Japan's Depth - Behind Japan galacticos Figure Skating Team #2 Tomoko IMAGAWA: A Superwoman - skating, writing, coaching, mothering
Our Japanese correspondent Aiko interviewed Tomoko IMAGAWA @ Ashiya station.
July 31, 2011 in Kobe

今川知子 Tomoko IMAGAWA 1997 Prince Ice World  Japan Sports
1997 Prince Ice World

☞ in Japanese

In 2009-2010 Olympic season, Japan Skates' founder Mark came out to Osaka, all the way from Toronto, to cover 2009 "All-Japan" National Championships. There, he met a fabulous lady, who also had reported in All-Japan. She said hi tenderly to the lone Canadian in the rail station, that lady was Tomoko Imagawa. She competed along with Yuka SATO, Junko YAGINUMA, Nanami ABE(who coaches Yuzuru HANYU) in Ladies Single events. Her last competitive season, that she graduated from University, she won a pewter medal at 1995 All-Japan. She moved her stage to Prince Ice World (=PIW), the ice entertainment company in Japan, had been cast by 2002 as a professional Figure Skater. Since the second farewell on the ice, she has been working on writing about Figure Skating, coaching (now she has integrated with the Skating team of Utako NAGAMITSU, a Daisuke TAKAHASHI's coach, at Kansai University), and mothering - she is a mother of 2 children aged 5&6, with full of energy.

JS: I have a serious mission from Mark, the first question to ask such a lady… Q. You still look like a goddess, Tomoko! What's your secret?

TI: …What!? (laughs) What the first question!? (Laughs)

JS: (laughs) Mark asks "How did you become so incredibly beautiful?"…

TI: (laughs) I have never had plastic surgery!

JS: (laughs)

TI: Well, I got used to a makeup, since I joined PIW (Prince Ice World) . If you lived in show-business, you need to learn a makeup & hairstyle, to glorify yourself more and more. And I haven't changed my weight since then… I don't know, but a classmate says "You don't look changed."

JS: Performing & Skating are the secrets.

TI: I'm not sure… I guess I got a bit of "room" to dress me up. In competitive years, I had taken care of nothing but trainings, since I was a devoted athlete apparently. I wore Jeans and T-shirts to go out without makeup, then trained, trained… and trained! PIW might change such a girl, whom beautiful "big sister" skaters inspired. Though, after-PIW has changed me aged little by little. (smiles)

JS: (smiles) No, you stay young!

TI: NO! WAY! (laughs) …Yoga may work a little bit for me as Anti-Aging, for now I have devoted myself to Yoga, not so advanced as Akko (Akiko SUZUKI) . I have been concerned with neck troubles, which are going to be terrible if I haven't fitness training. Furthermore, Yoga kills your fat enough, at a time! - it kills two birds with one stone. (smiles) Since I quit PIW, I haven't much opportunity to do sports, have no sweat in the rink, you know, so it gives me physical pleasure as well. Before I have a baby, I had jogs, but I can't leave my home after that, then I have done Yoga at home. …DONE today! for the first time in a while. Just I've done "Mountain Pose"! (smiles)

JS: (smiles) You've climbed a mountain at home!

JS: How about your coaching at Kansai University?

TI: I have worked 2-3 days per week. Now I have worked on mothering more than coaching… I'm struggling with mothering, that has priority to me. But I have connected with Figure Skating so long, I can't leave it away from me, I can't leave away from my children either, so my mother helps me to do both.

JS: Your kids are so lively!

TI: (laughs) TOO MUCH!

TI: I wanted to give priority to mothering. And also, my boss Utako Nagamitsu gave me kind words "Come here, if you could take your spare time." Then I have done as she said, I have elementary and intermediate classes mainly. I really appreciate that my boss has taken care of me.

JS: Tell us your so long story with Figure Skating.

TI: - ♪ A long, long time ago… I can still remember - There was an ice rink near my house. And maybe, I could be happy for a while ♪ (smiles)

JS: (smiles)

TI: I quit other lessons, only Figure Skating was left me. And my friends, who began to skate together, they quit Figure Skating, due to such as studying, then I was left with Figure Skating.

JS: Mark supposes it was hard for your generation to continue to skate "when Figure Skating was not as popular as today". So, "How did you continue to skate?"

TI: "HOW"!? (laughs) First, I loved it, and also I was able to continue it, thanks to supporting from the people. - that's it!? …I suppose, except for our top skaters in this generation, it is still hard for other skaters to do it.

JS: Yes, you all do dedicate yourself to skate. "dedication" is the tradition of Japanese Students.

