“I Came Here to Test Myself”
Stephen Mayaka used to be the primary Kenyan highschool runner in Japan and the primary to cross the entire path from highschool to college and on into the company working global. Now a Japanese citizen, married to a former World Championships-level Japanese marathoner and head trainer of Obirin University’s monitor and box staff, Mayaka is a mentor to Kenyan athletes each throughout Japan and again in Kenya. JRN interviewed Mayaka simply ahead of New Year, 2010 for a piece of writing for Running Times mag.
Part One: Discovery, High School and University
Could you communicate slightly about your own historical past? How have been you decided on to come to Japan?
I first got here to Japan in 1990, in December. I got here right here to take a look at myself. When I used to be in Kenya I ran within the Kenyan Secondary School Championships. I used to be the highest at cross-country. There used to be a Japanese there, the person who presented Samuel Wanjiru to Sendai Ikuei [High School], Mr. Kobayashi. He had noticed me, and ahead of, Joseph Otwori, who got here from the similar faculty. He used to be advised via Yamanashi Gakuin that we would like to search for any person sturdy, a Kenyan, who can pop out this yr, the primary individual. So he got here to my faculty and talked with my headmaster and the predominant, after which the coaches got here from Yamanashi Gakuin. So that’s the way it began, that’s the place I were given a scholarship from Yamanashi Gakuin. We completed assessments in November, after which we talked after my exam, and ahead of we began the brand new lessons they advised me, “You come and see how Japan is. You can train for two months and then come back.” But I got here after which stayed endlessly. (laughs) It used to be a type of coming and seeing, after which I may see which means to cross, to America or Japan.
In 1991 I joined the Yamanashi Gakuin High School for three hundred and sixty five days, finding out the Japanese language. After that three hundred and sixty five days, once I graduated they advised me, “No, you don’t have to go, because you can join our university.” And that’s the way it took place. After commencement I began my first yr of college in 1992. I had 4 years of coaching for employment in college, and I ran far and wide, such a lot of races.
After that I joined the Daiei corporate in Fukuoka, however as a result of the financial system the membership broke up and I got here again to Hitachi. That’s the place I labored for 8 years. After that I sought after to renew my contract, however we didn’t agree in regards to the wage so I stated, “Let me go for another area. Something that would be a first.” The best other people and I, we met someplace they usually advised me, do I would like to make a monitor membership at Sozo Gakuen University? I advised them, “Let me go and consider,” however I had many provides, and primary I had to take into accounts my circle of relatives and my occupation after. To be a working trainer and perform a little training, that used to be what I in point of fact sought after to do. I left Hitachi in 2006. That’s once I began to come right here.
Now I’m head trainer at Sozo Gakuen. There are about seventeen scholars, each boys and girls. Those are those I’m taking a look after, however I’m no longer right here at all times. There are some Kenyans who want some assist, so perhaps I’ve to cross to Kenya to see them, then perhaps I’ve to cross to Kyushu for many who I’ve simply presented to an organization. Tomorrow I’m meant to cross and communicate with a couple of in regards to the New Year Ekiden. The race and their situation. These are new athletes who got here right here this yr they usually’re no longer used to the Japanese. They don’t understand how to run the ekiden and different issues. It’s their first time so I’ve to inform them how to compete with the others as a result of they don’t know and they’d be having a panic every so often.
When you got here you didn’t discuss any Japanese. What more or less issues did you enjoy your first few years?
At first, in Japan in 1990 there weren’t many Africans. Like about 5 Kenyans together with those that have been ambassadors and diplomats. The Japanese individuals who went to a contest, they have been stuffed with surprise as a result of they didn’t see many Africans. I imply, out of lots of the races in Japan, perhaps they simply noticed them on the Tokyo [International] Marathon simply as soon as, after which the Africans could be long past. So I had an issue once I got here to start with, you realize, I used to be staying in Yamanashi. Most of the folks, they didn’t care to see a black guy strolling round as it used to be a rural space. Some of them, every so often, one of the most youngsters, they have been working away! (laughs) It used to be as a result of they weren’t used to Africans an excessive amount of, however when they began to see me in magazines and on tv they went, “Oh, this is the person we see,” they usually were given used to me. Even myself, additionally, I used to be afraid to communicate with them as a result of I didn’t know Japanese. Some of them once I would cross into a store they might panic and say, “Oh no no no no no!” And I’m, “But I want to buy something!” (laughs) It used to be as a result of the verbal exchange.
