Japan Sport Stories

Japan's City of Cricket with Alex Miyaji

October 15, 2020 Mike Salter and Noel Thatcher Episode 7
Japan Sport Stories
Japan's City of Cricket with Alex Miyaji
Show Notes Transcript

Did you know Japan has a City of Cricket, and that more are starting to pop up. Head of Japan Cricket Association, Alex Miyaji talks us through how Togchigi's Sano City fell in love with Cricket, and how more and more cities are feeling the attraction. 

Episode 7 Japan_s City of Cricket

Tue, 3/2 12:27PM • 52:05


cricket, japan, people, sport, playing, schools, programme, city, japanese, facilities, building, players, tokyo, develop, opportunities, ground, ramen, international, community, baseball


Today on Japan sports stories, we're taking you to Japan city of cricket, there can be such joy and play in an agricultural shot of a silly mid off and dashing between the creases just before the keeper whips your bales off. There aren't many countries where majority of the population would understand that sentence. and Japan certainly isn't one of them. But our guest today is changing their perception of cricket in Japan from the grassroots up. We're delighted and honoured to be joined by the head of Japan Cricket Association. Alex miyachi. Alex, thank you for joining us. Thank you. So Alex, as the one person in this trio, who has very little knowledge of cricket, this is I'm really, really, really looking forward to learning a huge amount from you. But why don't we start off? Tell us a little bit about yourself how you come to be in Japan and and doing what you're doing at the moment? Yeah, so I was I was born in Tokyo, Father, Japanese and mother Scottish grew up in Japan and went to university up to university in Japan. But when I was about 10 years old, I went over to London, where my outlives and played some sports and cricket was one of those sports that I was like, what's this sport, and it was for me, coming over to England and meeting some new people a great way to, to, to make friends and I had, I hadn't played formally baseball, but I could I played in the park and I could throw the ball I could catch the balls. And then those days before the baseball coaches came into cricket, the cricket players didn't really know how to throw a ball so I could throw a ball and it wasn't, I couldn't bat or bowl well, but I could field well. So I had like cricket. It's a great game that had so many different aspects for people to enjoy and excel in something that I was able to make a connection with those people that will I was playing playing cricket with. So after that, we turned into Japan after the summer holidays. Not much cricket in Japan. And when I went to university, my university was one of the six universities in Tokyo had a cricket team and I saw I thought, well, this is my chance to join a Cricket Club. It's it's I've got some British blood in me and it's a small sport in Japan. Let's give it a go.


Which university? Okay, I killed I got Okay, who actually the one of the hosts sites for the Olympic and Paralympics, aren't they for GB. Okay, fantastic. Japan and cricket actually have quite a long historical connection, don't they? I mean, the first game, I believe was in 1863 was in Yes. in Yokohama.


Okay, and there's a little there's an interesting context to that game. I do believe that D EA would tell us a little bit about that. So how much time do you have?


Yeah, so I'm not the great historian. there's a there's a guy that from the Yokohama country and athletic dug all this stuff out. But yeah, it was in 1863. I think June, I think it was. And this was sort of a time when it was the adult period where the Shogun was governing Japan. And there was the foreigners had started to come into what was called the Black ships. And Pete, some people were wanting to open up the country and some people were hating the fact that Japan was getting invaded by these photos. So in those sort of times, there was the nama McGee incident the year before in the late of 1862, where


Samurai killed a British merchant. So the British government was demanding for compensation and, but then the summarise and the country were wanting to expel all the foreigners at the same time. So it's a very tense situation. And I think


it was in those sort of times in that particular the most tense of those negotiations when the merchants in Yokohama didn't have much to do because there was rumours of war there was rumours of people killing each other. So all the all that the the people who did business with them left the Yokohama so they didn't have much to do. And then the British bought in a fleet of ships from from around the stages to the region. And there were some people around so I guess whether it was to show the friendliness of the British people in Yokohama whether it was to bring the the fleet and the Marines to shore to protect them that I don't know how that sort of came about, but the British and the wasn't just a British, but some of the other Americans or the French people got in got involved and they sent a challenge to the the fleet and got a match on and played a game of cricket in those very tense sort of situations. So yeah, very, very good.


interesting set of circumstances that that match was played and I really enjoyed the I'm not a historian but here is a very long eloquent 10 minutes to


this match


and are the rumours of of pistols? I haven't seen any clue.


pistols being carried by the wicketkeeper from work, get to work get between the elbows. But that's, that's the story that has been told. And I've heard that. Yes, it's very It sounds very, very similar to the issue of rugby in Japan. For those that do know, rugby was started again by the merchants that came over. But how did cricket go from being just played, you know, by the foreign merchants in Yokohama to being played by Japanese nationals in Japan?


