He was a teacher in classic Japanese literature. He was an Olympian, competing in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Olympiad in Los Angeles. He had a long and successful career as a pro wrestler, starting his career in Puerto Rico, Canada and the Soviet Union before becoming a star in Japan, particularly in his tag team performances with Kensuke Sasaki. Towards the end of a storied career in wrestling, Hiroshi Hase (馳 浩) followed in the footsteps of his mentor, Antonio Inoki, by being elected into the Upper House of the Japanese Diet in 2005, as an independent in Ishikawa Prefecture.
Which brings us to today.
Today, Hase is the head of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. And in the Japanese bureaucracy, it is the sub-departments in this Ministry that make decisions regarding the Olympic Games. And Hase has already stated that he intends to push hard for the protection of the rights of the LGBT community in Japan, using the Olympics as a platform.
“Let me be clear on this: I believe sexual-minority students at elementary and junior high schools have been left out” to the extent that people around them, including teachers, friends and family, have little understanding of the issues they face, said Hiroshi Hase, a few days ago in this Japan Times article.
In another Japan Times article from 7 months ago, Hase was quoted as saying that the Sochi Olympics were a lesson for us all, hearing that many Western leaders did not attend the opening ceremonies due to the openly hostile attitude towards the LGBT community in Russia.
As a four-time Olympic host, Japan has the responsibility of calling for social change through sports, Hase said.
Is the bureaucracy in Japan ready for this? Skepticism reigns, but optimism can conquer.