Yu still remembers her mother's firm words: "You're using your other hand."

"She wasn't exactly forceful, but when I was little she would say this whenever I grabbed a crayon or spoon with my left hand," recounted the 45-year-old. "Maybe it's the fact that she said it so kindly that left such a strong impression on me. It's never left my mind."

Having grown up in Osaka, Yu — who believes she is naturally left-handed — learned to eat and write with her right hand but plays most sports with her left hand. She declined to give her surname.