where every missed live stream of any A-level competition is A Failure At Life.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Satoko Miyahara’s free skate at 2016 Worlds.
Ioana (@iguana012) | Tumblr
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan. My experiences with figure skating have been staying up or waking up at ridiculous hours, arguing with my laptop, growing gray hair watching my faves, but also enjoying beautiful programs, unforgettable performances and making edits and gifs.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Daisuke Takahashi’s Blues For Klook at the 2012 World Championships.
MJ C. (@arabesquing)
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan, if any. I can swizzle and stroke around a rink! That’s about the best I can do as a skater. 😛 I’ve been watching skating since the Sochi Olympics and had the great privilege to attend 2016 Worlds in Boston in person! (And got drunk in the hotel bar while surrounded by skaters, but that’s another story.)
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Tatsuki Machida’s 2014 Worlds short program should have broken 100.
Tell us a little about your experiences with figure skating or as a fan, if any. I fell in love with figure skating watching Plushenko’s Euros 2005 FP on TV. After a few years I decided I absolutely had to learn to skate and now I’m teaching to kids. My fav skaters are Yuzuru and Shoma.
What’s your favorite grossly underscored skate of the last five years? Misha Ge’s programs in general, he deserves higher scores in Interpretation of the music and composition. Also Takahashi’s 2012 Worlds FP, but there are so many, especially regarding PCs!
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Be honest: how much of this event did you actually watch?
Banana: HAHA not as much as I’d have liked!
Bea: Only the singles videos uploaded on YouTube.
Heidi: Everything Fuji TV decided to air, except the gala.
Ioana: As much as Fuji TV allowed me to!
MJ: Whatever FujiTV broadcasted (so ~60% of singles give or take, plus the top pairs/dance frees).
Spiccine: Almost everything Fuji TV has broadcast live (so not that much) and caught up with some videos later.
Who had the best performance of the event?
Banana: Kanako Murakami hasn’t done this well in so, so long. I’m not crying, you’re crying. (That’s a lie, I am 100% crying.)
Bea: Takahito Mura’s short program. That was his best performance in a long time, and I’m happy he managed to beat heavy favorite Shoma Uno, at least for one program.
Heidi: Our Undisputed Tiny Queen of Space Satoko Miyahara has one of the most interesting free skate choreographies this season, but here it was her short program that I found the most impressive. She was as lovely and consistent as ever, and even though the program could do with a bit more emotional depth and dynamism – this probably comes down to the choice of music – I think it suits her fantastically. Such a joy to watch.
Ioana: This year’s Japanese Nationals had an incredible ladies event with so many promising, talented skaters. Satoko Miyahara skated the best SP of the season so far; she skated with joy and freedom and she jumped her 3-3 combination with ease. Wakaba Higuchi continues to impress me with her maturity, skating skills and jumps and Marin Honda looks like she’s been born to perform. Although not technically perfect, Mao Asada’s programs are masterpieces, and so are her step sequences. Kanako Murakami’s FS was magic.
MJ: KANAKO! Her free skate, in particular. Seeing my favorite struggle for the last two and a half seasons has been really rough, and going from two 10th-place finishes on the GP to her first clean free skate in YEARS was the most satisfying. Considering many, including myself, have been surmising on whether she will be retiring soon, that was a beautiful swan song should she choose to go out on that note.
Spiccine: Probably Yuna. Her season began in a really tough way, and so her Nats with a 17th SP, but she didn’t give up hope and did a great performance with the highest TES among all ladies’ FPs!
Who improved the most from the last time you watched them skate?
Banana: Yuna Shiraiwa! I’ve always loved her expressions, she’s one of those skaters that can literally radiate joy. Underwhelming spirals aside, can you believe she had the highest TES in the free? I’m so proud of her and how she bounced back from the SP! I was already a fan of hers to begin with, but I’m really looking forward to her growth in the future.
