From Japanese jockey downunder to farmer back home

Norifumi Yamada was the first Japanese jockey to win a race in Australia.

As a kid he always wanted to be a jockey, and after high school he went to Australian Racing Industry Training Centre (ARITC) at Murwillumbah of NSW to learn all about race horses.

Yes, this shot is not in Japan! Norifumi Yamada takes the win © Yamada family

Then he became an apprentice jockey at Victoria, before moving to Queensland where he raced professionally for several years at Toowoomba, Brisbane, Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast.

In 2012 he won a listed race, the first Japanese jockey to do so in Australia.

While at the ARITC he met Maki Yamada, who shared his love of horses. They met and fell in love, and married when she was 21. Not exactly the typical Japanese couple’s love story, but it has worked!

She worked as a stable hand at Wadham Park together with Nori.

Nori and Maki Yamada met at the Australian Racing Industry Training Centre in Murwillambah © Yamada family

Unfortunately Nori had a bad fall four years later. At just 32 years of age he could not work as a jockey again due to complications from the very serious fall.

After Nori had the bad fall, Maki suggested they go to her family’s home farm, outside Nagicho, a lovely rural town in Okayama Prefecture.

While Nori is working in the farm she is now teaching English to kids in Nagicho. She is also making sure her two young Australian born sons keep their English language skills. Their two kids love soccer (would they choose to play for Australia or Japan?), but helping dad on the farm is the best time of their day.

The boys have adapted to life back in Japan, loving helping dad on the farm © Yamada family

When they grow up they may want to come back to Australia, you never know. 

Unable to pursue his first love of riding Nori has set himself a new goal – to be a successful farmer. He grows asparagus, blueberries, cabbage, kale and more, which he sells 100% locally.

The town of Nagi is quite exceptional for several reasons, and peaceful Okayama a great choice to get off the main international visitor trails in Japan – stay tuned for more on that.

The farm in peaceful Okayama © Yamada family