Remembering the Magic of the 2023 Japan Open

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A Life-Changing Cultural Experience (and a Disc Golf Tournament) 

The Japan Open is unlike any other event in disc golf. It is an exchange of culture and an opportunity to experience Japanese traditions in the most welcoming community imaginable. From the moment you arrive in Sakai City, you are a part of the Japan Open family. Your presence is appreciated; you are taken in by the locals and shown a level of respect most Americans have never received from strangers. People who don’t speak the same language laugh and develop friendships through body language, gift giving, and playing together. 

The week kicks off with an Opening Ceremony in which the Mayor, the Board of Education, and local school children welcome visitors to their town. The Friendship Tournament follows, offering an opportunity for Sakai City residents to discover disc golf alongside some of the best players from around the globe. 

The Professional Tournament is held on a truly world class course at the Fukui Country Club. It features stunning views of the Sea of Japan and challenging course design. Crowds of locals, including many children seeing disc golf for the first time, cheer on the competitors. The winners are then crowned in front of local officials, press, and the exceptionally inviting community of Sakai City. 

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While the award ceremony would mark the end of most tournaments, the most unique and valuable experience of the Japan Open is still yet to happen. The competitors and spectators are invited to join in the Mikuni Festival, a tradition spanning over 300 years. Huge, intricate floats are paraded through the streets of Sakai in an all-day celebration. There is traditional music, food and drink, and an entire city of participants. The disc golfers are given the special honor of carrying floats in the parade wearing the traditional Happi, a Japanese festival garment. For outsiders to be able to participate in the Mikuni Festival in this way is a huge privilege.

Jeremy Koling won the 2023 Japan Open by a huge margin, but the win was just a tiny part of what Jerm describes as a life-changing trip. Hearing Jeremy and other participants recount their time in Japan shines some light on just how much this event will exceed your expectations. But to truly understand the magic of the Japan Open, you will have to attend in person.