Toyota Times Sports

Akio Teams Up with Ichiro to Rediscover the Baseball Star's Roots


Ichiro and Akio Toyoda. Despite dedicating their lives to entirely different pursuits, baseball and cars, the two have long enjoyed a close friendship.
Now, Ichiro has been appointed Special Assistant to Chairman Akio Toyoda, and we caught up with them on the big day.

To mark the occasion, Akio presented Ichiro with an official Toyota letter of appointment, a personally handwritten business card, and an employee handbook.

Ichiro’s first task as Special Assistant was to help Akio get to know his roots. To that end, the pair decided to visit cherished places from Ichiro’s childhood in Aichi Prefecture.

The trip was taken in a new Century, with full commentary by Chairman Toyoda—Toyota’s master driver and master passenger—making for lively conversation on board. Ichiro could barely contain his excitement.

They visited sites that make up Ichiro’s baseball origins, including the field and batting center where he practiced as a grade-schooler. And in the genchi-genbutsu tradition, Akio shared in those childhood stories and the mindset that continues to guide Ichiro today.

At one point in the video, as Ichiro hits ground balls for the chairman to field, the pair can be heard shouting like spirited schoolboys. “Ready, Akio?” “Bring it!”

Come join them on a journey back to childhood.

A one-of-a-kind business card (0:39~)

Following the official appointment, Chairman Toyoda presented Ichiro with a handwritten business card.

Ichiro was delighted with his first-ever business card, which Akio hopes will help “spread smiles.”

Retracing Ichiro’s roots in a Century (7:03~)

With that, the journey to retrace Ichiro’s origins got underway—in a new Century. While Ichiro stood in awe at its powerful presence, Chairman Toyoda—Toyota’s master driver and master passenger—explained some fascinating features. When it came time to climb in, he even played the role of chauffeur in escorting Ichiro.

Learning the importance of “keeping at it” (11:20~)

The first port of call was the Iseyama ground, where Ichiro practiced from third to sixth grade. Here, the young Ichiro played catch and fielded ground balls with his father, day in and day out. Returning after all these years, Ichiro sat down at a bench that had stood the test of time and reminisced about the place that “taught me the importance of keeping at it.”

Don’t miss the footage of Ichiro and Akio playing catch and doing fielding drills like a couple of schoolboys.

Akio hits a 120 km/h fastball (15:34~)

Next up was the Kuko Batting Center that Ichiro frequented from third grade to the end of junior high. Full of nostalgia for the unchanged facility, Ichiro stepped up to the plate. “I always had my eye on going pro, so I used a wooden bat,” he reflected between swings.

Then, it was Chairman Toyoda’s turn in the batter’s box. The 120 km/h pitch is like hitting a fastball from Monica Abbott, a former All-American and member of Toyota’s softball team, the Red Terriers. After gradually getting his eye in, Akio was rewarded with the sweet sound of solid contact, much to the surprise of the camera crew.

The Special Assistant’s next assignment (20:56~)

Also there on the day was Toyota Times host Kyonosuke Morita, who asked the pair about their next assignment. Chairman Toyoda said he hopes they will “tackle something new, looking to the future.” At the same time, Ichiro agreed and added, “The criteria for working together is whether it looks fun and interesting.”

Akio wrapped things up by giving us some homework: “Please collect some interesting ideas via Toyota Times.” So, the pair’s next task may well come from our viewers!

In any case, Toyota Times will closely follow Ichiro’s next task in his role as Chairman Toyoda’s Special Assistant.