Koshiro Shimada on his 23/24 Programs and One Piece on Ice

At Nebelhorn Trophy, Verit caught up with Koshiro Shimada who won the bronze medal at the event.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

First, I wanted to ask about the Short. I think it fits you very well, but why did you decide to keep it from last season? 

It’s because of Stéphane’s [Lambiel] opinion that he wants to watch this program develop, [like how] last year I kept the free skate, Charlie Chaplin, the second season gets much better. So we are kind of looking for that situation again, for more connection between the audiences and the judges, so that’s why I kept [it]. 

But you changed the costume- so that it would be something different? 

Yes, and also the atmosphere, and the feeling of the second season that is wanting to improve something. As a feeling, costume is very important, so we decided to change [costume], and because actually Stéph gave me his previous costume for the same [piece]. So I could not keep it forever. 

And the free skate costume, did you have any influence? Is the designer Japanese? 

Yes, she is a Japanese costume designer, and she worked with Sota [Yamamoto] and many skaters. Her name is [Shizuko] Orihara. She’s very nice and we actually talked about the costume that won’t be very classical, but it’s very … kind of strange-feeling. 

It’s a little weird, a little quirky. 

Exactly. Because of the material. We talked about this, and she was very motivated to make this. So I was very happy and really appreciate that she worked hard to make the costume, and was very into it. 

I heard yesterday that Kazuki [Tomono] wanted to see something dark from you. Was this the first choice of music, or did you go through other choices, specifically for the free? 

When I watched, maybe two years ago, Deniss Vasiljevs’s European’s Romeo and Juliet, when I was watching his performance I was really inspired that he makes [such a] beautiful program about classical and kind of ballet movements. I really want that kind of performance and want to do it, so I got so much inspiration from him. So that’s the first reason that I really wanted to do it.  I [told] Stéphane that that’s my feeling, and then we decided that now is the time to do Danse Macabre, and we listened to many versions- one with the orchestra, one with a piano.

You decided to do it a little different, with the piano. Very minimalistic; I think it’s very difficult but that it will develop well over the season and will help you grow. 

Exactly, yes. I really hope so. It was a little bit tiring at the end yesterday! 

This off-season, you did a lot of shows, not just ONE PIECE ON ICE, but many ice shows, [did] this full off-season help to prepare? 

It’s actually hard to say, but it’s really helpful [for] me, I skated with very good skaters, like top skaters in the world, some legends from the past, like Shizuka [Arakawa] and Daisuke [Takahashi]. Unfortunately, they retired, but they are still there, still performing very professionally. They are so amazing. When I was watching each skater, I was shocked, I really can see the possibility [for] figure skating and the future from them, so that makes me … sometimes it’s hard [at] an ice show as a competitor to switch on and off, but when we perform at an ice show there’s still some adrenaline feeling, and nerves, it’s kind of similar. 

You still want to do your best. 

Exactly. So there’s some connection between shows and competition, so that was really helpful for Kazuki and me. Some people are worried if [we] are practicing or having enough time to practice, maybe there was not [as much practice] as last year, but our mind and our spirit is very strong. Which is from a different direction, but we still work hard and work on it. This first competition was very good for both of us. 

How did you feel when you were invited to do ONE PIECE ON ICE? You were already a fan of the manga and the work, I remember you posting it! Your performance as Sanji did go viral, with international fans and Japanese fans, how did that feel for you? 

For me, there were two big important and very appreciated points. ONE PIECE is so famous in the world, so [for] the ONE PIECE fans, they didn’t know about figure skating, and some of them got interested in figure skating- that is really wonderful. I’m kind of aiming for that, my goal is when someone sees my performance, I would like … 

… for them to get into figure skating, and they think, ‘oh, this must be something I want to watch.’

That’s why I’m still skating, it’s a really wonderful feeling. The other thing is it was my first time performing in a story, acting, as one story for one show. For example for Disney on Ice or Art on Ice, they have one story and make it a whole connected story. I really love those feelings, it’s more like, again, a possibility for figure skating, it makes it wider and bigger. 

I also love when each beautiful skater performs, but at the same time, I want many shows, that kind of show. I was so appreciative that I joined that new experience. It was [an] amazing summer for me. 

A different thing, I heard about the situation in your rink, in Ehime. There are not many rinks there. 

Yes. It’s called Shikoku, a small island, just under Honshu. There are not many ice rinks anymore. I think two ice rinks exist there now, and then one, in 2026, will [close] down. 

When you’re in Japan, what rinks do you usually use? Do you skate there? 

It’s hard to say, there is a national training centre in Osaka, so I spend time there, but the situation is hard, my hometown is Ehime, so when I want to see my family, I have to go to Ehime. So when I go back there, it means in the future there [will be] no ice rink. The sad thing is that the young kids will miss the opportunity to touch figure skating culture, so that’s really sad for me. 

I hope somehow that there will be another way for popularity, that there can be more rinks. 

They have already decided that they will close [the rink], but I would like to join something to [say] that figure skating is beautiful, “please, please!”. I cannot do many big [things], it’s easy to say but still, saying is something. 

Is your next performance Japan Open? 

Yes. 

The last time you were there was 2019. How do you feel about going there again? 

It’s actually the same situation, that is, I had Nebelhorn Trophy in 2019, right after, we went to Japan Open. At that time I could not feel like a senior skater yet, that was my first year [joining] the senior category. Now I feel more comfortable and confident, it’s because of many experiences. It might be that [I will] have a new experience again, definitely we will enjoy gain[ing] new experiences. It’s gonna be a lot of pressure because of the team, because of Saitama Super Arena, so there is many [things] that are [giving] pressure but those kinds of good stress can be useful. I’m really looking forward to that. 

Shimada helped Team Japan to a win over Team North America and Team Europe at the Japan Open in October. His first Grand Prix event is Grand Prix de France, followed by Grand Prix Espoo.

Interview and photography by Verit: Twitter, Instagram

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