More of an issue for me have been my teammates. It used to be tough as a result of maximum of them, they didn’t discuss English, and I actually additionally, I didn’t discuss Japanese. Sometimes I didn’t perceive indicators or different issues. If I talked with the top trainer, he wanted to discuss English in order that he may take a look at to give an explanation for to me what he intended. But the one issues I had to start with, no longer now, have been the language and meals, and homesickness. But now, the ones ones who’re coming presently, there are lots of Kenyans and they are able to name every different. But on the time I used to be right here, we had no cellphones, so speaking to Kenya, it used to be one thing like sitting down and writing a letter. I didn’t ever see different Kenyans. We have been on our personal except for for every so often via phone or at probably the most races. So you felt you have been the one individual, the one other individual out of about 100 scholars, and that was numerous rigidity. If you regarded throughout, you can see Mayaka and the opposite guys have been all Japanese, and also you comprehend it wasn’t simple, they didn’t smile. If you’re no longer Japanese, you’ll’t no longer realize it. So in that scenario I felt very homesick for a time as a result of there used to be no person I may seek the advice of about one thing, and the language used to be making issues very tough. That led me to find out about Japanese increasingly more, and so I went to Japanese language faculty.
At the time I got here it used to be December. That’s when it used to be very chilly. Every day I had to keep within. (laughs) It used to be so tough. Some issues I will not fail to remember in my existence, like the primary time I stayed in Japan. Those ones who come now, they’re taking part in it, however those that got here first, we suffered so much, however we suffered for them as a result of we opened the best way for them. Now what they’re incomes is as a result of us. If we couldn’t stick it out, if we left and stated, “No, Japan is bad,” lots of the Japanese, they might say, “Ah, no, Africans, they cannot stay in Japan.” We sacrificed ourselves and stayed for lengthy.
I used to be urged via considered one of my advisors in college on the time, “If you just stick with us and be patient, your future life will be very ordered. If you learn Japanese then after you retire you can teach in Japan or you can help some Kenyans coming to Japan or you can make a full life in Kenya,” and in spite of everything that recommendation it got here to excellent use and I say to you it used to be superb recommendation. But there are the ones ones who’re coming now, I take a look at to inform them that they must find out about Japanese, however they are saying, “No, there’s no use for studying Japanese because I don’t want to stay. There’s no way. My home is in Kenya.” But that doesn’t make sense since you are staying with those other people and you have got to find out about and keep up a correspondence your self with them, your masters who’re using you. And so that you don’t want me to come at all times to give an explanation for “This is what he wants,” as a result of hi there, I would possibly want to cross in different places! (laughs) I believe there’s a type of distinction with those that are coming now, as a result of they’re keen on earning profits however they don’t need to keep up a correspondence. So we’re indignant, we’re pissed off as a result of they’re spending years right here and nonetheless can’t keep up a correspondence. What have they been studying all of those months? Communication is essential. That’s the best way I see it.
When you have been in class how a lot have been you in point of fact going to categories, or have been you in point of fact extra like a qualified runner simply primarily based on the faculty? In phrases of your coaching, have been you coaching on your own or with the Japanese runners? I consider there used to be a distinction in talent.
When I used to be in highschool, on the time I got here to Yamanashi at the highschool there used to be no membership, there weren’t any runners there, even Japanese, so I used to be in highschool coaching with the college scholars. I may educate on my own within the morning or educate with the college scholars. And in the meantime that they had to educate me the Japanese language. They had a Japanese trainer for me studying Japanese when I used to be within the magnificence, as a result of I didn’t perceive. I used to be going continuously as a typical pupil till perhaps three or four, then I might cross with many college scholars and we’d educate in combination in order that I may get used to it. After I were given used to it, although I used to be the one runner in the highschool and there weren’t any Japanese who have been working, I couldn’t cross to the National High School meet as a result of I believe the rule of thumb used to be that no person international may run Nationals. So, I simplest participated within the All-Japan Junior Championships. That used to be my first large race in Japan, and I received it. That used to be the time, I began identical occupation with Waseda University’s Yasuyuki Watanabe, and Tsuyoshi Ogata, after we competed within the 10000. That used to be the primary time I used the Yamanashi Gakuin High School uniform.
