A Visit to Nadeshiko’s Hometown Around Japan Episode 2. Konomiya Speranza Osaka Takatsuki
Takatsuki in Osaka Prefecture is located halfway between the cities of Kyoto and Osaka. It’s only a stop away from Kyoto station by JR Sanyo Honsen special rapid train. With two big department stores near the JR station, Takatsuki is known as a comfortable place to live. Konomiya Speranza Osaka Takatsuki has been active in this city since its founding in 1990, when it was called the Osaka Takatsuki Ladies Soccer Club.
In this second report of the series, ‘A Visit to Nadeshiko’s Hometown Around Japan,’ we will visit people who follow the team in Takatsuki.
In this series, we visit the hometown of each of the 12 teams playing in the Nadeshiko League Division 1, recounting interesting stories about players and their supporters. As you read, you will notice the significance of this amateur league, and why players are so strongly supported by people in the community.
Determined to go since the playing days of Karina Maruyama
Koji Takeuchi, FOODLIER Co., Ltd.
With its main office in Takatsuki, FOODLIER Co., Ltd., a food manufacturer and supplier, is a corporate sponsor that provides the team with uniforms. Its business focuses on processed meat and chilled products, among which are the nationwide popular ‘Paritto Choshoku Wiener’ and ‘Anpanman Series’.
Koji Takeuchi, a branch manager for the Kinki region, works with the team as a sponsor representative. “I remember the players were very aggressive,” he said, recalling the first time he watched a game. “Unlike my image of female sports, they fought desperately. I heard Karina Maruyama (on the team 2012 – 2016) shouting and the mood was really tense,” he added. “I took the game lightly, little more than club activities if you like, so I was amazed at their professionalism.”
Mr. Takeuchi attends games as he likes the lively atmosphere of the venue. Indeed, watching live from a stadium feels realer than watching on a flat screen at home. “I would say Konomiya Speranza is a team loved and cared by fans. We prefer to direct gentler words to the players, like ‘Good luck,’ instead of using straight and strong wording like ‘Go!’ or ‘Win!’”
As a sponsor representative, Mr. Takeuchi is willing to attest to the strength and cheerfulness of the team. According to him, the players strive to get control of the ball, have consistently good defense, and take advantage of every opportunity they make. He confessed that the longer he supports them, the more enthusiastic he becomes. For him, the most interesting aspect of women’s football is the results, but not only that. “You can discover the fun yourself,” he said. “It can be the movements of one player, or her looks, attitude or the way she lives. So, I want the club and players to have the desire to improve themselves and be more appealing. If everyone is aware of being watched all the time, they will become more attractive as a team.”
On December 19th 2020, Takeuchi was at the game at Toyota City Sports Park, where game 2 of a ranking match for the Plenus Challenge League was held. The match was very important for Konomiya Speranza, as the result would decide whether the team could join the Nadeshiko League Division 1 the following year. Takeuchi said to himself, “I must go,” and rushed to the venue. The match was a stalemate, as both sides struggled to score as the game went into extra time. A great chance came after 106 minutes had passed. “They kept heading several times and shooting at an excellent tempo,” said Takeuchi. “That was made possible by their tenacity, and we saw the fruits of their everyday practice,” he added with a little excitement. On that day, he was certainly an enthusiastic fan and supporter, regardless of his association to the team.
This season, Konomiya Speranza Osaka Takatsuki is back in the Nadeshiko League Division 1 after a long time. As always, Mr. Takeuchi watches their games from the stands.
Hoping for the best performance from the players
Takashi Nakagawa, Sports Club Try Inc.
In every region, there are a handful of outstanding figures who support clubs enthusiastically. One of them for Konomiya Speranza is Takashi Nakagawa. Developing and advocating his original training methods, he provides various kinds of training with a wide range of people from athletes to dieters, to those who care about their health. His clients include Keisuke Ushiro, a national record holder for decathlon, and Yusuke Suzuki, a world record holder for 20-kilometer racewalking.
