Global Alumni

Global Alumni

Koji Tokumasu  President of Asia Rugby, March 1974 Graduated of ICU’s College of Liberal Arts, Division of Education
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Q. Please tell us how you came to start rugby.

Today I am here as the President of Asia Rugby after working as the General Manager of the 2019 Rugby World Cup Organizing Committee, but I would never have been what I am now if I had not enjoyed playing rugby as an ICU student.

II was interested in rugby since I was a high school student, but the only chance I had to play rugby in high school was in our PE class. When I entered ICU, I moved into the First Men's Dormitory. Back in those days, each of the ICU men's dormitory had their own rugby team, and a rugby tournament was held among the dormitory teams. Practicing for the interdormitory tournament, I became more and more fascinated with the charms of rugby. My senior, Komaki-san (later, he worked at Dentsu after graduation) invited me to join the ICU Rugby Club which had only several members at that time. That was how I started playing rugby. Since there were not enough members to form a full team, I remember that graduates would participate whenever we had a match with other teams.

Q. Did you spend most of your time as a college student for rugby?

I have a lot of fond college memories related to rugby, such as our training camp at Sugadaira Highlands, but I wanted to experience other things, too. One day, in my second year, I saw a poster in front of the Religious Center recruiting volunteers to do some wall-painting at a children's home in Hachioji during the holiday week in May. This poster somehow caught my eyes and I decided to participate. When I visited the children's home, there were so many children from so-called disrupted families. I felt that I needed to do something for them and continued to do volunteer work there. One time, when the children's home was lacking number of staff, I was asked to become a formal staff member as a high school graduate. I accepted this offer and started to live in the children's home in Hachioji while attending ICU.

In fact, I taught rugby to the children of the children's home, too. My graduation thesis was titled "Issues Surrounding Child Welfare in Japanfrom the viewpoint of a children's home." I raised the issues of Japan's child welfare based on my experience at the children's home.

Q. After graduation, you went abroad to study in Wales after working as a newspaper reporter. Could you tell us the story how this came about?

My experience of working at a children's home as a student made me think that I had a mission to help change the world by reporting welfare-related issues. I chose to work as a reporter for Nishinippon Shimbun, a newspaper publisher based in Fukuoka, presenting various problems closely related to the local community.

After a while, however, I realized that a newspaper reporter just reports things from an objective viewpoint and does not take any actions himself. Several years passed, and one day when I visited a local high school match to report on their rugby team, I saw how the students and the coach were working hard together, sharing joy and hardships toward the same goal. I felt strong envy wishing that I could also take part in their activity. So, I decided to become a teacher and resigned my job.

A little before that, I watched a great rugby match between the national teams of Wales and Japan at Hanazono Rugby Stadium in 1975. I was struck by the outstanding performance of the Wales team. I wanted to visit Wales to see how they play rugby there. I thought it would be a good chance to go on a trip before actually starting to work as a teacher and visited Cardiff, the capital of Wales, initially planning to stay only for a couple of weeks. There, I was treated as "a Japanese enthusiast who came all the way from Japan to study rugby" and blessed with a series of miraculous encounters, which opened the way for me to become a research student at Cardiff College of Education (current Cardiff Metropolitan University), a college famous for training physical education teachers, to study rugby coaching for two years.

Q. Why did you decide to return to Japan after you had completed the two years study at Cardiff?

While I was staying at Wales, I received a letter from Mr. Masayasu Kano, my ICU rugby teammate who was a year junior to me, inviting me to become a rugby coach. In his letter he said "A new junior and senior high school called Meikei High School is being built in Ibaraki Prefecture and I've been appointed as the head teacher of the English Department at that school. The school is going to promote rugby as its signature sport. Are you interested in coaching rugby to junior high school students in this school?"

I was enjoying my stay in Wales so much that I was starting to think about staying there forever. So, to tell the truth, it was not an easy decision to make, but inspired by Mr. Kano's enthusiasm, I decided to go back to Japan. Mr. Kano was so kind as to apply on my behalf to an ICU course to obtain teacher's qualification, before I even returned to Japan. I studied at ICU for about half a year and successfully obtained a license as an English teacher.

Q. Meikei Rugby Team won the National School Rugby Tournament in 1989 only 10 years after the team was founded. How did you coach the team to achieve such an outcome?

I was employed as an English teacher at Meikei High School (Ibaraki Prefecture) in 1980, and immediately started to coach the junior-high rugby team which had just been founded. I adopted a Welsh style of coaching incorporating a lot of practice simulating an actual game.

Naturally, each player has different characteristics and strengths. You find out what improvements are necessary for which player by having them take part in the games. If you find a certain problem with player A, then you assign him a certain practice to improve that problem. You may find a different problem for player B to overcome, then you assign him another task. Assigning each player with a task that best fits his needs is the most effective way to improve the ability of the team. Basically, I adopted this style of overcoming a certain defect through practice, while incorporating in some aspects the good side of the Japanese style of everyone doing the same practice together. The students willingly adapted to my style of coaching, in part because it was a brand new school without any former practices or traditions. As a result, they dramatically improved their skills.

