A Japanese university student has won first place in the violin category at an international Bach competition, the first Japanese to do so in the contest's 64-year history, organizers said.

Tokyo University of the Arts student Seiji Okamoto, 20, beat out fellow finalists Niek Baar, 23, of the Netherlands, and Austrian Marie Radauer-Plank, 28, in the final of the 19th International Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig, Germany, on Friday.

In a telephone interview, Okamoto said he was elated. "It still doesn't quite seem real, but I'm extremely happy because I love Bach," he said.

The biennale, which started in then-East Germany in 1950, celebrates the work of Johann Sebastian Bach (1658-1750), with participants between 16 and 32 years of age competing in either piano, harpsichord or violin/baroque violin.

Okamoto, who hails from Chiba Prefecture, started learning the violin at age 3 and now mainly studies baroque music. He advanced through the heats and semifinals over nine days before playing Bach's Partita solo and a violin concerto with an orchestra on Friday.