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Japan fields first World Champs team

After seven years as Japan's sole international shearer New Zealand-based Shun Oishi has learnt to take all of his triumphs in context.

But within a few days he will have achieved two of his biggest, after winning an Intermediate final at Reefton on Saturday. Next, comes his attendance at the World Championships starting in Invercargill on Wednesday, alongside a Japanese teammate for the first time.

It's not to say he's not experienced at both – winning and competing at World championships – but it has only come with some big-time commitment.

For example, in Japan, people outnumber sheep over 100-000-to-1, and when teammate Masakuni Osawada arrived in New Zealand just over a week ago with wife Nana and was put to work the next day, his 57 sheep were as many as he'd done all season at home.

Based in New Zealand for seven years, where he lives in Canterbury with wife Helen and young daughter Wren, he goes back to Japan to run shearing courses, the first two years ago at BōYA Farm, Ikedachou, in Hokkaido prefecture, and last year he staged Japan's first shearing competition, with the help of Reefton Shears organiser Sam Win.

Oishi will be flying the flag more than anyone among the 116 competitors from 32 countries at the 40th anniversary World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in ILT Stadium Southland, where he will be the only one to have competed in all three disciplines of machine shearing, blade shearing and woolhandling by the time the championships end on Saturday night.

While he doesn't expect to challenge the Open-class guns, after his Reefton win on Saturday he is one of just five with winning shearing or woolhandling form over the last weekend before the big event.

It was the sixth win of his career in New Zealand, dating back to his first as a Junior shearer at the Oxford A and P Show in 2010. He won four Junior titles but five seasons as an Intermediate had realised just one more, until the Reefton Shears at the Inangahua A and P Show.

It was "the best", because it included beating Marlborough shearing contractor Sarah Higgins, who holds the distinction of being the only person to win Golden Shears in both woolhandling and shearing – a Junior title at woolhandling in 2013 and a novice title with the handpiece two years later.

"I've never beaten her," he said. "She does such a good job."

From Tokyo, he decided to leave one of the busiest places on earth", heading for an agricultural high school to study animals and dairying. It was there he saw a video of butchers at work in Germany, and, admiring the school, decided to go to learn more about it.

It was in an agricultural commune in Germany that he was introduced to sheep farming and shearing and after returning to Tokyo he decided that with a "craving" for the rural countryside he would leave his home country and chase his newfound "passion" in New Zealand.

He has also shorn in the US, and in the UK, where he first attended a World Championships at the Royal Welsh Show in 2010. This year's World Championships will be his fourth.

Osawada, 33, was working in a farm park when visitors wanted to know about the shearing of the sheep. He couldn't tell them, so he decided to find out.

He makes the trip to New Zealand after the winner of the Japan competition was unable to make the trip, and Oishi is confident his teammate will have a victory of his own, in learning more about sheep and shearing.

"Basically, he made up his own luck by putting so much efforst into shearing," Oishi said. "He's so grateful he made it, it wasn't easy for him to keep practising shearing in Japan."

But despite the small number of shearers in Japan, Osawada ("Masa" as he is known) is not the only shearer the family. He also shore at Reefton, in the Junior heats, and so did his wife.

Article courtesy of Shearing Sports NZ.


 

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