Fukushima-Minpo awards sports grand prize to rugby's most-capped Ono hailing from Koriyama

Ono (left) receives a relief engraving from Fukushima-Minpo President Yoshimi.

Fukushima-Minpo Co. awarded its sports grand prize at a ceremony on Dec. 7 to Hitoshi Ono, a 42-year-old native of Koriyama city who participated in a record-high 98 games as a member of Japan's national rugby team, including three straight World Cups. The ceremony took place on the ground of Toshiba Corp.’s rugby team, to which he belongs, in Fuchu on the western outskirts of Tokyo. President Koichi Yoshimi of the publisher of the Fukushima Minpo vernacular daily handed to Ono a letter of commendation, a relief engraving titled “Mori no Yosei” (woodland fairy) made by sculptor Kentaro Hashimoto (former head of Nitten, the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition organization, recipient of the government’s Persons of Cultural Merit award and an honorary citizen of Nihonmatsu city, Fukushima Prefecture), and an extra prize. “Mr. Ono is a legendary rugby player produced by this prefecture,” Yoshimi heaped praise on Ono at the gathering. “We hope he will help our hometown recover (from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident) by coaching local children and other activities.” “I’m proud to be given an honorable award by my hometown,” Ono said. “I feel happy from the bottom of my heart to have my 19 years of career credited. I will do my best to have Fukushima people smile through rugby from now on, too.” Ono long played as a lock constituting the core of the Japanese national team’s forward pack before announcing his retirement in May this year. Through his dedicated play, including quickly rising to his feet after being toppled, he inspired and wowed Fukushima people working for reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The award ceremony was held outdoors, with participants limited, to prevent novel coronavirus infection. (Translated by Kyodo News)