When it comes to longevity, Japan holds a number of unique records in the game of Rugby Union. The game has been played in Japan for over 150 years, with the Yokohama Football Club formed in 1866, four years before New Zealand’s first recognised game of Rugby Union which featured the Nelson Football Club, and more than 20 years before the New Zealand Rugby Union was even conceived.

And when it comes to players, the Japanese hold numerous records for the world’s oldest active players. 13 years ago, the Editor refereed a “golden oldies” tournament in Sugadiara, Japan, which featured at least 30 players over 80 years of age, with the oldest player on the field being 92 year old Sadayoshi Morita, the oldest player in the game at that time.

At the Golden-Oldies Rugby Tournament held in Christchurch last week, “For The Love Of The Game“ had the opportunity to talk to 80 year old Koichi Seino, certainly one of the oldest active rugby players in the world in the current era and the oldest player at the well-attended 2018 Christchurch Tournament.

(At 80 years of age, and after 66 years as a player, Koichi Seino still loves the game)

Seino-san plays for the Fuwaku Rugby Club in Tokyo, the original club of its kind in the world for golden-oldies players. The name “Fuwaku” translates to “those aged over 40”, with the club featuring players who continue to put on their boots well into their 80s and 90s.

A retired salary-man, now aged 80, Seino-san has developed a life-long family rugby bond with his son and grandson, which had its genesis during his time at Junior High School in the early 1950’s. While at Junior High School, he was inspired to play the game after watching a match between Waseda and Oxford Universities in September 1952, a game won by the Oxford team by 12 points to 8.

(The Oxford University Tour to Japan in 1952 inspired Koichi Seino to play Rugby Union)

Back in that era, Seino-san recounts, he had rugby training every day of the week, with a game played on a Sunday. Seino-san went on to play rugby for Nihon University as a tertiary student. “Nichidai” (as the university is popularly known), played in the inaugural NHK Cup Final in 1961.

It was over his formative years of education that Seino-san developed a love for the teamwork and camaraderie associated with Rugby Union and also from where he also learned the communication skills which have helped him throughout his working and family life.

This isn’t the first time Seino-san has visited New Zealand. He played in the Golden-Oldies Tournament in Wellington six years ago, at the young age of 74. However, his age is not a barrier to enjoyment. A forward throughout his rugby life, (as a result of not being a particularly fast runner), Seino-san is not concerned about the risks of playing as an octogenarian and he continues to regularly train to keep himself match-fit.

When thinking about the Rugby World Cup in Japan next year, Seino-san won’t be drawn on who will win the William Webb Ellis trophy, but the Editor can’t help but feeling the Brave Blossoms will surprise many as they did in England in 2015. Seino-san hopes that many from this country will come to his, to enjoy Japan’s renowned hospitality to visitors.

(“At Any Time, Until The End Of Time“ - Photo Credit, www.fuwaku.com)

As to the future? The motto of the Fuwaku Rugby Club, “at any time, until the end of time”, suggests that Seino-san will continue to lace up his boots and enjoy rugby’s bonds of camaraderie for many years ahead.

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