The impact on soccer was rather positive. When I clean up the house before going to practice or games, I feel refreshed. When I clean up my house before I go to practice or a game, I feel refreshed, and I can change my mind, which helps me switch on to soccer. I never cleaned my house before, so I didn’t have that switch.
Yoshito Okubo, a former member of the Japanese national soccer team who recently retired from active duty at the age of 39, has been in the news for living alone with his son Toori while playing for Cerezo Osaka in the J1. His challenge to “one-operation childcare” is described in the book “I’m a Husband. I’m a Husband, I’m an Active J-League Player” was published as a book.
It all started with a joke from his wife.
I think J-leaguers have more time and energy than other fathers,” he said. My wife often asked me if it would affect my performance if I continued to play soccer while doing housework and childcare, but it really had a positive impact on me. Toori is in the fourth grade, so she is not as much of a handful as a small child, so I don’t get overwhelmed with housework and childcare. When I have off days or afternoon practice days and Toori has school, I sometimes feel like I want to sleep more (lol), but that’s about it.
I’m rather lonely, so I’m really glad that Toori is home. I had fun every day, and when I came home after five weeks of isolation in the summer, I was really saved by her presence.
We have been married for 16 years. Until then, he had been a complete husbandman, a traditional Kyushu boy who “didn’t even move the remote control. I wondered if his wife Rie had any concerns about entrusting their then 9-year-old son to Mr. Okubo. Surprisingly, Riei says, “Cerezo Osaka offered me a job.
When Cerezo Osaka made us an offer to take Yoshito on a solo assignment, we jokingly said, ‘Hey, why don’t you take one of us with you? I jokingly said, ‘Hey, why don’t you take one of us with you? After all, I have four brothers, the oldest is 16 and the youngest is 4. As expected, the youngest doesn’t fight, but the older three often fight and clash with me. I thought, “This is going to be a bit difficult …… if I have to watch four children on my own.
Of course, the children didn’t know that I was talking about this, but when I told the elementary school group that Dad was going to live alone, I was surprised when Ojiri said, “I want to come with you.
I was vaguely worried about whether I would be able to survive. But now that I think about it, I guess I trusted Yoshito. He was my child, and I knew he would manage. I’m also optimistic, so when people asked me, “What are you going to do about food? (laughs), but in the end, I thought it would be fine because people who wanted to live together would live together.
From Rie’s point of view, how did Mr. Okubo change after experiencing single-parenting?
I’ve changed a lot. I used to be in contact with my children a lot, and he was interested in their growth and listened to me a lot. Of course, if you call it child-rearing, it would be “taking care of my child,” but from a mother’s point of view, child-rearing is more than just that. Soccer players have a surprisingly large amount of free time, so I always had the feeling of asking, “If you could do a little more, ……”.
However, after I started living with him, I started to feel a sense of responsibility that I had to take care of him, and I think I started to see a lot of the difficulties. I’m glad that I can see things now, but I’m also really grateful that I can take action.
Mr. Okubo says that he has always been fond of children. In addition to her natural human nature, Riei says that her “love of challenges” and “love of new things” have also had a positive effect on her.
When I was pregnant with my first son, Hekito, there was a supplement in a baby magazine called “What Pregnant Husbands Should Do. When I handed it to her and told her to read it, she said, “Okay,” and threw it away. When I gave it to him, he said, “Okay,” and threw it away, and I thought, “Oh, maybe I won’t read it. But later, when I asked him what was wrong, he said, “It said to do so. He doesn’t do any housework, but he has a lot of humanity, doesn’t he?
He is also a challenger at heart. He’s also a curious person, interested in everything. At that time, I was the first child, so everything was unknown to me. That’s why I was looking very hard at the appendix. It was around that time that I was asked about weaning food, “When do you start eating space food? (laughs).
I’m the type of person who gets bored in the same environment, so I think it’s interesting for me to see children grow and develop. Their expressions and actions change so rapidly. That’s why, even before I started living alone with Ojiri, he would often do things I told him to do in relation to childcare, saying, “That sounds interesting, so I’ll try it.
Listening to him, I’d say he was a “lacto-men” enough before that, but there was a definite difference between before and after he started living with his wife.
I think I used to be in the position of a customer, doing what I was told. When I send out messages on social media, it’s not just to show off, but to show my true self. I felt that she was sending out messages that included her determination. Up until now, the image of the family was that the four of us (except for Yoshito) were in a circle, and Yoshito was outside the circle protecting the family financially and emotionally.
The fact that he realized how hard it is to do housework is also very significant. As I mentioned in the book, when I came home during the off-season, I gave him a big, fluffy bath towel and he asked, “Oh, you can use this? He asked. Until then, I had always washed my bath towels, freshly laundered or not, as soon as I used them. I thought she said that because she knew how bulky bath towels are and how difficult it is to dry them.
When I was standing in the kitchen, she also said, “When we start living in Yokohama again, I’ll cook for you once a week. I wondered what would happen. (laughs), but I’m glad that she’s now thinking and saying such things. I was also impressed by the response to the towels. I was very impressed.
To the fathers of the world…
My wife, Riei, gave me the highest praise for my growth through the experience of “single-operation child-rearing. Nowadays, there are calls for fathers to participate in housework and childcare, but what does Mr. Okubo think about this?
I don’t think that just because I’m doing it, everyone should do it too. I think there are many people who are doing more than me. If people want to do it, they should do it, and if they don’t want to do it, they shouldn’t do it. Everyone has their own way of thinking and individuality. But I want to tell people that if you try it, it will be surprisingly fun, and you may make new discoveries and grow. I’d also be happy if, after reading the book, they realize how hard it is for their wives, or if they think, ‘Okubo can do it, so I can too.
The other day, I ended my 21-year career as an active player. I wonder how Ojiri, who lives with me, reacted when I told him I was retiring.
When I told him I was going to retire, how did he react? “I told him at the same time as the other children. When I returned to Yokohama, I lined up the children and told them, but I took them with me, saying, “I have something to do, so I’m going back to Yokohama.
I said at the press conference, “I decided to retire on November 16,” but until then, retirement had never flashed through my mind at all, I was planning to play again next year, and I had told my children so. That’s why I really thought about retiring on the 16th. It just came to me out of the blue, and I just decided. People ask me if it was hard for me to decide when to retire, but it wasn’t hard at all, and I’m grateful that I was in a position to decide for myself.
Ojiri said, “I don’t want you to stop, I want you to keep working. He was also sad about changing schools. He said he had made some good friends here and he didn’t want to be separated from them. She said she didn’t want to leave them because she had made good friends here, but that she would be able to see them again when she came to Osaka to visit. I think it’s great that I have good friends in Osaka that I want to see again.
I’m curious about what you want to do after you retire. Other than “shooting 90 in golf,” which you mentioned at the press conference, is there anything else you want to do or a goal you have?
I’ve been playing soccer almost exclusively up until now, so I want to challenge myself in various ways in the future. I want to challenge myself in a variety of ways, and I think I’ll find what I want to do as I do more things. I’m also interested in becoming an instructor, but I haven’t started working on getting my instructor’s license yet. So I guess I’m not ready to go that far yet. I’m getting a lot of offers for TV and other media work, so I’d like to focus on that. I’m excited to start a new challenge, and I’m still excited about it.
All eyes will be on the new challenge of this soccer legend who has made a name for himself in the game.
Photo: Katsuyuki Masuda (SINGO)
Interviewed and written by： Yuka Ozaki Photography： Katsuyuki Masuda (SINGO)