cayman togashi

Japan’s Cinderella Boy is a tax-haven fairytale

There are not many footballers named after tax havens.

But it is not just his name which makes Cayman Togashi unique.

The Yokohama F Marinos striker is enjoying a rags-to-riches twelve months that has seen Japanese media label him the Cinderella Boy.

Until last summer he was a struggling university player but now he is at the Toulon tournament and might force his way into Japan’s Olympic squad.

He is one of the most intriguing prospects in the J.League but has played just 11 professional games.

As if from nowhere

Cayman was born to an American mother and a Japanese father in New York in 1993. The family moved to Japan when he was four, settling in Yokohama.

His parents honeymooned in the Cayman Islands. Their son’s name is a permanent memento of that happy holiday.

A bright, energetic forward, confident finishing off either foot and strong in the air, it is difficult to believe that less than a year ago Cayman was a struggling to make the grade at Kanto Gakuin University.

His transformation has been incredible and is an example to any player who has endured a difficult start to their career.


Cayman was a member of the Marinos youth setup from 2006-2008 but they let him go as he entered high school.

He considered quitting football altogether but persevered. He enrolled at Kanto Gakuin, his local college, and continued playing.cayman togashi kanto gakuin

As he entered his final year of university, after three uneventful seasons of varsity football, few people thought he would make it as a pro, himself included.

But one training session was about to change his life.

The chance

Kanto Gakuin and Marinos have a partnership which see them share training facilities, coaches and occasionally players when the pro club are short of numbers.

It was during one such relief effort that Cayman caught the eye of Marinos coach Erick Mombaerts. And got his big break.

The Frenchman is a shrewd judge of young talent and coached the French Under 21s and a host of French clubs before coming to Japan.

He was impressed with Cayman’s attitude, his fearlessness training with professionals as an amateur, his enthusiasm and the raw elements of his game. Cayman kept training with the pros.

Within a month of his first session Cayman had been signed as a ‘designated player;’ the ruling which enables J.League clubs to field collegiate players.

Professional beginnings

Cayman’s first J.League appearance came as a substitute in September 2015. As if the fairytale needed any more romance he scored with a last minute header to earn his side victory.

Like the island which gave him his name Cayman had kept his assets well-hidden but soon the word was out – Marinos had found a very promising player.

Cayman made a further three appearances in the latter half of the 2015 J.League season and has performed well in 2016, when given the chance.

Mombaerts has used his discovery sparingly, often from the bench, but Cayman scored in his first three starts for the club. Marinos currently sit tenth in the first stage of the J.League season.

He signed a full contract at the start of the 2016 season and has taken to the professional ranks with confidence.

International recognition

Cayman’s goals against Albirex Niigata and Sagan Tosu illustrate the diversity of his skillset. And it is his raw goal scoring ability which has brought him to the attention of the Japan Olympic coaches.

Cayman was called up to the Japan Under 23 squad for the friendlies with Sporting Lisbon (B) and Mexico U23 in April.

He then scored a goal of impish quality against a Ghana select team in a friendly in May and was included in the Japan squad for the 2016 Toulon tournament.

To think he was playing regional university football less than a year ago is amazing.

Olympic dreams

Japan reached Rio 2016 with an unexpected win at the Asia Under 22 Championships in Qatar in January.

An unheralded squad under an under-pressure manager, Makoto Teguramori, were predicted to struggle but ended up winning the tournament with some impressive attacking football.

Unusually for a Japan squad they had a surprising number of options in attack. Takumi Minamino of Red Bull Salzburg is the group’s most high profile forward but Yuya Kubo of Young Boys in Switzerland was the stronger performer at the AFC.

The three other Japan forwards from Qatar have been in stuttering form this season. If Cayman is to make it to Rio he will likely replace one of Takuma Asano , the 2015 J.League rookie of the year, Musashi Suzuki or Ado Onaiwu.

Japanese coaches are notoriously loyal to the status quo, favouring established squad members over in-form players. It would cap an incredible twelve months for Cayman if he made it to the Olympics.

Unconventional option

Cayman is not as polished as some of his young rivals; he does not have that slick technical veneer which surrounds so many Japanese players.

He would be an unorthodox pick but this could play to his advantage. It is the unusual start to his career that makes him such an intriguing prospect.

He is more rugged, more direct, more instinctive and proving quite effective.

Cayman offers Japan something different.

Olympic prospects

Will Rio 2016 come too soon?

Japan performed excellently in London 2012 with a squad containing several future full internationals but will do well to match their fourth place in Rio.

Japan have been drawn in a tough looking group with Colombia, Nigeria and Sweden.

At London 2012, a squad containing many future internationals performed excellently before crumbling in the bronze playoff to finish a creditable fourth.

If Japan can maintain concentration and discipline in defence they could surprise unprepared opponents. But a repeat of their London showing would be a major surprise.

Whether Cayman makes it to Rio his rise is still remarkable.

Varsity (Samurai) Blues

Unlike in other established soccer nations it is not unusual to see a college graduate succeed in the professional game in Japan.

Only the USA surpasses its reverence for collegiate sports among developed nations. While Japan doesn’t quite take it to the Yankee extreme it is not unusual for national team players to hold a university degree.

Yuto Nagatomo was famously discovered playing for his university by Tokyo Verdy while the next great hope of Japanese football Yoshinori Muto graduated from Keio University as recently as 2015.

It is way too early to discuss Cayman in comparison with such players. Let us reiterate; he has played just 11 professional games. He may never reach such lofty levels as those varsity internationals but his emergence shows the importance of persevering, refusing to let disappointment engulf you and taking your chance when it comes.

Which way forward?

Will he make it to Rio de Janeiro? What was his parent’s second choice honeymoon location? Can he maintain his rapid development?

Watching Cayman deliver the answers to these and other questions will be interesting.

The story of Cayman Togashi, Japan’s Cinderella Boy, is one hidden asset tax haven tale with a happy ending.

cayman togashi

Why do some young players make it while others do not? That and other questions are the main focus of this site. Football prodigies, next-big-things, never-quite-were's and yet-may-be's.

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