Sake, Rugby, Sakura and Friendship

Oku Memorial Rugby Cup and Sakura Cherry Tree Project

27 November and 17 December 2021

Sake Samurai UK has been supporting UK-Japan friendship through sports and rugby is the one of them. Reg Clark, who is the recipient of Japanese Foreign Minister’s Award, and his team continue to build a strong friendship with Japan through Rugby, and we have been honoured to support their social tournaments and events since 2013.

The Oku Memorial Cup event is dedicated to the memory of Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku, being the first Japanese national to represent the Blues XV at Oxford. He is widely credited with initiating the process which led to Japan hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Sadly he was tragically killed on diplomatic duty with the UN post-war reconstruction programme in Iraq in 2003, and Reg and his friends gather each year to play a rugby tournament in his memory. After the tournament, they make a toast to Ambassador Katsuhiko who was well known to love sake, especially ones from Kobe of his birthplace.

The Sakura Cherry Tree Project started in 2019, born from a strong Japanese and UK friendship. At the Richmond rugby ground, Reg and his team planted seven trees in the memory of his late friend, Seiji Hirao, in the presence of Minister Takeshi Ito and Lady Victoria Borwick.  Seiji Hirao is a heroic figure in the Japanese rugby history.

With Regs continued efforts, a strong bond is maintained between Japan and the UK which grows stronger year by year. We trust that this relationship will be succeeded to the next generation and beyond and Sake Samurai is very grateful to be able to see these relationships blossom by way of sake and the associated events that bring everyone together.