Yeah, so that takes 100 odd years to really formalise. So the Yokohama country Athletic Club and then the another sister club in corbera. They used to play into port matches, and not just cricket but football or rugby, or other sports as well. And that was pretty much I think, the the only form form of cricket being played in a formal way that we do know now. We do know that there has been some clicking activity in some schools where Buddhist teacher must have taught the kids but not something that has lasted the 100 years. And so you need to wait until the 1980s where Professor Makoto Yamada of Kobe Institute of Foreign Studies,


thinks it's a good idea to start a Cricket Club at his university. And he starts playing cricket. And from there, some of the universities in Tokyo picked it up and started Kanto University clearly. And from there, it's grown from a university sport to club cricket. And then with


the sort of what you might call the expert leagues for me and across Japan as well. And that sort of forming, uniting and developing into what is now Japan, cricket. Do that during that development programme. Obviously, there was a lot of us influencing in postwar Japan, Japan sort of vying for popularity with with baseball, that hat that had just so much more attraction, kind of how was that whole process? What baseball was, was really fly before the wars, it was a sport that was introduced by the American teachers in the late 19th century. And one of the I think the poet's muscle kowski was really into baseball. And then you got the Yomiuri newspaper without really going into baseball as well. So you had some influences, and you've got newspapers that really got into baseball formed professional teams. And it just really became a popular sport. So I sort of get my sort of take on it is that, and this is probably the sentiment that you might have got still 2025 years ago is that people who loved cricket or were proud of cricket being something that not everyone understood. And so sort of being proud of understanding something that not everyone understands. And so splitting the sport, I don't think was a priority. and Japan wasn't a British colony as well. So the need to develop school systems or develop soft power, I don't think was as strong as other places. So there wasn't a big push. But then the Americans I think, just loved what they did wanted to get everyone involved what they did, and that was baseball, other sports as well. So


yeah, I just don't think the there was that sort of mentality with the people that were here that love cricket, to want to get more people involved in playing cricket. So I think that's, and that's probably why in Japan, I call cricket, the last global sport for Japan. It's the last global sport, major sport in the world that we haven't really, it hasn't become a mainstream sport in Japan yet.


And I think that is, it was the one one of the sports that was the last, the last ones that we've really picked up. And now now we have what's out. JCA is formed in 1984. Five years later, you become an ICC member. Can you tell us a little bit about those those early days in what could almost be viewed as the the rebirth of cricket in Japan?


Well, I think you actually need to wait until 2001 to really have the Japan Cricket Association properly established. in those early days it was more people who played cricket in Japan getting together having some sort of a loose communication sort of form. There were some people organising tournaments, some people want to organising the national team and it wasn't really an order.


organised, the whole scene wasn't organised under one umbrella, really, it was a loose sort of a league of people being involved in cooking in Japan. So


I'm not aware of the process of applying for the ICC membership. But I think one of the guys involved in those days would have the insight of saying, hey, the ICC have membership open, and we qualified to become in those days it was full members, associate members and affiliate members. So we became affiliate members in those days.


It's probably not until in 98, there was UK in Japan, or something like that. It was a big celebration of UK things in Japan. And that's when we had the first MCC tour to Japan. And it was organising that tour that sort of formulated, the the people are the group of people into wanting to develop, hey, we've got together, we've organised at all, why don't we form this into the Japan Cricket Association, have put in place some goals in developing cricket in Japan and bring together the competitions, the high performance and the development work. So 2001 was when we became the non, we got legal status and a nonprofit organisation and which now we are, we've moved on to become a general incorporated Association. But and that was when it's more around the turn of the millennium was when the JCI became more of a puppet organisation.


And you mentioned development there. I mean, it's really outstanding, the work that you have done from sort of in terms of developing grass roots, grassroots


level participation, and I think this is a good time possibly to start talking about the city of cricket Satoshi. And and its role in this this this development process.


How did you come to, to sort of settle in in Santoshi, as it were, as the as the as the home of cricket? Yeah. Well, if I may go a little bit. Before we start in soccer? No, I think there were a lot of people who were just so passionate about cricket and wanted to get cricket into schools or get more people playing and there was a lot of stuff happening. And there was a lot of volunteers spent their time and their money to try and get more people involved in the sport.


