46, FWB, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, etc.
Salted coffee brewed by a striker who is “salt-compatible”
“I wake up around 5:00 a.m. every morning, when I hear the dragonflies, and I would think, ‘All right, let’s get up’. At night, I drink sake and go to bed when I feel sleepy. I’m usually asleep by 11:00.”
It has been about four years since he moved to Murozumi, a port town in Hikari City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, with which he had no connection. Tatsuhiko Kubo, a former Japan national team player nicknamed “Dragon” because of his extraordinary physical abilities, now spends his days taking it easy.
“When I wake up in the morning and walk around the area, I can scoop bluefin squid with a net. The other day, I took a ride on a boat owned by a carpenter, and we caught a yellowtail about one meter long. I had a neighbor lady cut it for me and ate it, and it was really delicious.”
After moving to Murozumi, Kubo worked hard making salt on a nearby island, but stopped when the COVID-19 crisis made it impossible for him to travel to the islands. Despite his dynamic play, Kubo was not a great talker during his playing days, and he was known for his saltiness during hero interviews, which made interviewers cry. Since he can no longer make salt, Kubo has been making salted coffee at the local Dragon Café.
“I didn’t really like coffee,” he says, “but I found a roasting machine and tried roasting it with salt, and I thought that it tasted good. When I have time, I serve it at the neighborhood market. The reason I was salty when I was working was because I didn’t want to think about anything other than soccer. I would forget what I was thinking and feeling when I was asked questions. Besides, you are thirsty after a game and you want to drink as soon as possible (laughs). My wife was angry with me, saying I was an idiot.”
After making his mark with Sanfrecce Hiroshima, he made his big breakthrough in 2003 when he moved to Yokohama F. Marinos. He is still talked about for his powerful header in the closing minutes of the final game of that season against Jubilo Iwata, a game in which he scored the game-winning goal in the reverse frenzy.
“Kenichi Shimokawa (52), the goalkeeper, kicked the ball, and Mats (Naoki Matsuda) competed with him. At first I thought about trapping it, but then I thought if I touched it with my head, it would go in. It was just a coincidence that that goal led to the victory (due to results at other venues).”
For Kubo, who began playing soccer because of his admiration for Maradona, participating in the World Cup was a dream. He was named the ace of the Zico Japan team and lived up to expectations. However, just before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he was left out of the final squad because he was not in perfect condition due to back pain.
“I wanted to play in the World Cup, but I was injured and that was it. Well, I drank a lot and was in poor health. But I had a good time then, and I don’t feel that I shouldn’t have drunk or anything like that. What I will never forget is that on the day I was not selected, I looked at the TV and saw my grandmother watching the press conference announcing the members with a teacher from my alma mater. I was frustrated, and I clearly remember thinking that my grandmother, who used to get angry at me when I was a child, would cry when she saw the footage.”
He returned to his old club, Hiroshima, in 2008, and played for Zweigen Kanazawa in the JFL in 2010, and then for Hatsukaichi FC in the Hiroshima Prefectural League in 2014. He ended his playing career in 2014 with Hatsukaichi FC of the Hiroshima Prefectural League at the age of 38.
“In the end, I broke a rib when I was competing with a university student in the regional league (laughs). I was just a poor athlete.”