Japanese Cricket Stalwart Shizuka Miyaji Retires: ‘Small Steps may Lead to Big Changes’

Japanese cricketer Shizuka Miyaji made the life-changing decision to retire in 2023. One of the biggest acts of Leadership is to know when to hang up the boots. Miyaji talks to gsport about her path in the game of cricket. Photo: Supplied

When you think of a cricket-playing nation, Japan isn’t a country that comes to mind first. However, Shizuka Miyaji has been an integral part of getting the country and the sport on the map to the world. Her path to becoming an icon of cricket in Japan didn’t start smoothly but despite her setbacks, she held firm and has now become an icon of the sport.

Japan is known to be a baseball-loving country but even after trying to get into the sport as a youngster, Miyaji was rejected based on ‘being a girl’. That didn’t deter her from becoming a top sportswoman. She began her cricket journey and as they say, the rest is history … 

Miyaji went on to become the most well-known Japanese cricket player before she retired from the game last year in 2023, at the age of 40, but she won’t be stepping too far away from the game, as she hopes to give back to a sport that gave her so much, enjoying life with her ‘cheeky dog’, Frosty.

Miyaji chatted to gsport about how things started for her and just what she is hoping to achieve now that her player days are over.  

Tell us more about yourself, how did your cricket career start?

I grew up the city called Nishinomiya which is known as the home of high school baseball in Japan. My home city has professional baseball team who won the Japan Professional Baseball League last year (2023) for the first time in 38 years. Baseball is very famous and popular in Japan. I tried to join the local baseball club but they didn’t allow me to join them because I was a girl.

Baseball was a sport only for boys when I was a kid. I gave up playing baseball but still loved playing some sports like basketball and badminton. I was also a 100m sprinter when I was in junior and senior high school. I had never heard and watched cricket before entering University. I thought cricket is a bit similar to baseball especially fielding and the pull shot but found it so hard to bowl! I was immediately fascinated by cricket and decided to take it up as my new sport.

Where did your love for sport begin? 

I always loved playing sports when I was a kid but it began when I was selected for the national team. Ever since I was selected for the Japan national team for the first time, I have always wanted to become better and contribute to the team. 

You are someone that has played cricket all over Asia, are there any countries you wished you had the opportunity to play in? 

I retired from international cricket last year. I had been playing for Japan for 17 years and felt I had done everything for my country and wanted younger players more chances to play for our country.

I was still was keen to play in countries that I have never been to before like India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. I hope my cricket experiences overseas inspire the next generation in Japan. 

Take us through your cricket journey, where have you played the game? 

Japan is a member of East Asia Pacific region so I played in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu. I  have also played in England, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Bangladesh, Singapore and United Arab Emirates.

What is your captaincy history?

I captained Japan for 2 years from 2013 to 2015. 

How did you balance having a job and playing cricket? 

I used to work for Japan Cricket Association as a junior club manager but quit the job to chase my dream to be a professional cricket player. I have just applied to Graduate School in Japan to study coaching and strength and conditioning for cricket. 

How do you show leadership on the field?

I always try to show the girls positive attitude and body language even if the game wasn’t going well for us.

What can global leaders to improve the state of women’s cricket around the world?

A lot of players in Associate Nations don’t have enough opportunities to play in international tournaments. There is also a lack of learning opportunities from top players, they can help us improve cricket which will allows us to become an associate nation. I learned a lot from them during FairBreak tournament and I believe the experiences help me a lot improve my cricket and inspire the girls in Japan.

What is your advice to young leaders in cricket?

First I want them to believe in their ability to lead the team and secondly, they should have good communication with the other players and coaching staff. 

Which cricket leader do you look up to and why?

Alex Blackwell from Australia. She came to Japan to help us before playing in a global qualifier in Ireland in 2013. I learned a lot from her and I was very lucky to go to Australia and played for her club team in Sydney. Seeing her attitude in how she played cricket made me want to become a professional cricketer like her. She is a legend for me.

What is the best part of being a sportswomen? 

I can meet a lot of people having different culture, language and background from various countries. I am always learning something from them.

You are someone who has seen the rise of women sport, what does that mean to you? 

It means I don’t have to give up my dream. Small steps may lead to big changes in the future.

You retired from playing last year, what are your plans for the future? 

I just applied to Graduate School and will have an exam next week so hope to pass it and would like to study coaching for cricket. It will be great if I can be a coach for Japan women’s national team in the future. 

What is the legacy you hope to leave as a sportswomen? 

Cricket is getting bigger in Japan but still many Japanese girls don’t know what it is so I hope cricket will be popular like baseball and a lot of girls play cricket in Japan in the future.

What is your advice to up and coming sportswomen?

Chase your dreams and the most important thing is to have fun!


Main Photo caption: Japanese cricketer Shizuka Miyaji made the life-changing decision to retire in 2023. One of the biggest acts of Leadership is to know when to hang up the boots. Miyaji talks to gsport about her path in the game of cricket. Photo: Supplied

Photo 2 caption: Japanese sporting legend Miyaji has been an integral part of getting the country and cricket on the map to the world. Photo: Supplied

Photo 3 caption: Miyaji’s path to becoming an icon of cricket in Japan didn’t start smoothly, but despite her setbacks, she held firm. Photo: Supplied

Photo 4 caption: Japanese cricketer Shizuka Miyaji cracks her trademark smile alongside South African cricket legends, Marizanne Kapp and Dané van Niekerk. Photo: Supplied

Photo 5 caption: Miyaji chasing her dreams and having fun alongside team mates and friends, at the legendary Kowloon Cricket Club, in Hong Kong. Photo: Supplied

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