We visited a sponsor for the club’s training uniforms, Sports Club Try Inc. Many players go here for personal training and body maintenance, including number 10 Nodoka Hosaka. Mr. Nakagawa trains them in how to use their body effectively.
The relationship between Nakagawa and the team started more than ten years ago. The first to come was Maiko Nakaoka, who has played 14 matches with Japan’s national team, ‘Nadashiko Japan.’ She was accompanied by Masatomo Hosoda, Speranza’s head coach at that time. “She had a twisted ankle. The coach wanted her to play again as soon as possible because she had great potential to be a national player,” Nakagawa said.
What he focused on was to make her body strong enough to avoid injuries. His target was to improve her stamina and the unsteady movements of the ankle. After his guidance, Nakaoka’s play became better. With less unnecessary movements, such as swaying of the head, she physically became a more stable player. After Nakagawa, several other players came to the club.
Born and raised in Takatsuki, Nakagawa has great devotion to the city. He hopes that the players of Speranza “stay in love with the town.” If the players have good memories in Takatsuki, feeling like they could “spend precious moments in life” and “get substantial support with injuries,” he says he is happy.
“They fight by carrying the hope of people in Takatsuki on their back,” Nakagawa said firmly, when asked why he supports the team. “I support them from now on, simply because I want to boost soccer in this area and bring out the best performance from the players. I’ll put my heart into it,” added Nakagawa with great passion.
Encouraged by the “Ho-Ren-So” notebook, a bond with the president
Yuko Shimamura, Konomiya Co., Ltd.
When above-mentioned Maiko Nakaoka joined Konomiya Speranza Osaka Takatsuki in 2009, she was with others who had also left Tasaki Perule after the suspension of the club. One of her companions was Yuko Shimamura, who now works at Konomiya store in Takatsuki. Konomiya is a supermarket chain with stores mainly in the Kansai region, and a uniform sponsor of the team.
Ms. Shimamura has been working for Konomiya from the time she started playing. Promoted to store manager on July 1st 2021, she is now involved in managing the store’s operation. At the Takatsuki branch, four players now work under her direction. After moving from Tasaki Perule to Konomiya Speranza in 2009, Shimamura and others were employed here. At that time, they would work at the store for 8 hours, with training sessions set in the evenings. Shimamura recalls her early days as hard and tiring, but she was grateful that she could work full-time while resting on the weekends. In the retail industry in Japan, stores are commonly open 7 days a week throughout the year. “They gave me a lot of work, but it was a worthy challenge. I remember being glad my responsibilities increased,” she said.
Playing on the team for 7 years, which she said passed so quickly, Shimamura retired in 2015. She told the store manager about her retirement in person, while choosing to write to the president. The company offers an in-house system called “Ho-Ren-So notebook.” The word “Ho-Ren-So” stands for the three important things in Japanese business – Hokoku (report), Renraku (communicate) and Sodan (consult). In this special notebook for the president, workers are allowed to write whatever they like.
“I used to report the match results and write about my work. Upon my retirement from soccer, I wrote how thankful I was to him,” she said. “When I was a new employee, the president gave me kind comments after my match reports, like ‘Don’t give up your dream,’ ‘Your win brought me to tears,’ or ‘I feel awesome.’ That was very encouraging to me.”
Though many players quit their job once they retire from the team, Shimamura decided to stay with the company. The president replied, thanking her. “He wrote me a page-long message, that was quite a lot. l was honored and became more confident and motivated to try my best. I felt I must give back to him in the future.”
According to Shimamura, her experience with the team has had a significant influence on her life. She says soccer taught her endurance, and to think things out thoroughly. At Konomiya, under the motto ‘Think and Move,’ workers need to think before acting. “During the match, you must read ahead and act in advance. That’s what I’ve learned from soccer,” said Shimamura happily. Her aim to pay back the president now seems complete.
The fertile land and love from the people of Takatsuki are reflected in the emblem of Konomiya Speranza Osaka Takatsuki with the color orange. The team continues to progress with the fans who warmly support them.
The hometown featured this time was the city of Takatsuki in Osaka.
Text by Kazuhiro Ishii