Sushi has Japanese on a roll

By Jonathan Dine

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Satomi Yamaguchi said the Japanese hockey team made this year's final with the help of "sushi power". Photo / Duncan Brown
Satomi Yamaguchi said the Japanese hockey team made this year's final with the help of "sushi power". Photo / Duncan Brown

Satomi Yamaguchi credits "sushi power" for the Japanese team's change in fortune at this year's Festival of Hockey.

The Napier woman and owner of Sushi Aozora in Ahuriri has been fuelling the team with her "authentic" Japanese sushi as they made their way to the final in the Hawke's Bay Cup.

Japan finished dead last in 2015, failing to win a single match. Last night they were in the final cur couldn't take the win.

"I call it sushi power," Mrs Yamaguchi said yesterday.

Her husband, Keizo, mastered his craft for 15 years in Japan as a sushi chef and is up at 4am preparing everything for the girls.

"We had to keep making more because they eat a lot."

The Japanese coaches discovered the sushi shop during last year's festival.

"They asked if we could make some lunch for the players."

She said there was not much selection for Japanese players so when they found a sushi place they liked, they stayed loyal.

"Fish and chips and hamburgers are not really for them. They remembered I was here so asked me to provide all the food for them this week." The girls eat it before and after games, and for much of the tournament it had all been "victory sushi".

Mrs Yamaguchi had formed a very close bond with the players during their stay.

"They are very well mannered young ladies, it's a pleasure to support them."

To celebrate her 51st birthday on Tuesday, the team signed a card and sang for her.

"It was very special."

The Japanese native has made a habit of helping her fellow countrymen feel at home when touring the Bay.

When the women's basketball side toured in 2009 they too flocked to Mrs Yamaguchi to get their sushi fix and during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, she provided sushi for head coach John Kirwan at a press conference.

"He liked it and he signed a hat for me." Mrs Yamaguchi's family was sports mad and she too was taking more of an interest.

"I knew nothing about rugby but because I had the connection with the Japanese team I started and now it's the same with the hockey."

Not yet an expert on the rules, Mrs Yamaguchi said she would "study more before Rio".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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