2 Japanese Win Prizes in Int’l Sax Competition in Belgium

Jiji Press
Japanese saxophonists Wataru Hirai, left, and Kenta Igarashi pose for a photo in Dinant, Belgium, on Saturday.

DINANT, Belgium (Jiji Press) — Japanese saxophonists Wataru Hirai and Kenta Igarashi won prizes in the eighth International Adolphe Sax Competition held in Dinant, Belgium, until Saturday.

Hirai, 23, from Kakogawa, Hyogo Prefecture, ended fourth and Igarashi, 21, from Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, fifth in the competition, one of the most prestigious international contests for classical saxophonists.

The event, held every four years in principle, began in 1994 in Dinant, the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone.

“I’m very happy I was selected a finalist. I’m relieved that it’s over,” Hirai said with a smile, speaking to reporters after the competition.

Hirai, who started playing the saxophone at 12, is enrolled in the French national college for music and dance known as the Paris Conservatory.

On his future plans, he said he wants to hold his own concerts and become a teacher to train students to be world-class saxophonists.

Igarashi, whose mother is Ukrainian, lived in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv from age 5. He joined Tokyo College of Music after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

He said he was able to play with confidence in the competition though he felt some difficulty because he needed to play many tunes.