Within Yukiya Arashiro’s modest palmarès is the great achievement of becoming the first Japanese cyclist, alongside compatriot Fumiyuki Beppu in 2009, to finish the Tour de France. It’s possible the completion of that final circuit over the iconic Champs-Élysées was a career-defining moment when both men felt most validated amongst their peers.
Arashiro’s great feat (whilst riding for Bbox Bouygues Telecom) came 83 years after the first Asian participation in the Tour de France. According to the race’s official historical accounts, Japanese cyclist Kisso Kawamura started two Tours de France, in 1926 and 1927, but was forced to withdraw each time after the first stage.
Often, in the absence of victory, history-making can go unnoticed. The number of cyclists who have completed the Tour de France but failed to capture mainstream interest in their home nations are too numerous to count. Though 2009 should have provided his best chance for emergence, Yukiya Arashiro’s consistent domestic performances, off-the-bike exuberance and fighting spirit appear to have ensured his star had already burst through the cycling world’s troposphere and into the wider universe of national appeal.
How else do we explain this?
I spotted this Hao Arts Office (HAO) ‘Real Samurai’ figurine in a Tokyo bicycle store in 2008. At the time I didn’t know it but, according to this Facebook page, I should have handed over a wad of Yen and taken it home:
“HAO figurines are renowned for their extreme detail, real likeness of the fighter, and their quality. These are premium figures from the Japan-based company HAO Arts. Figure sizes average approximately 6.7” (15cms,) but there is slight variance depending on fighter’s actual size, posture, etc.
There is not currently a definitive list of all series and fighters produced by HAO. Most were produced between 2006-2008, and have a limited production number of 500-3500 units, making them VERY rare.”
After a relatively podium-free 2011 season – notwithstanding a notable win at the Asian Cycling Championships – Yukiya, now riding for the ProContinental Europcar team (having replaced Bbox Bouygues Telecom as sponsor in late 2010), had a quiet return to racing to 2012 at Paris-Nice, where he finished 45th on general classification. His next race will be E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, this Friday, 23 March. To my knowledge, he will be the only rider in the peloton to have completed the Tour de France and be immortalized as an action figure.