Originally from Iwate Prefecture, an agricultural area of Japan, Shihori Oikawa is an onna-bugeisha as far as field hockey is concerned. For those who do not know, onna-bugeisha is the name given to the Japanese warriors, the female of the most known samurai. Historically, they were members of the bushi (samurai) class in feudal Japan and were trained in the use of weapons to protect their household, family, and honour in times of war. Without the warlike weight, Oicchi, as she is also known, is the security of the Oranje Rood’s defense.
Words: Tiago Marques
Affable, kind and friendly, Shihori is still developing her English through private lessons. To SELF-PASS, she spoke about the experience in The Netherlands and the future of field hockey in Japan.
She is 28 years old, started playing because her mother “was the coach of the middle school team. When I was younger, she took me to practice and I started to like the sport“.
A few years later she is fulfilling her dream of playing in Europe and she’s loving the Hoofdklasse.
Two years ago she came to the Netherlands to do some experimental practices and ended up staying: “I came with other players to practice. Coming to The Netherlands was a really great desire and a goal of mine, but I do not know why my colleagues didn’t want to come too“.
“I like to make interceptions, I’m a persistent defender”
Shihori Oikawa did not arrive early in the Dutch championship but this also reveals one of the characteristics that the captain of Japan highlights of herself: persistence. “During the training sessions and the games, I like to make interceptions, I’m a persistent defender“, says Oranje Rood’s player that has in Eva de Goede the biggest reference: “She’s my favorite player. She plays simple and clean hockey“.
It’s looking at role models like the Dutch international that Oicchi tries to be better and better: “It’s all that I want. Be better every day. I believe I will be able to improve further and become a more skillful defender. I need to improve my passing ability and decision making. I also think that practicing attacking skills is important for a defender“.
She wasn’t the first Japanese woman in the Hoofdklasse but believes that her arrival at the Oranje Rood “opens doors for other Japanese women. Last year we reached play-off in the dutch league for the first time. This allows other players to see that if I achieved that, it’s possible for them too“. To Shihori, that’s the way for hockey to develop in her homeland: “If more japanese players go abroad, field hockey will become more popular. Hockey is not very famous in Japan.
We are very passionate but the Japanese League has only 10 teams: 4 company teams and 6 universities. We do not have as many fans as in the Netherlands, but we are very much in love with the game“.
“My dream and goal is to fight for the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020”
It’s this passion that drives Shihori to believe in and fight for the future of the Japanese team: “My dream and goal is to fight for the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. That’s why it’s important for Japanese women to play outside the country in order to reach the Top6 of the FIH ranking. If we, as a japanese team, develop our individual skills and abilities it can be possible“. And do not doubt the words of Oicchi!
With the ambition and the persistence that has been demonstrated, everything is possible: “I work to become the best defense player in the world and this season I hope to help Oranje Rood reach the finals“. Finally, Shihori Oikawa leaves a message to all field hockey fans: “I hope that you support Japan and that you can visit us at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020!“.
What do you like to do off pitch?
I like cooking and shopping.
What did you find odd and unfamiliar in The Netherlands?
The weather was the biggest surprise. But I also wondered why there are no 24/7 convenience stores.
Was it difficult to adapt yourself to a different style, more hours of practice and a different intensity?
The most difficult thing was the language.
What do you think of hockey nowadays? Do you support the way the game has been changing and developing?
I think the new time rule allows us to play more speedy hockey.
What would you change in hockey?