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Japanese writers meet unexpectedly while covering Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura

Japanese journalists Yoko Takeda, left, and Yoko Miyaji attend Friday’s Gonzaga-Bryant game. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Japanese journalists Yoko Takeda, left, and Yoko Miyaji attend Friday’s Gonzaga-Bryant game. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

When Tokyo native Yoko Miyaji, a freelance NBA and college basketball writer for Japanese sports publications, walked into the media room Friday night at McCarthey Athletic Center, she expected the only familiar face she’d see all night would be Rui Hachimura’s at the end of the game.

After all, Miyaji had traveled all the way from her home in Los Angeles to see the freshman from Sendai, Japan, play in GU’s game against Bryant University and had never before been to Gonzaga.

So she was a little surprised when she heard her native language amongst the chatter in the room of reporters.

“When I got here in the media room I heard Japanese … and was like, ‘Who is it?’ ” Miyaji said.

The voice belonged to Miyaji’s 20-year-long friend Yoko Takeda, a freelance basketball beat writer who came all the way from Tokyo to also see Hachimura play. The two hadn’t seen each other for at least a year.

“I didn’t know that she was coming, she didn’t know that I was coming,” Miyaji said.

And they each didn’t know a week ago if they would be in Spokane, since it wasn’t clear before last week’s opener if the Japanese standout would redshirt this season.

Once they found out Hachimura would get playing time this season, they both booked their flights to Spokane.

For Takeda, that meant traveling almost 5,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to watch Hachimura, whom she has been following since he started drawing attention in Japan on his high school basketball court.

“Since high school days, he’s been saying he wants to go to the USA … so (I’m) glad that he was able to come here to Gonzaga,” Takeda said as Miyaji translated. “(In Tokyo) they are hoping he is going to do well … he’s our star.”

Hachimura, who is one of four freshman on the team, played a total of 7 minutes in GU’s first two regular-season games. Friday, Miyaji and Takeda got to see him play the last 5 minutes of the game when it was clear the Bulldogs were going to leave the court that night with another win in the books.

Hachimura scored six points, four from the foul line, and grabbed two rebounds and a block that got the crowd up on its feet in the last minute.

Miyaji said there are a lot of fans in Tokyo who are following Hachimura’s journey at Gonzaga. Many are excited to see him go back to play in Japan again.

“He’s going to be the one who leads Japan’s national team for years to come, so many people are looking forward to him grow as a player and do well here,” Miyaji said.

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