Women and Sport in Japan

Key information

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Event type
Event highlights

About this event

This event was cancelled due to Covid-19.


This is the fourth event in our JRC Sport Symposia Series which will focus on the theme of Women and Sport in Japan. Guest speakers will be a mix of academic researchers and sportswomen. Discussion will focus on the changing environment for women and sport, in terms of participation, progress and challenges. Guest speakers will share the inspirational stories of their sporting careers.

Speaker biographies

Helen Macnaughtan is Chair of the Japan Research Centre and Senior Lecturer in International Business & Management (Japan) at SOAS University of London. Her research interests focus on a range of topics relating to gender, employment and sport in Japan. She has previously published on the history of women’s volleyball in Japan with reference to the gold medal victory for the ‘Oriental Witches’ at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics. She is currently researching the history of rugby in postwar Japan with a focus on the corporate history of the game.

Guest speakers

Mariko Sakai is an Olympian who competed in Artistic (Synchronized) Swimming at the 2012 London Olympic Games. After retiring as an athlete, she has worked for the Japan Sport Council (JSC) where she is secretary for a project initiated by the government to develop a better environment for female high-level mother athletes. She also works at Tsukuba International Academy of Sport Studies at Tsukuba University Japan as a researcher since 2018. She worked in Cirque du Soleil from 2014 to 2017 where she was inspired by many performers, and she incorporates these skills into current coaching for young athletes. Having served as a national coach of her sport over the last year, she has been seeking to promote her sport for both male and female athletes.

Yuka Hirano is a professional female football player, currently signed at the Women`s Team of 1. FC Köln (Cologne), Germany. The Japanese attacker was signed up after trials and scored four goals in her subsequent first six games for 1. FC Köln. In a game against Wolfsburg she showed the data system what the coaches already knew – after running 11,9km, she ran more than any other FC player. When the Japanese national women’s football team won the Women’s World Cup in 2011, Yuka was 15 years old, and she decided she wanted a football career – preferably abroad. Now, at 23 years of age, she is making that dream come true. She has been in Germany since February 2019 and is teaching herself German. She doesn’t yet know how long she will remain in Germany, and her goal is to play in as many different footballing countries as possible, preferably in Europe and America. “I want to get to know different cultures and experience as many things as possible” says Yuka.

Christian Tagsold is at the Department of Modern Japanese Studies, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. He has previously researched the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and its role for re-establishing national identity in Japan after World War II. He has broad experience in organising sports mega-events. He was a member of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA Confed Cup 2005, the FIFA World Cup 2006, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011.  He will interpret Japanese-English for Yuka Hirano as well as talk about his time with the Japanese women’s team in FIFA events.

Konul Nurullayeva is a recently elected Member of the Parliament of the state of Azerbaijan, conducts research at the University of Azerbaijan and is on the Executive MBA program at the Swiss Business University. She worked for the National Olympic Committee of Azerbaijan as Director of International Relations for over 10 years. She was the youngest and the first female chef de mission in the history of the Olympic Games to represent her national team in Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014) Winter Olympic Games. She was deputy chef de mission during the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing (2008) and London (2012). She was the youngest female CEO of “Baku 2020” (Olympic Games Bid Committee) in the history of the Olympic movement. In 2015 she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Inaugural European Games and chef de mission of the biggest team in the history of Azerbaijan.  She is the first female representative from Azerbaijan to be elected in the European Olympic Committees’ “Gender Equality in Sport” Commission. In 2013 she was elected as the first female member to the Executive Board of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF). She is Director of the “Gender Equality” Commission of the ISSF and member of the Coordination Commission of the 5th Islamic Solidarity Games - “Konya 2021”. She is fluent in Azerbaijani, Russian and English.

Panel commentators

Nefeli Chondrogianni is a passionate sports professional and an advocate for women sports development. From her position as Communications and Technical Affairs Manager at Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Sports Academy (FBMA), a government entity of Abu Dhabi – UAE, she oversees the expansion of the Emirate’s women sports offering by planning and implementing various initiatives that aim to make sports a part of every Emirati woman’s daily life. She is studying for a PhD in Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent (UK) on the topic of social impact of international non-mega sports events on local communities supervised by Dr Dikaia Chatziefstathiou and Dr Simon Hoult. She has an M.A. in Sport Management from the London Metropolitan University, UK, and an M.Sc. in Exercise and Quality of Life, from the University of Thrace, Greece. 

Dikaia Chatziefstathiou is an expert in Olympic Studies and her work on Olympism has been widely published and cited. In the most recent work, she applies the theory and methodology adopted in her Olympic research into the world of football unpacking issues of power in the dressing rooms. She is Director of Research Environment and Knowledge Exchange, and a Reader in Olympic Studies & the Social Analysis of Sport at the School of Human and Life Sciences in Canterbury Christ Church University, UK. She is also an International Research Expert of the Centre for Olympic Studies & Research (COS&R) at Loughborough University, UK; and a Senior Associate of the Hibou Alliance of sports professionals worldwide. She is the winner of the inaugural Coubertin Prize 2008 awarded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee (IPCC) for her qualitative research on Pierre de Coubertin’s writings and speeches

Mara Yamauchi is a former elite British marathon runner and diplomat. A two-time Olympian, she is the second fastest British marathon runner ever, with a PB of 2:23:12. She grew up in Kenya, and has lived in Japan for many years as a diplomat and professional athlete. Mara finished 6th in the 2008 Beijing Olympic marathon – the best performance ever by a British woman in this event – and was runner-up in the 2009 London marathon. She also competed for Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics. In January 2013 Mara retired from elite competition and now works as a running coach, commentator and motivational speaker. She lives in London.

Simon Rofe is Reader in Diplomatic and International Studies in the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, and Programme Director for MA Global Diplomacy, at SOAS University of London. His research focuses upon diplomacy, international and global history, with a particular focus on the diplomacy of sport. He is the author and editor of a number of books and academic articles including “Sport and Society: Games within Games” (Manchester University Press, 2018).

Organiser: SOAS Japan Research Centre, SOAS Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy and Japan Foundation London

Supporter: Japan Sport Council and Canterbury Christ Church University

Sponsor: Toshiba International Foundation and Mr Stephen McEnally

Contact email: centres@soas.ac.uk