Spreading the popularity of rugby sevens in Japan through the Olympic Games
Kazushi Hano works for the ICT Consulting Division of NTT Communications.
As a 15-man rugby player, he was a member of the Japan U20 Team, the Japan A (backup) Team, and Junior Japan Team. As a rugby sevens player he is a member of the Japan National Team.
As a sevens player he was active as a member of the Japan University Team, the Japan National Team, and the Japan U24 Team.
ATHLETE MANIFESTO Vol.1 Kazushi Hano
We compete with the world through "Win by Running" Rugby.
Please tell us the special appeal of rugby sevens.
Seven people per team play on the same pitch as 15-player rugby, so the space for each player is wide. The result is that compared to the 15-player game, the relative importance of speed to physicality is greater. A game is only 14 minutes (7 minutes per half), which makes the developments leading to a score faster and easier to understand. If you watch one game, you are sure to be hooked on rugby sevens.
What are your special traits?
In the games I play around the world, I come against great players that outmatch me in certain aspects like speed or power. However, I intend to never come up short in sheer determination, specifically my fitness to run full out for 14 minutes, and always coming in low for tackles.
Japan ranks in the top class of Asian teams, but has not gotten into the top group of world teams (came in 15th in the World Series of the 2014-15 season). What are the aspects which Japan must improve before the Olympics?
We are striving to win games through the outstanding running of each man on our team. Our physical build and speed are inferior to the best teams, so first of all, the amount that we move in one game must be superior. Then, we must have strong awareness of the team play that will make our attack and defense succeed. It’s important that all seven of us see and act out the same play diagram in our heads.
During the game we are aware that we cannot make a single mistake.
What do the Olympics mean to you?
When I started playing rugby, I didn’t think I could get into the Olympics playing this sport. I’m just delighted that Sevens has become an Olympic event and that I have been given the chance to be on the Japan Olympic Team. I think that many people watch sports in the Olympics and Paralympics that they usually don’t watch. I want to take full advantage of this opportunity to make rugby more popular in Japan, by showing everyone some excellent playing.
Are there performances in past Olympics that have left a special impression on you?
I admire Tadahiro Nomura’s three consecutive gold medals in Judo. The Olympics come once every four years, so that means he was the best in the world for at least 12 years. Just to appear in the Olympics three times is a great accomplishment. He was an extraordinary man to be able to keep up his ambition to be at the top, bear up under the pressure, and actually keep getting the gold medal for all that time.
What do you see are your responsibilities when you represent Japan in the Olympics?
I strive to play rugby with the same strong determination whether as a member of the Shining Arcs (my company team) or representing Japan. However, I have been selected for the National Team because I am supposed to be one of the best, so I play knowing that I am not allowed to make a single mistake. Those games are broadcast around the world, so I want to play in a way that will make children think “I want to try playing rugby!”
I’m really happy that everyone in my workplace is supporting me.
What kind of team are the Shining Arcs of NTT Communications?
We are distinctive in that we are young. The many young players feel that it is up to them to make this an outstanding team or to die trying. It’s a joy to play with them and get in the same spirit. Our lack of experience makes it harder to know what adjustments we should make when things are not going well, but we are always learning things from the veterans on our team like Makoto Mayahara who is playing at age 40 [*retired at the end of the 2015-16 season].
At your workplace, what work do you usually do?
Procurement and management of supplies is my main work. I sometimes cannot come to work because of Japan National Team training camps and Shining Arcs away games, so I am generally given work that can be completed that day. During rugby season, I work in the morning and practice in the afternoon. I come to work on the day after a game.
In my workplace there are many who like rugby, and on a day after we have lost, I get a lot of heckling – “Hey, Kazushi, what happened yesterday? Didn’t you say you were going to win?” (laughter) But knowing that everyone there will be watching really sharpens me up mentally. There are times when doing both work and rugby is hard on me physically, but having a workplace to go to where I work together with people who cheer me on is a great joy.
My cooking specialty is pan-fried udon noodles!
What do you do on your days off?
I watch movies, go shopping, and when I’m tired I nap at home, just like everyone else. However, I try not to go out very much. After a game my body is worn out, and my immune system is weakened. I make recovering my strength my highest priority. What I eat is very important, and when I cook for myself I take care to get balanced nutrition. My specialty is pan-fried udon noodles! Of course I add meat, but I also add a lot of vegetables.
You have a large body, so I imagine you eat a lot.
I eat more than the usual person, but there are many rugby players who eat more than me. If you have a big body, it’s nice that your hand can reach high places, but the seats on trains and buses are tight! (laughter) When we fly somewhere for a game, the seats are too narrow for two forwards to sit together, so a forward always sits next to a back. The guy I sit next to is usually over 100 kg., so I have to scrunch in my shoulders like this. (laughter)
Kazushi Hano in 2020
The Tokyo Olympics will be held in 2020. You of course want to participate in them, don’t you?
The world’s top athletes coming to Japan to compete in 2020 likely will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, considering that I was far from being born at the time of the previous Tokyo 1964 Olympics(1964). It’s certain to be one raucous festival. It’s a true honor for me to have a chance to participate in these Olympics as a player. It will be an excellent opportunity for rugby sevens to get wider popularity, and if there is a possibility for me to participate, I will try my best to make that possibility a reality.