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Stories from my life (Part 2): Spending younger days with two rackets

  • January 8, 2019
  • , Nikkei evening edition , p. 12
  • JMH Translation

By Yasuhiro Sato, chairman of Mizuho Financial Group


I have two fond memories when it comes to rackets. One is badminton, which I played enthusiastically when I was younger.


Recently, I was luckily given a badminton racket from Reiko Shiota, who used to play for Japan’s national team. I held the racket grip after such a long time and lightly leaned back on my heels. I swung down the right arm looking at midair while balancing on the left arm. Swish! Yes, I remember this feeling.


I was fascinated by badminton’s overwhelming speed, martial arts-like fierceness and precise tactics with the net in between, and a beautiful parabola drawn by a white shuttlecock. I devoted myself to the school’s badminton club during the six years in junior and senior high schools.


My school was a boys’ school and had a badminton team that was strong enough in those days to advance to a Kanto regional tournament every year. Schools placed in the top eight in Tokyo played in the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, where a girls’ tournament was also held.


I think such a thing gave me encouragement in going through daily hard training. A badminton racket was always by my side when I was young.


The other memory of rackets is tennis, which I began playing after I started working for the bank. I served as secretary to Yo Kurosawa, then president of the Industrial Bank of Japan, for three and a half years from 1993. He started to play tennis seriously when he was 55 years old. He decided to do so after looking at the tennis racket left by his son, who suddenly passed away when he was in the second year of junior high school, and thinking that he wanted to carry out his son’s wish.


I played tennis in and outside Japan, paring with the president. Kurosawa was a huge man, weighing more than 100 kg. I was therefore had to cover three-fourths of the court and keep running all the time.


I still remember what I experienced when I accompanied Kurosawa’s business trips to the U.K. and the U.S. We played tennis with our clients in the suburbs of Heathrow Airport in London and then played again immediately after landing on JFK Airport in New York. Playing tennis at two different places during the same hours on the same day on earth is impossible now because all the Concorde supersonic passenger jets, which connected the two cities across the Atlantic Ocean in three and a half hours, were retired in 2003.


Recently, I have been encouraged by some tennis fans in the business community to play tennis again. Also, young members of our company’s badminton team have been asking me to play together.


Maybe my stamina would be running out. But it can be fun to use the two old rackets and recollect the good old days.

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