Megumi Kamizono, a Japanese-Brazilian interpreter who works for one of Japan’s top volleyball teams, is hoping the national team qualifies for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, seeing the event as an opportunity for her two cultures to connect.
Kamizono, 43, was born in Sao Paulo to her father Iwao, 78, a second-generation Brazilian Japanese, and mother, Kazuko, 70, who migrated to Brazil from Kagoshima Prefecture.
After Brazil won the gold medal in men’s volleyball at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Kamizono, a university student at the time, was attracted to the sport. When the Japanese national team later visited Brazil, Kamizono served as an interpreter for them.
She accepted the part-time job offer partly because she wanted to visit her family’s country.
In 1995 when Kamizono was 23 years old, the manager of a Japanese corporate volleyball team, who was in Brazil to recruit local players, asked her to work as an interpreter for the club. She decided to go to Japan despite her parents’ opposition.
Kamizono visited Japan for the first time later in the year and began to live in a company dormitory in Kitakyushu. She felt lonely and struggled to understand Japanese customs, she said. She also could not read kanji.
But, determined to improve her situation, Kamizono returned to Brazil and graduated from a college for interpreters. She later rejoined the team.
Her current employer, the Panasonic Panthers, which play in the V. Premier League, is the fifth team that Kamizono has worked for. Translating during practice and matches, she also helps Brazilian players with everyday matters such as opening bank accounts.
“Megumi is a bridge between Japan and us,” said Dante Amaral, a Brazilian who plays for the Panthers.
Kamizono said she visited her maternal grandfather’s hometown, Ichikikushikino in Kagoshima Prefecture, two years ago and was welcomed by relatives. While there, she saw a house where her grandparents and mother lived before they migrated to Brazil.
Kamizono said she will return to Brazil for a holiday this summer, though she will be busy working with the Japan Volleyball Association during the Rio Olympics.
“I appreciate my encounter with Japan,” she said. “I would like to be of help” for Japan at the Olympic Games.
Whether the Japanese national volleyball team can get a ticket to Rio will be determined in May or June.