Boxers end up moving on to all sorts of things in life, and of course come from all backgrounds. One of the interesting cases of a boxer moving onto things that effect people more than just the fans of the sport is Jiro Akama, who had moved from punching opponents, to playing a major role in the day to day life of people in Japan.
We need to preface this by saying Akama's professional boxing career was a short one, which we'll get on to later on, but he was a good amateur. In the unpaid ranks he was the vice captain of his team and he did show some genuine promise, though boxing wouldn't be his main calling.
Born in Kanagawa in 1968 Akama was a smart student and went to Rikkyo University in Tokyo, which is one of the supposed "big 6" in Japan. After he graduated from University he actually moved to Manchester, in England, to study at the University of Manchster, where he got his diploma. He then returned to Japan to help his father Kazuyuki Akama who was a member of the Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly at the time.
Whilst helping his father Akama also began working in the local are to help people who have disabilities. It was clear he had big ambitions to help people, putting other people first in life.
In 1998, at the age of 29, Akama made his professional debut. The promise he had shown as an amateur just wasn't there though and he lost on debut to Takejiro Kato, losing a 4 round decision to Kato at Korakuen Hall. This bout cam in July 1998 on a card that also featured Akihiko Nago, Osamu Sato, Hiroyuki Maeda and the tragic Seiji Takechi. This would turn out to be Akama's only professional fight. Although he had shown promise in the amateurs this would turn out to be his only professional fight for Akama, there was a bigger calling for him.
The year after his sole professional bout Akama ran for the Kanagawa prefectural assembly himself, looking to follow in his father's footsteps. He ran as an independent and was elected, at the age of 31. Although he ran as an independent, and was the first independent elected in 16 years, he would soon join the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
Whilst serving the local community Akama released a manga of his journal, he was then re-elected in 2003 and began to move forward through the LDP, building his reputation and building his standing to the point where he was essentially out growing the local prefectural assembly.
After serving in the Kanagawa prefectural assembly from 1999 to 2005 Akama then progressed his out of the ring career quite significantly and moved from local politics to national politics. He would then become the Member of the House of Representatives for the 14 wards of Kanagawa, similar to an MP in the UK.
Akama would serve as a Member of the House of Representatives from 2005 to 2009. His focus was on improving Kanagawa and getting it more autonomy. He lost in the 2009 election but would return to the national stage in 2012, where he has remained ever since. Not only has he been a Member of the House of Representatives since 2012, but he has become a major player in Japanese politics, joining Shinzo Abe's cabinet in 2014, and remaining there when Abe shifted his cabinet in 2016.
Of course being a member of the cabinet has meant the pressure is on Akama to be one of the key figures behind Shinzo Abe, and he has been. He has also paved the way to massive development between Japan and Taiwan, being the first Japanese deputy minister to visit the country for official business in over 40 years.
As we write this he is the chairman of the LDP General Affairs Department, a major role in the ruling party in Japan and a position of great responsibility.
Although Akama's boxing career was a short one, especially his professional career, there is no doubting the impact he has had on life in Japan, and at 52 years old it's fair to say he still has ambitions that are yet to be fulfilled. Maybe, just maybe, a former boxer will, in the coming years, become the Prime Minister of Japan.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).