TI: - As an "athlete". You are going to get to the next level, if you have done it for a long time. When you miss All-Japan, you get determined "I will qualify next season!", to have more trainings. When you compete in All-Japan, you get brave "I will compete in international competitions!" Thus, you motivate yourself step by step. In my elementary class, I wasn't motivated so much, until I got sharpened. Before that, I just loved to skate, so my parents let me do. They also loved Figure Skating, to support me. In the summer, the rinks closed in my home town Kobe (Osaka area) , then I went to Osaka rinks in my parents car… a round-trip almost 1 hour duration. You can't continue this sport without your parents devotion, at all times. Sometimes they tell you off, "Do! Your! Best!!" (laughs)

JS: (laughs)

TI: My parents hadn't told that frequently, though. They had looked after me so calmly.

TI: Unlikely, I and my parents were to "reach for the stars - to Olympic podium!". But we were going to reach the next stage, that I could climb over. Then I could make my way, because I loved it. When I graduated from university, I didn't want to graduate from skating, so I joined PIW. …that's "how" to continue to skate, something like that? (smiles)

JS: (smiles) …Non-Japanese students are unlikely to dedicate themselves to only one thing, if they are unlikely to reach for the stars. They haven't such tradition.

TI: I heard from my parents after I completed my competitive career, that they had a lot of things to learn in their teens, but nothing to continue left them, so they had tried to help me to have a way with something to love. In supporting me they also went their way, as I did.

JS: I think Japan Skates Canadian staffs love Japanese skaters earnest attitude towards training. And Japan Skates has tributes such "dedication" so long.

JS: You have popularize this sport, as a brilliant professional skater in PIW, as an expert-journalist as well,

TI: What!? (laughs)

JS: You are one of "pioneer"s, who has "left a mark" on Japan's Figure Skating - as Mark says, we totally agree with him.

TI: NO! WAY! (laughs) I'm never a pioneer, I've left a mark, never! (laughs)

TI: …Well, only one thing I left!?, is my&co-writers book ("Illustrations of Magnetic Figure Skating" 2004 in Japanese) . Ten+ years ago, likes of Mao&Miki were little girls, not featured in media as same as they are. But relatives of Japan's Figure Skating, everyone knew that "we have geniuses!" "The kids will have medals of Olympics!" Other girls were also beautiful and skillful. Yet, not so many people came to interview them, far from their abilities… that I wanted to tell Japanese people, along with the beauty of Figure Skating. But most book publishers declined my presentation, "Are you kidding?"

JS: They were kidding!

TI: No. As Galas weren't successful in weekdays, sometimes.

JS: Really!?

TI: Then I made do-it-yourself web site, providing Interviews and Reports of competitions in such circumstances. ("Kiss&Cry" http://homepage3.nifty.com/skate/index.html in Japanese) So, I might be able to play a role, which introduced Japanese galactic young skaters. It doesn't mean "popularizing". …Just I loved to do that, and the people let me do that. (smiles) Anyway, I'm crazy in love with Figure Skating! (laughs)

JS: (smiles) In your "Kiss&Cry" interviews, Shizuka(ARAKAWA), Fumie(SUGURI), Daisuke(TAKAHASHI), Yukina(OTA), ASADA sisters, Miki(ANDO), coaches Machiko YAMADA(Midori/Mao/Kanako) / Haruko OKAMOTO(a legend of Japanese female skater & coach), they talked so intimately! And you wrote so many articles out of "Kiss & Cry", between 6.0 system and present judging system, around 2006 Turin Olympics. With your academic and bright writing, you illustrated Figure Skating from both sides of the Sport and the Art. Your illustration gives everlasting heart to Figure Skating fans!

JS: Now let's talk about your own student years, that your generation and Midori had competed in.

TI: Midori, she was far ahead from me. Above clouds! A true Goddess of Figure Skating! (smiles) I competed at the different stage from Midori's… also it was different from Jun-Jun (Junko YAGINUMA) &Yuka's. I had tried to run to them, unlike rivalry. And we were good friends, because we, Figure Skaters were challenged by ourselves, to be at our best. So do they in this generation. I was not so good at jumping, "wanna make one more difficult, challenging jump element," I had poured my heart out to trainings. In the end of my competitive season, Shizuka emerged. Her fantastic ability made my jaw dropped, "So good for me, that she is not in my generation." (smiles)

JS: (smiles)

TI: I jumped in struggling and crinkling between my eyebrows, She jumped in fluttering on her difficult jumps, with ease and consistency.

JS: Shizuka has fluttered from her childhood.

TI: In her childhood, she had more accuracy of jumping, less her fat. Some of middle teen girls are going to be concerned with their jumps, since they have become ladies. After progressing, the ladies could make calorie control by themselves. But most girls go through one tunnel to struggle, until lady bodies have completed. As heavier-taller-wider changing body might cause injuries.

JS: Tomoko, tell us about your coaching style.

TI: With elementary students, I have tried to make them skating lovers. With Intermediate, make them "athletes", who work on their trainings with ordered mindset. - Some of them are going to lose their concentration in their programs, so I help them not to give up, that they may "No thank you".