It was, though, when we started looking at it in a more sustainable way. We we thought, Okay, well, we need to start developing in particular areas so that we can get one school, two schools, three schools in the same sort of area so that we don't have to be travelling to Hokkaido for one session to Osaka for the other Niigata for the next one. And also, by building


some sort of a following of cricket, whether it's people who want to watch it or play it, kids in schools, that is probably the the closest way we're going to be able to get city council support to get access to land or sports facilities to play cricket. And that was


places to play cricket was one of the first things that was the chat that the biggest challenge was was there, no land very hard to get sports facilities for whole day to play a one day match or a two day match. And this is before tea 20 cricket was became the mainstream. So


finding landing grounds was one of the biggest challenges. And of course, we didn't have any we don't have we don't have many coaches or finances or we were lacking everything. So as is pretty much starting from from ground zero. But


finding, finding linking those two key aspects of introducing the sport to more people whatever way that is, and being able to develop facilities that we can play the game, linking that and then identifying one city and saying we're going to pump in our all our resources, which we don't have a lot of, if we spread out across the country that's going to be very scarce. But let's concentrate on one city at a time. And let's strategically target these places and make sure that we start with around Tokyo because that because that's where most of the cricket playing population is. If we can establish cities of cricket with with playing facilities in north east west and south of Tokyo, then we're going to be able to cover 40 million people within that they'll they'll be able to travel to a cricket ground within an hour or an hour and a half. And so we said about trying to find the first location and in those days it's it was more about City Council's looking at the


The people that live in the city and saying, well, we don't have any cricket players in our city, why would we want a cricket ground? Or why would we want to introduce cricket into our schools? But then we just happen to stumble across central city.


And the mayor was like, well, we want people to come to San Oh, because our population is declining. So if giving you access to facilities is going to bring people to sell, then let's talk about it. So that's, that's where we started talking about capital, how can we develop a city of cricket? How can we get into the schools, how can develop facilities, and sanil was a great location 6080 kilometres away from Tokyo, depending where you start.


Access is good by car, and the train is not great, but it's not bad. And there's plenty of space. And it's there's a population of 100,000 people. So there's gonna be several 1000 kids in school. So there's a good market for us. Let's try this city out. And that was sort of 2008 2010 sort of timing. From those beginnings, I think you've made an incredibly gritty, the sort of difficult long term process and sound very, very simple instructions. I remember learning an awful lot about how to develop sport as we as we talked to you here. But you had a lot of local support from businesses, I believe, as well, in those early stages and introducing a sport which, you know, arguably on a on a on a national scale didn't have a huge profile in Japan. That's a huge testament to your ability to, you know, build relationships and bring communities together. I'm also really interested in in Sonos, sound cities, you know, position on this, because they, you know, population at what decreased by was it 10,000? The over over over a decade, many schools, in fact, the school where some one, you know, main cricket pitch, if I'm, if I'm right, is built on is closed down. So yeah, is that Sir, I've covered an awful lot in that question.


Obviously, building those relationships involving the community, that seems to be right at the heart of everything that JC are doing. Yeah, it was starting off. And when we started off, we were we were not sort of that aware that okay, well, the declining population and cities are looking for new things was what wasn't really the sort of main theme of what we were trying to do. But we what we were saying was, took it as a sport that can make a difference. No one else is picking up the sport as a whole city yet, yeah, if you pick it up, you'll be the first one to be and you'll be in the in the leading city of that sport in Japan, that's a great opportunity for you. And cricket is a great sport, because it can connect people it can, it's a different option. And it's not a sport that has been established in the Japanese education system for five decades or more. So it's free from all the other Japanese way of sports. So it can provide a different way of being involved in sport, a different way of enjoying sport culture and a sporting lifestyle. And it can connect you with a lot of people around the world. And


the fact that the awareness of cricket is so low, is actually a huge opportunity, because there are so many people out there and you can be the first to take it on. So that's how we were sort of talking about it. And then we stumbled across some city will which was, was very much looking for new things and ways to bring people to the city. And as you said, the first sort of people that we got involved with was whether the first person that was the big supporter was a local ramen shop owner. He was running a cafe at the time and I didn't have a formal office set up. So I used to go into his cafe and, and uses Wi Fi and drink his coffee 500 yen for as much coffee as I wanted for the whole day. So I used his sort of cafe as an office and he introduced me to some very key people in the city and I got to know some of the people that outside of the city officials, the local businesses that were really interested in doing something about this if you're not in the city that could die without some some really good efforts. And we got a limestone company president clinton president and a socket company president some three key people that really supported that bringing cricket something new to Santa city, and those people became huge advocates of the game and bring it in. It's not just about they don't they haven't played the game so it's not Oh, this is a beautiful game. It's a this is a great opportunity and let's let's capitalise on it and then be becoming great advocates of the sport brought in city council, City Hall interest into the sport as well. And we just started building on that we hosted an international tournament on a smaller scale in 2010, which the city council saw as a great way to showcase sport and they in two years time in 2012


