Name: Mayuko Hagiwara
Occupation: Professional cyclist
1. What do the kanji that comprise your first name — 麻由子 — mean? Would you say they match your personality? I don’t exactly know what it means but my parents decided on it based on the number of kanji strokes that it comprises. They wanted me to be liked by a lot of people, and that’s why they chose this name for me.
2. Where do you go to escape Japan? Okinawa, because an important friend lives there. It’s also the perfect place for training.
3. Whom in Japan do you most admire? (Artist) Taro Okamoto, because my father really liked his art and respected his ideas. Okamoto was a fantastic creator who was able to challenge people’s way of thinking. He also demonstrated tremendous passion.
4. When I think of Japan, I think of … beauty and an abundance of convenience.
5. What do you miss most about Japan when you are overseas? I mostly miss my best friend (in Okinawa), my other friends and meals that have been cooked by my mother.
6. What’s your favorite Japanese word or phrase? 根性 (konjyo, which means willpower or guts). My grandmother showed me how to live this way.
7. What’s your favorite phrase in any language? Grintare, which means “blessing” in Italian. I was surprised to discover that a Western language includes such a word. This notion is part of our Japanese spirit.
8. What inspired you to become a racing cyclist? Delight.
9. What do you hope to accomplish in the sport? To compete against myself as much as I can in order to accomplish my own goals.
10. What’s the best way of training for cycling? Any tips? Go out for a ride with my friends and then celebrate finishing with a cold beer.
11. We’ve heard that you initially found European racing difficult. What’s the biggest difference between racing in Japan and racing in Europe? They’re totally different. It almost feels like racing in Japan and racing in Europe are different sports altogether.
12. You became the first Japanese to win a stage in a grand tour, winning stage 6 of the Giro d’Italia Femminile in Italy in 2015. Care to share any strategies you employed during the race? The most important thing for me is to work hard to do whatever I can for myself and my team. Always.
13. How important is teamwork to racing? Teamwork is everything in cycling. If everyone in the team is individually strong but have different objectives during a race, it’s impossible to ever be victorious.
14. What is one thing in your life you can’t replace? My bicycle. My life would be incomplete without it.
15. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be? I would like to have dinner with members of my family or close friends.
16. If someone wrote a biography about you and your life, what do you think the title should be? “Tora, Tora, Tora.”
17. How do you relax when you aren’t working? I listen to my favorite music, take a walk in nature, or catch up with my family and friends.
18. Who would win a fight between a lion and tiger? The tiger, because I was born in the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese zodiac.
19. What do you want to be when you grow up? I never know.
20. Do you have any words of advice for young people? Challenge yourself as much as possible and work hard to achieve whatever you can. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.