TI: I give my all until they skate to the end of their program with all their heart. And I must show them a clear vision of their next stages. I hate to give up, that's the worst thing for me, then I'm growling at such a student, "Why do you give up!!!" (laughs)

JS: (laughs)

TI: - Once you decide to do it, you must not give it up, except when you get injured or sick. …Some kids don't care about my growling, in their rebellious stage! (laughs)

JS: (laughs)

TI: You know, they want to give themselves excuse, for failing in competitions, like "Because I had not so much trainings." Adolescent skaters may get afraid of "dedication". Yet many of them are dedicated, you know, if they are not, they can't top.

JS: I remember that every class had such a kid in school, they said pretzel logic.

TI: Such a kid, gets really concerned with competitions. They are turned down if they don't go well to the competition. "You never suck if you can't do that, so try to dedicate yourself to do that!" As for Advanced adolescent skaters, they're made of "dedication", you know.

TI: Besides, I correct their impoliteness! That's not my business. (smiles)

JS: Yes! that way is Japanese coaching style, I guess. In Japan, coaches are "teacher"s and their students are "kid"s, not "client"s. You grow a kid by the sport, into a contributing member of society.

TI: Yes, we do. Every kid goes their way with ups and downs. They need strength and toughness to keep on going forward, even if they go out of the ice. - "Wherever you go, don't give up!" (smiles)

JS: (smiles)

TI: I hope they will do that, when they move on to reach another next stage in our society. I have supported them in this way, but, I'm not sure it works… (smiles)

JS: (smiles) Students have many step-parents like you, Tomoko.

TI: Yes, I correct their behavior, too. One intermediate student went out of his way to kick the ice with frustration.

JS: (laughs)

TI: - "I know your feelings, but you can't do that! on the ice which makes you to float. HOW! DARE!! YOU!!!" Then the student slipped on that hole he made. "God looks at the heart!" (laughs)

JS: (laughs) - "and shall receive for the wrong which you have done." …Coaches, you all love your students as your "children".

TI: If you are in the class of Intermediate+, you spend your most time in the rink in general. So we try to lead them to reach not only the next stage of skating, but also the next stage of our society. I hope they will be loved by everyone everywhere.

JS: Now, it's a JapanSkates-traditional fun question: The most bizarre gift thrown onto the ice?

TI: "bizarre" gift!? (laughs)

JS: (smiles) Or, what kinds of gifts did you receive?

TI: Plushies, flower bouquets, ornaments… "cash"! Cash was the most bizarre. (laughs)

JS: (laughs)

TI: Even it was enveloped in a formal, Japanese-traditional way! (LOL)

JS: (LOL) in the twilight zone!

TI: It was wrapped in a flower bouquet which was thrown onto the PIW ice! (laughs) Then "Do not throw money" term was announced, yet! "Gift cards" were replaced for cash! (LOL)

JS: (LOL) in the fantasy!

JS: & it might be a human question…: Your favorite foods? (smiles)

TI: Tons of foods I love! (smiles) …Sweets&Desserts are the most!

JS: Absolutely!

TI: - that I had fought against in competitive years. (smiles) How to be restrictive to myself, that was the question. But I couldn't be! to eat them in secret. (laughs)

JS: I had track and field trainings, so I imagine that Figure Skating is like a Long Distance track event. You all in the ICE world, have practiced for one+ hour to continue to skate. Then you might burn calories soon, as a track people sees it.

TI: We all in the ICE world since our childhood, are used to skating, so we can't do that in only on-ice trainings. Jumping needs instantaneous power, you know. Figure Skating is mixture of instantaneous and sustainable power. Every skater runs a lot, in order to be sustainable and to keep their weight steady. Running is a basic training for ICE people, too. …Yet! I got tired to need Sweets&Dessert, after on-ice trainings! Even I ate up a whole of chocolate bar! (laughs) Nonetheless, I didn't burn calories. (laughs)

JS: (laughs) And your speciality to "cook", as a mother?

TI: …I guess, patty, "niku-jaga (stewed meat&potatoes) "? (smiles)

JS: Had you cooked in competitive & professional years?

TI: Since I got married, for 2 PIW season I had done. But if you live without your family, you would not be likely to do that!, or it would be going to be casual cooking! (smiles)

JS: Wife's & Mother's cooking is loving!

今川知子 Tomoko IMAGAWA 1997 Prince Ice World  Japan Sports
1997 Prince Ice World

JS: A farewell moment. Please leave a message for us.

☞ Tomoko Imagawa @ Ashiya station on July 31, 2011

+++ translation +++
TI: Hi, there! I'm Tomoko Imagawa. Thank you for supporting Japan's Figure Skating Team. Since I quit competing, as time goes by, Japan team has been getting strong and beautiful, I'm really glad that. Now in Japan, people have been suffering from the disaster. Japanese skaters have tried to encourage them with their skating, to recover our society. In 1995, Hanshin-Awaji earthquake I had experienced in Kobe, I think your supporting and cheering could motivate people in disaster. And I appreciate that you have been keeping in touch with Japan team.