Another important thing, the Meikei Rugby Team set the goal of "Enjoy Rugby" as our team objective. When I first joined the Cardiff College of Education Rugby Team, I lost the first game I played in. After the game, I was taking a shower feeling very disappointed. Then, a teammate came to me and asked, "Did you enjoy the game?" I did not understand why he was asking me if I "enjoyed" the game when we had lost. The next week when we were doing weight training, another person asked me again "did you enjoy?" It was then that I understood what they meant by "enjoy." They were not asking me if I had fun, but if I did the best I could, if I gave myself to it.

At Meikei High School, we shared the objective of doing our best. Each and every player worked hard every day so that he can bring out his best.

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Q. Later on you worked for the Japan Rugby Football Union and succeeded in getting the 2019 Rugby World Cup come to Japan. Could you tell us the story behind that?

From 1995, I served as the international communications and public relations officer of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU). When I started working for the union, there were only about four staff members and I was the only one to take on international communications. Back then, the Japanese rugby community was kept outside of the loop of the global rugby community. I worked hard to constantly send out information and appeal Japanese rugby. I started thinking that it is necessary to host Rugby World Cup in Japan in order to further develop and appeal Japanese rugby to the world.

In 2003, Asahi Shimbun planned to feature Japanese rugby in an article titled "New Year Rugby Forum." The executive director of JRFU came to me and asked if I had any new ideas to introduce in the article. I suggested "how about inviting the Rugby World Cup games to Japan, although it's only a big dream for the future." The executive director actually mentioned this in the interview and the idea was taken up in the article. I was a bit flustered and called the International Rugby Board (IRB) to confirm the possibility of hosting the Rugby World Cup games in Japan. They answered "Since Japan too shares the responsibility of spreading rugby across the world, it is not impossible for Japan to host the World Cup games." Thus JRFU as a whole started to move towards hosting World Cup.

At first, it was the 7th World Cup (2011) that the JRFU aimed to host. Japan, New Zealand and South Africa launched a bid for hosting the 2011 games. Japan rolled out a campaign under the slogan of "New Horizon" to appeal the significance holding the World Cup in Japan has for spreading the sport throughout the world. However, New Zealand won the bid. We were so disappointed that we almost gave up the idea, saying to ourselves that it was impossible for Japan anyway because we didn't have a strong rugby tradition. Two years later, however, we restarted our efforts to invite the World Cup games based on the belief that "Hosting the Rugby World Cup in Japan would be a big step toward spreading rugby across the world."

When we were lobbying for the 7th World Cup, we were not used to the task. All we could do was shyly hand our business cards to the stakeholders. However, this helped in the next round of lobby activities. We could roll out our activities in a much smoother manner because many people remembered our names and faces. On the other hand, we felt strong pressure and obligation to win the bid this time, because we thought that this would be our last chance. Luckily, in July 2009, we won the bid to host the 9th Rugby World Cup games in Japan in 2019.

Q. After building such a widespread international career, Mr. Tokumasu, what do you think characterizes the students and graduates of ICU? What do you think are the qualities necessary for building an international career?

I feel that many ICU graduates are always searching for something. I didn't realize it back then, but ICU's admission exams are not made up questions that simply test good memory and knowledge. This must be because ICU's education is more focused on developing problem-solving abilities. The beauty of ICU students is that they try to look at things objectively to understand the essence of things and phenomena. I think that is why many ICU graduates become engaged in innovative activities.

Through liberal arts education, which is characteristic of ICU, students learn the importance of seeing things from different perspectives, understanding things and phenomena in the context of a network of relationships, and looking at the whole picture from a federated view.

Generally speaking, foreign people tend to think based on a wide framework without paying much attention to details, but Japanese people are more delicate and tend to carefully confirm each detail before actually putting into practice. Although they both have their own advantages, when doing international business, I think it is most important to proactively take action without fearing failure, and try to have an attitude to simply "enjoy" right here and now.

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Mr. Tokumatsu graduated from Tokyo Metropolitan Akikawa High School. In 1970, he entered ICU's College of Liberal Arts, Division of Education and moved into the First Men's Dormitory (now closed). He practiced rugby to take part in the rugby games held between dormitory teams in those days. He was solicited by a senior student who lived in the same dormitory to become a member of the ICU Rugby Club, which only had several members at that time. While participating in the rugby club, he also devoted himself to volunteer activities and worked in a children's home as a live-in helper. Based on this hands-on experience, he wrote a graduation thesis titled "Issues Surrounding Child Welfare in Japanfrom the viewpoint of a children's home."

After graduation, he worked as a newspaper writer for several years but decided to become a teacher and resigned from his work. Before he actually started working as a teacher he saw a rugby match between Wales and Japan at Hanazono Rugby Stadium. This experience changed his life. He was so overwhelmed by the match that he wanted to see rugby in Wales with his own eyes and flew to UK in 1977. At first, he had only planned for a 2-weeks stay in Wales, but a series of chance encounters led him to study rugby coaching for two years as a research student at Cardiff College of Education (current Cardiff Metropolitan University).

In 1979, he was invited by Mr. Masayasu Kano, one of his ICU rugby teammates, to become an English teacher and coach the rugby team at Meikei High School. So, he returned to Japan and started working at Meikei High School in 1980. Less than ten years later, he led the team to win the championship at National High School Rugby Tournament in 1989.

From 1995, he worked for the Japan Rugby Football Union. He exerted himself to win the bid for hosting Rugby World Cup in Japan and succeeded in getting the 2019 Rugby World Cup come to Japan. Currently he is committed to promoting rugby in Asian countries as the president of Asia Rugby.