Modified on October 1, 2000


Naoko Takahashi
Born May 6, 1972. 163 cm tall and weighs about 47 kilos. Japan's first Olympic gold medalist in the women's athletics. She broke the Olympic record to come in first at the Sydney Games in 2000 in the marathon with a time of 2 hours 23.14 minutes. She has a nice, big smile which reminds many Japanese of a cute cartoon charater known as Q-chan.

Ryoko Tamura
Born Sept 6, 1975. 146 cm. tall. 146 cm tall weighing 48 kilos. Judo's superstar. She wears a pig tail which is her trade mark. Everybody loves her smile and never-give-up attitude that she is nicknamed "yawara-chan" as in the popular Japanese cartoon character. Has lost only 2 matches from 1992. The first at the Barcelona Olympics final, and second at the Atlanta Olympics final. She's a silver medalist at both games. World Champion from 1993 to 1999 in the women's 48 kilo class. The only thing that lacked in her career was an Olympic gold medal. She clinched it for the first time at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Tadahiro Nomura
2 time Olympic gold medalist in the men's judo 60 kilo class. Born Dec 10, 1974. He was an obsure judoka at the 1996 Olympics until he won a gold medal. He's only the second in Japan's judo world to win consecutive Olympic golds. In Sydney, he used 4 different techniques to win. His uncle was a gold medalist in the Munich Olympics middle weight class.

Hiromi Taniguchi
1991 world champion in the men's marathon. Born April 1960. Stands 171 cm. and weighs 55 kg. He started out as a short distance runner, but transferred to long distance running in high school. He took part in a marathon race for the first time in 1985 in Oita Prefecture, southern Japan and won it. Taniguchi ran in the Barcelona Olympics marathon, but came in only 8th. However, he was delayed because his shoe came off in the middle of the race and couldn't put it back on immediately. He has been running marathons despite his cardiac problem.

Yuko Arimori
Born Dec. 17, 1966. 164.5 cm tall. weighs 48 kilos. Won the silver medal in the women's marathon at the Barcelona Olympic Games. It's the first time in 64 years that a Japanese women runner became a medalist at the Olympics. She's earned an additional medal by winning the bronze at the Atlanta Olympics marathon race.

Kyoko Iwasaki
Youngest Japanese gold medalist ever at the Olympics. At 14 years old, she won the 200 meter breaststroke in Barcelona. She took part in Atlanta but was not able to proceed to the finals.

Yvonne Kanazawa Scott
One of Japan's newest sports heroines. She broke the Japanese record for the women's 100 meter hurdle at the Japan Track and Field Championship on June 7, 1996. She was born to a Jamaican American father and a Japanese mother in Tokyo. Her nationality is Japanese but she didn't speak the language until recently. Ran the semi-finals at the Sydney Games.

For info on prospective winter Olympics stars, go to Nagano Stars.


Kinue Hitomi
The first Japanese woman to be an Olympian. She won the silver medal in the 800 meter race at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games. Unfortunately, she passed away at only 23 years of age.

Mikio Oda
Born Mar.30, 1905. Became Japan's first gold medalist in 1928 Amsterdam in the triple jump. Jumped 15.58 meters in 1931 as a student of Waseda University breaking the world record. Died from a ruptured artery on Dec. 2, 1998 at the age of 93.

Baron Nishi
The first real Olympic star from Japan. He won the gold in horseback riding at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. He's still the one and only Japanese horseback medalist. He unfortunately commited suicide in the battle of Iwo-jima in 1945.

Yoshiyuki Tsuruta
Swimming gold medalist in both the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games.

Yasuji Miyazaki
He broke the world record for the men's 100 meter freestyle swimming clocking 58.0 seconds in the semi-final of the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. In the final, he came in first to win the gold.

Chuhei Nanbu
He broke the triple jump world record at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932 jumping 15 m.72, and earned the gold medal. He was actually more practiced in the long jump in which he was also able to win a medal. He won the bronze. Nanbu established the golden era of jumps together with Mikio Oda and Naoto Tajima. Nanbu finally passed away at age 94 on July 23, 1997.

