Okumura Takenosuke – founder of the club

The All Mitsubishi Rugby Club was founded in 1928 and claims to be the oldest “club” team in Japan.  This is because Japan has a very unique way of classifying and counting its teams and clubs. In fact, its basic unit for counting is ‘teams’ and not ‘clubs.’  In the 20th century teams were divided into six categories: primary schools, middle school, high school, university, company, and club. The first five are all “closed’ teams and the players are pupils, students or company employees. It is only the “club” category that is, in theory at least, “open.”  The All  Mitsubishi Club was registered as a “club” team and not as a “company” team because its players are selected from all the Mitsubishi Group companies. Some of the Mitsubishi companies like Mitsubishi Motors and Mitsubishi Corp. have their own “company” teams. Other big groups of companies in Japan like the Mitsui Group followed suit and soon there were several ‘club’ teams. Most of the “club” teams  in Japan today are Old Boy teams like Acorn Club (celebrating its 75th anniversary this year), Ellis Club and Kurumi and they make up only a small percentage of the “teams” registered with the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) as the 1959 JRFU data shows:

Chart showing JRFU breakdown of teams and clubs

In 2018 the All Mitsubishi Rugby Club celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding by rugby star second row  player and major figure in Japan’s early rugby history, OKAMURA Tetsunosuke, who learnt his rugby at Sanko (third Higher Normal School) which was the second rugby club  to be formed in Japan and then at the Imperial University of Kyoto (Kyodai) where  he captained the team. During RWC 2019 the All Mitsubishi Rugby Club played several friendly matches, including one on the YC&AC’s rugby ground. The final one was against the House of Commons and Lords team on the morning of the day that Japan beat Ireland.  The House of Commons and Lords team had participated in the Parliamentary Rugby World Cup which is held just before the real RWC. This additional match was played because of the close relations between the Mitsubishi Club and the UK parliamentary team. As the parliamentary team was short of players, I had the honour of playing two of the four quarters.

The All Mitsubishi & House of Lords and Commons (UK Parliiament) teams that played a match before watching Japan beat Ireland in the World Cup!

The Mitsubishi Rugby Club produced a club history to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its founding and made a 90th anniversary tour to the UK where they played several games including one against the House of Commons and Lords. Because their history didn’t contain any information about matches until those in recent years, I decided to see if I could find any early match reports. The matches played throughout the period by the Yokohama Country & Athletic Club (YC&AC) were often covered in the 1930s and I thought I might be able to find a few matches in which they played against Mitsubishi. I quickly turned up two match reports about YC&AC vs Mitsubishi games including one in which Okamoto played and evidence of a few other games.

Recorded early matches between YC&AC and Mitsubishi that I have found so far:

The games played at the YC&AC would have been played on the same ground as that used today where rugby was first played in 1914. Before that time YC&AC rugby matches were played in what is now Yokohama Koen.

YC&AC team sport schedule 1931 February


Mitsubishi Rugby Club Scores Win by 9 Points to 3

The Y.C. & A.C. Second fifteen suffered another defeat when they lost to the Mitsubishi Rugby Club Sunday morning, with three tries to one.

Starting at 10:45 o’clock, with Yokohama defending the club house end, the Mitsubishi side immediately assumed the offensive and it was only Norton’a sound performance at full-back that kept them from scoring in the early stages of the game. Mitsubishi! had some star players one in Captain Okumura, former Teidal skipper, who led the visitors forward pack and another in Iwasaki ex-Keio player, at scrum half, but their side was weakened by several novices. The Negishi (this means YC&AC)  forward pack played up well and if they had received more support from thelr three quarter line, the Y.C. & A.C. team woukl have been able to score oftener. Mitsubishi did all the attacking in the first half, but were held scoreless until the interval.

  After resumption of play. the visitors continued to press the home team and finally got over for a try near the corner flag, which they failed to convert. This was followed by another unconverted try, before Y.C.& A.C. finally ralJied and went over for a try. Norton’s kick fell short of the goal. Mitsubishi scored yet another try, which again remain unconverted, the final whistle shortly thereafter finding the visitors at the long end of a 9 to 3 score.

  The foreigners have some promlsing material in the second fifteen and with more experience and practice should be able to field a side which would have no difficulty in turning down such opposition as offered by the Mitsubishi Rugby Club.

Y.C. & A.C.: Norton (Capt.), Ruffio, Morison, H. Fachtmann, M. Fachtmann; O’Hara. Holmes; Kaai, S. Lord, Warringten, Brown, Brett Cumberbatch, Pardon, Whitby.

Referee: Mr. Curwen.

2) February 3 1931 Japan Times & Mail page 8

     Upcoming fixture including in YC&AC ad

     Sunday  10:30 am  2nd XV vs Mitsubishi Rugby Club

3) December 10 1931 Japan Weekly Chronicle match result:

     Mitsubishi Club 38  YC and AC 30!

