Photo courtesy of ©︎Rakuten Eagles.
Last month, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles gave fans a glimpse into the future of sports. As part of a string of celebrations commemorating the global tech company’s 25th anniversary, the Rakuten Group hosted a “Rakuten Day” at the Rakuten Eagle’s home stadium in Sendai. Sports fans were treated to a number of interactive initiatives designed to explore diversity and sustainability.
The theme of the event, Building a Better Future for Sports, ties in with Rakuten’s recent Go Green Together initiative, which launched earlier this year with the goal of guiding Rakuten users to more sustainable shopping choices. In addition to environmental sustainability, the event promoted a message of inclusion and the importance of making sports accessible for everyone, regardless of ability, cultural background or gender.
Sport is for everyone
The day’s game opened with a first pitch by para-cyclist and Rakuten Socio employee Miho Fujii, who delivered her own hopes for the future.
“The best thing about sports is that there are no barriers for anyone to join in, however they want,” she commented. “I’m very thankful that the community around me supports my sporting career. The first time I rode a bicycle, I thought it was so much fun. I want everyone to be able to experience that feeling and play sports together, regardless of ability. As an athlete, this is the future I want to help build.”
The Rakuten Eagles went on to delight the crowd with a 9-2 victory over the Yomiuri Giants.
Over the course of the day, fans were able to take part in a range of activities around the stadium. One highlight was a “blind soccer” experience*, hosted by the Japan Blind Football Association (JBFA). Young athletes were invited to experience how sports such as soccer are played by athletes with visual impairments.
The Rakuten Eagles also jumped on the opportunity to collect fans’ hopes for their ideal futures, encouraging visitors to write their ideas onto a large message board with the prompt “My better future is…”.
Another booth looked to promote understanding on issues of diversity and Rakuten’s own initiatives in the area while also providing a colorful background for some fun snaps with Rakuten’s much-loved character, Okaimono Panda.
My better future is…
Several Rakuten Eagles players joined in with their own hopes for the future. Pitcher Takayuki Kishi expressed optimism for a future that encouraged individual expression.
“Rules are important for keeping order in society, but if those rules rob you of your individuality, you just end up being part of a big group,” he warned. “Stay considerate of your fellow humans, but express your individuality from within that order. It’s hard to always be yourself, but I hope we can build a society in which everyone can shine in their own way.”’
Players from Rakuten’s J.League soccer team Vissel Kobe also made their voices heard. Defender Hotaru Yamaguchi recently volunteered to support farmers in Kyushu struggling in the wake of flooding and the pandemic.
“I realized that there are many different ways you can support others, and that regardless of how small that support might be, the most important thing is that you take the initiative to do so,” he remarked. “What feels like a small action to you can be a huge support for those on the receiving end. All we need to change the world is the desire to help others and the initiative to take action, no matter how small.”
Vissel Kobe hosted its own Rakuten Day in late June.
Committing to a sustainable future
Visitors were also given insight into how the Rakuten Eagles are working to make their home ground into the most sustainable stadium in Japan.
Fans were encouraged to dig out their old, unwanted uniforms and bring them to an upcycle box by the stadium. The items collected are to be upcycled into other items for fans to show their support and given out later in the season.
The team has been using 100% renewable energy for all operations since April 2022, outfitting the stadium with LED lights and other energy efficient equipment, and using more eco-friendly materials for eating utensils and cups. These initiatives have also sparked new artisanal collaborations, such as with a local dollmaker who upcycles players’ broken bats.
Many of the themes on display at Rakuten Day run parallel with the recently launched Go Green Together project, which seeks to boost awareness of sustainability issues and help shoppers make more sustainable choices in everyday life.
After 25 years of transforming the global retail landscape, Rakuten Day provided the perfect opportunity to highlight Rakuten’s commitment to building a sustainable future, both in business and in sports.
Editor’s notes: *Japan Blind Football Association©︎