After that I went to college after which began, in my first yr, going to standard categories 3 times per week after my morning run with the college scholars, then I’d cross to language faculty two hours. After I ended then I’d cross to college for every other seminar, then after that I’d cross to coaching. I used to be then the use of a bicycle as it used to be five km from the dorm to the college and about eight km from the dormitory to the place we have been going to educate. So I’d educate on my own within the morning, devour breakfast, cross to language faculty, from there I’d cross to college, from college I’d cross every other eight km, educate there after which take my motorcycle house as a result of we have been cooking for ourselves. This used to be common, but it surely used to be tough day to day as a result of we’d grow to be very drained. It used to be very tough instances when I used to be in Yamanashi, however I see now, that’s existence. I did meet some international scholars at Japanese language faculty after which shall we communicate. Black males? It used to be simplest me. I used to be the one black guy there. There have been some scholars from Finland, France, some Indians. That used to be the time I used to be no longer feeling homesick.
But college used to be more or less tough. Sometimes I couldn’t make my very own coaching program for the reason that device I used to be the use of in Kenya, I may no longer observe it in Japan. So I began to observe how they have been doing it. We may do the similar coaching, however the instances set for me have been upper than them, so every so often after we have been working even 15 km at the monitor, in this run I may run with them up to eight km and from there I’d cross my very own. I didn’t have to tempo for them at all times. You know myself, I wished improve too, so I may do midway after which it used to be for myself. Or after they didn’t run however I used to be having coaching then I may educate on my own.
Do you assume that’s reasonably conventional for Kenyans at different universities? Having observed TV interviews with, for instance, Mekubo Mogusu and Daniel Gitau, they appeared relatively other and I’m wondering about what sort of enjoy they every had at college.
It’s relatively other as a result of drawing up the educational program is other. I don’t know at Nihon University how it’s, however every so often I see like Daniel, perhaps, he’s coaching by myself, and he’s doing speedwork. When I used to be at Yamanashi Gakuin every so often I used to be coaching with those other people at their tempo in order that I may building up a base ahead of the actual working, however the principle factor of coming to Japan in highschool is that you simply come, you educate with those other people in order that they are able to make instances, they are able to be sturdy, no longer that you simply your self need to be sturdy. You have to make Kenyans take into account that they’re working on this means, for those athletes whose faculties are paying for it. They want Kenyans to tempo for those other people on the coaching, on a daily basis for 4 years or one thing like that. Sometimes you tempo for them and every so often you do your individual periods, but it surely relies on the trainer. They don’t have to be scared. Young runners’ minds are very sturdy, they only have to get used to it, so to lead them to sturdy, that’s the principle factor, that’s the one explanation why in bringing them to college after which to use them for ekidens.
A large number of Kenyans who’re coming to Japan are going immediately into corporate groups, or in some circumstances like Wanjiru are going from highschool to an organization staff as a substitute of college, while other people like your self and other people like Mogusu determined to cross on to college. That makes slightly of distinction on the subject of cash. How did that have an effect on your choice? Do you’ve got the chance to cross immediately to a company staff after highschool and even while you have been in Kenya? What used to be the merit in opting for to cross to faculty?
I believe on the time, in 1990, there have been about four or five Kenyans in Japan who have been athletes. Before me there used to be Douglas Wakiihuri, Thomas Osano, Delilah Asiago and others. At the time I got here to Japan there used to be no device for going into firms, as a result of they didn’t know a lot about Kenyans. So when Otwori joined the Toyota corporate and ran nice that’s when other people began to know Kenyans are helpful and excellent for a staff. In my case, at the moment I used to be the one Kenyan who used to be in highschool. I used to be the primary one, and Kennedy Manyisa who so far as I do know used to be the second. They noticed how Kenyans have been appearing on the college and that’s after we opened the best way to different Kenyans to sign up for prime faculties, they usually shaped the device that you’ve got to sign up for the highschool, after which the college, then the entire firms.
