The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in Tokyo today the Award of a Foreign Ministers Commendation to Rhino CEO Reg Clark for his contribution to Anglo-Japanese relations.
The citation particularly mentions the fact that since 2005, together with other friends, notably from London Japanese RFC, Clark has been responsible for a series of annual rugby matches in memory of his great friend the late Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku.
The games have been strongly supported by Rhino and have taken place in London and Oxford, and most recently in May in Japan for the first time. They are now played for a trophy donated by former Prime Minister Mori, Honorary President of the Japan RFU, which was presented at the recent game in Tokyo by Oku’s son Shinichiro.
Clark first visited Japan as an 18 year old freshman with the 1977 Oxford University rugby team which was undefeated and gained a 20-16 victory over the Japanese national side. Having gained Blues in 1978 and 1979 he then worked and played rugby for Kobe Steel from 1980 to 1983, during that time becoming the first foreigner to play representative rugby in Japan – for the All Kansai regional team against All Japan in 1981.
During a visit back to Oxford in 1982 he met Katsu Oku who in turn had become the first Japanese national to play for the Blues XV of the University - it was the beginning of a close friendship spanning over 20 years. Having returned to the UK and a career in the financial markets, Clark later rejoined Kobe Steel in London, latterly as European Finance Director.
Following the devastating effects of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake, he took a lead in arranging for the Barbarians to undertake a two game tour to the Kansai region
In 1996 to raise funds for the Earthquake Relief Fund. During this period he also played a leading role in the establishment of St Catherine’s College Oxford Kobe Institute, the first overseas branch institution established by a college of Oxford University.
Reg Clark (right) and Shinichiro Oku (third left) with players and officials at the recent Oku Memorial Trophy game in Tokyo.
The Institute was established with the objectives of promoting the pursuit of education and research that furthers mutual understanding between Japan and other nations, and to contribute to collaboration and exchange between academics and industrial partners.
It was endowed by over 100 leading Japanese companies led by Kobe Steel, and Clark was a founding Director and Trustee of the Institute. Clark was able to link up with Oku once more when the latter’s diplomatic career took him back to the Embassy of Japan in London in 2000.
As Treasurer and Secretary respectively they were in particular able to work closely together on the highly successful year-long ‘Japan 2001’ festival of Japanese culture in the UK. Oku was a longstanding member of the International Committee of the JRFU, and worked tirelessly for their ambitions to stage a Rugby World Cup.
Having been assigned from London to the UN post-war reconstruction programme in Iraq, he was however tragically killed there in November 2003. When Japan was finally awarded the 2019 tournament, Oku’s contribution to that success was immediately and widely acknowledged.
Reg Clark commented today: "I have been lucky enough to enjoy a lifelong association with Japan, much of it through the game of rugby, and I feel tremendously honoured and proud of this Award. I am however acutely aware that it has been given largely due to the efforts of myself and others to honour the memory and celebrate the life of my close friend, who is still much missed today by all who knew him. I would therefore like to dedicate the Award to the memory of Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku and to his family".