Shuhei Nakamura first qualified for Pro Tour New Orleans in 2002 but did not attend due to the financial costs. He qualified for the next Pro Tour in San Diego and managed to play in a handful of events over the next few seasons before finally stringing one event into the next with a Top 50 finish at Worlds in San Francisco at the end of the 2004 season. That year he teamed with Tsuyoshi Fujita and Kenji Tsumura to form one of the greatest Nationals teams to ever play at Worlds.
"I didn't make Day Two. This was when Japanese didn't do well at all on the Pro Tour. I wasn't disappointed or upset," Nakamura recalled of playing at Pro Tour San Diego 2002. "What I took home from that first Pro Tour was the feeling that it was an obstacle I wanted to someday overcome. One other thing I remember from that first Pro Tour was that I met someone I thought was really, really good―Eugene Harvey. Although now that I think about it, that was right around the time he debuted on the Tour as well."
Things were changing for Japanese Magic players. Tsuyoshi Fujita had already made the finals of a Pro Tour and at Pro Tour Venice Akihiro Kashima made the Top 8 while Masahiko Morita, Masashiro Kuroda, and Katsuhiro Mori were winning the Masters Series.
Following his performance at Worlds in 2004, Nakamura had his breakout season on the Pro Tour kicked off by a second-place finish at Pro Tour Columbus—a Top 8 that featured three Japanese players—and another Top 8 to close the season at Worlds in 2005. It was the year that Japan swept the event held in Yokohama, winning the World Championship, the Player of the year title, and the World Team Championship.
"I think the reason Japanese players were able to blossom the way they did is we were paradoxically able to take advantage of the fact that we were held back for so long by our geographic and linguistic distance," posited Nakamura. "It took a while, but eventually Fujita and then Kashima made Top 8, and my impression is that they primed everyone else. After that, players who we Japanese had known for a long time were capable but who were unknown outside the country started racking up Top 8s."
Pro Tour: Columbus 2005: 2nd (Extended) Worlds 2005: 7th (Mixed) Prague 2006: 3rd (Booster Draft) Valencia 2007: 4th (Extended) Hollywood 2008: 3rd (Standard)
Grand Prix: Kobe 2001-02: 2nd (Block Constructed) Fukuoka 2001-02: 8th (Booster Draft) Nagoya 2001-02: 2nd (Team Rochester Draft) Utsunomiya 2002-03: 2nd (Rochester Draft) Yokohama 2003-04: 6th (Block Constructed) Seattle 2005: 3rd (Extended) Matsuyama 2005: 6th (Booster Draft) Toulouse 2006: 3rd (Booster Draft) St. Louis 2006: 1st (Booster Draft) Hiroshima 2006: 1st (Booster Draft) Stuttgart 2008: 1st (Booster Draft) Copenhagen 2008: 4th (Standard) Rimini 2008: 2nd (Block Constructed) Rotterdam 2009: 3rd (Booster Draft) Houston 2010: 5th (Extended) Florence 2010: 3rd (Booster Draft) Prague 2011: 3rd (Booster Draft)
"I thought that if I didn't get in this year, I never would," said an extremely happy Nakamura. "When I learned I had been inducted, I guess I felt relieved more than anything else. It didn't help that all my friends were giving me a hard time over it."
To say that Shuhei is an active player is the height of understatement. He has spent virtually every available weekend for the past few seasons chasing down Pro Points and locking up Level 8 after Level 8 status in the Pro Players Club. He admitted that his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame could coincide with a more relaxed travel schedule but explained that he was already considering that.
"I was already thinking about changing my approach to the Pro Tour, but now that I am in the Hall of Fame, I suppose it will change," said Shuhei before adding that he still had some unfinished business that was driving him: "Winning a Pro Tour."
Shuhei looked back to the day in 2005 when he was sitting in the audience at Worlds when the first Hall of Fame class was inducted. Later that weekend, he would add the second of his five career Top 8s, but at the time a spot in the Hall of Fame next to the likes of Jon Finkel seemed a long way away.
"Ten years ago, I never would have imagined this day would come," admitted Shuhei. "Six years ago, I realized it might someday come but it would be a long time in coming. Three years ago, I made it one of my goals. Entering the Hall of Fame is one of the end posts of my Magic life, and I hope it will be one of the better achievements of my life."
In becoming the second Japanese player to be inducted into the Pro Tour Hall of Fame, Shuhei wanted to thank the person who paved the way for him to get there: the first Japanese player to do so.
"I would have to thank Tsuyoshi Fujita," said Nakamura. "His influence has been a major reason for me continuing Magic over the years."
Listed below are notable decklists from Shuhei Nakamura's Pro Tour career.
With five Pro Tour Top 8s, seventeen Grand Prix Top 8s, and more than 400 lifetime Pro Points, Shuhei Nakamura has a resume second to none.
Shuhei's rise to Pro Tour dominance coincided with his membership on Japan's National Team in 2004, alongside Tsuyoshi Fujita (left) and Kenji Tsumura.
The Nakamura Magic World Tour took Shuhei around the globe many times over, including this excursion at Pro Tour Geneva 2007.
A relentless player and world traveler, Shuhei has finished in the top five of the Player of the Year race five times, winning the title in 2008.
As Shuhei's success grew and his travels went farther and wider, he became instrumental in building relationships between the Japanese Magic community and players in North America, South America, and Europe.
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