No other swimming coach has single-handedly developed, trained and organized a national team to Olympic and international prominence more so than Japan's Ikkaku Matsuzawa.
He became the leader of Japanese swimming for a 10-year span, ended only by the outbreak of World War II. During the late teens and early 1920's, Matsuzawa was a middle school, high school and university swimmer in Tokyo. Very few pools existed and swimming meets were held in the seas or lakes. Being a good swimmer and seeing the need for a college swimming organization, he started the Nippon Intercollegiate Swimming Association in 1921. He was also very active in the Amateur Swimming Federation of Japan.
In 1929, he escorted the first Japanese team of female swimmers to compete in Hawaii. Upon the team's return, he was appointed coach of the National Team for men and women, competing against the U.S. Team in a 1931 duel meet in which Japan came out on top. The team was victorious again at a 1935 duel meet versus the United States.
At the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, his male swimmers stunned the world by winning all but one of the gold medals and four of the five silver medals. Among his swimmers were future Hall of Famers Yasuji Miyazaki, Kusuo Kitamura, Shozo Makino, Masaji Kiyokawa, Yoshi Tsuruta, Reizo Koike and Masanora Yusa, all winning Olympic medals in all three strokes. On the women's side, Hideko Maehata collected the silver medal in the 200m breaststroke.
At the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the Japanese men won two of the five events, two of the silver medals, and swept all of the bronze medals. The relay team won the gold. In women's competition, Maehata again won the breaststroke gold medal while Tetsuo Hamuro won the men's 200m breaststroke.
His training methods were revolutionary for the era. He emphasized developing leg muscles for a strong kick versus developing upper body limbs as other countries were doing. He stressed the rhythmic motion of the trunk to minimize water resistance and emphasized dryland training while providing leadership and instruction. His success of the time may be attributed to his strict system of training according to army discipline; he had his swimmers lead a systematical life.