I graduated from Tokyo’s Waseda University in the late 1990s as a politics major and was looking for a job when I saw that the Japanese rugby union was hiring an accounting assistant.
That was my way into the world of rugby and, as I liked to use my English, I ended up helping with the women’s international games in Japan as well as negotiations with other unions when our team travelled abroad. The job suited me and, in 2010, I was appointed as team manager for the Japanese women’s rugby sevens.
I had never played rugby — I just loved to watch it. My father was a big fan and would take me to games when I was young. My most memorable match was the final of the Japanese national tournament in January 1984 when I was 10. We did not have tickets, but I managed to buy some for all the family from relatives at the gate, using up the money from my New Year’s gift.
My proudest moment was in 2016, when the Olympic Games included rugby sevens for the first time, and we went to Rio de Janeiro.
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Initially, the women’s team only had about five training camps a month, but we developed the set-up and, in recent years, we have spent an average of 270 days a year as a team training and participating in international tournaments. We have trained so hard — when I started, our team was ranked fifth in Asia, but now we are the champions of the region.
I tried hard over the years to give my full support to players and staff both on and off the pitch and, most importantly, I made sure to keep the team disciplined.
Last year, I decided to reinvent myself. In 2015, Ireland had hosted the qualification tournament for the World Rugby Sevens women’s series at the Belfield Bowl, the University College Dublin stadium. I heard that UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School was looking for women from Asia to join its full-time MBA programme, so I decided to apply.
I have two goals. The first is to develop a life-long career as an executive coach at some point in the future. Professional rugby players face a lot of pressure and, over the years, many have come to me for advice on how to cope. I have found I have a natural ability to motivate.
My second goal is to promote women’s rugby in Japan and for that I need business knowledge such as marketing. I love the sport because of its core values: integrity, solidarity, discipline and respect.
My MBA course started in September and will run until August. There are 34 full-time students from countries such as India, the US and Lebanon, so it is a pretty international environment. Most students are in their late twenties and have joined the course after roughly five years in a job. I think I am the oldest person on the course at 47, though I don’t feel that old. I still have the same passion to learn new things as the younger students — age does not matter when you are learning.
I have enjoyed the class on leadership and organisational behaviour — it is all about how to manage a team and become a better leader. I learnt a lot from that. Last year, all classes were online because of the pandemic but, this year, we have so far luckily had all classes in person.
Ireland has a lot of multicultural companies, such as Google, and it is important to learn how to work together with various nationalities. I have learnt how to communicate and plan activities in a company in a smoother manner.
I have enjoyed living in Ireland. Everyone I have met here has been so supportive and always asks if I am doing fine. I really feel at home, even though I sometimes miss the sun. But at least my Indian flatmates entertain me and keep me happy.
With Covid, it has not been easy to explore Ireland, but I am hoping to visit the countryside by the end of the programme.
I plan to spend another couple of years with the Japanese rugby union — it funded my MBA and I also really want to help develop women’s rugby in Japan.