Japanese Soccer Great Shinji Ono Receives Present of Lily Named in His Honor from Netherlands; Ceremony Held at Dutch Embassy

The Japan News
Shinji Ono, left, receives an arrangement of flowers and bulbs of a lily variety bearing his name from Gilles Beschoor Plug, the Netherlands’ ambassador-designate to Japan, at the Dutch embassy in Tokyo on Thursday.

During a sterling career that included playing at three World Cups, retired soccer star Shinji Ono stopped off in the Netherlands for a stint with a top club team. He made such an impression they named a flower for him.

Ono was presented with a floral arrangement and bulbs of the “Shinji Ono” variety of lily at a ceremony at the Dutch embassy in Tokyo on Thursday to mark the start this year of imports of bulbs of the flaming red bloom — a color that pays homage to the clubs for which he starred.

“Japan and the Netherlands have had a long, continuous relationship, and while I don’t regard myself as a bridge between our nations, I will do whatever I can to keep the ties going,” the 44-year-old Ono told The Japan News after the ceremony. “I hope many people hear about this flower and I will be happy if it becomes well known around the world.”

The Netherlands, perhaps best known for its tulips, is the world’s leading exporter of lily bulbs, according to Lily Promotion Japan. Around 80% of cut lilies distributed in Japan are grown from Dutch bulbs, with imports reaching 64.1 million bulbs last year.

The Shinji Ono flower was created by the Dutch company Vletter & Den Haan and officially named in October 2022.

Ono is not the only Japanese athlete with Dutch ties to be honored with a flower.

Olympic speed skating champion Nao Kodaira spent much time training in the Netherlands, where speed skating is a major sport. She is the namesake for the “Kodaira,” which was developed and named after her in 2020 as a way to support an industry hit by a slump during the COVID pandemic.

Ono, who ended a 26-year career last year, played for Feyenoord Rotterdam of the Dutch first division for five seasons from 2001, leading the side to the UEFA Cup title in 2002. That made him the first native Japanese to win a major European title. He scored 19 goals in 112 games for Feyenoord.

Ono noted in his speech at the ceremony that like Feyenoord, the J.League teams that he played for, Urawa Reds and Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, also had red as their base color.

“My first impression when I saw the new ‘Shinji Ono’ was that it’s very beautiful,” Ono said. “In a Japanese way, it is a passionate red. It’s a color that I am linked to by fate.”

Gilles Beschoor Plug, the ambassador-designate to Japan, praised Ono at the ceremony, saying, “Many people will remember his role in bringing our countries together by way of sports.

“I’m very excited about the role that Mr. Ono can play as a new ambassador in a long-standing relationship between Netherlands and Japan … I hope that our strong ties in the flower-growing sector will be strengthened even more by events like these.”

Ono told The Japan News that he will donate the bulbs to the Shizuoka Prefecture elementary school that he attended. “I’m happy there is a place where such beautiful flowers will bloom,” he said.