Out of Retirement: Kazuya Mitamura

Posted in GRAND PRIX KYOTO 2016 on September 10, 2016

By Ben Swartz

Team tournaments have to power to bring people together. It doesn't matter if it's your first event or hundredth, there's nothing like grabbing your friends and playing for a weekend. For Pro Tour Honolulu Champion Kazuya Mitamura, this weekend was an excuse to get back into Magic with his longtime friends.

Known as "Chief" by many, the soft-spoken Japanese player was one of Japan's star players in the late 2000s, making the Top 4 of Pro Tour Charleston and the Top 8 of Pro Tour Yokohama before going on to crown his achievements with a Pro Tour win in Honolulu in 2009.

Kazuya Mitamura at Pro Tour Honolulu 2009

Around 2011 he went into the workforce and effectively fell off the face of the Magic earth. "My last event was GP Shanghai 2011," he mentioned. While he showed up occasionally to nearby GPs since then to spend time with friends, Shanghai was the last one he entered. Since it had been so many years since he last played it came as a surprise to many when he posted the following to social media on Friday: "I'm in KYOTO. Finally I come back to MAGIC the gathering!"

I asked him what brought him back after all these years and he said simply, "Nakajima-san wants to play with me for this event." Of course it was more complicated than that since there were a number of other Team GPs that have occurred in Asia since 2011. "Now, I'm between jobs. I was working at my previous job for two years. I have a short time." His previous job was for a game company in Kyoto, so when he got the call, it was easy for him to show up to Pulse Plaza.

His team for this event is Chikara Nakajima and Shingo Kurihara, both accomplished players in their own right. Nakajima has two Pro Tour Top 8s, one with Mitamura as part of D-25 at Pro Tour Charleston 2006, and one from Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011.

(left to right) Chikara Nakajima, Ryuichi Arita, Kazuya Mitamura

Shingo Kurihara has a Pro Tour Top 8 of his own from Pro Tour Geneva in 2007 and 5 Grand Prix Top 8s over his career. Both of his teammates have been playing Magic consistently since the 2000s. Nakajima works at a Magic store in Tokyo and attends Grand Prix regularly.

Since it had been 5 years since Mitamura's last event I wondered how it felt for him to get back into Magic. "I'm certainly not a pro," he mentioned, explaining that he was playing this weekend "for fun." He came into this event cold: "I didn't really prepare for this event and I don't know many cards," Mitamura confessed.

(left to right) Chikara Nakajima, Shingo Kurihara, Kazuya Mitamura

While he has attended tournaments for fun and played a little since he stopped playing in 2011, he's been cold for a while: "I haven't play MTGO in a long time. Even back in the day I didn't really use MTGO to practice--I would just go to tournaments every week."

As for his future, he wasn't sure. "I'm not sure if I'll be attending more tournaments in the future," Mitamura said cautiously. "Playing has been tough--Nakajima keeps telling me about all the things that have changed since I played last." Mitamura paused and thought for a moment and then blurted out:

"Next year there's a Pro Tour in Japan, right? Kyoto? I really want to play in that! If everyone goes to that I'll go, but playing is much more difficult. It's much harder to qualify these days since I rarely play."

Perhaps Pro Tour Kyoto 2017 will be Mitamura's ticket back on the Pro Tour. It's been a long time since we've seen him. Thankfully team tournaments can bring people like Kazuya "Chief" Mitamura out of retirement--at least for a weekend.