Bea: Keiji Tanaka. He’s known to be inconsistent, and that showed during the early half of the season. I’m so glad that he’s starting to build consistency, all the way to his first GP medal and his first National medal! I hope he continues to improve!
Heidi: Ryuju Hino had a hard time competing at Finlandia Trophy in October, but boy did he do much better here. He had – if I’m not mistaken – a career-best short program performance, and his free skate was decent as well. Climbing up from 8th last year to 4th this time, his final placement was well-deserved and will hopefully encourage him to keep going and work hard to polish his skating and get some consistency on that 4T that was absent here.
Ioana: Marin Honda. After a tough GP season, she was finally able to deliver two solid programs here.
MJ: Kanako again, because this is her first clean AND 120+ free since she won 4CC 2014 with a 132 free skate. (I’m still crying.)
Spiccine: Kanako! Last time I saw her, she was really unmotivated and her jumps were a mess, but here in the FP she seemed a totally different skater! She attacked every jump, even the 2A, with a confidence she didn’t have before, or at last not in these last seasons, and she was so committed to the music. Don’t know if she skated like that because she thought this was her last(?) nats, nevertheless it was beautiful to watch.
Which performance was the most underscored?
Banana: I know I’ve previously said that she’s improved for me, but considering that Marin is within the same age range as she is, Wakaba Higuchi! She doesn’t have the same finesse, I think.
Bea: I don’t think any performance is underscored. I think Japan Nationals are relatively fair in scoring. (*eyes emoji at Russian Nationals*)
Heidi: I didn’t spot any grave injustices in terms of under- or overscoring at this event, so the judging seemed pretty fair to me. However, to my untrained eye Jun Suzuki should have placed a tad bit ahead of Kazuki Tomono in the short program.
Ioana: I think Wakaba Higuchi and Marin Honda deserved higher PCS. Wakaba gets higher PCS internationally so I’m still a bit puzzled why they underscore her in Japan.
MJ: Mao Asada’s short program. Even with the single axel I cannot believe the judges only gave her 32 PCS, and barely above an 8 in SS. Axel aside, that short was the best I have EVER seen her perform that particular program this season. Aside from the split-second disappointment after the pop, she didn’t let the axel affect the performance at all. It’s rather unfair that judges this season won’t score Mao where she should be simply because she isn’t doing the triple.
Spiccine: Yuna’s FP, she deserved better PCs.
Which performance was the most overscored?
Banana: I know I’ve previously said that she’s improved for me, but considering that Marin is within the same age range as she is, Wakaba Higuchi! She doesn’t have the same finesse, I think.
Bea: Like I said above, Japan Nationals was pretty fair in their scoring.
Heidi: Can’t think of anything – again the judges were pretty chill here and the scores didn’t seem too inflated compared to some other national championships (ahem).
Ioana: In my opinion, none. Japanese Nationals are known for their fair scoring (sometimes underscoring…).
MJ: I thought some of the top men’s short programs were scored quite highly (except Mura, because Mura’s 90 was rock solid and you can fight me on that). It’s like the judges took Yuzuru’s usual 47 PCS and re-distributed them among the top men for the short to make up for his absence.
Spiccine: Honestly? Both Satoko’s SP and FP. She is a great skater, but I don’t think she is so superior on PCS, compared to skaters like Wakaba, Marin and Yuna (I know they got those PCS because they are more or less still juniors in judges’ minds, but that’s not a good reason IMHO).
Out of those skaters and teams who finished in the bottom half of their events, who had the best performance?
Banana: Mao was 12th out of 24 skaters, can I stretch the question a little bit and choose her? The StSq in her FS was 🔥🔥🔥, and the timing of the 2A+3T!!
Bea: Unfortunately, not all programs of the bottom half were available on YouTube, so I guess I’m going with what I’ve watched. Kanako Murakami’s free skate, hands down! I’m so happy she finally hit a 120 in the free skate after a couple of seasons of struggling. I hope that’s a confidence booster for her moving forward.
