From The Vaults

16 October 2023
New Zealand Universities visit Japan

Hideki Shoji presents research from the 1936 New Zealand Universities tour to Japan.

New Zealand Universities toured Japan from January to February in 1936. The touring party, en route from Hong Kong, arrived at snow-covered Nagasaki in the early morning of January 22. According to a diary written by William Tricklebank [third row, third from left in the image below], one of the NZU members, they "had to face a barrage of cameramen who had come on board."

NZU team, 1936

Several hours after coming ashore, they had a short training session at a local ground and then soon left for Shimonoseki (westernmost city of the main island) in the afternoon, from which the team travelled about 500 km eastwards by a sleeper train. They arrived after ten hours at Kobe on the morning of January 23. The New Zealand Universities team stayed in Kobe and Osaka until January 27, during which their first match of the tour was played against Japan West (31-3).

Between the practices, the tourists were taken to various sightseeing spots. They paid a courtesy visit to Osaka Asahi Newspaper and were invited to Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club for afternoon tea. In his diary of January 24, Tricklebank writes, "…We were then taken around to the hospital so that the hospital staff could carry out some tests on us. We were there from about 4:30 and we were not finished by 7 so we left before they had made all the tests."

Dr. Yoshihiko Mochizuki, who has a medical practice in Shibaura, Tokyo makes mention in a medical website of the "tests at the hospital." He introduces a thesis compiled in August 1936 by Dr. Kiyoshi Kimura et al, and explains the background of the thesis and the "tests" carried out on the NZU players.

The following is my translation of Dr. Mochizuki's article posted in August 2018.

Dr. Mochizuki continues; "Dr. Kimura, who was then at the Hospital, was one of the young specialists with an insatiable thirst for modern medicine. He incorporated radiography and electrocardiograms (ECG), etc. to publicize the academic paper. An Osaka Mainichi Newspaper article published in 1931 tells us about Dr. Kimura who was "a famous runner and rugby player." So I presume he played rugby in college.

The thesis was republished by some of the JRFU's medical committee members with assistance from the Union, and the copies were delivered to those who had served as medical personnel in local rugby communities. At that time I was one of the committee members of Japan East RFU and had the pleasure of receiving one of the copies."

The interesting part is ECG. Dr. Kimura expresses his regret in the thesis that his medical team could not finish the entire members of the team due to lack of time. I assume it took too much time to record one by one in such an environment that contemporary medical equipment was far from their reach in that era. Yet his team was successful in obtaining data from ten players."

In acknowledgement of the thesis, Dr. Kimura et al, express their gratitude to NZU; "It was a great pleasure for us to conduct physical examinations to the entire 24 players of the New Zealand Universities Rugby Football Team, who toured Japan from January to February this year and recorded remarkable six wins and one draw results. We would like to thank Mr. Martin Smith, Tour Manager, and Japan West RFU, both of whom, out of their busy schedule, kindly accepted our requests and allowed us to carry out physical examinations. We also want to thank Mr. J. M. Watt, a medical student of the NZU team who offered to conduct examinations of height, weight and chest circumference of the team."

Dr. Mochizuki closes out his article as follows: "What was written in the thesis is an excellent piece of study. It is a pioneering work of today's sports medicine, which reminds us of importance of documentation.

About the Author

Photo Credit: New Zealand Universities v All Japan, 16/02/1936, Osaka.

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.