When the mayor was reelected, one of his promises to the the electric was that they were going to use sport to bring more people to sign up for it was going to be a vehicle of developing the city into or revitalise a zinger city. And from there, it's become, okay, well, we are bringing more people and more people. So we need more grounds. Let's, let's provide more ground so. And we've sort of been able to


achieve that success, not just by a guess, sort of saying that we can bring more people if you can give us grounds or develop grounds for us, we are saying, if there is any place that you are not using, we will develop those facilities. And yeah, well, when we talk about facilities, we're not we're not creating fancy facilities with clubhouses and a lot of work. We're looking at old baseball fields that are not used anymore because of the declining population that are on the riverbank. So you don't have any toilets. You don't have any shade. You don't have any running water. You're cutting down jungles, you're picking up stones, and you're levelling the ground, and you sort of playing in the field, which is probably how I could get started anyway. So from there, we built one ground what more tournament's got to the next one just took that opportunity to build for grounds on the Riverside. And then this old high school that you just mentioned, as well, we became aware that this high school was closing down. So the opportunities, the summer city council want more people because the declining population and these facilities are becoming available because of the declining of population. So us being able to have those opportunities to obtain these facilities, then hopefully, it's going to help give back to the city. But yeah, the high school was a perfect location and you don't see many schools that are going to be big enough for cricket but this was a perfect situation where the ground was big enough for a full size, men's ODI size gun and ICC regulations at the time. It's the only ground in Japan that can have a ground that it's big enough to host international matches. And from there, we built a turf pitches and then the city council applied for the National grant local revitalization grants and and started actually building proper grass on it. So now we've got the foundation. We're still struggling with water or electricity or clubhouses. But we've got a nice, nice ground with nice grass. You spoke a lot there about schools and young people playing cricket. Is that the main target for the JCA you're not looking to bring in well established cricket ringers from outside. You're starting from the from young people getting them playing. Yeah, we started like I think one of the it's not just about getting players to play cricket, it's more to introduce the sport to many people. So this year, we we got a new part time staff on our for maintaining our ground. And he's 2324 I think and he came came and the first thing he said is like I played cricket in school, and asking him when he when he played it was probably one of our very, very first cricket school visits. And now in the last, I guess, 10 years or so, we've taught 2000 to 3000 kids every year in the in the schools in Sonora from first grade to sixth sixth grade, there are 6000 kids. So we're teaching a third to a half of those kids every year. And there are some schools that we haven't gone been to yet out of the 20 or so schools, we usually go to 1617 every year. So now we've got people that are growing up to become in their 20s that know cricket they, they've played cricket, they've had fun, and hopefully, hopefully they've had a great experience in the school. So there's still going to be another 1020 years before the 30 year olds and the 40 year olds are going to know Yeah, cricket. I know cricket. It's a sport that I played in school. And that's probably the foundation of trying to raise awareness not just knowing the name of cricket but knowing what it is. But what hasn't been very easy because teachers are very busy in Japan. And so you go and you go and talk to the teacher and say we can come and offer you cricket lessons. And they'll say well, we don't have any time. But so the first school that we went was actually when the another MCC tour came to Japan and one of the city council officers that were supportive, went to a school principal that he played volleyball with and said, Hey, can you please accept these gentlemen from England to come and visit your school? And the first meeting with the principal was like, I'm not doing this? I would, I would rather not do this. I am only doing it because this other guy asked me to. And so that's that's that was the tough first step to make. But then that school became one of the great supporters of cricket that's whole area have produced under 19 players now and we went to the World Cup this year, the under 19 World Cup in South Africa and some of those players were from that school. So


just shows how that that one, one change in that and so like


Just those sort of wins give us that motivation to keep trying and not giving up. So and I guess that's there's probably only one secret to getting where we have got to is just not giving up the great message message for anybody in any any sporting arena. You spoke about the cricket culture, not sort of following the Japanese culture. So you don't have to go. There's no kind of pressure for the children to play cricket. Do you expect cricket to follow the lines of British cricket where you'll eventually have a clubhouse and it will be in a sport for older people to keep playing as they get older and there'll be beers on Sundays is that where you see Japanese cricket going? In the far future?


