The Failed Kamikaze Pilot Who Made Japanese Rugby Take Off

Shiggy Konno fought in World War II as a bomber pilot at the age of twenty one, by the the time he reached the ripe old age of twenty two, he volunteered to join a kamikaze squadron.

On his twenty third birthday he was told that his one and only mission would take place in a matter of weeks, he wrote a will and sent a letter to his parents saying goodbye, he  received his ceremonial Hachimaki (Helmet and scarf) and a bottle of Saki which he was due to drink on the morning of his mission.

Shiggy drank the whole bottle with his mate much sooner that he was supposed to, and was pretty hacked off that he couldn’t get a replacement bottle.

His squadron were due to fly in August 1945. but for some reason the mission was put back to the first week of September, Japan surrendered on August 14, so Shiggy lived.,

Shiggy Konno lived off this story, to say he dined out on it would be a vast understatement, this wonderfully engaging man would open up with this tale at every event with a cheeky smile and a glint in his eye, announcing himself as one of a very rare breed, a failed Kamikaze pilot.

He spoke perfect English, learned at a primary school in London when his father was manager of the Mitsubishi Bank.

When he was asked why he had to wait so long for a kamikaze mission he was told that only the best pilots would be used.

Interviewed In 1991 he said “I thought I was a good pilot, but I was told by my superiors that they didn’t think that I could hit Europe, never mind an American battleship.,

Konno played Prop for Doshiba University and was deprived of an international career due to the second world war.

His English was so good he became an ideal choice as a liaison officer which led to a brilliant career in rugby administration.

He was an executive member of the International Rugby Board from 1991 to 2000, manager of Japan on pretty much every overseas tour from 1963 to 1990 including three to the UK, and also at the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cup.

His impressive CV also shows him holding the roles at various times of Hon Secretary, Chairman and President of the Japan RFU.

Her Majesty the Queen awarded him the OBE in 1985 for his services to rugby and for helping to improve Anglo-Japanese relations.

Shiggy died on 1 April 2007, and his funeral was held in Zojoji temple in Tokyo the head temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism in the Kanto region.

 

 

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