This is Part 5 of a series on Toyota Motor Corp.'s extensive involvement in sports.
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Toyota Motor Corp.'s history of supporting sports dates back more than 70 years. A report on corporate sports and human resources management written by Katsuhiko Ogino, who served as head of Toyota's sports strengthening group, provides insight into the automaker's history with sports.
According to his report, the automaker's track and field club was founded in 1937, when the company itself began. The judo club was formed in 1938, while the soccer club and Japanese archery club started a year later. The goal was to develop human character through club activities.
Although club activities were suspended temporarily during World War II, the number of sports clubs gradually increased after the war. Initially, each club aimed to compete at the National Athletic Meet or in corporate team competitions. Only a few of these teams won national competitions.
When other companies began focusing on corporate sports teams for advertising purposes, Toyota Motor in 1985 designated eight clubs, including rugby and men's basketball, as programs that would get increased funding and support.
Eiji Seino, a former player and current assistant manager of the men's basketball team, joined Toyota Motor in 1993. At the time, the team members all worked until early evening and then practiced for two hours at a gym. There were no foreign players on the team back then who could have boosted the team's performance level.
Other Toyota clubs also had to limit their activities to after-hours and days off. Because of this, the gap continued to widen between Toyota Motor and rival corporate teams, who were more serious about producing results.
"As the company and the Toyota Group got bigger, local communities began having higher expectations of us," says Masayoshi Sakai, who as team manager led Toyota's rugby team to No. 1 in the nation in 1987. "They told us they wanted us to get better at what we do."
Sakai also served as head of the sports and health promotion office in the mid-1990s at Toyota Motor. This is right around the time that Toyota Motor's support of sports activities was about to face a turning point.
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