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He also demonstrates his “rugby style” of caring at home!
Interview with Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Japan Representative, on Housework, Childcare, and Strengthening Marital Ties

Kakinaga's family photo Shinnosuke Kakinaga is known as a mood maker, enlivening the team with his “yell” before scrums. He is also a member of Tokyo Suntory Sangoliath, where he is nicknamed “Kakki” and loved by many fans. In his private life, he got married in 2016 and became a father of a child in 2018. We asked him about his busy life as a rugby player and a company employee, how he divides his time between housework and childcare, and how he and his wife deepen their bond.

If I had to compare it to a rugby position, I would say “wing” at home.

 The reason I started playing rugby was to lose weight. I was about 40 kilograms when I was in kindergarten, and my teacher told me that I could do anything if I played rugby, so I started. In the end, I failed to lose weight. I weighed about 90 kilograms by the time I was in sixth grade (laughs).

 My position in rugby is “prop,” which means that I am rarely seen on TV during an 80-minute game, and I have the ball for only 10 seconds or less. I am in the front row of the scrum, teaming up with my opponents and supporting the team with power and patience, like a man behind the scenes.

 At home, I am more like a “wing” who connects the ball to his teammates for a try. I cook and do laundry, but my wife prepares the food and detergent, and I only attack. In that sense, I am a “wingman. I am not a “husbandless” person (laughs).

His specialties are curry and peperoncino!

 We are both working and my wife works, so housework is done when the one who is at home notices. There is no particular division of roles. Basically, the time I spend with my family at home on weekdays is about 2 to 3 hours, excluding sleeping time, so we work with consideration for each other and how we can play with our children before bedtime and efficiently make time for ourselves.

 I didn’t do any housework at all before my child was born, and I had almost zero experience with cooking. However, I had just never done it before, and when I actually tried it, I realized that I could do it quite well and it became enjoyable. Until then, I was an “eating specialist” and only understood the feelings of the eater, but now that I am cooking, I can understand the feelings of the cook as well. My specialty is curry and peperoncino! I am very happy when my children, who are still at an age where they have many likes and dislikes, finish their meal saying, “Delicious! I am very happy when my children, who still have many likes and dislikes, finish their meal saying, “It’s delicious!

Rugby is 80-90% hard work. Practice and household chores are done mindlessly.

 Rugby involves a lot of hard training and a lot of running. It is quite hard to run with my 115 kg body, but no matter how hard it is, if I run mindlessly and wait for the time to pass, it will be over. I also do housework with that kind of mindset (laughs). Most of my chores, such as washing dishes and cleaning the sink, are done by just moving my hands without thinking about it. Rugby is 80-90% hard during practice and games. Everyone has to work together to finally get a try. Housework and childcare are not hard at all if we think that after doing what we do well as a team, we can spend time on our own.

The Spirit of Rugby Applies to Housework and Childcare

 I think a good rugby player is a player who cares. Rugby is a sport with 15 players, and if one player makes a mistake, the others can cover it up as much as they want. A good rugby player is one who can react when he thinks, “I’m about to make a mistake here,” or “I might get hit a little here,” and it is important to be aware of the danger, what your friends want you to do, and to be considerate.

 In my family, our style is to think about how we can make the other person comfortable or happy, and I think the spirit of rugby comes into play in that way.

Shinnosuke Kakinaga

The assumption that athletes’ wives are “devoted” to them.

 The way I dealt with housework and childcare was not the same from the beginning as it is now, and I had some conflicts with my wife. Especially when it comes to the wives of athletes, people tend to think of them as “good wives who are devoted to their athletes. I had that image, too, and I was pushing it on her, but I felt that was not the case. As an athlete, you should take care of your own body, and you should also take care of yourself in other areas. Once I realized this, I was able to think carefully about everything I do.

 In order to strengthen the bond between husband and wife, I think it is sometimes necessary to communicate what you want to say and sometimes it is necessary to clash with each other. During the past three years, I was away from home for more than half a year due to the activities of the Japan national team, and I think there were many things that my wife was too concerned about me to say. I have not been able to follow up on that, and that is an issue for me now.

Call each other by name and never miss a “thank you”.

 We have been married for 7 years, and although we have had many things happen and we have had our fights, I think we are good friends. We call each other by our first names. We don’t call each other “Papa” or “Mama,” and we never say “you. My wife calls me “Shin-chan” (laugh). For example, I say “Thank you” when someone makes me tea.

 This World Cup in France, I was selected for Japan’s national team but was not able to play in the games. Until I got here, I had a lot of really hard times, and there were many things that didn’t go well. But one day, my wife said to me, “You don’t have to work so hard. You can escape when you can, and you will always have us, your family, so you will be absolutely fine.

Parenting is spontaneous and free. Daily life with my wimpy son.

 We don’t talk about child-rearing policy as a couple at all, and we don’t have a set policy, we just leave it to our moods (laughs). (Laughs) You should be free to do what you want to do.

 The company has a good childcare leave and childcare support system, and the percentage of male employees taking childcare leave is high within the company. I also took one or two weeks of childcare leave shortly after the birth of my child. The company also has a babysitter assistance program, which was very helpful in allowing my wife to take some time off during a difficult child-rearing period.

 My son is now 5 years old, and so far he is not particularly interested in sports, but loves trains, bullet trains, and robots. He is a self-centered person, and recently he has been into playing the role of a hero. I always play the “bad guy,” the villain. If I were to ask him to play rugby in the future, he would say, “If you want to play rugby, go ahead,” but it is a tough sport, so I would never play it if I were reborn (laughs).

Kakinaga's family photo

With a “caring space” in the heart, both husband and wife and rugby will get along well.

 I think that parents who are working and raising children have a lot of work to do at home and a lot of work to do outside the home, and everyone is really trying their best in their busy schedules. But I don’t think you have to push yourself too hard. The most important thing is your own health. If you are not in good health, you will not be able to achieve the results you are looking for. I hope that couples will first take care of how healthy their own minds and bodies are, and then secure a little margin to care for each other. If we lose that, we will end up fighting constantly.

 On my off days, I refresh myself by riding my motorcycle, a hobby I started two years ago. I think it is important to find hobbies and enjoyment, even if it is a small thing, to refresh yourself and leave space in your heart for caring. For myself, rugby started going well when I started to have such a space.

 My rugby goals are to stay active as long as possible and to win as many championships as possible with this team. Also, my children are still young, so I would like to continue until I can be remembered by them.

 Take care of yourself so as not to accumulate stress and enjoy your life brightly and healthily with a good change of pace!


Shinnosuke Kakinaga