I imagine that most people, by the time they're 30, have a vague idea what they might want to do as a second career. Some people end up choosing careers completely unrelated to their current professions.

For example, there's judo star Matsumoto Kaori (松本薫), whose post-retirement plans recently left a press gaggle in open-mouthed shock.

To be honest, while I've known about judo (柔道) for years, have occasionally seen it played, and have even been semi-smitten by a manga about it (Yawara!, in case you're intrigued), I realized when I started writing this article that I actually know little about it. Judo is a martial art based in the older tradition of juujitsu that emphasizes a combination of hitting, grabbing, and striking techniques to topple an opponent. Judo as it's currently known was pioneered as a set of techniques in the late 19th century by Kanou Juugorou, and later refined by the Koudoukan school. The sport has since grown into a worldwide phenomenon. Men's Judo has been part of the Summer Olympics since 1972. Women's Judo took longer to be accepted, and wasn't an official part of the program until 1992.

Matsumoto, age 31, has torn up the world judo scene in the 57 kilogram class since she premiered, earning her the nickname of yajuu (野獣), or "wild beast". She took the world women's judo Gold at the London Olympics in 2012, and came back to Rio in 2016 and took Bronze.

Above: Examples of Matsumoto Kaori's "game face", and the fighting style that earned her her nickname.

After Rio, Matsumoto announced she would take some time off to get married and focus on building a family. She gave birth to a daughter in July 2017, and resumed training for the Tokyo Olympics very shortly thereafter, declaring, "A mom can take gold."

However, Matsumoto's return to the arena began with a tough defeat, which led her to reflect on her future. She told a press gaggle on the 7th:


You could say I lost my fighting spirit a little. It's quite difficult to maintain a wild beast style while raising kids.

It was this thinking that led her to announce her retirement at the same press conference. When pressed by reporters what she would do post-retirement from competitive sports, an interesting exchanged ensued.

"You're embarking on a new path as a mom," a reporter asked, "but please tell us if you have any dreams or goals."

To which Matsumoto responded, "For my second act, I'll make ice cream."

The poor reporter, obviously caught off guard, replied, "...so you mean...?"

"The shop opens on February 12th."

"This is a seriously out of the blue development," the reporter shot back.

"Sorry!" Matsumoto replied with a laugh.

Matsumoto Kaori in front of Tokyo Fuji University
Matsumoto Kaori in front of Tokyo Fuji University, the location of her new Darcy's ice cream shop. (Picture: Darcys Japan Official Facebook)

Pressed further, Matsumoto says she doesn't have the store together yet, but is preparing for the opening at a "fast pace". The store will be called Darcy's ice cream, and will be on the 1st floor of Tokyo Fuji University in the Takadanobaba area of Shinjuku. She will be operating the store in conjunction with her corporate sponsor, health and beauty products maker Beneseed. While Matsumoto will largely be running the store behind the scenes, she also hinted she'll take some stints behind the counter.

Matsumoto, a self-professed ice cream hog, told reporters that she wants to sell an ice cream that people "can eat every day". Her Darcys line pitches itself as a "guilt-free" alternative to ice cream, with an emphasis on alternative ice creams for vegans and people with allergies. The company's official home page says it's also researching the creation of flavors specific to Japan, including an offering based on dashi, the fish stock used in noodle soups such as ramen and udon.

Takadanobaba is where I took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test last year. It's about 40 minutes away by train from the core of downtown Tokyo, and sports a cool shopping district, named Sakaedoori, leading up to Fuji University. Go check it out if you're in Tokyo - and stop by Darcy's while you're at it. Who knows? You may be able to say you were served ice cream by a gold medalist.

(JP) Link: London Judo Gold Medalist Matsumoto Kaori Retires: "My Days as a Combatant Are Over; For My Second Act, I'll Make Ice Cream

ロンドン五輪『金』松本薫が引退「勝負師としては終わり 第二の人生はアイスクリーム作ります」 - FNN.jpプライムオンライン
松本薫選手(7日の会見): 「2月7日本日をもって柔道競技を引退することを報告します」   闘争心むき出しの戦い…、ニックネームは「野獣」。ロンドン五輪・柔道女子57キロ級史上初の金メダルに日本中が沸