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Stephen Mayaka: From Humble Beginnings in Kisii to a Sports Celebrity in Japan

When Stephen Mayaka completed his Form Four from Kiomiti Secondary School in Kitutu Masaba, Kisii County, he did not picture a life in Japan as a sports celebrity. His rise from a humble background to the heights of world athletics is an inspiration to the many youth of this country and Africa as a continent.

The former athlete is the head track and field coach at a Japanese University. He is also a coach and trainer to many Kenyan and Japanese runners.

Stephen Mayaka arrived in Japan on December 24, 1990, and immediately made a name for himself by winning several races and marathons. He had to learn Japanese since it was among conditions necessary to secure a sports scholarship in the Asian nation.

“I learnt Japanese at a language school in Tokyo after finishing my fourth form at the Kiomiti Secondary School and I also enrolled at Yamanashi High School and the Yamanashi Gakuin University.”

File image of Stephen Mayaka. |Photo| Courtesy|
File image of Stephen Mayaka. |Photo| Courtesy|

Mayaka’s trip to Japan was facilitated by Shem Omasire, then a teacher at Kisii’s Cardinal Otunga High School and who had great contacts in Japan.

“Former Kenyan Olympic gold medallist, Robert Ouko, Omasire and Misiocha Miyigo, who was the headmaster at Kiomiti, helped me a great deal in building my career,” Mayaka stated.

He represented Yamanashi Gakuin University in the Japan National Championships, the Hakone Ekiden All Japan Inter University Championships, running the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter races. He competed thrice in the Sapporo Marathon.

Mayaka represented Kenya at the World University Championships in New York, Sicily, and Fukuoka. He won silver medals in the latter two.

He also competed for top clubs in Japan including Team Daiei and Hitachi Cable winning the prestigious Sapporo Half Marathon from 1995 to 1997.

Settling & Marrying in Japan

Stephen Mayaka fell in love with a Japanese woman, Sachiyo. The couple tied the knot in 1998 and she took up Kisii names, Moraa Mayaka. The couple have two children; a girl named Yuri Jerusha Mayaka, and Chui Hiromu Mayaka.

The former athlete revealed during a past interview with The Nation Lifestyle that their children were named after his deceased parents.

“Sachiyo is basically a housewife but sometimes she coaches some of my athletes in Japan when I’m out of the country. She used to be a marathon runner and represented Japan at the 1995 World Athletics Championships in Sweden and she is also an assistant coach of the Japan women’s athletics team.

“I took up my Japanese citizenship in 2005 because of my family and also because the future, as regards my career, looked brighter in Japan. After all, I had lived in Japan for a long time and knew a great deal about Japanese life and culture,” Mayaka narrated.

Coaching Career

Mayaka retired in 2006 and took up coaching. He is accredited by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Over the years, Mayaka has helped a number of top Kenyan athletes earn track scholarships and enroll for major Japanese athletics clubs, among them former national cross country champion Gideon Ngatuny and world junior 3,000 metres steeplechase champions Jonathan Muya and Christine Kambua Muyanga, Jefferson Siekei, Jelia Tinega and Winfrida Mochache.

He was also good friends with late former marathon champion Samwel Wanjiru.

Stephen Mayaka is a leader of the Kenyan running community, helping over 150 athletes settle in the Asian country.

Other duties

Mayaka also offers translation and other assistance services to Kenyan delegations visiting Japan at the Kenyan Embassy in Tokyo.

“I’m involved in various activities in Japan, other than sports, like promoting Kenyan tourism. On Many weekends I get invitations to schools and festivals to give talks on Kenyan runners, culture and wildlife.

“Sometimes I’m invited to television stations to give commentary on athletics events and also talk about various issues regarding Kenya,” Mayaka noted.

The retired athlete hopes to continue using his status to impact the lives of Kenyan athletes aspiring to move to Japan.