Strongman is a global sport, however in some countries it is far more popular than in others.
In this short interview we speak with Yoshihito Noritake, a Japanese Strongman on the growth of the sport in his country.
Phil Burgess: What is your best competition result so far, and what are your goals for 2012 and beyond?
Yoshihito Noritake: I won the Yokota strongman challenge two years in a row in 2009 and 2010. Unfortunately I have been injured since 2010, I would love to gain my strength back and break all PRs.
Phil Burgess: How popular are strongman competitions in Japan?
Yoshihito Noritake: Unfortunately strongman is not a big sport here in Japan. Only a few know what it actually is…
The last strongman challenge was held at Yokota air base in Tokyo in 2010.
This formed part of the Friendship Festival which the airforce base put on every year.The crowd numbers for the competitions was in the hundreds rather than the thousands. As for competitors there were no more than 10, in each competition.
Phil Burgess: Why do you think the sport is not popular?
Yoshihito Noritake: Because Japanese people are exclusive and don’t like to try new things.
They still think powerlifters and bodybuilders are the most powerful and strongest athletes.
The other reason is we call brute strength ” Baka Dikara(???)”. ?? means stupid and Dikara(Chikara) means strength, power.
They assume strong people are not intelligent and don’t respect them much except popular sports athletes.
This is sad but true. For example, many Japanese people are surprised I can communicate with non-native Japanese speakers in English. This is because I look big and the muscles makes me look “un-educated”.
Phil Burgess: What three things need to happen to make strongman popular in Japan?
- We need a PIONEER like Nomo(former MLB player) and Hidetada Yamagishi(the first Japanese IFBB bodybuilder)
- We need to PUBLICISE THE SPORT more and give opportunities for people to try it.
- To CHANGE JAPANESE PEOPLE’S PERCEPTIONS. They always do the same sport and training, stay in the same sporting discipline and never try new approaches.
For example, weightlifters never take part in powerlifting. Powerlifters never take weightlifting training into their workout and learn weightlifting techniques to give new shocks for better performance.
Phil Burgess: What are your best lifts in the Deadlift, Squat and Bench?
- Deadlift 550lb
- Squat 463lb without a belt
- 330lb on narrow grip benchpress
I’m 5 feet 7inches tall and I weighed 205lb in 2010, when I achieved these maximum lifts.
Yoshihito Noritake: No. Yokota strongman challenge and other strength related events in Japan only have the “open” weight class.
Phil Burgess: Have you competed overseas?
Yoshihito Noritake: Not yet, but I’d love to. This is one of the reasons why I would love to move overseas.
My hero Mikhail Koklyaev competes in Russia, so I’d love to compete there the most. America is the country with the best strength of competitors, I have good strongman friends in the country and I would love to train with them.
I have also met good strongman competitors and fans from Australia and have been to the country in 2008 and loved it! I’d love to go back there and met and compete with those great people.
Editors note: Yoshiyavsky is looking for a job overseas, especially at a gym or a sushi restaurant. Contact me if you know any gym or restaurant who would be interested in hiring Yoshi.
Yoshihito Noritake: I was having hard time in the 2010 Yokota Strongman Competition, but I really wanted to prove that it was not fluke that I won in 2009. I kept pushing myself hard and telling myself I could win, and I did.
Phil Burgess: Where in Japan do you live?
Yoshihito Noritake: I live in Kyoto. It is the best city to see the real traditional Japanese culture. Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji, Kiyomizu-dera, Arashiyama, Gion and many others.
Phil Burgess: In the world of Strongman who is your idol, and why?
Yoshihito Noritake: Mikhail Koklyaev, because he has the best all-round strength and also has good sense of humour.