Yeah, one of the things that we do want to


the first things when when we've got kids in the programme is that we want to be building a lifelong love of the game. And so whether it's playing the sport until you're older, or whether you, you might not keep playing, but you keep involved in any capacity, I think is is the way we want. And I think that sort of place of gathering that cricket can become is, is the biggest and most powerful value that it has. And not just the players being there. But


look at a lot of the sports facilities in Japan, and the non professional sports. No one's really there. This facility is not really built there for people to gather and just hang out, hang out. And so when we build the, or when we start developing forget facilities or places for to play cricket, we want to make it as inclusive as possible, not just for cricket lovers, but for anyone who wants to enjoy the atmosphere in the community. Any touch on inclusivity there, how is how is the women's game going cricket Is it about the same as the men's game.


It's struggling a little bit. And we've started a new programme called the J bash, which is to try and bring new people into the sport and excite them. And it's, I think, I think one of the difficult parts for the women's game in Japan has been the distance that you have to travel, being out in under the sun for so long, not having the facilities to bring your kids or family there. And so we are partnering with the British school in Tokyo which has developed a sports facility and Kawasaki with a clubhouse and some changing rooms. So we are able to get access to that and start bringing people to an environment that is more friendly to people with different meet different needs. So


it's Yeah, it's it's it's an area that we'd hoped that we'd make some really good progress in the next few years. The event that we did the other week, we attracted some new participants, Japanese players, or to be pliers and some Indian players as well. So the diversity of women's cricket in Japan hopefully will,


will grow or expand from here. Now I mean, obviously cricket spread beyond Sanofi now you've got several other cities, and what's the current situation in terms of participation numbers, he made reference to the underlying world?


World Cup team's performance, you know, historic firsts for Japan and how things at the moment. You know, in terms of participation growth, there is a lot of a growing number of people coming from cricket loving countries. So the population is just we don't need to do a good job to to go to populate cricket playing population in Japan. Well, I guess you need facilities to go to a tournament and matches but yeah, it's it is a growing sport, getting into the schools is becoming much easier, because now we've can show examples. And we if we are able to go back to the same schools, then it's getting easier. Getting them to be regular players is another challenge. And sometimes it doesn't really sort of fit completely. The more promotion you do in the schools doesn't actually give you more participants sometimes so but still without the participation or the the school visits, you can still get players coming into your your clubs if you do the right promotion. So some of the facilities stuff that we've been able to achieve have been much greater than what we would have imagined five years ago. Some of the challenges are still in going play in numbers in the junior Japanese sort of environments. And we're still trying to work out how we can attract people or kids to play on a regular basis. How can we fit it into the school calendar? How can we retain players from elementary school to junior high school This is a common theme with with with all countries, I think how you retain players when they get older and older.


But yeah, I think with the Cricut blast programme that we started with the ICC support, we were we got the opportunity to start a new


You location from Sonora, and that's when we started the Takeshima programme in west of Tokyo summer city and east of east of Tokyo near the 90 day airport area. They contacted us saying that they will be they were going to host the SU Lankan Olympic team in 2020. And so click it, they saw was a great vehicle to to start some international exchange programmes. And so we've got a ground there now. And we're starting on a trying to look at developing into the community as well in the near future. And again, looking at what we've done in Sonora, a city called Qaeda in in the Osaka area. This is it's really close to the Kansai Airport. It's a 15 minute drive from the airport. They contacted us and said, hey, we've got this piece of land that we want to use as a helicopter port for for when there's an emergency. But when there's no emergency we want to use that as a as a sports field. Baseball, you'll need this big back net footballer interested because they've got plenty of facilities. Would you be interested we'd like we like the idea of cricket because it could become an Asian Games or an Olympic sport. And it's got great potential. And it's a very global game so we can attract people through the Kansai Airport. So he said yeah, great, definitely. And so actually, the fourth of October is the opening of the Kaiser go ground. A very nice field with a synthetic kitchen in the middle and it's got automatic sprinklers which we would have drempt for insano as well. But so now we've got locations in Kanto and Kansai and now, in the next few years we'd like to get a cricket city of cricket or cricket playing Harbin, Torquay near Nagoya, and in total good near Sendai. So, we've got a few things working on at the moment. But now we are very excited that we've been able to move from just Sano to control and not just condo but today and then splitting, linking condo and all soccer together and just going that belt, I guess of cricket hubs. Incredible.


There's so you might have expanded too far.