But I believe the exchange of going to highschool after which the corporate, that factor has began just lately. I believe it’s no excellent, and I will be able to say, “Study first, then go to companies.” Those ones who’re going via college, they’re than the ones ones who’re going to an organization direct. One factor is that you simply don’t have difficulties of verbal exchange. You perceive the device and you understand how issues are going to be from the primary. Yes, it’s true that someone who has completed the highschool spends 4 years in college and they don’t seem to be paid. At my time I used to be given about 30,000 or 40,000 yen [a month], however now as a result of they have got progressed some pupil runners can get even 100,000 yen for pocket cash. In my time we didn’t find out about cash. We didn’t care about it, however we have been fascinated with the longer term. During this time, it impacts you, since you are coaching in fullness in college after highschool and any person who’s coming immediately into an organization, there’s a large distinction there since you aren’t incomes. He is incomes. That’s why I say that every so often we lose time. Like myself, I misplaced time, about six years, two years in highschool and 4 years in college. I misplaced numerous time and I didn’t make investments a lot, in contrast to someone like Martin Mathathi who has now come and began getting the wage.
But I believe there’s a distinction. We is also shedding our time, however a few of the ones ones who’re coming to highschool, they don’t seem to be very aggressive. They aren’t very rapid, so they arrive they usually get started the device and educate very exhausting and grow to be any person later. Like Wanjiru, when he got here he used to be no longer sturdy. He used to be doing it 3 years, 4 years, after which he got here to be sturdy. And like myself additionally, I used to be simplest working 29 or one thing like that once I got here to Japan. But now the device has modified for the reason that races are aggressive. When you take a look at these days, someone who runs 27, in my time like if I run 29 it used to be an overly unbelievable time in Japan. The reality is the age has modified.
But every other distinction I will be able to say is that whilst coaching 4 years after highschool in college, every so often to be told one thing is healthier. You know, it’s great being any person in a position to perceive, Japanese language and Japanese tradition, however those that are coming immediately, there are the issues they make. Some, they don’t know the source of revenue taxes, they only make calls and communicate with their coaches about one thing they don’t perceive. In that case I in finding that I’m very sought after for the reason that coaches have to name me they usually say, “Can you make this person to understand our system?!” So I believe every so often it’s an overly large headache as a result of, say there’s someone who has come from Kenya. He hasn’t ever been out of doors Kenya. He has come for the primary time. He sees some huge cash. 250,000 [yen]. He’s incomes that cash that he hasn’t ever even observed in Kenya. Then when he sees that there’s a tax of 50,000 he thinks that this cash has been taken. So that’s when you’ve got to inform him, “This is what the system is. You have to understand,” however a few of them, they’re tough as a result of a few of them don’t have any wisdom about source of revenue taxes and different issues, so solutions are wanted.
At the ones instances I see that it is vitally tough, I see that you will need to they cross to faculty someplace first, after which to be told the device, higher than someone who comes direct. You spend numerous time studying to discuss and to learn for 4 years, to perceive, to keep up a correspondence together with your teammates. Most of them, you realize, there’s no verbal exchange there with their teammates, and in the ones circumstances it’s very tough. So I believe myself, with the enjoy I’ve, I improve the device of going to faculty first after which, cross to the corporations. In that case I don’t see any downside. You can cooperate simply, those other people, they have got identified you, they’re unfastened to communicate with you, they’re unfastened to make the preparations of your coaching program, however any person else comes and doesn’t perceive what he’s listening to and makes issues. The trainer says, “Run 400 times 15,” and he says, “No, I’ve never!” Someone who has been going 400 instances 10, however that’s in Kenya. In Japan it’s relatively other for the reason that perspective could be very strict so you’ve got to do extra, and there’s a scientific false impression there.
In phase two of his interview Mayaka talks about existence at the company groups and the demanding situations of becoming in as a non-Japanese.
© 2010 Brett Larner, all rights reserved