Tenor Masashi Kishimoto had never seen a rugby match before he watched Australia play Argentina live in Sydney at the opening of the Rugby World Cup in Australia last week.

But the 25-year-old singer from Hyogo Prefecture will get to see a few more rugby games over the next few weeks — he’s touring with the tournament’s World Choir and is one of two singing the Japanese national anthem “Kimigayo” before Japan matches.

“I still don’t understand the rules, but I’m sure I will by the end of the World Cup,” he said in Townsville, Queensland, where he is based with the Japanese team.

Having previously only sung in front of crowds of a few thousand people, being part of the 40-member, 20-nationality choir singing to an 82,000 capacity crowd at Telstra Stadium in Olympic Park on opening night was a momentous occasion for Kishimoto.

“I wasn’t nervous, just proud,” Kishimoto said. “I wanted to do my best and I wanted people to hear my voice.”

The event was topped off when he learned his hero, world renowned tenor Jose Cura, would be representing Argentina and singing alongside him.

Two days later Kishimoto was in Townsville and singing “Kimigayo” to an audience of nearly 20,000 before an exciting match between Japan’s Cherry Blossoms squad and Scotland.

“It was a heartfelt time. I felt like a samurai,” he said.

Kishimoto joined the Japan Youth Choir in 2001 after earning a masters of fine arts in singing at the Osaka College of Music.

Originally enrolled to study the saxophone, he changed courses after encouragement from a persuasive teacher-singer.

“I had no background in singing,” he said, “but I learned some beautiful songs and decided to join the singing school.”

While singing in the Japan Youth Choir, Masashi met Nakoko Doi, his anthem partner on the World Cup tour. The 25-year-old soprano now works as a choir teacher in Tokyo.

Five months later, the pair joined the Asia Youth Choir, in which they sang to audiences throughout Niigata and other prefectures.

While studying at Osaka, Kishimoto attended a seminar by Austrian-based teacher Johanna Rutishauser.

“I liked her lesson and wanted to learn more,” he said.

His chance came last year, when he heard about auditions for the Tyrolean Conservatory of Music in Innsbruck, Austria, where she teaches. The enthusiastic tenor beat 100 other aspirants for a place at the school.

Life in Austria is a profound change from life in Japan, but one Kishimoto welcomes.

“I like the beautiful view of the Alps, the clean air and the sound of the birds,” he said, adding “and I like the food — the cheese is excellent.”

He intends to spend the next two to three years in Austria before looking for a choir job in Europe.

“If I can’t find one, I will try and get a job as a school choir singer in Japan,” he said.

But for now, Kishimoto is embracing his World Cup experience. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet people from all over the world and learn about different cultures.”

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