Born: July 18, 1952 in Okayama City, Japan
Category: Female Indoor Player
In a country where volleyball is a passion, Takako Shirai was noticed early. In eighth grade she was recruited by the high school coach and thus began her enormously successful volleyball career. Her playing position was ace attacker or first spiker, and her powerful spikes transitioned the Japanese National team into international competition against the Eastern Bloc Powerhouse teams that ruled volleyball.
In 1968, Shirai took a job with the Kurashiki Bouseki Co. and played for the company volleyball team, Kurabo Kurashiki. Her skills and ability quickly led the Kurabo Kurashiki team to the Grand Championship in the Asian Games in 1970.
In 1973, Shirai joined the Hitachi Co. to play for their company team. The Hitachi Volleyball Team was Grand Champion of The All Japan League for five consecutive years, 1973 through 1977. In 1975 and 1977, Shirai was named MVP of the All Japan League. She also repeated her earlier championship performance and brought Hitachi to the Grand Championship in the Asian Games in 1974.
Shirai made her international debut in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and, with her team struggling, she was substituted in at the third set and turned the match around. Her performance led the team to a silver medal. She became the star player of the Japanese National Team that won a gold medal in the 1974 World Championship, the 1976 Olympic Games and the 1977 World Cup. She retired from Hitachi and from international competition in 1978.
Shirai's height was a major asset to the short Japanese team, but when coupled with strong athletic ability and both good attacking and defending techniques, it made her a stellar performer. Her volleyball career was closely followed by the Japanese, for she was the strongest spiker on the team and dependably put balls away to win major competitions.
Takako Shirai is being inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame as an outstanding player.