Japanese saxophonists Wataru Hirai and Kenta Igarashi won prizes in the eighth International Adolphe Sax Competition held in Dinant, Belgium, through Saturday.

Hirai, 23, from Kakogawa, Hyogo Prefecture, took fourth place while Igarashi, 21, from Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, came in fifth in the competition, one of the most prestigious international contests for classical saxophonists.

The event, held every four years in principle, began in 1994 in Dinant, the birthplace of Adolphe Sax, who invented the saxophone.

"I'm very happy I was selected a finalist. I'm relieved that it's over," Hirai said with a smile, speaking to reporters after the competition.

Hirai, who started playing the saxophone at age 12, is enrolled in the French national college for music and dance known as the Paris Conservatory.

On his future plans, he said he wants to hold his own concerts and become a teacher to train students to be world-class saxophonists.

Igarashi, whose mother is Ukrainian, lived in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv from age 5. He joined Tokyo College of Music after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

He said he was able to play with confidence in the competition though he felt some difficulty because he needed to play many tunes.