Musings / June 22, 2019

The Yomiuri Shimbun“Hakuraku” was originally the name of a legendary horse appraiser in ancient China, but now the word has become a term to refer to a person who has the ability to see the superb talents inside other people.

There is a basketball coach who denies any suggestion that he is a “mei [great] hakuraku.” Today, his responses are known nationwide. He is Joji Sakamoto, 59, who coached Rui Hachimura, the 21-year-old from Gonzaga University in the United States, when Hachimura was a junior high school student. “I told him to target the NBA, but that was an excuse to make him practice hard,” Sakamoto recalled.

However, Hachimura took it seriously. He went to the gym earlier than anybody else to practice and the dream came true nine years later.

In the NBA draft, Hachimura became the first Japanese person to be selected in the first round. Sakamoto was at a company he runs in Toyama. There, 2½ hours after the draft pick, Sakamoto received a phone call. “I did it. Everything started with you, coach.” I saw a photo of Sakamoto crying with a cellphone to his ear in The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Tokyo evening edition yesterday. A conscientious student, an austere “mei hakuraku” — a refreshing breeze came from Toyama.

I never knew such an “excuse” could foster such a large, prosperous person.

(This is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s June 22 issue.)Speech

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