You're a total I'm literally just listening to you. You talk about that process. And it is incredible the position of of sport as a as a soft diplomatic tool you made reference to that, do you think that's something that you're very much sort of aware of going forward, particularly cricket, you know, with its global sport, but particularly in East Asia with more Indian workers coming to Japan, Japan opening up as a more diverse multicultural workforce. That's something that you're you're aware of going forward? Yeah, definitely. And I think my my sort of experience growing up in a small town in Tochigi Prefecture, not not Sano, but in the same prefecture, the only other international family in the town was the local Christian Church. There was one family in my whole town, growing up in school in Japan in those days was was quite tough. If you had if you were different. Once I got to junior high school becoming being different, became a huge advantage. But still in society in Japan, just being different is difficult on a lot of levels, I think. And I think playing sport is was for me, a great way to connect with different people.


And I think flew cricket, I would hope that more people in Sonora get that opportunity when they are young to be part of an international environment, and not sort of be afraid of something that they don't know of. And I think that's that's what keeps people and especially rural areas in Japan back is that they just don't know, they don't have access to the outside world that much. And they don't have people around that, that have that connection, and it is changing. But still kids in the schools, the people in the in the communities, the companies could really thrive a lot more if they were open and they could connect and they had they were stimulated by those ideas that think that outside connections can bring to you. So it might might might not be that the actual playing of the sport, it might be a welcome function where some people coming to visit, have a sightseeing experience experience and playing cricket at the same time meeting local businessmen and Sunnah and just exchanging ideas might change their view of things, kids in schools, having coaches from from the JCA coming in international coaches coming in and just playing sport, like that experience I think is going to be very valuable for those people. And I would like myself having that experience growing up that opportunity to be there for everyone. and Japan does need that but population is declining. And now we need to be looking at how we can be different, not how we need to be the same subtle city needs to be looking at. How can we be different to ask our tatoeba as you're touching the city that are around us around it and when


We can't do it for everyone. And we're sports, still a small Association, but we are growing and that opportunity is there for anyone to pick up and become a partner with us. And I think it's it's all about partners and the international partnerships that cricket can bring are very exciting. I think that's such a powerful statement, you know, learning to be different or learning to, to realise the advantages of being different, not the same. And something that I can definitely relate to as visually impaired Japanese speaking Paralympian. They're trying to keep that as nice as possible.


Should we move on to talking about the weather? Well, rather than the weather, the kind of the way that cricket might fit into the Japanese, Japanese climate? So you had, obviously the Tohoku earthquake in 2011. It's got a lot of rainy season, a long rainy season. Things like, you know, typing Aggies came in. How does cricket play a role in that both? How does it survive through those difficult situations? And is cricket a useful tool for recovery after those situations as well? Yeah, I hope that's what sport and click it can play a role. And there's a big limit to what we can do. But I think the small work that we can do, I think we want to make it meaningful and our junior participation programme, the ideas and the reasoning, the purpose behind it really did evolve after the the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. That was sort of the timing where we were trying to formulate a proper unified gender participation programme that we could take to all schools and it was something that anyone can do. And it was the same for we we have the resources to give different cultures to be able to provide some good experience to the kids and and when the earthquakes and tsunami hit there was even in Sonoma, there was a period where we didn't have electricity for some days. We, because the the, the the city councils had to save on electricity. The gymnasiums were closed in the evening, so we couldn't run our junior activities after school hours. So yeah, I would our participation numbers fell quite a lot. In these sort of days. Some of the foreign players that were living in Japan left Japan at that time as well, there was a limit to what we could do. And then we thought, Okay, well, there's not much we can do when people were, it was in March, so it was quite cold, we can't keep people warm. We can't provide heating, we can't provide places to live. But once you get the essentials for surviving, we want to bring back people's smiles and sport can do that click it can do that. And that's why we started the cricket for smiles programme. And that was what we call it our our junior participation programme for a few years before we rebranded it as Cricut blast. And we still do the Cricut for smartest programme in the talk area, we got some very generous support from a guy called Sam Bhatia, who was an Indian person who lives in Dubai, who gives us equipment, Kate summers, who was in New Zealand, living in London that donated some funds for us. And so we've been able to run cricket sessions for kids in Miyagi and Fukushima Prefecture. And even if that was just a one off visit, and hopefully we were able to give some smiles to those kids, and we're continuing that that process with our partnership with Cindy University, which is a physical education University. And we've got some, we started with the women's players. And one of the players is now a national team player we're trying to develop, give those players in the Tohoku region an opportunity through cricket to represent Japan or become professional physical education University. So hopefully, building a strong University cricket team that will produce people who can stay in the community and keep developing cricket and provide a sustainable way of providing smiles through cricket in the in the in the region. And if we can then link it with a city of cricket in the Sendai, Tokyo area, then we can really leave a lasting legacy. I wouldn't boast that we like cricket made a huge difference. Like I think it's the small differences and splitting the ideas, the same sort of ideas that we develop through why why do people click play cricket? And why do we want people to play cricket? What are the opportunities? What are the benefits that we can provide the cricket