Heidi: I had not seen Miyabi Oba or Jun Suzuki skate before, but I thought both were quite lovely to watch. Oba’s short program was especially charming, despite her costume having the most confusingly coloured sleeves I’ve seen in a while (is the fabric illusion mesh that is supposed to match her skin? or is it supposed to look like actual sleeves? whatever, it’s not working).
Ioana: I… don’t think Fuji bothered to air most of the skaters who finished in the bottom half of their events so I’ll go with Mao Asada. Despite the technical difficulties, she performs and shows quality skating no matter what and we are all lucky to continue watching her compete.
MJ: Video of this probably doesn’t exist (editor’s note: FOUND IT!), unfortunately, but Kohei Yoshino’s short was lovely! I haven’t seen him skate since last year’s Nationals and his improvement across the board, but especially in regards to his connection to the music, is tremendous.
Spiccine: What bottom half?? XD Due to Fuji Tv’s broadcasting decisions, we didn’t get to watch those skaters. Maybe I can go with Komatsubara/Koleto with a good debut at Nats.
Who has the most to gain at their next competition?
Banana: I’d say both Mao and Yuka Nagai. Not the ideal placements for them here (I’m so sad about Yuka lol), but they’re both always such lovely skaters. It’s a good time for them to regroup and rework what they need to–their next competitions (next season?) can give them the strong comeback they need. But if we’re still talking about this season, I’d say both Mai and Wakaba.
Bea: Given Satoko is the only Worlds veteran in the current ladies’ team, I think Wakaba Higuchi and Mai Mihara have a lot to gain, given this will be their first 4CC and senior Worlds. This will give them an opportunity to prove that the ladies’ team in Japan is stronger than ever.
Heidi: Wakaba Higuchi and Mai Mihara will be going to their first senior-level championships, the Four Continents as well as Worlds, and have a chance to make some pretty big statements there, especially Mihara who is less decorated of the two.
Ioana: Wakaba Higuchi, Mai Mihara and Keiji Tanaka. Although Keiji has already been to 4CC, Japan is sending new, talented skaters to Worlds and I think they’ll all gain valuable experience just by competing on the most important stage.
MJ: Well, Yuzuru could finally gain that 4CC gold should he actually attend this year. I also think Mai will have very good experiences at both 4CC and Worlds, as a first-time attendee with consistency and a lot of momentum behind her.
Spiccine: Mai Mihara. She’ll be able to go to both 4CC and Worlds for the first time and this will be a great opportunity for her! (Same for Keiji regarding Worlds.)
Who has the most to lose at their next competition?
Banana: I’ll pass on this one–a handful of the skaters for the world team are there for the first time, and I think in that case any showing is a good showing in general, lol.
Bea: None. I think this team has been Japan’s most solid team in a long time.
Heidi: Rika Hongo hasn’t had the same kind of drive she had last season, and needs a good showing at the Asian Winter Games to get back her confidence and keep her spirits up. Subpar performances, I’m afraid, would have the opposite effect, and I’d hate to see her end the season on a bad note.
Ioana: None of them. Half are medal contenders (Yuzuru Hanyu, Satoko Miyahara, Shoma Uno) and the other half (Wakaba Higuchi, Mai Mihara, Keiji Tanaka) have proved they can keep up with their more experienced team mates. Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed are aiming for top 10 at Worlds and they look very determined.
MJ: If Yuzuru chooses to skip 4CC again, he could either finally peak at the right time or pull another Hanyu At Worlds™ and pop everything, so…
Spiccine: Marin Honda. She hasn’t been consistent this season so far and there is a lot of pressure put on her for being the reigning Junior World Champion, won’t be easy for her to defend the gold medal at next Junior Worlds.
What surprised you most about this event?
Banana: The men’s short program results, and Mai Mihara on the ladies’ podium! She did pretty well on the GP, but I’m a little surprised when I think about how Mao and Kana are so far from the podium during this year’s nationals (versus previous nationals).
