I still have exactly the same commitment as when I started as a youngster. I am now 44 but my passion remains even after many years of racing at the top level in WSBK and all Japan Championship. I love racing – it’s as simple as that.
1997 Austria at the A-1 ring is perhaps my proudest moment, it was my maiden win in WSBK and I became the first Japanese rider ever to win a World Superbike race outside Japan. I also won at Sugo later that year and came fourth overall.
In terms of career lows nothing is worse than my crash at Laguna Seca in 1998. It was a big event and I was in a serious condition. I was giving 100% to my racing at the time and did not spare a thought for other things in life. When I recovered that turned into something positive, an appreciation of everything I have around me not just racing.
It’s funny, people say that I am a Kawasaki legend but honestly don’t see it like that. I won many races but I really wanted to be WSBK Champion. Even with this though, I would not say the word legend. Better to say I am always trying to get better, always trying for another win!