Sophians Talk about Japan and the World

To Become a World Citizen, Know the Culture of Your Own Country

Keiko Hanada
(Wife of Takanohana, Stable Master at the Takanohana Sumo Stable)

Inspired by the Can-Do Spirit of Sophia's Female Students

Keiko Hanada Wife of Takanohana, Stable Master at the Takanohana Sumo Stable

I first dreamed of becoming a television news presenter and working overseas when I was in fifth grade in elementary school. In those days, all the TV stations had programs about foreign countries, like Kaoru Kanetaka's “The World around Us.” It was as if the stations were in competition with each other over these programs. As a result, I really wanted to work overseas. To do that, I knew I needed to learn foreign languages so I studied in the United States as a high school student and then attended Sophia.

I was born and raised in Miyazaki so Sophia's internationalized campus was a real culture shock. To be able to hear many different languages while just walking around campus was quite something for me. Also, I was impressed by the female students around me and the high aspirations they had. They had a positive influence on me. Also, during that time, though, I abandoned my dreams for a time. The other female students talked about such interesting things and they were so quick. I was having trouble keeping up so I thought that I was not suited to be a television news presenter.

I studied at the Department of French Studies at Sophia. One of my high school teachers had told me there were plenty of people in Tokyo who could speak English and so I should learn a third foreign language that could be my secret weapon.

I was surprised when the French professor started the first class in French even though it was our first exposure to the language. Not only were the grammar and pronunciation difficult, but there were classes on Saturday and they were strict about attendance. I found myself immersed in French every single day. Before I knew it, though, my ear became accustomed to the language and I was able to carry on regular conversations in French by the time I graduated.

In terms of English, I found a hands-on class in interpreting at the Department of English Studies. Sophia's language programs really were wonderful. In addition to foreign languages, I also took a class on tourism, as I had heard that it was an easy way to earn a credit [laughs]. In fact, though, the class proved very helpful in the end. We enjoyed a full course meal at an historic hotel while practicing the proper manners and etiquette that would give me confidence as a world citizen.

I had many good experiences outside the classroom as well. I lived in Enoki Women's Dormitory [closed in 2008]. The dorm was run by the Sisters and there were strict rules, including a curfew. There were many international students living in the dorm as well so I was able to learn about cultural and lifestyle differences directly from them. By the way, Mother Teresa gave a talk at the Auditorium of Building 10 while I was a student, and I was blessed with the opportunity to hear her speak in person.

I am happy to say that I still have many Sophia graduates in my life today. Each of them still has drive and is successful in their field. I always have to hustle to keep up in our work together!

Achieving My Dream Thanks to My Time at Sophia

Keiko Hanada Wife of Takanohana, Stable Master at the Takanohana Sumo Stable

If I had really abandoned the dream of becoming a television news presenter, why did I become one in the end? Because several things happened while I was at Sophia that made the dream reemerge.

For example, I ended up participating in the Miss Sophia contest. Someone asked me to join because there were not enough contestants, and then, to my surprise, I ended up winning. Thanks to that, I appeared on a radio program. Then, in an unexpected turn of events, I was sent overseas as a female university student reporter for the television travel program Sekai Meguriai. Accepting that work would mean that I would have to take three weeks off from school so I consulted with my professor. I was so nervous! He listened very sympathetically and as soon as I told him about my dream, he supported and encouraged me, telling me I should go because it was something important that would affect the rest of my life.

Because all these things happened, I decided to give a try at the employment exam for TV stations. Then, I was very lucky and given an opportunity to join Fuji Television Network.

In those days, Fuji Television had all its employees submit a report every year on what they wanted to do in their professional lives. Every year, I wrote that I wanted to be given an opportunity to work at the Paris Bureau if a spot opened, so that I could use what I had learned at university. I think that the only way someone laid back like me could have been so bold and written something like that is because of the influence of the assertive women at Sophia.