Bea: I anticipated Mao Asada would struggle during the competition, but I didn’t expect a career-low placement in Nationals. I do hope she rests well and come back stronger next season!
Heidi: Takahito Mura being in the lead after the short program and then making just enough mistakes for everyone’s favourite former popstar Keiji Tanaka to take the silver and the third spot to Four Continents and Worlds. Also Shoma Uno remembering to do three combos in his free skate.
Ioana: Yuna Shiraiwa’s clean 3Lz-3T and 3F-3T combinations! I was thinking girl, share with the others will you. And also the fact that she had the highest TES in the FS. She’s a strong competitor, a bit underrated compared to Wakaba Higuchi and Marin Honda.
MJ: The judges being pissy at Mao, even in Japan, at Nationals. Several younger lady skaters having the highest TES in the free (top four: Yuna Shiraiwa, Mai Mihara, Saya Suzuki, Rin Nitaya). Yuzuru actually LISTENING TO HIS BODY and withdrawing from an event instead of skating with illness/injury like he is wont to do. Kanako skating a clean free and getting only two carrots in the whole program!
Spiccine: Kanako’s great FP and all my faves doing well!
Which skater/team selected (or likely to be selected) to participate in 4CCs, Euros, or Worlds will have the most success at those events?
Banana: The ever-consistent and reliable Satoko Miyahara, especially for 4CC. I think she’ll do well at Worlds too, but the Russian ladies will also be there, sooooo I’m crossing my fingers, arms, legs, and toes.
Bea: I think Mai Mihara will continue to be a dark horse in her future events. She has been consistent in her performances so far, and I see her most likely keeping it up.
Heidi: Unless Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno break themselves before or during Four Continents due to the ongoing quad arms race and their general #nochill #yolo #recklessyouth mindset, their chances of being on the podium are probably higher than anyone else’s. This could also apply to Worlds, but who knows what may happen between those two competitions – who knows what may happen with men’s skating in general before the end of the season? Or even before the end of January?
Ioana: I think Yuzuru Hanyu will win both 4CC and Worlds. Unlike last season, or even the season before, he didn’t show his best at the GPF and I think he’s saving what’s best for the last. Satoko Miyahara will have better success at Worlds.
MJ: I can definitely see Satoko winning 4CC again! I would be unsurprised if Wakaba and Mai had great placements, as well. Kana and Chris have been getting better and better (their free dance here was excellent) and I think they’ll see a boost in their standings in the second half of the season!
Spiccine: I don’t want to jinx Yuzu or Shoma (yeah, I’m crazy XD), so I hope Wakaba’ll have a great debut! (And just like that I have probably jinxed poor Wakaba, sorry!)
Which skater/team selected (or likely to be selected) to participate in 4CCs, Euros, or Worlds will have the least success at those events?
Banana: Can I pass? Pass. I feel like they’ll do just fine, one way or another!!!
Bea: I can’t think of anyone who’ll have the least success, but I do see Satoko will continue to be underscored in Worlds.
Heidi: I’m sorry to be such a pessimist, but I’m not exactly counting on Japanese pairs to do exceptionally well at international competitions all of a sudden. I hope they prove me wrong, though!
Ioana: Keiji Tanaka…? Sorry Keiji, you’re a good skater but it’s your first Worlds and your teammates are called Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno.
MJ: Sumire and Francis, mostly just because they’re inconsistent and lack the technical ability to place highly. That said, I can tell their partnership has gotten stronger this season, so I hope that shows through again at their next events.
Spiccine: Really tough question, I love Team Japan and I don’t want them to fail, but since I have to answer I’ll say Suto/Boudreau-Audet (don’t want to be mean, but Japan really needs to invest in pairs and ice dance if they want a team event Olympic medal. They probably don’t care at all though).
The experts always get to make “bold predictions.” Make a bold prediction about something that will happen in the remainder of the season.
