10th Oku Memorial Trophy Rugby Tournament

Oxford University RFC's historic Iffley Road ground once again played host to the Oku Memorial Trophy Rugby Tournament for its landmark 10th year. The tournament is played in memory of former Director of the Japan Information and Cultural Centre (JICC) at the Embassy of Japan in the UK, Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku*.

Known to his friends simply as ‘Katsu’, was the first Japanese national ever to play for the Blues XV at Oxford and become a member of the University’s prestigious sportsman’s club, Vincent’s, in the early 1980s whilst attending Hertford College.

He was a long standing member of the Japan RFU committee and campaigned tirelessly for many years for their ambitions to host a Rugby World Cup. Tragically he lost his life in Iraq in November 2003 whilst working for the UN post-war reconstruction programme in that country.

Former Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Japan Rugby Football Union, Mr Yoshiro Mori, referred to Ambassador Oku's contribution in a special message to mark the event -

A a new portrait of Ambassador Oku at Vincent’s
Club was unveiled at the tournament

"he (Ambassador Oku) worked tirelessly to promote rugby in Japan and to raise its international profile, and contributed greatly to Japan's finally succeeding in being awarded the Rugby World Cup in 2019".

He went on to say that "Next year will be a milestone for the United Kingdom and Japan. England will host its Rugby World Cup in autumn, and Japan four years later. Hosting the Rugby World Cup has long been a dream for many Japanese, and the dream is about to come true. This will be the first Rugby World Cup in Asia and will invaluably promote the spirit of rugby not only in japan but throughout the region. I am very sorrowful that I cannot share this excitement with my friend Katsu. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure the great success of our World Cup - the best tribute to Katsu."
In the three way tournament, a joint XV from Vincent’s Club and Hertford College played against London Japanese and the Kew Occasionals. Ambassador Oku’s close friend from Waseda University and former Minister Plenipotentiary at the Embassy of Japan in the UK, Mr Akio Miyajima, travelled from Tokyo for the occasion to present the trophies and unveil a new portrait of Katsu in Vincent’s Club. Paul Farrelly MP represented the Lords & Commons RFC at the event and was one of the tournament referees. The tournament was organised by Mr Reg Clark - the founder of the memorial tournament and a long time friend of Ambassador Oku.



As Ambassador Hayashi stated in his message for the occasion, "Although 11 years have passed since Mr Oku's untimely death, none of us will ever forget him. The fact that so many of his friends, both Japanese and British, gather to remember him at this time every year is extremely touching. May I thank the organisers of the Oku Trophy and the participating teams for making this occasion possible."
*On 29 November 2003 Oku was posthumously promoted to Ambassador