4) February 3 1932 (Japan Times & Mail page 8)


Negishi Ruggers Score 12-0 Victory in Hard-Fought Tilt

The YCAC fifteen won a well deserved victory over the Mitsubishi rugby team on Sunday afternoon on the Negishi grounds by the score of 12-0. The game was closer than the score indicates, Mitsubishi putting up a stout defense throughout the game, but lacked that last bit of punch to give them tries.

 On the other hand, the club defense played a sterling game, time and time again pulling out of a tight scrum. The homesters’ three-quarters consisting of Salter, Harriss H., Fachtman and Bland did outstanding work, accounting for all of the tries. Palmroth’s deceptive dashes from time to time, afforded a lot of excitement to the spectators but on this trip, he failed to convert a single place kick. On Mitsubishi’s side, Matsuura starred, on one occasion almost converting a 25-yard drop-kick which failed after hitting the posts.

Salter kicked off for the homesters with a fairly strong breeze in his favor and after about 5 minutes of rough and tumble in midfield, the same player after picking up the loose came within 5 yards of the visitors line, only to be downed by Yuhara, who tackled relentlessly. More pressure on the part of the club and Schoene after receiving a good pass from Brown almost went over. However, following a scrummage within the visitors‘ 5-yard line the Mitsubishi three-quarters got into action and Swanson’s fumble allowed them to gain 20 yards.

Several scrummages ensued in midfield, but G. Swanson’s painfully slow pickout from the scrums could not put the strong club’s three-quarters into any spectacular action. The homesters, however, kept up the pressure and following a center scrummage, the club was awarded a penalty kick which Palmroth beautifully converted. Several three-quarter attacks followed on both sides but without any results and half-time found the homesters ahead by 3-0.

Ishikawa Fumbles

On resumption Mitsubishi started off badly, Ishikawa fumbling the center kick, but following the center scrummage the visitors were awarded a free kick which enabled them to gain 20 yards to come within 5 yards of the club line. H. Fachtman, however, cleverly cleared but more pressure on the part of the visitors, and then came Matsuura’s spectacular drop-kick which just missed the posts by a few inches. On resumption, Mitsubishi kept up the pressure and following a fast three-quarter movement to the left a try seemed imminent when Noda fumbled within 5 yards of the club line. This gave the homesters a chance to round up and after ensuing scrummage Swanson effectively cleared, gaining 10 yards for the club. The club forwards got into motion then and after dribbling up carefully, Salter picked up and put the three-quarters into motion and Brown went over for the first try of the game. Palmroth’s ensuing kick failed.

After the center kick–off the homesters kept on attacking relentlessly, time and again threatening to go over but the visitors put up some stiff opposition clearing timely. Then came Swanson’s dash of 30 yards only to be downed by Noda 5 yards from the line but following the scrummage the club’s three-quarters got into motion,  the ball travelling down from G. Swanson to Salter, who upon being tackled passed to Harriss, who scored near the posts. The following kick failed.

More pressure on the part of the club forwards and Lord almost went over only to be timely downed by Yuhara. Salter, however, was quick to seize the opportunity and following a scrummage, deceptively passed through the visitors backs and tried, Palmroth’s kick failing. Salter played quite a plucky game, handling the ball with accuracy and on several occasions staging one of his peculiar but effective dashes. The game ended in favor of the club the score standing at 12-0.

      The teams lined up as follows:

Y.C. and A.C.: – Swanson, Bland, H. Fachtman, Harriss, Salter, Palmroth, Schoene, Bennett, Pardon, Lord, I. C. Bell, Whitby, K. J. Brown, Rawlins, G. Swanson

Mitsubishi:- Yuhara, Noda, Ozawa, Matsuura, Nebashi, Ohashi, Ishikawa, Hashiguchi, Banzai, Saito, Nakamura, Shibuki, Mutow, Kato, Kiyoe.

November 25 1932 Japan Times  & Mail P8


             WIN TWO VICTORIES

The Y.C. and A.C. rugby teams scored two victories on Wednesday over Japanese teams, the Y.C. and A.C. First XV defeating Koko by 41 points to 17 and Y.C. and A.C. seconds defeating Mitsubishi Club by 16 to 6.


17th February 1932 (Japan Times) ………club seconds won a hard fought match against the Tokyo Marine Insurance Company by the score of 15-6.

The club seconds playing with only 14 men at the outset scored all the goals in the first half, whilst in the second spell the visitors took possession of the ball and the homesters were hardly in the picture as far as scoring was concerned. The visitors attacked relentlessly during the second period and it was only due to the effective tackling of the club backs that the visitors were unable to go over. All of their points came through two penalties awarded them within the club’s 5-yard line in the second period. Palmroth kicked splendidly converting all of the three tries made by the club. Yamamoto was outstanding in the visiting threes time and again, in the second period, threatening to go over, but the club backs put up a stout defense. The total of 6 points made by the Tokyo Marine Ins. Co. were well earned, play dominating throughout the second frame in the homester’s territory.

Japanese player mentioned:  Yamamoto

Vocabulary: homesters = home team

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