Banana: Echoing Sigrid’s prediction of Kevin Reynolds for 4CC gold. 🙂
Bea: Team Japan ladies will sweep the 4CC podium, with Satoko taking her second gold medal. Shoma Uno will actually make it to the 4CC podium this time, and Yuzuru Hanyu (get well soon!) will win his first 4CC medal.. Marin Honda will accidentally win another Junior Worlds medal.
Heidi: Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed place within the top 10 at Worlds and Japan gets two ice dance spots for the Olympics (you said bold, right?). Shoma Uno finally skates a clean short program and scores over a 100 points in that segment in one of his remaining competitions this season. Tiny Queen is back on the podium at Worlds and we shall all be #blessed.
Ioana: I don’t know if my former predictions were bold or not, but they worked (Wakaba Higuchi going to Worlds, Mikhail Kolyada becoming the #1 Russian man and Keiji Tanaka going to Worlds). So I’m gonna push my luck and predict another Worlds silver for Satoko Miyahara.
MJ: Yuzuru picks up another 4CC silver to add to his massive stash of Skate Canada and 4CC silvers, on his way to finally winning Worlds again. Finally.
Spiccine: Lambiel and Dai will team up as pairs and/or ice dance team and give Japan an Olympic gold medal! XD
Bonus question! You get to unilaterally move one skater or team from this country to another country. Which skater/team do you pick, where do you send them, and why?
Banana: Ilinykh/Zhiganshin to anywhere that isn’t the US nor Canada, for obvious reasons.
Bea: This is pretty difficult. I can’t imagine anyone representing another country. Though I would like to give Evgenia Medvedeva’s PCS to Satoko Miyahara because I prefer Satoko’s artistry over Evgenia’s mime performance.
Heidi: I would pick literally any male skater who placed within the top 20 here and send them to Finland so that we could have, like, SOME competition in our almost non-existent senior men’s field. I’m not bitter or anything.
Ioana: If Keiji Tanaka were to represent Chinese Taipei, he’d get to go to 4CC and Worlds every season.
MJ: I’m going to take this opportunity to be incredibly selfish and move Koshiro Shimada, my favorite junior skater, to the Philippines (my home country), where we currently only have one internationally competitive male skater (Michael Christian Martinez). Why? Because I’m selfish and I love him, that’s why.
Spiccine: Rika Hongo. She’ll likely have tough seasons from now on, with all these J ladies becoming eligible. I’d like to send her to Italy, we really need a good skater like her and she’ll have the time to improve without being too worried by new skaters coming up.
Anything else to add about this event?
Banana: I got to watch Keiji live during the 2016 Asian Trophy, and I remember him popping something and Coach Mihoko letting out a loud, frustrated, “AAAARGHHH.” Now he’s the national silver medalist and a member of the world team. We’ve come such a long way.
Bea: I really wish Fuji TV would consider live broadcasting the event. Kudos to the nifty TES box, though!
Heidi: I wasn’t expecting too much of Fuji TV’s coverage, but still it was mildly annoying how they decided to rather show a ****-ton of ads and fluff in stead of the actual skating that was going on. At least the skating was good – the ladies’ free skate competition was one of the cleanest and most high-level ones I’ve seen in a while, and despite some unfortunate absences and general messiness the men delivered as well.
Ioana: Was this the weakest men’s event in recent years? I think it was… it actually made me feel bad for those who retired and had to fight each other for those 3 spots back in the day. Not to mention nostalgic.
MJ: Shout out to Tim and Misato for a fantastic Nationals debut! They’ve been skating for not even a year together and they look incredible. Please watch their free dance, it’s lovely!
Spiccine: Shoma managed to win, Yuzu decided to rest for once, Wakaba’ll go to both 4CC and Worlds and Yuna to Junior Worlds, can’t complain at all!
What did you think about this year’s Japanese National Championships? How did our judges do? Leave us a comment to let us know, then sign up to judge a future event!