Our International 20×20 Women in Sport Award this week goes to a remarkable group of Japanese women who came together 30 years ago to form the first ever Japanese women’s rugby team. The enormity of their achievement can only be gauged by the societal pressure they would have faced in Japan at that time. They were certainly defying the social conventions of the time, particularly in Japan.
In 1989 Tokyo women’s rugby was almost unheard of and the team faced ridicule and hostility from all angles. Despite the sides humble beginnings, the women of the Liberty Fields RFC became one of the strongest teams in japan and many of them went on to represent their country in the Women’s World Cup. Their incredible story has been brought to life by Guinness this week in a television ad and longer video piece as part of their marketing campaign around this year’s World Cup in Japan. Guinness is heavily involved not alone with rugby in Ireland but also as title sponsors of both the Men’s and Women’s 6 Nations Championships.
Liberty Fields RFC played at the top level despite having no coach, no doctor and very little support instead relying on their team spirit and camaraderie. Balancing jobs and family they set a new level for women’s sport in Japan. Ms. Kishida of Liberty Fields summed it up that spirit – ” it was back in the day when getting harassed sexually and otherwise was a given. Men expected women to be young, pretty and willing to quit their jobs for marriage. At the time the women’s team was not recognised as official so we founded our own organisation. We lose if we cannot play rugby. The reason we kept going is because we didn’t want to lose. We wanted society to accept that women can
love this kind of sport too and not just men”.
Former Irish rugby international player Lynne Cantwell, who is also Chair of Sport Irelands Women in Sport committee, commented ” The story of Liberty Fields rings true to this day and shines a welcome spotlight not just on the obstacles to be overcome but the many benefits society stands to gain from overcoming them and creating a more inclusive and diverse culture in sport and beyond”
The 60 second television advert can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE_mVvJyWQY&feature=youtu.be and 5 minute feature can be found at https://youtu.be/-V1XvowvjY8