From The Vaults

11 November 2022
First Brave Blossoms on Film

Footage has emerged of the first time that the Japanese national rugby team took to the field. In 1930 the Brave Blossoms toured Canada and played what is regarded as their first test-match against British Columbia. Their first game on the tour however was against Vancouver.

It is this match from which the footage (Accession Number 1994. was captured by Kannosuke Kaminish and preserved by the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre. In this article Hideki Shoji describes what can be seen, with closing remarks from Japan Coach Shigeru Kayama.

The film footage starts just after a photo session attended by Japanese national team, Vancouver team and some officials, which took place at Brockton Point, Vancouver on September 1, 1930, before the first match of Canada tour. After the event, the players and officials walk to the opening ceremony.

the photo session

The image is the very photograph taken at this session. The Japanese players and Vancouver players identified are as follows:

Fourth row (L-R): Unknown, A. Pinkham.

Third row (L-R): J. H. Scott (President, Vancouver Rugby Union), Jim Underhill (referee), Seizo Shimizu, Unknown, Minoru Mishima, Unknown, Tadayuki Yagai, Unknown, Takeo Hagiwara, Unknown, T. Maruyama, G. Niblo, Hidezaburo Iwashita, Unknown, Unknown, Harry Lord (touch judge), Jack Tyrwhitt (President, British Columbia Rugby Union).

Second row (L-R): Shiso Ka, Pete Wilson, Hiromichi Nemoto, Shirou Wada (vice captain), Unknown, Hideo Miyachi (captain), Unknown, Tomoo Chiba, Norminton, Unknown.

Front row (L-R): Ichiro Tanaka, LeRoy, Zenjiro Toba, Jack Bain, Seiichi Teramura, Murray Rowan (captain), Mitsugu Fujii, Hiroshi Iwamae (touch judge).

The starting XV:

Japanese national team: Teramura (fullback); Tanaka, Maruyama, Fujii, Toba (three-quarters); Ka, Hagiwara (halfbacks); Shimizu, Wada, Miyachi (captain), Mishima, Chiba, Nemoto, Yagai and Iwashita (forwards).

Vancouver Rep: Wright (fullback); E. V. Pinkham, Leroy, M. Rowan, Dalby (three-quarters); G. Niblo, Pete Wilson (five-eights); Hec McLean (halfback); Norminton, Nichol, Ledingham, White, Bain, Barker and A. Pinkham (forwards).

The following are the descriptions of part of the film footage;


Far left---Referee Underhill holding the ball walking toward the camera. Next to Underhill also walking toward the camera, whose hair is groomed by brilliantine is Shisho Ka, Taiwan-born, Waseda University student. He plays one of the halfbacks and scores two tries in this match.


While Vancouver Rep are lined up on the halfway line, Jack Tyrwhitt, President of the British Columbia Rugby Union receives a JRFU flag from Yasuyoshi Kawame, Tour Manager of Japan.


James Fyfe Smith, President of the Canadian Rugby Union kicks the ball at ceremonial opening before kickoff. The ball on the ground is leaning quite forward. Referee Underhill standing at the halfway line watching.


Japanese national team getting ready for kickoff and their first match of the tour is under way.


Lineout - A Japanese player throws the ball to the lineout unusually hard like a baseball pitching.


A Vancouver player attempts conversion kick but misses. Before kicking, the ball is held upright by another Vancouver player. But the player somehow fails to keep the ball upright just before the attempt. The kicker seems to be upset about the poor support from his teammate. Referee leaning forward nearby the kicker.




Nemoto kicks conversion after Mitsugu Fujii's first try of the tour. Harry Lord, touch judge in white jacket, standing by the left stick of the goal post raises the touch flag.


Hiroshi Iwamae, another touch judge on duty.


A Japanese player in motion to kick conversion with support from his teammate who is holding the ball. Referee Underhill bending forward, staring at the ball on the ground. The film doesn't show whether the conversion was successful or not. However, it is thought the conversion was missed because the only score Japan gained through kicks in the first half was one conversion by Nemoto according to the record.

17:32 -1738

Halftime show. The Police Pipe Band marches on the ground.


A Japanese player attempts conversion while several Vancouver players try to charge down the ball. The attempt is missed. Harry Lord, standing by the left stick of the goal post, signals failure of the attempt by waving the touch flag below. This conversion attempt is thought to be made after Shisho Ka scored an opening try in the second half.


PG attempt by the visitors. But the ball goes wide to the right. Again, Harry Lord waves the flag below.


Far right, the ball can be seen on the ground. Although the film is blurred, referee Underhill appears to be leaning forward. Unfortunately the kicking scene cannot be clearly seen but it looks a Japanese player who was presumably holding the ball gets up from the ground after the ball was kicked. The trajectory of the ball can be observed. As some Vancouver players can be seen standing near the post, this scene is thought to be a conversion attempt by Yagai after Tanaka scores a try, according to the record.


Japan puts the ball in scrum but it is lost. Vancouver halfback gets the ball and is in motion to deliver it to their backs while Japanese backs pressing up field.


Vancouver on defense inside their 22. After a Japanese player was tackled, the ball moves wide to the right. Then, the ball carrier runs to the left. The end of the footage.

Vancouver v Japan

September 1, 1930. KO 15:00

Vancouver Rep - 18 [Try: E. Pinkham (2), A. Pinkham, Norminton. Con: Niblo (3)]

Japanese national team - 22 [Try: Fujii, Chiba, Maruyama, Ka (2), Tanaka. Con: Nemoto, Yagai]

Brockton Point, Vancouver

Attendance - 5,000

Shigeru Kayama, Japan coach, reminisces about the match in his book published in October 1930.

"What made me feel so good in this match was fairness in judgement demonstrated by the referee. He was such a fair referee that I had never seen before in any rugby matches. His observation was impeccable. There weren't so many good performances in the game but I believe his refereeing deserves admiration of world rugby."

"The players' attitude during the match was also excellent. No rough plays neither unfairness in their performances. They were very impressive ruggers. We want to express our delight from bottom of our hearts in that we could discover presence of such a great referee and beautiful players in our neighboring country. Although we were aware that anti-Japanese feeling is widespread across the region, spectators gathered around the pitch were wonderful, too. Just like Mr. Woodward, Secretary of British Columbia Rugby Union, who was sitting next to me, the local people whole-heartedly rooted for the visitors from afar. When final whistle was blown, Mr. Woodward suddenly stood up and gave me a firm handshake congratulating our victory. The players from both sides ran up with each other and exchanged a handshake. I realized that we'd won our first match fair and square."

"Our players' eyes were filled with tears of joy. I was moved to tears, too. Some were sorry that good performance was not fully exerted in the game. Accepted everything I had witnessed with gratitude, I sincerely thanked each one of them for what they'd bravely achieved."


  • The Daily Province, August 29, 1930 and September 2, 1930
  • 'Rugby Football,' Shigeru Kayama (1930)
  • Souvenir Program Dominion Rugby Tour 1932, JRFU

About the Author

Hideki Shoji is a translator of electronic components at a local company in Tsuruoka, Japan. He is a collector of rugby memorabilia and researcher on the history of Japanese rugby. He plays wing/fullback at Harbor Blacks, a local club in Sakata city.

Photo: Mitsugu Fujii (Keio University student) scores Japan's first try of the tour when 0-13 down.