|24 May 2023|
Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku, who when studying at Hertford College as a Japanese Foreign Ministry scholar from 1981 to 1983, became the first Japanese national to play for the Blues XV at Oxford and become a member of Vincent’s Club, was honoured during the recent rugby tour to Japan made by the university’s Greyhounds rugby side.
The tour was at the invitation of Kyoto University RFC, who like the Greyhounds, are celebrating their centenary this year. 23 players and two officials made the trip which was a huge success both on and off the field – in a hard- fought encounter the marquee game was a 23-15 defeat to Kyoto University.
A huge highlight of the tour was however, a visit made by the whole touring party to Katsu Oku’s alma mater, Itami High School, to honour his memory. Oku was tragically killed in November 2003 when working on the UN post-war reconstruction programme in Iraq. Every year in late November in Oxford or London, memorial rugby matches are played in the UK, often involving OURFC and Hertford College teams, and Itami High School also stage a memorial tournament at the same time. Last November Ambassador Hajime Hayashi also planted three cherry trees at Iffley Road Rugby Ground in Oku’s honour when attending the memorial games.
The Greyhounds touring party were met by hundreds of flag-waving schoolchildren and the school’s brass band on arrival at Itami HS, and after speeches and a silence to honour Ambassador Oku, the Greyhounds went into the school classrooms for extensive interaction with the pupils, following by games of touch rugby.
Following Oku’s pioneering membership of the Club, the next Japanese member was none other than the current Emperor, who when studying at Merton College when he was Crown Prince was a keen Judoka and tennis player. The third Japanese Vincent’s member was Toshiyuki Hayashi, one of the Brave Blossoms’ most famous players, who was the first Japanese full rugby Blue, playing in a 18-9 victory over Cambridge at Twickenham in 1990. Hayashi attended the Greyhounds game with Kyoto.
The Club’s latest Japanese member was Yuta Ofuji, a Kyoto University graduate and rugby player, who represented the Greyhounds and Whippets teams whilst at Oxford and who is now working at the Japanese Embassy in London.
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