Ex-PM's debt paid in anniversary honour

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 January, 2007, 12:00am

A debt of gratitude brought former Japanese prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone to the 40th anniversary celebrations of Hong Kong's leading Japanese judo club.

With a delegation of Japanese politicians in tow, the 88-year-old retired Liberal Democrat statesman, who led Japan from 1982 to 1987, dropped by the Hong Kong Judo Kan on his way to an Asian summit in Moscow.

It was the ultimate honour for club leader Takeo Iwami, Hong Kong's highest-ranking black belt in judo, who worked passionately in his student days for Mr Nakasone's campaign for full suffrage in Japan's prime ministerial elections.

The VIP delegation was treated to a virtuoso display of judo kata. To launch the ceremony, 90 club members, including Kowloon Canton Railway Corp chief executive James Blake - a black belt founding member - knelt before Mr Nakasone in white judo robes. Matches between top judoists were followed by a children's display and rounds in which boys took on girls, and fathers their sons.

As a finale, Mr Iwami, a seventh grade black belt, floored 10 youngsters who tackled him one by one in rapid succession. He then graciously allowed himself to be thrown by the smallest, youngest girl.

In an address to the club interpreted by Mr Iwami's son, Ryuma, Mr Nakasone said: 'Around 50 to 60 years ago, I worked to change the constitution. Mr Iwami participated and helped me. Because of this, it took him eight years to graduate, but he participated so much for me to make a better world in Japan.'

Afterwards, Mr Nakasone said judo showed how to 'use flexibility to conquer strength' and could raise the spirit of young people and inspire them to great achievements. But he said he did not practise any more, preferring golf.

Mr Blake said judo was also good for business. 'It shows you how to use the other person's position to your advantage - and that is what business is all about,' he said.