Captain Osawa retires
by Andrew Podnieks|01 AUG 2022
Japan captain Chiho Osawa has a chat with Finnish stars Jenni Hiirikoski and Michelle Karvinen during the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, her last tournament.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Chiho Osawa, the 30-year-old captain of Japan’s women’s national team, has announced her retirement via her Instagram account.

“Today I want to announce my retirement from hockey,” she began. “In my journey, I have had a lot of wonderful memories, amazing experiences and awesome teammates in Japan, Michigan, and Lulea! Thank you so much for everyone who supported me! I’m so excited about the next stage of my life!!”

“Up until now,” she continued, “my life has been as a hockey player, and it was a really, really happy 25 years of doing what I loved. I met a lot of important friends along the way, and have countless experiences and memories from my career.”
Osawa first wore the “C” at the 2010 Women’s under-18 in 2010 and had been the senior level captain since 2013. Her departure will leave a significant hole in the Japan lineup as it prepares to play in the top group of the Women’s Worlds for the first time later this month in Denmark.

Osawa came by her love of the game naturally. Her father, Hirotoshi, played for the men’s team in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, appearing in several incarnations of the World Championship B Pool during this time. Chiho was born in 1992 in Tomakomai, a region of Hokkaido where so many Japanese players got their start, and began skating at the age of six. By the time she was in her early teens it was clear she was going to be a skilled player, and she made her international debut with the WW18 team in Division I in 2009. Just a short time later, she was named to the senior team for the Women’s Worlds in Hameenlinna, Finland. 

Japan narrowly failed to qualify for the Vancouver Olympics and played in Division I in 2012 and 2013 as well, so Osawa didn’t play at the top WW again until 2015. But she did play at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and although the team finished last it was their first Olympics appearance since the inaugural event on home ice in 1998. In 2015, Osawa scored once in regulation and again in the shootout that earned Japan a 4-3 win over Sweden, the nation’s first win over one of the game’s dominant teams. 

A year later, Osawa led her team in goals and points. She had two goals, a small total but impressive given the entire team scored only five in as many games, and the team was demoted. They qualified for the PyeongChang Games, however, and also earned promotion back to the top pool for the Women’s Worlds, and they have steadily improved since then. In 2021, they won four games in one tournament for the first time before losing to the United States in the quarter-finals. Their 6th-place finish tied their best result ever, and they will now play in the top group of the upcoming WW for the first time. 

Osawa’s last tournament came this past February when the Olympics returned to Asia. Osawa was again front and centre as the Japanese won three of five games before bowing out to Finland in the quarters.

In addition to her international play for the Japanese, Osawa also played in her national league with DK Peregrine for the better part of a decade. In her Instagram announcement, she also made refence to Michigan, where she played for one year, and Lulea, the Swedish team she had played for since 2018. 

Away from the rink, Osawa graduated from Tomakomai University and worked for Dynax, a company that builds car parts. But she made it clear she wants to continue to stay involved in the game. “In the future, I would like to share my love of ice hockey across Japan,” she stated. 

“To family members, companies, and sponsors who have supported me for a long time, to teammates who inspired me every day, leaders who taught me so much, people who always supported me, federations who supported me, you are all the source of my hard work. I'm really grateful to you!”