and so stifled hockey, this was a different sort of situation where it it did cause extensive flooding in Sonoma, so it was more about subtle has given us so much. And now it's in trouble. Let's go out and do whatever we can. There are some businesses that we they've supported us for a long time, and those are flooded, they're gonna struggle to get back on the feet by themselves, even if it's just more support that we can give them people coming from around Japan to help them out because


stickit has connected sono and local communities with a wide community outside of Sonora. And I think that's the value that we could provide. And we want to provide going forwards. How would you see cricket developing


over the next sort of five to 10 years? What are your sort of? What's your vision? And what's your dream for JCA and for Cricket in Japan? Well, I think this our current strategy is in English is called Building a brighter future, the Japanese title has a little bit more to it, it says building an even brighter future than people can imagine. Or you can imagine what I'd like people to feel within a, we've got another two years in it, but to feel by the end of this sort of five years is that, hey, cricket is exciting, cricket is interesting, cricket is global, and feel that, hey, cricket has some great opportunities. And so the next five years after that, we'd like to create those opportunities and make them and materialise some of those opportunities. And those might be seeing people like our underlying team players performing on the world stage more regularly becoming professional players and showing that they've got those opportunities, where it might be that local businesses in sun or other places that have picked up cricket, become international start new opportunities, international and international trade, or developing partnerships with companies overseas or whether it's actually bringing people from outside of Japan. And we do have some international staff and people coming from overseas to as coaches or other roles, but not bringing more people to Japan to get to know Japan. And so building those bridges, I think between people, whether it's communities, companies and all across the across countries, I think, is how I'd like to see a lot more happening. How we can do that, I guess, is an extension of what we're doing. We've got some some great results and establishing some local partnerships, developing those and bringing more people together. And yeah, I think in five years or six years time, there's the ageing games in Nagoya it in 2026, which we hope cricket will be part of if Los Angeles Olympics in 2028. Cricket has been discussed as within the international communities has been discussed. Those sort of opportunities can really change the mindset of people and how they see cricket in Japan. And when those things happen, then the people who are supporting us now are going to be really excited about the potential that cricket can bring them and the perception I think will change a lot. And on a daily basis, I like to see people getting together at the cricket grounds, say the International Cricket Ground in Sano local community coming down for matches, regardless of whether they like cricket the sport itself or not. But if they like the scene, a wider extensive field grass field building some shade and places for people to stay or being able to provide some drinks or lunches. And just creating an atmosphere or somewhere people want to come for a weekend to relax or to play sport or to meet people and connecting people through not just because they love cricket, but the venue or the locations that we can provide as well. We seem to have lost Mike Alex, I hope he's still there. I've just got a frozen screen. So it might just be you and I talking.


I think what we do right at the end of the podcast, we move on to sort of sort of fun section where we asked for some recommendations.


So the first of those if for our listeners and some of our listeners that many of our listeners and you've been to Japan, Could you recommend one place to visit in Japan? I think I might know what you're saying.


Yeah, well, this is I don't need to think twice. It's one of the cool guns like they are great location subtle, is it's an excellent, excellent scene to see if you want to discover Hey, click it's how do you click and get here, just seeing the ground I think will be really interesting to see how this sport that wasn't that well known in Japan now is becoming having a good foothold in Japan. How its how its established itself in Japan and it's not, it's not a stadium yet. And you can see the process of if you come here now, then in 10 years time, it's going to look very different as well. We've got some grounds near Mount Fuji as well the Fuji cricket grounds. There's a great scene there to see. But yeah, the Kaiser go ground in Osaka come and see some of our cricket facilities and get involved in the programmes. And cricket can become one of the opportunities that you can get involved in and connect with people in Japan local communities. I would love to bring my son I think we mentioned before we started recording that the only time he ever had a tantrum is when he he was introduced to cricket aged four or 500


Hit the ball. But having listened to you and heard your passion for the sport, I'm very keen to never have a second batch of that. Now the second question would be, can you recommend an activity? Do we need to ask this question?


If I was to move away from cricket, I'm not quite so where I go. But


yet, definitely, I think there's Japan, but there's so many things to do in Japan and in the summer in the winter. And so, yeah, I'm sure like, and I think like sport is a great way or culture is a great way to meet people. But I would recommend actually leaving the big cities and going to the communities and finding people that play your sport or understand your art because that is such a powerful way to make connections and there is there's a lot to see there. Fantastic. And then, um, Mike, Mike normally loves this type of the interview and we start talking about food so can you recommend


one thing that you would recommend visitors to son or tachi to eat? Well, the Yeah, the ramen shop master kill me if I didn't mention son of Armand.


