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An interview with Yukio Akagariyama - 2011 World 9 Ball Champion

A Pro9 - Europe\'s No.1 Pool Player Resource Article


Date: Wednesday, August 03 2011 @ 17:59:33 UTC
Topic: 9 Ball

Full Name - Yukio Akagariyama
Date of Birth - March 13, 1975
Born - Daitou city, Osaka
Lives - Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan
Titles/Achievements - 2011 WPA World 9-ball: Champion
                             - 2011 WPA World 10-ball: 3rd
                             - 2010 All Japan Championship: 3rd
                             - 2009 China Open: 3rd
                             - 2006 All Japan Championship: 3rd

All photography appears courtesy of ©Takao Takayama at www.OnTheHill.jp

On 4th April 2011, OnTheHill.jp published a statement for Yukio Akagariyama:

"Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, I have decided to donate all of the prize money I may win this season to the Japan Red Cross for their relief efforts."

"As I have traveled all around Japan, including the disaster stricken areas, to take part in challenge matches with amateur players, I have received much support from the billiards community in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, so the problems they are facing were never something I could just dismiss."

"I feel deeply sorry for all those who died, remain missing, or still languish in public shelters like refugees in their own country."

"I was profoundly impressed by the generosity of my fellow professional sportsman - Ryo Ishikawa, one of Japan’s top golfers."

"I was inspired to do the same even though we play in different spheres."

"This year, whenever I play pool, I hope to alleviate the burden of those in the disaster stricken areas. I shall do my utmost to live up to their expectations and play my best for them in all my matches."

"We all live for something, and for me it is to play pool. I want to use my skills not just to delight the fans, but also to help those less fortunate, however limited that aid may be."

Yukio “Karly” Akagariyama
Member of the Japan Professional Pocket Billiard Association (JPBA)
4 April, 2011

...Here, Pro9 presents an exclusive insight into the 2011 World Champion!

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All photography appears courtesy of ©Takao Takayama at www.OnTheHill.jp

Pro9 How did you start playing cue-sports, and what sort of encouragement did you receive in the early years?

Yukio "When I was thirteen, a nearby game centre installed a new pool table. I just played there, learning by watching others."

Pro9 Can you tell us a little about how you started playing cue-sports, what age were you, were your parents in the cuesports industry or is there anyone else with a talent for cueing in your family, what sort of encouragement did you receive in the early years?

Yukio "No one else in my family played pool or was involved in cue-sports in any way. My youngest brother is not that bad now though."

Pro9 Did you receive any coaching as you developed your skills, is there a programme in place in Japan to develop young billiards talents, or did you have to learn by yourself? How did you go about improving your technique and knowledge?

Yukio "I’ve never received any coaching in my life. There isn't any programme in Japan to nurture young talent. I just learnt by myself by watching other players."

Pro9 What is the professional pool scene like in Japan? Is pool more popular than snooker or the other way around? Is pool respected in Japan, or does it have a reputation for attracting bad people? Is there much gambling, or is it mainly organised tournaments?

Yukio "Pool is the most popular of the cue-sports in Japan. In the past, pool did attract some unsavoury types, but that gradually changed. In Japan, gambling is illegal. Professional pool players compete in the tournaments, teach, work in pool bars, or run their own pool halls."

Pro9 Are you a full time professional pool player, or do you have another career outside of pocket billiards? How do you finance your pool career, the hotels and flights and entry fees? Is sponsorship a lucrative source of funding in the Japanese pool circuit, or are there any government grants? Are the top Japanese pool players making a decent income from billiards?

Yukio "I’m purely a pool player at the moment. My personal sponsor provides me with a salary and covers my travel costs. I give all my prize money to the sponsor.

The sponsor gives me a bonus depending on how much I make. We don't get any government grants, but the NBA (Nippon Billiard Association) gave me a reward for winning the (9-ball) World Championship and coming third (10-ball). It's really hard to make a decent income from billiards in Japan."

Pro9 What are the ramifications for you now that you've won the World 9 Ball Championship? How were you treated when you returned to Japan? Were you given any special award or recognition by the government or Japanese press? How does it feel to be a World Champion? How did you celebrate your victory?

Yukio "Personally, it hasn’t changed me at all.

The NBA (Nippon Billiard Association) hosted a commendation ceremony in front of many fans during the Japan Open Tournament.

Afterwards, the sponsor hosted a banquet to celebrate my victory with my family and over 70 guests."

Pro9 What future ambitions do you have concerning your pool career? Are there any other tournaments that you would REALLY like to win? Do you enjoy traveling around the world to play? When you get older do you think you will continue to play competitively like Efren Reyes, or do you think you will turn to management/coaching or perhaps even leave the pool industry?

Yukio "I would love for billiards to be more widely acknowledged internationally.

I am determined to win again in next year’s 9-ball world championship. I really want to win all the other major world titles as well.

I certainly enjoy traveling around, and hope to continue playing for as long as my physical and mental condition allows. I haven’t given any serious thought to life outside of billiards so far."

Pro9 What do you do outside of pool, do you have any other interests, both business or leisure?

Yukio "I like reading. I have recently thought about starting to exercise more and take up hiking in the mountains to refresh myself as well."

Pro9 Times passes quickly, and you will soon find yourself defending your World 9 Ball crown in Doha, Qatar, how do you feel about that?

Yukio "I intend to go all out for back-to-back titles in the tournament."

All photography appears courtesy of ©Takao Takayama at www.OnTheHill.jp

Yukio, I am really delighted to have had this opportunity to hear the thoughts of this year's World Pool Champion, thank you for sharing your story with us.

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