Shuhei Nishida
Pole vault jumper. He won 2nd place at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics by jumping 4.30 meters. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, he was tied second with another Japanese, Sueo Oe. However, Nishida alone was awarded the silver while Oe received the bronze. Nishida decided to give half of his silver for half of Oe's bronze medal.

Hideko Maehata
First Japanese woman to win the gold medal.
She captured the 200 meter breastroke at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.
Her race is especially memorable to old-time fans because it was broadcast live with emotional play-by-play announcing.

Chiharu Igaya
Born May 20, 1931 in Kunashiri, Hokkaido. When he was in th 6th grade in elementary school, he broke Japan's skiing record. Became the first Japanese to win a medal at the Olympic Winter Games. He is the silver medalist in the alpine skiing slalom event at the 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Games. In 1982, he became a member of the IOC. and thereafter, an executive member.
Michiyo's Note: I talked with Mr. Igaya on January 8, 1998. He said he practiced only 2 hours a day during his heydays, and was still able to clinch a medal. The man who won ahead of him in the slalom was the triple crown king Toni Sailer.

Yukio Endo
Probably Japan's best gymnast ever. Definitely, the star of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. He won the gold in the individual combined exercise, bars, team event, and the silver in the floor event.

Kenji Kimihara
Silver medalist in the men's marathon at the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games. His time was 2 hours 19 minutes 38 seconds.

Akinori Nakayama
Gymnast. He had an excellent showing in 1968 in Mexico. He won the gold in the rings, parallel bars, horizontal bar and team events, the silver in the floor, and the bronze in combined exercises.

Yukio Kasaya
Japan's first gold medalist in the Winter Games. He won it in the normal hill ski jump at the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics. Other medals in that event were taken by Japanese, namely Akitsugu Konno and Seiji Aochi.

Mayumi Aoki
She won the 100 meter butterfly in Munich in 1972.

Yuji Takada
Born in 1954. 4 time world champion in the 52 kilo freestyle wrestling, and also winner of the same event in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Was expected to win in the Moscow Olympics, but Japan's boycott prevented him from clinching another title. His final Olympics was 1984 in Los Angeles where he finished 3rd.

Koji Gushiken
His monkey like look attracted the fans. He took the gold in the individual combined exercises, rings, the silver in horse vault, and the bronze in the horizontal bar at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Yasuhiro Yamashita
Born 1957. Clinched the national title 9 years in a row, the world championships 4 rimes. One of the most popular judoka of all times. He won the gold medal in the open weight division at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The most memorable scene there was the great sportsmanship of his rival in the final. The Egyptian man did not attack Yamashita's injured leg deliberately to make the match fair. He had 203 straight wins until his retirement in 1985. Yamashita is presently an executive member of the All Japan Judo Federation.

Akira Kuroiwa
Born Sept. 6, 1961. 175 cm and 78 kilos. Japan's speed skating star. Was overall winner in the World Sprint Championship in 1983 and 87. Finished a disappointing 10th at the Winter Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984 to dismay of sports fans. In 1988, he was able to clinch the bronze at the Winter Games in Calgary after undergoing years of image training to overcome his past ordeal.

Seiko Hashimoto
A super woman. Had appeared in a total 7 Olympic Games--including the winter and summer games. Bronze medalist in the women's speedskating event. Has also appeared in cycling events in Soeul and Barcelona. Her 7th Olympic appearance was in Atlanta in 1996. Because of her fame, she has won a seat in the Upper House in July 1995. Her name,Seiko, was given the Japanese character representing the Olympic torch, because she was born in the year of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Yuko Emoto
Born Dec. 23, 1972. Her emotional reaction to her winning the gold medal in the 61 kilo weight division in women's judo at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was quite impressive. She has had part of her ovary removed and that led to her to annoucing her retirement from judo in Aug. 1998. She confirmed at the time her engagement to S. Korean world judo champion in the 65 kilo division, Kim Hyuk. She lives in Soeul.