Suddenly, his very famous foot switch Rahman sorry, what's special about sinad army as opposed to Hokkaido ramen or Hakata ramen? What can we expect from sinad army sell son on arm into me, son of our man, it's the Noodles. Noodles are handmade usually they are flat and chewy, very tasty and brings the soup into your mouth and spreads that the soup is usually soy sauce base with chicken stocks are very easy for anyone to try out. And it's it's one of those noodles where you just you don't know why you just finished the whole bowl. You just drink the whole soup because it's not too. It's not too fatty. It's not too strong. It's not too salty. It's just it's just a great completely. You try out different. I love noodles. And I like them. And I like I like hackathon and I like Hokkaido ramen. But you always come back to Santa ramen. That's the home of ramen.


Absolutely perfect. And I think you're guaranteed freedom in that shot for the rest of your life. This is now going to be an international promotional campaign. Mike you back with us. And I can you guys hear me now? Yes. Yeah, perfectly. I didn't get to ask the food question. I'm sorry. Sorry. We can we can do it again. No, it's fine. I'll just edit you out. No.


I mean, so


I have no idea what went wrong


for me it's old school she'll ramen is my my favourite. Just a nice simple topic but nothing too fancy. Just plain noodles, broth bit of meat and vegetables. It's can't be beaten the simplest form.


I do know some great some of them. And I do seal salt as well. Oh, there you go. What's your sorry Hakata ramen. I think my wife's family are well, yeah. I mean, Rita, that sister lives in scorecast. So I don't know. I mean is the one that the first time I ever ate in Japan, we Hakata ramen. So that's probably got a soft spot for


people. Once you've had your first one. I think that's a lot of people's ramen of choice is the first one I had. I'm just going to stick with this one because nothing can possibly beat it. Yeah. Yeah. And so the last thing, the last thing we normally ask more of our guests is one Japanese word or phrase that sums up their experience in Japan or their ambitions in Japan. So it can either be sort of a quarter wiser or single word just something that sums up Japan for you. Whoa, hmm. No pressure. Well, Japan is just cycle.


It's good. It's the best. It's the good. It's the greatest. It's a Yeah, and that like there are a lot of Japanese words that are very convenient to use. And psycho is just one of them. You can use it anytime. Just and people keep using it in Japan like you do get. You do connect people with some of those words like gumba or a cycle those sort of words I think we'll be


have a lot of power in them.


It's been it's been an education. Alex, I could have just sat here and listened to you talk or not said anything I told


you. It's been Yeah, it's been absolutely amazing. You You're such a powerful, passionate, eloquent ambassador, but not not only sport, but for community in engagement in Japan. So


you've been an absolutely outstanding guest. Is there anything that you would like to say about cricket and JCA or portugee or anything for our listeners?


Thank you very much for that. And yeah, definitely. I mean, if it's any way you want to get involved in click here or want to you can support us on Facebook or Twitter. Just


Follow what we do. But if you ever come to Japan or you want to bring a team to Japan or you want to invite teams from from Japan, please just let us know. And it'd be great to connect through cricket.


Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you very, very much for your support. Are you coming to the UK at some point in the eye, hopefully not into and not not too distant future but my my wife might be coming over sooner than me. She's still playing on her one of our goals before she retires is to become a county player. So any county officials listening to this, so give me a call if you've got a place available for a top class Japanese female battle and bowler. And we're getting we're getting listens in some in some fairly influential sort of circle. So hopefully someone is listening. And Alex, thank you so much for giving us so much of your time. If you do come to the UK, it'll be great to catch up and have a beer. Thank you so much. We'll keep following you. GCA on on social media and and thank you for supporting the podcast.


Thank you for listening to this episode of Japan sports stories. I'd like to thank Alex one last time for coming on the show and talking so passionately about cricket in Japan. We wish him nothing but success in building a great community around this ball. Nolan, I also want to give a special thank you to the Japan society London for introducing Alex to us. You can follow the Japan Cricket Association on twitter at cricket Japan. Next time on the podcast we have a bona fide a legend of the ice in Japan Bhoomi a celebrity. A multiple Olympian elegance on the ice is both joy and encouragement to many. And we learned from her that there's so much more to sport and winning medals, and also the importance of putting Don't forget to subscribe to us on your podcast platform. And follow us on Twitter at j s stories to hear about all of our episodes and we'll see you in two weeks.