At a press conference in Hiroshima on Mar. 20 national 100 yen shop chain Daiso Sangyo announced its sponsorship of the new Daiso women's ekiden team beginning Apr. 1 this year. The new team's inaugural head coach will be local Sera H.S. coaching legend Shinya Iwamoto, 53. The team's initial roster will include five 18-year-old athletes who graduated from high school this month, three of them from Sera including the team's star runner Koto Hiramura.
Iwamoto was born in Higashi Hiroshima. As a senior at Sera H.S. he won the Fourth Stage at the National High School Ekiden, going on to attend Fukuoka University. After graduating he became a junior high school teacher before becoming head coach of the Sera boys in 2004. In 2006 Sera won the National High School Ekiden for the first time in 32 years. In 2010 Iwamoto became the Sera girls' head coach as well, and in 2015 the school became only the second in history to win both the boys' and girls' national titles. All told the Sera boys and girls took six national wins under his leadership.
Iwamoto will retire from his position at Sera, replaced as head coach by Shuhei Daikuya, 28. The new Daiso team will be based in Higashi Hiroshima, where Iwamoto still resides. Hopes are high that it will become a national-level contender. Along with the Tenmaya and Edion teams it will be the third women's corporate team based in Hiroshima. "I definitely feel the pressure," said Iwamoto. "We have to perform. I want to get rid of whatever anxiety we might be feeling and move forward with a sense of anticipation.This is a step I've been considering for several years, and we now have the resources to make it happen. We plan to make the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier within three years, qualify for the National Corporate Women's Ekiden within five years, and win it within ten years. We want to make this a team that the people of Hiroshima will love."
The team's initial five members will all be employed by Daiso Sangyo, working in its shops in the morning twice a week. The rest of their time will be devoted to training. A team dormitory well-equipped with training facilities was completed in January. Team manager Kinya Ogawa, 59, commented, "We want to make a contribution not only to the popularity of athletics within Hiroshima prefecture but also to contribute to society by helping serve as a doorway for more people to become active in the sport. 85% of Daiso Sangyo's employees are women. The majority of its customers are also women, supported in their daily lives by their fellow women. In the same spirit of supporting women we have formed this women's ekiden team."
translated and edited by Brett Larner