Haruo Imamura (last updated 12 Apr 2019)
Haruo Imamura

Haruo Imamura

Inducted 2019

Imamura Sensei began his study of judo when he was ten years old in Tamana, Japan under his first judo instructor, Hiroyuki Nishii. During his senior year as team captain, he led Tamana High School to a 3rd place finish in the All Japan High School Championship in 1953. After graduating Tamana High School he was given a scholarship to attended Tenri University in Tenri, Japan where he was coached by Japan’s first Olympic Coach and All Japan Champion, Yasuichi Matsumoto.

early tournament days when he was a fierce competitor. Photo © the Imamura family.

During his time at Tenri University, from his freshman through senior years, Imamura Sensei was the judo team captain, since then a title held only by a senior class student. Under Imamura Sensei’s leadership the team won the All Japan University National Championship in 1956. While a University student, he was selected to be a member of a Japan All Star Collegiate team that toured the United States with a stop in Fresno, California. After graduating Tenri University he returned to Fresno as an exchange student.

In 1960, Imamura Sensei competed and won the U.S. National Championship 180 pound division and the overall Grand Championship. In 1962, he again won the U.S. National Championship 180 pound division title.


Another early tournament days when he was a fierce competitor. Photo © the Imamura family.

In 1976, Imamura Sensei began a U.S. and Japan judo exchange program with an All Star Junior team from the San Joaquin Valley visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and many towns in Southern Japan. Japan has sent teams to Fresno in exchange and the program continues today.


Another early tournament days when he was a fierce competitor. Photo © the Imamura family.

Imamura Sensei began teaching at Fresno State University in 1980. In 1985 and 1988 the Fresno State Men’s team won the Collegiate National Championship title. In 1989, the Fresno State Women’s team was the Collegiate National Co-champions with San Jose State. Imamura Sensei continues to teach at Fresno State and presently, has the longest tenure among all active professors in the Kinesiology Department.

A family portrait, from left to right, Robert, Richard, Haruo, Randy, Rodney. Photo © 2019, the Imamura family

In the 1980’s and 1990’s Imamura Sensei served as a U.S. National Judo coach. He travelled the world coaching U.S. National judo teams in international competition.

In 2002, Imamura Sensei began taking teams to the Sanix International Junior High School Tournament at the Global Arena in Munakata City in Fukuoka Prefecture. He has taken students from all over the United States to competition with teams not only from Japan but also Russia, Korea, Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, Taiwan and Egypt. It is a wonderful experience for American junior high judo players to meet junior high judo players from around the world.

Imamura Sensei has been a consultant to the Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan, translating Daigo Sensei’s judo technique lessons from Japanese to English on the internet and he has served on the Kodokan’s Foreign Advisory Committee since the early 1990’s. His autobiography was recently published as a series in the Kindai Judo magazine in Japan. In 2006 Sensei Imamura was awarded Coach of the Year by the California Judo, Inc.


Sensei Imamura teching. Photo © the Imamura family.

Imamura Sensei has dedicated his life to the study and teaching of judo. He has taught judo in the United States for 50 years and in October 2007 was awarded the rank of Kudan or 9th degree black belt by the United States Judo Federation.

Upon his passing away in 2017 he was posthumously awarded the rank of Judan by the United States Judo Federation, the organization he dedicated his life to.

Haruo Imamura’s obituary

Haruo Imamura was born on September 4, 1933. He was raised in Tamana, Japan. Haruo started judo training at age ten. He quickly ascended to prominence leading his Tamana High School judo team to national recognition. Having been recruited by a number of traditional powerhouse judo universities, Haruo decided on the upstart and little known Tenri University. He was honored by the position of captain for the very first Tenri University Judo Team. Under the intense training of Yasuichi Matsumoto, Tenri University won their first national championship in only their second year of inception. Haruo served as captain for four years, the only Tenri captain to ever do so. Tenri University is currently recognized as one of the most famous judo universities in the world, having produced numerous Olympic and World judo champions. Judo served as a vehicle for Haruo to visit the United States as part of an All Japan Collegiate Judo Team in 1955. He was captivated by the American culture and found the love of his life, Sumiko Kurokawa. Haruo and Sumiko were married in 1962, and settled in Fresno, CA. Haruo continued his judo career in America winning United States titles in 1960 and 1962. His subsequent years were spent teaching judo to countless students at the Fresno Judo Club, California State University, Fresno, and other clubs around the San Joaquin Valley. His intense style of training in combination with the highest standard of superb judo technique garnered the utmost respect from the judo community. He taught judo to everybody that was willing regardless of color or creed, claiming that the only prejudice he had was against lazy people. His coaching success also included National Collegiate Judo titles for Fresno State in 1985 and 1988. He continued to teach judo for the Department of Kinesiology at Fresno State until months before his passing.

Obituary Fresno Bee

Fresno Judo Club obituary

The Fresno Judo Club has a page dedicated to Harua Imamura

About the 2017 Haruo Imamura Collegiate Cup

A video of Imamura Haruo Sensei doing his infamous Uchi mata.

His Fresno Hall of Fame entry