The Gulf War broke out around that time, and that sparked a need for information programs that delivered European news. Fuji Television launched FNN World Uplink, a program where Paris, New York, and Tokyo were connected live. Thanks to the yearly reports I had submitted, I was selected as the Paris correspondent. I truly sensed once again that expressing my dream brought me closer to realizing it.

The fact that I was able to work in France for one year without feeling any barriers or handicaps because I was not a French national was because of the four years I spent at Sophia: the French language classes as well as the international environment in the dormitory and the campus.

But, you never know what will happen in life. Around this time, I met the man who would become my husband.

During the seven years that I was a news presenter, I fulfilled my childhood dream. This time I decided to make my dream supporting my husband and fulfilling his dream. I selected the road of quitting my job and marrying.

Young Japanese Should Get to Know Japan's Traditional Culture If They Want to Succeed in the Global Arena

Keiko Hanada Wife of Takanohana, Stable Master at the Takanohana Sumo Stable

As the wife of a sumo stable master, I am also a second mom to the apprentices who join. Perhaps it goes without saying, but these boys have completely different personalities even though they all share the same ambition.

For this reason, I am very careful about what I say. If it were my own child, he or she would be able to recover quickly even if I hurt him or her with some thoughtless words despite myself. These boys need various kinds of special care.

My secret trick is to take them out for some good food and have some heart talk when they are open to it. And, I have a magic phrase that works only with them: I tell them, "The stable master said…"

The stable master?my husband?really cares about the apprentices, but he cannot say anything to them directly that might spoil them. That is because he needs to maintain the traditional master-apprentice relationship and method of instruction. In his place, therefore, I tell the apprentices some of his thoughts. When I share such things, their eyes shine and they seem to be filled with the strength to keep trying.

In the sumo world today, there are many outstanding foreign wrestlers. Some people are afraid of what will become of Japan's national sport, but I do not have a sense of crisis about that.

Sumo apprentices first study the history of Japan and the history of sumo for half a year at the Sumo Training School. From the beginning, the strict traditions of sumo are thoroughly hammered into them, as the sport is known for. I think this must be particularly difficult for the foreign wrestlers, but they are really go-getters. We have one Mongolian wrestler at our stable. He is good at Japanese and knows a lot about Japanese culture, too.

Every apprentice in the sumo world, whether Japanese or foreign, values Japan's traditional culture. There need be no concern about what will become of Japan's national sport.

What I want to focus on in the future is encouraging young Japanese to take more interest in Japan's traditional culture and to reconnect once again with the Japanese spirit which has been passed down unbroken through the ages. Thankfully, I have quite a few opportunities to talk about sumo at lectures and on other occasions. That makes good use of what I have done so far in my life and is the role I am to fulfill, I think.

I imagine that many of Sophia's students today are eyeing a career on the global stage. I would like to see these people in particular learn more about their own country. If you know where you are, if you know how wonderful the country and culture of Japan are, you will at the same time also be aware of the significance of being a world citizen, I believe. And, I would like to see you show a can-do spirit and stand on your own two feet, just like the Sophians around me.

Keiko Hanada Wife of Takanohana, Stable Master at the Takanohana Sumo Stable
Keiko Hanada
Wife of Takanohana, Stable Master at the Takanohana Sumo Stable

Born on November 12 in Miyazaki Prefecture. During her university days, she was elected Miss Sophia and was selected to be a cover model for fashion magazine CanCam (Shogakukan) and for weekly news magazine Shukan Asahi (Asahi Shimbun Publications) through public contests. After graduating from Sophia, Ms. Hanada became a news presenter at Fuji Television Network where she was involved mainly in news and information programs, including FNN Morning Call, FNN World Uplink, and FNN Speak. In 1994, she became a freelance news presenter. Her work included being the MC on Toko! Tokuho Okoku, a variety program on Nippon Television Network. In 1995, she married sumo grand champion Takanohana (now a stable master at the Takanohana Sumo Stable) with whom she today has three children. While fulfilling her responsibilities as wife of the stable master, she still finds time to give lectures, appear on television, and write for magazines.

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